In case you’ve been living under a rock & haven’t heard, 100,000 invitations to try out the much-hyped Google Wave were sent out last week. Everyone that received an invitation was also given 8 more invitations that they could send out to whoever they deemed worthy.
Social media & technology geeks (like me) drooled with anticipation, & when it became obvious that I was not going to be a recipient of the initial ‘wave’ of invites (pun intended) I began using Twitter to try to cajole someone into sending me one of their 2nd generation invitations with promises of lifelong friendship & dedication. Sure enough, thanks to the power of Twitter, I received offers from a few of my followers who were willing to send me a golden ticket, & my joy knew no bounds. My young friend @storiesofmac assured me he signed me up to receive one of his coveted invites, & the waiting began. Finally, almost a week later, I opened my Gmail inbox to the most wonderful automated email I’ve received to date. I signed up & created my Wave account, then began looking for contacts to add.
But alas, the first day I was only able to connect with two, & at separate times. So in essence, my first impression of Wave was that it was pretty much another version of instant messaging. I had a couple brief conversations, marveling at the real-time vision of someone else’s letters appearing as they typed, & laughing at their typos & edits (& mine). My joy was diluted, although I could see the obvious potential.
Now let me pause in this story to point out that during the week while I was waiting oh-so-impatiently for my Wave access, I read everything I could about it. It was no surprise to see that many of the “experts” who were already playing around with the new toy had chosen to lash out against it. It seems this is the typical process in the media as of late. The more elaborately something or someone begins to generate buzz, the more fashionable it becomes for the media to trash it. I realize that writing blog posts & articles that rip apart a media darling will definitely draw attention & garner visitor traffic, but I just wanted to know what it was really like. It seemed that high-profile bloggers were saying it was overhyped, only to inspire a slew of responses in their comment sections that mostly disagreed.
So when I finally got a chance to try it out, I was admittedly hoping to prove the premature backlash wrong. I wanted Wave to be everything the hype had said & more. But unfortunately my first experience fell short. After discussing it with the two different individuals via Wave, we concluded that it was basically “IM on steroids”.
The next day I discovered that a few more of my Twitter friends had received their invites so I happily added them to my contacts, bringing the grand total to 7! I was trying to figure out a way to get these 7 people together into one Wave to explore the collaboration possibilities when it hit me! Why not use Wave to “interview” each of them about their first impressions & write this article about it? This is when my fun with Wave began. It was late but before I went to sleep I started a new Wave explaining what I wanted to do & asking 4 questions, then I added all my new contacts to it. Now it was out there, I could go to sleep, & dream of what would be waiting for me in the Wave in the morning.
Next morning I anxiously checked the Wave only to discover that not a single contact had responded! I quickly realized that with Wave being so new, most people would not just leave it open or even check it often to see if anyone was contacting them. So I went to each of my Wave contacts’ Twitter accounts & sent them a private message letting them know I had added them to a Wave for this interview. Within the next hour 5 of them were in the Wave & the fun began!
The fun with Wave begins…
Responses to my questions started getting typed in, some simultaneously, which became a bit crazy to try to read & respond to since multiple people can be typing anywhere in the Wave at the same time. I found myself scrolling up & down constantly to see what was being added & to interact. Several conversations were going on at once between all or some of us. It was both exhilarating & frantic at the same time. It didn’t take long to see that there will be Wave etiquette & proper use of threads to develop & learn in order to get the most use out of this new tool.
Over the next 80 minutes the wave filled up with over 170 messages. The pace was relatively insane, & the real-time aspect of everything made it all the more breathtaking. Seriously, I was almost panting when I signed out. A couple contacts just answered the questions, interacted a bit & left. Another came later on in the day & dropped her answers in. Another lurked & contributed only every now & then. The amount of individual participation was determined by each user. 3 of us carried most of the conversation from beginning to end, discussing our likes & dislikes & asking each other various questions. When I finally needed to disconnect, the other 2 started their own new wave to continue talking.
Needless to say, my 2nd day’s impression of Wave was much different than the 1st. I was amazed at the experience & the incredible potential I can now see of this phenomenal collaborative platform. I don’t know where it will end up nor do I care to try to form a prediction of its success or failure. Personally, I think it is very irresponsible to try something like this out a few times & then write a proclamation like that. Only a year ago I was laughing at my friends who were on Twitter, saying how ridiculous they were & what a stupid idea the technology was. But today I am constantly utilizing Twitter to grow my freelance business in ways I never imagined & connecting with new friends, peers & colleagues every day.
So here’s my conclusion: Google Wave is a phenomenal new technology that we have yet to see or imagine how it will impact our online & offline world. But I am as certain as I can be that it will definitely impact it somehow. I don’t believe it is any more overhyped than Miley Cyrus deleting her Twitter account. In other words, we live in an age of overhyped being the norm, so get over it. Instead of jumping on the backlash bandwagon, move on to the anticipation of possibilities & potential & let’s open our minds to allow for Google Wave’s release version to take shape & then be shaped even more by the millions of users that most likely will eventually be on board. Think about it. Most successful social media tools were never heard of before they caught on in the mainstream, & look at the broad usage they receive. But Wave is already connected to a household name. In fact, one of the few household names that is both a noun & a verb. Doesn’t it stand to reason that it will enjoy widespread adoption?
Will it replace email or Twitter or Friendfeed or other existing tools? I don’t know. But I suggest that instead of comparing it to the things we know, Google Wave is quite possibly going to become something unlike anything we can imagine. I would challenge you to open your mind, hold off on judgments, & do your part in contributing to its development as a new, unique platform & tool that may become yet another household term.
And yes, it’s already a noun & a verb.
Don’t forget to read Brian’s interview of people’s first impression of Google Wave.