Google Wave: It's innovative, but is it truly useful?

By Preston Gralla, Computerworld |  Software, collaboration, Google

I'm not convinced this is a good thing. Most of us don't get a sentence completely right the first time -- we commit typos, then go back and edit them, or we start with one idea, think better of it, erase it and start over again. With Google Wave, the recipients see that entire process.

Watching people type is about as productive and entertaining as watching paint dry. Watching them struggle with typos and editing is even worse. It's like watching sausage being made -- you may like the end result, but the messy process of creation is not one that you want to witness up close and personal.

People respond to one another's messages, as in e-mail, and they can reply either to the entire group or privately to an individual. The thread, with people's responses appearing in the appropriate places in the conversation, is what makes up a wave.

You can format your messages using fonts, colors, highlights and so on, and you can send attachments and links as well. And, as mentioned before, you can embed other kinds of content directly in the wave -- by using Google Wave gadgets.

Gadgets and robots

If Google Wave ever takes off, the gadgets will be key to its success, because they can potentially integrate Google Wave with other existing services on the Web. For example, there is a voting gadget that lets people vote Yes, No or Maybe. There are also gadgets for conferencing, video-chatting, playing games, getting weather forecasts and more.

At this point, though, there aren't many gadgets available. And finding and installing them is problematic. When you click the gadget icon that appears when you create a message in a wave, all you get is a dialog box asking you to type in a URL. It doesn't let you browse through a gadget library or preview gadgets. So you'll have to find each gadget on your own, copy its URL, and then paste it into the box.

In the existing Google Wave preview, there is another way to add a gadget -- by viewing a Google-supplied wave that has a little more than half a dozen gadgets. But there are more gadgets being created by third-party developers, and for now, there's no central way to find them the way there is to find, say, add-ons for Firefox.

In addition to gadgets, you can also add "robots," which can participate in waves almost as if they were human participants. You add a robot to your contacts list, and then when you want it to perform an action, you add it as a participant to your wave, in the same way you add a human participant.

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