My own Google wave spun through Photoshop

As much as I recall being smitten by the original Google Wave Preview video (I watched the whole demo, its still on my iPhone), I’ve felt not more than tiny ripples of interest, and until just a few minutes ago, was curious why I was not feeling the giddy euphoria I see elsewhere.

Yes, I am still on my medication (just kidding, the only meds I take are the ones my pancreas stopped making in 1970).

Maybe it was the let down of all the anticipating for my golden ticket invite, after barking a lot on twitter, I ended up with about 6 invites.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Witheyes

After all that, well, if I was a cliche movie figure, I’d be in bed smoking a cigarette wondering if the invite had been good for her.

Over my years in the tech game, I’ve learned to pay attention to some more or less gut level instinct when a new technology comes along. It does not always happen on first exposure (like twitter), but there is some moment, when I feel that “aha” sensation that fuels my excitement.

And I have just not felt it yet for Wave. I don’t mean that it wont happen, but, there’s just not that spark. The spark usually comes small at first, yes, like the smallest of ripples, and it’s my senses that detect that there is some there there.

So what is different with Google Wave is that a tremendous amount of hyper and expectation was built up first– it was brilliantly done, I admit, but now we have this Large Thing Which is Supposed to Be Cool and Revolutionary and what I see is a whole lot of frantic scurrying to jump on the Wave Wagon.

People talking about Wave as the next LMS, Or replacing email. People in wave trying to figure out what the best “curricular unit” for a wave is or already talking about the most effective uses of Wave in the classroom. EDUCAUSE has already 7 Thinged it.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by StephenMitchell

Speculation is fine, but I see the cart so far ahead it is not even sure it needs a horse.

So far, like others have noted, I feel underwhelmed and over stimulated looking at that wave screen. If Wave does replace email, I wish the entire GTD movement the best of luck; you’ll run your self ragged getting to WaveBoxZero.

The demo was lovely when it was just the 3 or 4 people from Google on stage. It looked managable, even fun. Yet I find the long waves, with 50, 90, 150 people “blipping” almost impossible or undesirable to unpack and muddle through. It’s… a mess. I see noise, and little synthesis, or outcome, just lots of swirls and eddies and little current or flow.

I’m not being closed to the possibility, and I am eager to poke around wave, in my own way, and figure out whether the spark is there. What I am dismayed of is all the froth and foam when this is a technology that has not even done anything.

And as a person who lives and dies by the metaphor, I am thinking to the physical properties of ocean waves, that the size of the wave is proportional to the depth to ocean floor… and I am in wait mode to see whether Google’s wave is just a ripple in a shallow pool or of there is more to its size than the hype. Taking it even farther from the ‘pedia, it seems people have the sense that waves are these things that fly and rush around, but its an illusion:

There is little actual forward motion of individual water particles in a wave, despite the large amount of energy it may carry forward.

I could go down a longer path of standing waves and hydraulic jumps, or even the speculation which way the Australian waves swirl, but that gets nowhere.

Don’t paint me anti-Wave, and this might not be the first time I ate the words, but I don’t feel any tech mojo tingling when the expectation is set up that I should. And that’s what is bugging me- like there is an assumption that Wave is the Next Big Thing, so I have to try and be the early bird say it. To me the way my interest in technology flows towards a new tech, not that the tech flows towards me.

I’m headed down to Phoenix Friday to hang out with some fellow edtech geeks and am ready to maybe have my wave mind opened up some more, bring it on, you wave giddy hippies.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I’m still trying to make sense of it myself, Alan. I’m not ready to say it is useless, because what I think it will ultimately prove to be is a platform for other things to emerge. I know this is a huge stretch, but if one stops thinking of the iPhone as a phone and as an application platform you may see where I am headed. From what I can tell we are all just sort of playing with the core functionality of the real time collaboration at the moment. It is when smart people begin to build extensions that can transform it from a hyper connected chat room to things like a real time video analysis tool, or a multi-author story telling space, or anything else that can/should happen in real time with other people participating.

    So at the moment I am waiting and seeing — and playing. Its not the game changer until someone stacks the game on top of it. For me it is a framework that could become nearly anything. These are just the thoughts I am working through at the moment … I’m excited to see where it goes from here though.

  2. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m wondering if some of the lack of excitement is because there are many of us out there who still have never received invites even though we’re very interested in trying out and talking about new possibilities for instructional technology. I’d sure love to be invited to the party, and I’d be happy to talk about curricular applications (and will probably attend that session at EDUCAUSE), but it’s awfully hard to get excited about a technology that I can’t even get access to and that brings back a bunch of memories of 8th grade clique-ishness that I would rather not revisit.

  3. @Cole You’ve said in more eloquent words exactly what my position is– there is a foundation for a new platform that has yet to even be close to realized. What is getting under my fur is all the frenzy to be saying This is the Next Big Thing.

    @Susan As someone left ut of all cliques in school (I joined the non-conformist group) I know what you are saying. I don’t think, however, that is the root of lack of excitement beyond the people who cant be excited cause they are outside the yellow tape (if I can ever find where one gets invites to share, one of them has your name on it). The velvet rope approach seems to me not the best route, but who am I to question the Oracle?

    It just seems ridiculously early for people to be declaring the curricular possibility; it would be like in 1992 talking about the curricular potential of the HTTP protocol.

  4. I agree … Wave is not the end of the road, it is where new forms of transportation can be built … or something. All I know is that we’ll see some amazing things happen at some point. We just have to keep playing, building, understanding, and inventing. It’ll be what we all imagine. That is what is exciting to me.

  5. Yeah, I’m not sure yet either. It’s too damn slow… even if I am between 5 people or 105 people. I made a new wave by myself yesterday and that sucked, too. Nada. Ew. It’s a glorified chat system so far. The collaborative nature isn’t even that of GDocs yet because you can’t even edit others’ text. Not sure what I want to do with it (I can’t even drop in an image or edit a doc there… which sucks!). Together we will both figure it out eventually.

  6. I like the promise of Wave – but I think that it needs some serious interface design work to make it usable. Currently, the interface is simply not adequate: traditional email plus chat lists won’t cut it here. One simple example: the “wave playback” is conceived as a simple linear movie – but something akin to a dynamic subway map would be a much more appropriate metaphor here. If I were running this project at Google, I would pick up the phone and call Ed Tufte and Ben Schneiderman pronto – in fact, I think I’ll submit that as part of my beta tester feedback…

  7. It’s not just Wave, it’s the idea that communication has to be immediate to be productive of good things. What we see with Wave, blogs, Twitter, IM and so on is many people talking and few actually listening and reflecting upon what they have heard.

    This is fine for topics that are ephemeral or not so dependent upon facts and reasoning. Matters of taste might do well but matters of fact or matters of opinion that rest upon facts and reason will not.

    So lets start a wave about our tastes in ice cream, music and vacation destinations but leave things like social policy to other venues.

  8. I feel that I am cautiously optimistic about wave, but when compared to all the haters, I seem like a giddy wave fanboy.

    Wave is a protocol, but people are evaluating it like a service. The details of the usability of the client isn’t what it is about right now. No doubt the client needs to improve and it will.

    I find it hard not to feel the spark you talk about, Alan, when I try out all the various robots and gadgets and start to think of what might be built on this platform one day.

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