Monday, October 5, 2009

The Google Wave "Perfect Storm": Overhyped, UnderCooked or Misunderstood?

Last week the Google Wave invites started going out and everyone was anxious to hear what the first beta testers thought of it. Robert Scoble @Scobleizer got an invite and blogged his comments saying he thinks Google Wave is "Overhyped for what it delivers.". Robert's core concern is that "It is noisy, and the noise happens way down in your inbox." instead of new updates happening at the top of the inbox like it email, Twitter or Facebook. Robert went on to say that "Google Wave was oversold as something you’d use with the public, or at least with large groups of friends, like you use Twitter, email, or Facebook.".

I agree with Robert in one respect. If you use Google Wave as "yet another front end client for the current Facebook or Twitter social media experience" is likely going to be very noisy because Wave can aggregate both of those, as well as email and IM and more, into one user interaction space. Unfiltered, the concentration of all these streams of interaction are certainly going to be overwhelming to you and this certainly would create a "Perfect Storm" of information overload and lost productivity.

But is Robert's claim that, "Google Wave was oversold as something you’d use with the public" really true? I watched the entire 90 minute Wave demo video and nowhere in there did I hear Lars, Jens or Stephanie say Wave was supposed to be primarily a front end tool for interacting with your social media "public" either on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else. Yes, they did show a Twitter integration. 

But I don't think the goal of Wave is to try and be another Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is an open-ended information discovery tool that allows individuals to do a lot of shallow sampling at the surface of Twitter's information ocean. I realize there are people building third party tools that allow people to work together in plumbing those depths along vertical threads. But for the most part, interacting on Twitter is still all about each individual "swimmer" swimming around mostly on the surface of that Twitter ocean on their own personal timetable and agenda and it's a "random swim" for most people.

Wave is not something that just allows each of us as swimmers to swim more effectively on our singular and personal agenda. I think Wave is something quite different. Wave really is supposed to be a focused, team-oriented productivity tool for moderate sized groups of people working together on projects with focused goals. Can it be used to plan a vacation or party the way they showed in the demo?  Sure. Or integrate a Twitter or Facebook stream searching on a related topic to augment a given wave? Sure. But even those are "projects" with focused goals. So if a Twitter stream feed is added to a wave it should be focused on a topic relevant to a given wave.

So Robert is I think both right and wrong in his assessment of Wave being overhyped. Wave I think was not hyped, at least by the leaders of the wave team, as being some superior way to go swimming about as an individual swimmer in the "Social Media Ocean". But Robert is also correct when he said.. "(Wave could be)..great with your very close friends or very active coworkers but horrid for nearly everyone else."

Thats exactly right. Wave has the potential to be a breakthrough productivity tool for focused teams of people working toward shared goals. This is something we desperately need right now as we are all currently lone swimmers in a perfect storm in the middle of a vast  information ocean. This new tool from Google is exactly the type of thing needed so we can avoid drowning in the information "heavy seas" we are all bobbing around in. It will allow groups of us to work together to build some "catamarans" and "Catch a Wave" on a course toward superior productivity. As Clay Shirky (Author of "Here Comes Everybody!") said "It's not information overload that's is the problem. It's filter failure."

Is Google Wave Undercooked? Of course. It's a BETA!! 
Is Google Wave Misunderstood? Yes. Everyone thinks everything new right now is or should be a social media exploration tool.

But, Is Google Wave Over-hyped? I think not, at least not by those building it.

Wave is a framework that will allow people to build custom, 'Filtering and Focusing' mechanisms that drive cooperating groups to productivity against shared goals. Could people build GWave's that kill productivity? Absolutely. Any powerful technology can be mis-used to the detriment of yourself and others.

My advice to people when they start using Wave...don't mis-use it. Build and use GWaves that enhance your productivity and start filtering the information firehose instead of just turning up the firehose pressure.

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