Riding the Google Wave

Another guest post here, this time from Tractionista Carly Schwartz — @carlicita to the twitterati. Carly got her hands on a prized Google Wave invite (eat your heart out Willie Wonka — golden tickets got nothing on these). Her thoughts are below. And a few of mine are below that.

Carly says...

When I first heard about Google Wave, a pair of Australian developers’ take on the next generation of online conversation, I was skeptical. A longtime Gmail loyalist, I couldn’t understand what, exactly, needed fixing. Then the Mountain View megacompany released its demo to a limited, invite-only audience, and the blogosphere exploded.

After reading 140-character testimonials about the supposedly revolutionary—and highly exclusive—communication platform, I started to feel left out. When access trickled to a handful of my friends, I watched as they, too, tweeted their success stories.

Resolving to become a part of their inner circle, I submitted countless requests, even penning a Limerick (“There once was a girl named Carly, who thought Google Wave was quite gnarly…”). Luckily I managed to convince my roommate, a Google product manager, to trade me his last invite for a bottle of cheap champagne. Voila! Instant access to the Internet elite.

Google Wave is, in essence, email to the umpteenth power. It combines rich media like photos, videos, maps, and application plug-ins into a hosted conversation that can be edited in real-time by multiple end-users who share access. As edits are designed to flow seamlessly, such documents are called “waves.” Anyone added to a wave can invite anyone else they choose, thus eliminating the need for CCing and pesky 37-person e-mail chains.

Google captures a version of the wave as each new edit is made, allowing users to go back and view the document at every stage of the creation process using a simple “playback” button. Once the program is universally released, developers will have a field day creating extensions from Twitter plug-ins to Scrabble games using the wave’s easily accessible API.

Pretty nifty, no? In theory, Google Wave is the answer to collaboration and conversation in the twenty-first century. Gone are the days of clogged inboxes and larger-than-life attachments. Instead, the wave provides users with a full aggregation of all their media, the richest of rich communication tools.

Perhaps I wanted to throw a party for my friend’s twenty-fifth birthday. Using Google Wave as my primary means of communication would allow guests to divvy up responsibilities, determine a date and time that works best, map the location, tally up the invitees, and even share incriminating photos the morning after—all in a single shared document.

Or say Traction needed to conduct an internal brainstorm before a major client meeting. If said discussion took place via Wave, we could edit one another’s work, embed media to support our talking points, and finish with a clean final product.

But in its beta phase, developers still have more than a few bugs to zap. And even if every kink were ironed out perfectly before the program’s universal launch, Google Wave would still have its fair share of issues.

For one, a clunky interface prohibits users from accessing more than one wave at a time, making multiple conversations at once nearly impossible. Moreover, the ability to add anyone to a wave at any time takes the intimacy and confidentiality out of one-on-one communication.

Real-time editing, as cool as it is to watch, seems to me like a recipe for digital disagreements if certain wave users don’t like the changes others make. And a slew of awkward features, from the confusingly small scrollbars to the inability to actually delete waves (Google calls it “muting” instead), may deter otherwise early adopters.

After a week of playing in the waves, I’m equal parts impressed and ambivalent. The ability to communicate using a smorgasbord of media in one place is fascinating, but I can’t shake the notion that those Aussie developers tried to find a solution to a problem that never existed. I give it at least five years before the wave becomes, er, a tsunami. Until then, TwitMyFaceTubeGmailpedia will have to suffice.

And I say...

What's on the mind of many marketers (or at least the hipster digital ones) is what will Google Wave mean to the future of marketing? Will it change everything? Will they have to figure out how to do their jobs all over once again?

The good news: not so much.

Don't get me wrong. It's a cool tool. It's got great potential for creating brand narratives that engage and involve consumers. We'll see lots of forward-thinking brands using it in innovative new ways. It is a very real tactic that will make it into the social media marketing strategies of 2011.

But a tactic is not a revolution. Neither is the Wave.


Zappos Presentation from the Inc. 500 | 5000

This is Tony Hsieh's presentation from the Inc. 500 | 5000 Conference I mentioned in my last post. Great advice on how to build a brand from the inside out.