25 November 2009

Google Wave Primer 101

This week let us try to understand Google Wave – a new collaborative tool from Google Inc., that has opened door for developers to extend its capabilities encouraging the open-source community. The wave is collaborative communication platform that can be used by several users involved in a single project or creating a document in real-time. Users, who have an invite, must find other users in your network who are also on wave and include them into your wave contacts list.

Google wave is a powerful conversational tool, once you have your community of friends on it and there is a common task to be accomplished interactively. It is possible to combine emails, wikis, web chat, and project management into one platform to serve a community of users who interact using rich media.
According to Google, ‘GoogleWave is: … an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.’

Wave users
Google wave is a community tool and hence for it to be a live experience you need a bunch of wave users who connect with you. Wave users who can currently wave belong to four different categories: Those who signed up very early via a request form, those with a developer preview of wave, Google Apps paid users and others who were invited by someone already using Wave.
In its beta test, GoogleWave was released only to selected developers. Subsequently a preview release from Google was initially offered to 100,000 users. Only those invited directly by Google have the option to recommend invite other users of their choice to join the wave. The GoogleWave code is open source, to foster innovation and adoption amongst developers and those who have developer’s access to wave can read the design guidelines and developer’s guide at http://code.google.com/apis/wave/ and request their access to sandbox.

Joining the Wave
Login to your wave link and by default your Google account identity will also be your identity at the googlewave.com. Wave needs installation of Chrome web browser or the Chrome browser plug-in to support other web browsers. After launching the Wave, start experimenting with the ‘Contacts’ panel, find your googlewave friends and add them to your contacts. For instance search and include me with my google wave id mentioned at the end of this article.

In the ‘Inbox’ panel, there are a set of waves that you are invited to by default. The first recommended wave is the one about your own profile. Click on it to enter edit mode, update details and your profile picture so this is what your friends see when they include you into their contact list. Another wave by Dr. Wave includes embedded video to give a preview of the basic features of wave and orients new users to various parts of the user interface.

Just by clicking on a ‘New Wave’ you create your first wave. Then add any one user from your contact into your new wave by clicking on the ‘+’ sign. If that user is live online then a ‘green dot’ appears on their profile. You then click on the + sign to invite your GoogleWave contacts to join your wave.

User Interface
A wave is like a thread of conversations including all embedded elements, users and files. Here are some common terms to familiarise with the Wave interface. The main screen is made of four panels: Navigation, Inbox, Contacts and Wave. Each of these can be reduced and docked right on top are by clicking on the ‘Minimise’ button on the panel box.

Navigation panel includes items such as the inbox, sent items, settings, trash, search and folder options. The ‘inbox panel’ shows all waves you are part of including the one you create or the ones you are invited to. If you do not wish to be interrupted by certain waves, and instead want to concentrate on few, then you can ‘Mute’ the other waves. The ‘contacts panel’ can be used to search for known googlewave contacts, so you could add them to your list. The ‘Wave panel’ shows components of the currently selected wave and also has other control button to play the current wave (just as if replay option) or even start a new wave.

Jargon buster
Like every new technology, Google wave has a set of jargon that one must understand to begin with. The smallest unit of element in a wave conversation is called a ‘Blip’. It’s like a single line of a chat conversation or a single post in the facebook or twitter. Any user invited into a wave can post a blip. They can also respond to blips of other users with other blips. A group of such blips about a single issue within a topic is called a ‘wavelet’. A group of wavelets then make a single ‘wave’. Each blip can include text, links, calendar, image, file, video, map or poll. Each wave or wavelet or blip can be played, copied, edited or even deleted. Look out for control buttons that appear, once you select a particular ‘blip’.

Blips can also be considered as part of a document if the wave is used for developing one, in a collaborative manner. So the members now become co-authors and so can edit their blip content and even keep some of their blips unpublished (until ready). Because all conversations are shared, Wave could also be considered as a type of Wiki because anyone within the team can add and edit information to a conversation.

Blips can be tagged with keywords which will work like labels or meta-tags. One can search through waves by these keywords, activity, history, contacts, and also use wild card characters in search just as in Google search commands. Each blip can also have an extension: which works like an application within the wave environment. They can play within wave and help you to enrich your interactivity.

There are two types of extensions: Gadgets and Robots. Robots are automated interactive elements which can also bring in information from other sources outside Google platforms. Gadgets are like applications built on Google platform: for example a GoogleMap is an extension allowing location maps to be embedded into blips. What makes wave much more exciting is that the entire Wave or its sections could be embedded on any website or blog as a plug-in.

Using wave for events
Consider using a wave to organise a MeetUp party treating it as a unified thread on communication for this purpose. One user initiates a wave and invites user audience into the wave to discuss the plans. There can be wavelets for menu, venue, volunteers, attendees, sponsors, etc. Members can comment on any of the discussions in the wave and all users can view these replies and respond with suggestion in real-time. They could post blips with several elements including polls, maps, documents, links, video, etc to make relevant updates.

The menu wavelet has a set is items that are put together by a set user blips. As for the venue, there could be a Google map embedded into a blip showing the exact location. Attendees’ wavelet may consist of a poll, where people signup and all others can see the status instantly. Each member invited into the wave can comment or rewrite any blip and also post their blip.
For example the exact location or route to a meeting point and certain decisions based on opinion of the members can be collected in a transparent manner using the poll. As the wave works in real-time, and live transmits as users type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

In case of editing a document wave, a group of people can communicate and collaborate on a single communication platform - adding, editing and deleting text, images and video simultaneously making it live, shared-document. Interestingly all changes are recorded and they can be relayed by any team member at any time. This playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when and how the entire wave worked towards the final version.

Potential for greater impact
Although the potentials for utilizing this platform for productivity are limitless, the success of its adoption will be at its best when businesses create potential applications of this on their platform and tailor it for their internal communications.

The wave is just in its nascent stages and by opening doors for developers to create applications through API interfaces, this product will eventually mature to a comprehensive application. Just like any other interactive networking technology, the power of the wave can only be felt when a large part of the community uses the product. What Google wave users want out of this tool is stability, speed and a friendly user interface. For those who want to experience wave with me, include me as your contact (Sendsangita@googlewave.com) and then we can wave together.

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Nice article...
that makes so much clear...lets see how popular will it be...