I finally had some time to play with Google Wave, and actually had some friends online who would wave back. While I don’t think the program is as useless as I had originally thought, I still think there are too many kluges required in order to get it to do what I want. Here are a few more observations and tips.
Chip and I got online at the same time the other night and were able to experience some of the real-time collaboration capabilities. It was cool to see what Chip was typing as he typed it and to see the components he was adding appear in real-time. However, all this glitz only served to slow things down. Even with just two of us working on a single wave the lag times were horrific. I would have typed several words before anything appeared on my screen, and I was working on a very fast Mac.
As you are working collaboratively on a wave you can reply to specific comments. However, this tends to make the conversation disjointed. Sometimes it’s not easy to spot when someone has commented on or modified a portion of the wave that took place early in the conversation. Because of the way waves develop, one naturally expects newer material to be at the bottom of the page as it is added, and that’s not always the case. There is an indicator on your inbox to show how many additions there have been to a wave, you sometimes you have to search for them.
The other problem is the limited functionality of Google Wave. You can make things work, but it’s a pain. Unless you want to just do the basics, you have to use an extension to accomplish anything else. However, folks are writing more and more of these, so you might find something that will work.
Take, for example, photos from Flickr. If you know the specific URL of your photo, then you can use the Google image search function to look for the image. Even then you only get a thumbnail and a link back to your photo (if it works at all.) Two different Flickr users have developed their own extensions that work a bit better. Benjamin Smith has one where one modifies the extension URL to get the specific photos for the Wave. Flickr user Schani has one that’s a bit easier to use, and can be installed so that it’s ready to use. The screen capture below shows it in action…
You can add more than one photo from Flickr, but it does tend to slow things down even more.
Probably the easiest way to add more content is through either the <iframe> extension or the html extension. The <iframe> extension allows users to embed actual web pages into their waves. The html extension lets users add bits of code to the wave. The coding would be more useful, because you can use the <img src= … > tag to add images from any source. It also allows you to use embed codes from other social networking sites. Both are demonstrated in the screen shot below:
In this shot I’ve used the <iframe> extension to embed RandomConnections into a wave, and I’ve embedded a slide show from Flickr using the html code.
While this is immensely useful, there is no way to install these extensions for repeated use. You have to copy the extension’s URL and paste it into the “Add gadget by URL” box every time you want to use it. Talk about a pain!
With so many websites such as Ning.com and PBworks.com offering much, much better and easier to use interfaces, having to jump through this many hoops is just ridiculous. Google Wave just isn’t there yet. It may look cool, but it’s clunky, slow, and inconvenient. Chip and I both wondered if Wave is the next Segway – lots of hype, cool on the surface, but of no practical use.