Ahead of its Time

Yesterday’s announcement about the end of Google Wave saddened me. I was one of the lucky ones who had access to the beta site early last fall. To be honest, it was great to be part of the reconnaissance group. A lot of the initial conversation was pretty basic, along the lines of “Does anyone know how…?” or “Guess what I just discovered?” And, for a while, that was fun. But then we seemed to run out of things to say and activity on most of the Waves I had joined petered out. What became clear was once we were past the gee whiz period of learning how to use the new toy, we needed a better reason to use it.

So I began to search for specific projects that could be enhanced by use of Google Wave.  And, not surprisingly, once I turned my focus to this I saw several projects. One of my favorites was proposed by a colleague who wanted to use a Wave to plan her wedding. I made her promise to tell me how it went because I wanted to blog about it.

I don’t fault Google (too much) for shuttering Wave. After all, they have to allocate their own resources and, by their standards, adoption rates had been disappointing. However, I can’t help thinking the decision was a little premature. Nonetheless, it was Google’s decision to make and it fits with the preferred approach of experimenting widely, but being willing to fail fast.

Closer to home, I was telling a friend today about some cool technology I was trying. He told me that he had looked at it at least five years ago, but the users in his organization had not been ready for it.  As a result, he reluctantly canceled his pilot. Five years later, I’m discovering how much easier it is to win adoption. This is largely because of the improvement of the consumer experience on the internet.  Clearly my friend’s pilot was ahead of its time. Can the same be said for Google Wave? Perhaps in a few years the general public will be ready to do something useful with this technology. At that point, we’ll have to hope that Google or open-source developers will brave another attempt at the Wave.

[Photo Credit: Lovati’s Photos]

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4 thoughts on “Ahead of its Time

  • August 6, 2010 at 1:01 pm
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    I agree with a lot of what has been said re. Waves demise. The product was improperly announced as a replacement for e-mail, which is really wasn't. The initial hype was so great, and the initial beta project so buggy that even some die hard fans left and never went back. It was difficult to see the use case for the product without someone guiding you, and there seemed to be very few guides around.

    I agree that it was shuttered awfully quick, which I guess indicates that adoption was even lower than I would have thought (or production costs were that much higher). Hopefully we will see little bits of Wave showing up in places like Buzz, Gmail, and Docs over the coming year.

    I am not sure the consumer web makes adoption easier, but it does make discussion around web based technology easier. When you can use examples from Amazon, Facebook and other websites to describe what you are trying to do behind the firewall it makes things much easier for people to visualize.

  • August 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm
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    As for planning the wedding it was a bust on many levels. For one, it doesn't function with IE or earlier versions of Firefox, so I couldn't access it at work – if he made any changes, I wouldn't see them until I got home from work and remembered to check it. We also found that we couldn't incorporate Google Docs, which is where we have our guest list and other important information. If we had been able to tie in other Google platforms, we probably would have stuck with it, but it turned into a list of tasks we could add to and cross off from, much like Outlook. In the end, we used Gmail, Google Docs and good old fashioned face time to figure out what was left to do.

  • August 10, 2010 at 12:36 am
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    I found Google Wave good for projects with small groups, especially those without a common collaborative space elsewhere. But, it was not compelling enough to drive people back to it–a similar problem faced when starting a new wiki or new intranet. There has to be a real reason to go there.

    As with a lot of these things, it is difficult to see the implications of something when it is new. Some of us might have the vision, and we need to help others see the possibilities. It was the same with Twitter–it sat in the early adopter realm for almost 3 years before the celebrities jumped in and brought it into the mainstream. It was certainly a strange, mystical thing when I started using it back in 2007, and there are still lots of people trying to figure out what it could possibly be for. Same with blogs, email and telephones before it.

    Too bad they aren't sticking with it a bit longer….

    Cheers,
    Connie

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