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Misunderstanding Wave

© November 2009 Anthony Lawrence

There are people who don't understand Google Wave. There are people who don't like Google Wave. There are people who do understand Wave, and people who do like it. Most of those who don't like it just don't understand it, but even a few who do understand still don't like it.

Most (maybe even all) of the complaints you'll hear about Wave are gripes about problems that obviously will be fixed as this progresses out if its current "Preview" stage. Most of the complaints are also client-side implementation issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with the underlying concepts. You need to keep that in mind when listening to negative comments.

One of the most important things to understand about Wave is that anyone can create a Wave server or a Wave client. You can go to https://google.com/wave to use Google's web based client, but I and many other Mac users use Waveboard, a third party Wave client. If you Google for "google wave client", you'll find many other clients. Doing a search for "google wave servers" doesn't yield quite so much, but I did spot at least one, and as time goes on there will be more. Although I and others often refer to "Google Wave", in fact the idea is that Wave servers will be like SMTP servers: anybody can run one and your Wave server will happily talk to any other Wave server.

Let's have a look-see at some of the griping.

Interactive Chat is distracting

Google Wave is IM squared. Not only do you see what the other person is typing, but if there are many people involved in the Wave, you see all of them typing, back-spacing, correcting things - the screen jumps around and it can all be very annoying.

The biggest problem there is the jittery screen. That is, of course, a client side issue - nothing says you HAVE to have the screen updated in real time. And nothing says you have to participate in a Wave that has dozens of people actively typing. One of the truly beautiful things about Wave is the "replay" ability - you can come back when all the excitement has died down and run through the whole thing step by step at your own pace.

I have confidence that client-side issues like this will be fixed, and soon.

It's sloooowwww

If a lot of people are in a Wave, it does get slow. That feels like a client side issue to me - just don't try to show all that activity at the same time. Buffer it up and display it when things calm down a bit.

Big Waves Break

Early adopters are finding that large Waves crash and burn. It's not hard to split off and start another Wave, but that needs to be fixed. I don't know if that's client side, server side or a general weakness in the protocol, but it needs fixing. Again: Preview release.

Difficult Contact Management

When I first got Wave, I found my contacts list populated with people who already have Wave accounts. These people were apparently people I know, or at least have had email correspondence with. I use Gmail, so Google probably pulled them from there.

I don't recognize half the people on that list.

The reason is simple enough: their Wave account doesn't match whatever I know them as. Google knows them, and knows the connection between that account and whatever email I know them as, but Google doesn't let me see that connection.

Presently, you can't organize your Wave contacts into groups. Obviously that's a necessary and useful feature and justas obviously it WILL be added. But right now? Nope.

Broken features

Remember, this is a "Preview". Sometimes things that are supposed to work get balky. Sometimes your Client loses contact with its server. Sometimes just plain weird stuff happens. For example, I had marked a Wave as "public", which means that anyone can see it and add to it. The darn thing kept losing its public status. It seems to be OK now, but that's annoying.

You can find my public waves by searching (in Wave) for "with:public creator:pcunix"


It's unclear how the problem of misbehaving people will be dealt with. Right now, if you add someone to a Wave, you can't take them off easily or even just block their messages from your view. In a public Wave, any idiot can join the conversation and you can't filter them out. People can add objectionable 'bots to your Waves - somebody added Eliza Robot to one of my public Waves. I was able to delete that, but this kind of nonsense does happen and we will need ways to prevent it.

Unwanted Invitations

The matter of you being added to Waves you don't want to be part of is a common complaint, but there's a simple fix - just "mute" the Wave and it won't bother you again. The mute function moves the Wave out of your inbox and ignores any updates that would bring it back to your attention. If you ever change your mind, you can drag it back to your inbox, but otherwise it has been gagged and silenced.

Just don't understand it

I've talked to people who think Wave is IM. Others think it is email. Still others think it's a Wiki.

It is all of that, and more. Some people, stuck in their false perceptions, may never see the reality. I think as more of us start using Wave, the confused nay-sayers like Robert Scoble will eventually understand.

Just this morning one of my Wave contacts posted a new Wave about using a Wave as a Technical information log. He says:

Trying to visualize how the different elements stitch together is often almost as hard as starting from scratch. The more I play with waves the more it really seems like a one stop shop for interfacing to information.

He has the right idea. Robert Scoble may not understand yet, but others do. The Waves are coming!

Got something to add? Send me email.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Mon Nov 2 15:48:52 2009: 7411   MikeHostetler

Google Wave isn't about email or IM. Or, really, it's about them both. And blogging. And Tweeting. And Wikis. And everything else.

The Wave team at Google took the problem at a higher level and decided to make communication back into a conversation. Now, to make a decisions, you send an email that different people respond to, have IM conversations, make a few wiki posts, and then you have to combine them together into one thing. Wave does that for you. You start the conversation and then you can bring people in and they can go back in time to see how the conversation progressed -- which is important for context.

I think it's a winner and here to stay -- once things are polished a bit and people wrap their head around it.

Mon Nov 2 16:16:02 2009: 7412   TonyLawrence

Ayup. Another person who totally "gets it" :-)

Wed May 19 18:51:39 2010: 8617   TonyLawrence


Google wave is now open to anyone. It may be far too late, in my opinion. Does anybody care anymore?

We'll see.

Wed May 19 18:52:30 2010: 8618   TonyLawrence


Oh, I forgot the link:



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