When Google first launched its much-hyped but hard-to-describe Google Wave, I was as quick as anyone to check it out – and just as quick to give up in frustration.
All “beta” applications have their bugs and glitches, of course, but Google Wave had a few more than its share in the early days. And with entry originally restricted to certain invited GMail users only, logging into Wave felt a lot like wandering around an unfamiliar convention center full of invisible strangers, vainly looking for one friendly face. Added to all that, Wave’s apparent attempt to be all things to all users made for a complex and unintuitive interface.
In short, for many of us, the benefits of using Wave didn’t equal the effort of figuring it out.
Wave is better – and it’s open to everyone
Gina Trapani & Adam Push may very well have saved Wave from fizzling out, with their Complete Guide to Google Wave. (You can read it free online, or purchase it as a PDF or print book at http://completewaveguide.com – with a part of the proceeds of the print edition going to support a worthwhile charity.)
But even more important to making Wave useful for real people with real things they need to get done, Google has made significant improvements to Wave in the past couple months:
- The whole site runs faster – much faster.
- It finally feels stable. Bugs and browser freeze-ups are now plesantly rare.
- Blank templates (and a couple of tutorials – on using Wave for event planning, drafting documents, and brainstorming ) are now available to get you started quickly.
And, in mid-May, the “by invitation only” barrier came down. Now, Wave is available to everyone online. If you’ve got an email address – any email address – you can access and use Google Wave.
Okay, but what’s Wave good for?
“I think people just still aren’t getting what to do with it,” says social media guru Chris Brogan, who puts that down to the way Wave was originally sold to prospective users as a “replacement for email.” That’s certainly part of its function – a group of bloggers I’m involved with uses Wave to coordinate the editorial calendar, for example, instead of of filling the team members’ Inboxes with many quick emails – but I think Brogan’s description of Wave as a “time-shifted conversation” gets much closer to what Wave can do for online collaboration:
So, imagine Google Wave is the phone. Jon and Marc and Rob start talking, but at different times. They add some thoughts. I sneak in, read over what they’ve done, and I add some thoughts of my own. It’s as if we’re on the phone planning something, and yet, I added my ideas at a totally different time.
It’s threaded. It’s sorted. It’s a kind of thing where you can go in, see the flow of the conversation, and add where you want. In these ways, it’s sort of a gmail-shaped version of forum software, only you pick and choose the team you’re talking with.
Take a minute (well, 1:39 or so) to Meet Google Wave:
This is one of the how-to video series about Google Wave at http://www.youtube.com/user/googlewave, which is really quite useful under the sales pitch. From the example given in this video – using Google Wave to organize a community clean-up day – it’s a short step to see how Wave might be used for your own group’s projects.
Really good case studies for nonprofit use of Google Wave still seem to be fairly thin on the ground, from what I’ve been able to find – not a lot of recent ones, anyway, after the first flush of experimentation when it was first launched. Wild Apricot used Wave to crowdsource ideas for a Facebook contest last year, when it was still “by invitation only,” with a certain amount of success. The Complete Guide to Google Wave has added a whole new chapter, Wave in Action, to showcase a variety real-world examples – including the use of Wave as a conference backchannel – that’s well worth a look. And it’s a fair bet that many groups are using Wave quietly, behind the scenes, to streamline their internal communications and project management.
Is your non-profit using Google Wave? Please tell us about it – share your experiences in the comments!
And here’s another point to ponder:
Now that Google Wave is open to all, could you use it as a tool for online outreach, as well as for online collaboration?