Home Seeking Nerdvana Exploring Google Wave - will it be 'collaborative but choosy'?

Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

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Google Wave is an amazing place right now, like a new nation that has sprung forth and is finding its feet. To wander around in Google Wave feels like standing next to Romulus and Remus, overlooking the seven hills of Rome, or watching over Jefferson's shoulder as he writes the US constitution.

Right now Google Wave's first citizens are laying the foundations of a new civilisation. Everyone is trying to determine where they fit in within this Brave New World - especially humble scribes such as myself.

There is only a handful of journalists in Google Wave right now and, like everyone else, we're trying new things. I've created a Wave called "Wave, journalism and the Mainstream Media" and there are a few other journalists doing similar things.

I came across a Wave from the LA Times' Mark Milian - "How Google Wave could transform journalism". It seems he'd pasted into a Wave and made it public just to see what would happen. I did the same thing with the first blog post I wrote after experiencing Google Wave.

I left a comment on Mark's wave and then struck up a conversation about the future of Google Wave with Jacob Chapel - a freelancer web developer, aspiring game developer and "lover of all things tech" from Washington. It was an interesting conversation so, with Jacob's blessing, I thought I'd share it. Unfortunately it's a static blog post now, so you can't dip into the middle and make your own comments, but you can embed Waves into webpages and it's something I intend to experiment with. It's a bit long, but if you're after an insight into the nature of Google Wave I think you'll find it interesting. Just for some context - a Blip is a single comment within a Wave.

If you're in Google Wave drop by and have a chat, just do a public search on "Adam Turner" and you'll find me.

[Begins with the text of Mark's LA Times blog post "How Google Wave could transform journalism"]

12:08 pm
me:
There are some great points in there Mark. As a freelance tech journo who has worked for a major news outlet, I couldn't see them being comfortable with putting their publications into the hands of Wave. They're still coming to terms with Google News. Can you imagine what your editor and publisher would say if you said you wanted to turn the front page of the LA Times into a wiki? Individual journalists will experiment with Wave but I think major news outlets will hold back on officially embracing it until they have more control over how people edit their Waves (which might not happen, although Google has mentioned the read-only Waves are coming. Does that defeat the purpose?)
I've started a wave looking at these kinds of issues, feel free to drop by

Wave, journalism and the Mainstream Media

12:08 pm
Jacob Chapel:
I am going to make an edit to the IB and embed the page you are quoting.

12:09 pm
me:
IB? Initial Blip? Is there a way to lock the initial blip?

12:12 pm
Jacob Chapel:
No, not at this point. I believe they are planning on features that give access control to people that create the blips.

12:12 pm
me:
I think they'll need to once the griefers and spammers get a foot in the door. I have to admit that I'm a little reluctant to put too much work into something that could be blown away - but that's part of the Brave New World.

12:15 pm
Jacob Chapel (and me):
One thing that has to be remembered about this initial version of Wave is that it is just a preview and there is a chance that what we are putting into it now might be gone in the future (probably not, but there is a chance).So I would not look at it as a bad thing if your content was altered badly, just go through the playback, find the last good copy, copy to a new wave and go on from there. The way Wave is intended to be used is more on a group to group basis, and not so much with a huge public userbase. So that too will keep down on bad edits.
My hope is that Google will give users the power to control who can edit waves, so you can be collaborative but choosy.

CONTINUED on Page 2



12:17 pm
me:
Yeah, I'm starting to think that (sorry I accidentally edited your blip there, sluggish browser). It's very messy as an IM client as well, until you get the hang of not talking over the top of each other too much. Collaborative but choosy is a good phrase, and would encourage people to trying more interesting things.


12:18 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Yeah, another thing that will help is being able to pull a series of blips, aka a wavelet, into a new wave when the discussion moves outside of the initial waves intent, much like what we are discussing now.

12:23 pm
me:
exactly, I was going to start separate waves for all my blogs and podcasts, but I realised this would be a mess - it's fragmenting the conversation and adding to the noise. I've tried to focus on one public wave and maybe I'll spin off some conversation later.

12:27 pm
Jacob Chapel:
The way you could do it, if a predominant theme in discussion forms, it wouldn't be hard to create a spinoff wave to encapsulate that theme in its own wave. That somewhat mimics the intended function without actually being able to copy the wavelet of discussion from the initial wave. Much like all conversation, it is continually transitioning between one topic to the next so it is really hard to guarantee that one wave will only be on one topic. Embracing that fluidity though is a good thing.

On a side note, once Google Wave is working as intended with the federation protocol, you could run your own Wave server and have your own userbase while still being connected to the rest of the Wave universe (heh). So you could have as many waves on as many topics, and it really wouldn't be a mess.

12:33 pm
me:
I think MSM outlets won't put too much effort into Wave until they have more control, like hosting it themselves.

I think everyone brings their pre-conceived notions to Wave (and inability to type) - at first you treat it like IM because it feels like IM, they you send a few "emails" and start a wiki/forum, then you try to establish your wave as a "page" for people to visit. I think it's going to turn into a bit of a land grab, but people are going to realise there is no land to claim. I've used a lot of keywords and tags in my public wave to get people's attention, but it will only show up high in search results if people keep contributing to it because it looks like all searches are ranked according to last edit time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if there was a way to add more complicated SEO into Google Wave then it would turn into a major land grab - and maybe kill it. It's like a few thousand people have crashed on an uninhabited Class M planet and are deciding how their society is going to run - but it will all change once the griefers and spammers arrive unless Google introduces more controls.

12:36 pm
Jacob Chapel:
I agree, and from what I have seen/read they intend to allow more control. They don't want to make it too oppressive though as that might stifle any innovation within Wave itself. Look at the community effort that has been put into organizing things and getting people behind a common wavelength. The Wave FAQs and Etiquitte waves are awesome and very helpful, the fact that people put the time into them is great. You could say that they shouldn't be necessary, Google should have put everything in place before hand, but we are in the wild west of the internet right now, and quite frankly it is exilerating.

12:36 pm
me:
It's amazing to watch, I was very impressed by those Waves. It's smart to give the early users more freedom, because they can be trusted not to abuse it. Such freedom will let them turn Google Wave into something amazing.

12:39 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Well not only that, it allows Google a view into what actual users are doing and what security/permission changes they need to implement to give power to those that want more fine control. I myself would love to be able to create a Wave for everyone, but keep the initial blip to myself and a few trusted editors. People could contribute in the wave through discussion and if they proved themselves they could contribute directly to the IB. Not only editing control, but I think having control over who can invite others to waves will be important, namely protection from malicious bots.

CONTINUED on Page 3



12:39 pm
me:
That's what I want as well, but it can already be done elsewhere. Are we reinventing the wheel inside Google Wave and thus fragmenting the web?


12:40 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Well technically the web is already fragmented, Wave intends to unify a lot of separate technologies or ideas into one place.

12:41 pm
me:
but inside Google Wave and locked away from the rest of the web, in an environment that Google controls?

12:41 pm
Jacob Chapel:
You have to remember that what we are experiencing now is not the intended usage of Wave. This is just a preview to test what would be an individual installation.

12:41 pm
me:
but will wave be exposed to the wider web like Wikipedia?

12:42 pm
Jacob Chapel:
From what I gathered public facing waves will be possible by embedding or other forms of sharing. I do not know the specifics on how they plan on implementing things, but it is only locked down so they can test it properly and not have a super glut of users they cannot control.

12:43 pm
me:
It still seems like we're putting a lot of content into a walled garden of sorts, something we moved away from a long time ago

12:43 pm
Jacob Chapel:
We still face the walled garden issue with Facebook and Myspace, not to mention other major players. Even Twitter isn't the most open place to put your data.

12:44 pm
me:
yeah, but they're all "look at me" social media sites - Google Wave has the potential to be a repository of actual knowledge. Maybe I think that because the wiki/forum approach to Google Wave seems the most practical to me at this point.

12:46 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Thats the thing though, I do not see why waves couldn't be public facing. That comes with the permission controls that they need to implement. They have said that some intended usages were for instance blog comments.

CONCLUDED on Page 4




12:46 pm
me:
The big test will be whether people can edit a wave without a gmail account. Blog comments - sounds like Sidewiki - Google makling a land grab for content that rightly should be on the site of the creator of the original content.


12:49 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Again, it has been Google's plan to allow anyone and their mother to host their own Wave server. That also entitles them control over said data, it also federates the data between other servers based on usage between the users.
I agree that content should be apart of the site, I would think that with bots it wouldn't be hard to output all the data that is put in however you would want. Which liberates it. Though that is not optimal, and it would be better for Google to give us a solution directly, they have been pretty earnest about their intents with Wave, and the intent was to modernize communication and collaboration and give them some kind of unity. Even this interface we are currently using doesn't have to be what we are forced to use. People can soon create their own interfaces which further gives the user the power to use it how they want, where they want, when they want, and ultimately not at all but not having lost anything inside of it.

12:51 pm
me:
True, it's going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Still, speculation is bread and butter for us tech journos these days ;-) Interesting times.
Considering this is a public wave, do you mind if I include this conversation in a future blog post on Google Wave. I'm not sure what the etiquette is on such things, but I wouldn't do it without asking permission. I'm happy to shorten your user name to Jacob if you prefer.

12:54 pm
Jacob Chapel:
I wouldn't be using this if I was concerned about my identity or controlling my 'content' as it were. You are more than free to use what I have said as you wish and my name. I hope people don't feel too off when others use their stuff on here, considering the open nature at this state, there is are a lot of ways to get your content. Actually when you press 'Done' that content is forever sealed into the hollows of Google's eternal memory and unless Google wipes the data stores of this Preview, everything will be accessible to most anyone (depending on if it is a public wave or not) at any time with Playback.

1:01 pm
Jacob Chapel:
Well I figure our discussion has wound down, if you want to chat about anything in the future or invite me to other waves, feel free. I added you to my contacts. I think we have poluted this wave enough with off topic discussion. Heh.

1:03 pm
me:
no prob. Good to talk.

FURTHER READING: The future of Google Wave - how could it transform journalism and publishing?


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