3rd Year Physics and the problem with Google Wave

Ain’t this the truth?



(Via Zoe P)

Huge, almost feverish anticipation swept the internet when Google wave was announced.  The reality some weeks later is that people seem to be:

i) waiting for an invite

ii) have an invite, but haven’t had the time or inclination to stop what they’re doing and ‘wave’…

iii) have an invitation, have tried it, but found no-one they want to wave with for any real purpose, so stopped using it

Why?  Well, I don’t think it’s a ‘product’ thing…

What is Google Wave?

Ok, a quick recap and opinion on what Google Wave is… having tried it (I’m part of iii above), it’s clearly going to be a useful improvement on email.

Going back to my third year physics, conventional email is essentially a series circuit.  If one bulb goes, the whole circuit stops working.



(pics from here)

In terms of email, to maximise collaboration between 4 folk you’d send it to someone, who forwards it to someone else, who then sends it to someone else, and it arrives back in your inbox with input from everybody.  Then everyone’s input is included.

If someone doesn’t send it on, the circuit breaks, and nothing happens… until, like Christmas lights, the bulb is replaced.

In comparison, parallel circuits don’t need every bulb to work in order for the others to keep working.  The others keep on working until you eventually replace the dud bulb.



If you attempt to make traditional email systems a ‘parallel circuit’ (usually by including everyone in the email all at once), then you undoubtedly end up with a disparate set of people’s input strewn across different emails…

You get multiple iterations of the email, sometime simultaneously, which isn’t really all that collaborative… and more often than not, he who shouts first shouts loudest in email chains…

Anyway, it’s clear that Google Wave has been created to get over this problem, and it’s clear we could do with something to help us over it… but why hasn’t it taken off?

A fairly rubbish launch strategy

Google have launched things very successfully before using the ‘limited invites’ method… just think how precious Gmail invites were, and the great word-of-mouth that the service received from those who had it.

But why is it not yielding similar success for Wave?

Well, of course, it needs everyone to change system.  If you were on Gmail, you could still talk to people in with work, hotmail, yahoo or other email accounts.  Gmail spoke the same ‘universal language’ as the other systems, so still let people connect.

Wave’s not like that.  It demands that everyone signs up to Wave in order to do stuff together.

And here’s the problem… if you have a limited invite system in place, but need everyone in any group that want to ‘Wave’ together to have an invite in order to make it work properly, then there’s going to be an issue…

…essentially you’ve designed a beautiful parallel circuit, but you’re only letting one bulb use it at a time…



Fixing the problem

So, how can they rectify this issue?  Obviously they don’t want everyone testing it at once… I’m sure there’s all sorts of load testing issues and refinement stuff they’re up to.

But perhaps they should change the way they distribute invites, or change the language they use to do it? 

Ask people something like ‘want to collaborate with others on Google Wave?  Then write a quick outline of the project, give us the emails of the peopel you want to collaborate with, and we’ll invite them for you…’

Rather than inviting people as individuals, invites teams of people as ‘projects’.

And then all of those people will be able to see what Wave can really do for them…