I hope everybody had a nice Thanksgiving weekend. In between opening boxes in my new house, eating lots of turkey, and watching football I started playing around with Google Wave. Melissa R. kindly gave me an invite and I have a few invites available for tech playing medical librarians.
So what is this Google Wave thing?
Good question. Google Wave is a “personal communication and collaboration tool” developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen the creaters of Google Maps. The Wave started in September 2009 with 100,000 users who were each allowed to invite other users to the system. Google Wave is supposed to easily hook up users with real-time communication and facilitate collaboration. A “wave” can be a conversation or a document where people can discuss and work together. A wave is shared and participants can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants into the process at any point. Waves are live, as you type participants see it.
Ok so why should I care about Google Wave?
Lars, Jens and Google think Wave is the next “big” communication thing. The way Google Maps reinvented maping, only more so. They think of it as an email killer. Which personally I think is an extremely bold statement and lofty goal.
So why on earth would I use Google Wave?
According to the folks at Google (who as you know have some interest in seeing Wave take off) you can use Wave for organizing events, group projects, photo sharing, meeting notes, brainstorming, and interactive games. There are ton of other established ways people already do these things like Evite, flickr, GoogleDocs, etc. I am not sure why Google Wave is better at doing these things rather than the traditional methods and online applications. I think the Google Wave people would say that it is better because everything is done in real time. My answer is, yeah so.
Google Wave is extremely new, and I only know of three examples of librarian usage (please comment if you have other examples). Bart Ragon, chair of the MLA Social Networking Task Force is experimenting with Google Wave discussing the new PubMed design. Nikki Detmar has created a medlibs wave and a group of librarians within LITA have a LITA wave. So far I have only briefly played around in the New PubMed wave created by Bart. I plan on playing in the medlib wave soon.
Nikki Detmar just blogged about the possible use of Google Wave for community and emergency information. She discussed the Seattle Times experiment of using Wave (interesting they advertised the Wave experiment first on Twitter) for the emerging Lakewood shootings news story. It is interesting to see how the Wave worked (and how it was quickly overloaded).
So what is the future of Wave?
Right now I am totally unimpressed with Wave. It is not out of the box user friendly. Perhaps I was expecting too much. I wanted something like Facebook where you can EASILY search for friends and add them to your wave. I don’t want to have to use my Gmail account, that account is my one true non spam account and I don’t want to open it up. I already get too much junk in my other accounts. I wish I could use an email account that is already associated with a social networking application. I think it needs to be able to grab your friends from Facebook or other sites to be truly useful.
Searching is yucky. It is a far departure from your typical Google searching strategy. If you have to search for a public wave you have to use :public and then put your search term in.
For example: :public LITA Google Wave Group
That is annoying not intuitive, and a barrier to regular people adopting it. Another usage barrier is browser compatibility. Google Wave appears to work best on Chrome (Google’s browser, go figure) but who on earth really uses Chrome other than G1 phone users? According to Browser Watch, Internet Explorers market share is 67.51%, Firefox is 21.73%, and Google Chrome is 1.15%. People can use Wave with Firefox and IE, but IE users must first install the Google Chrome Frame browser plugin. Again another pain. I chose to use Firefox to play around. Designing a product that works best only on their Chrome platform can work one of two ways. It could be a stroke of genius, getting more people to use Chrome. It also could be a very very bad idea. IE is dominant in the browser business and is the 800 lbs gorilla that most people use because it is there. People are entrenched in their browser choice and they don’t move unless there is sufficient reason. Firefox which is way more flexible and adaptable (and some would say better) than IE only has 21% of the market share.
Right now I don’t see Google Wave replacing my email or my Twitter. I think it is a pain to use and really doesn’t connect people as easily as I think it should. Perhaps it will develop to be the email killer, I don’t know. I will still keep playing with it for a little while just to see what all it can do and see what (if any) applications it can have in medical libraries. Who knows maybe it will be great for libraries. I don’t know. Just look at Twitter. A year ago I couldn’t find a good reason for medical librarians to be using Twitter for library purposes. I was wrong about that, but it took some time and some creative individuals for that to happen. So I welcome any creative medical librarians to play with Google Wave, maybe it will be helpful in the future.