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Google Wave: What’s The Use?

Following up on my previous post about Google Wave I think it worth mentioning that Wave is good for more than just tracking your projects and activities. So here’s my own bold move – I am going to collect all the uses for Google Wave I could find. Feel free to suggest more, don’t limit yourself to currently available features.

  1. Project tracking, basic project management. Tie in a simple robot and you will even have some stats.
  2. New way of scheduling, where everyone can immediately see what the options for meeting are (I am not talking just about business meeting, pizza party from Google’s own example serves just right)
  3. Threaded real-time discussions, sort of like forums of bulletin boards, but without a need to refresh to see if there are any changes.
  4. Chat rooms, public or private.
  5. Blog posting tool, when the stream of blips is available as blog posts, wavelets are categories and you can still have fun with tags.
  6. Collaborative document editing, similar to what we saw in Google Docs, but with emphasis on collaboration and team work.
  7. Journal, such as workout log or (dare I say it?) captain’s log!
  8. Tweeting from Wave!

Feel free to add more in comments, I will keep updating this post as I will dig out more.

What Is Google Wave And What’s In It For Small Business Owners?

What is Google Wave and what's in it for small business owners - Small Business, Marketing and Web Design blog What is Google Wave?

The more you read about it the more confusing it gets. Is it an e-mail? Or is it a messenger service, like AIM or MSN Messenger? Maybe it is some sort of sharing thing, like Flickr or YouTube?

Well – it’s none of the above, or rather, all of the above – with a twist. What you need to understand about Google Wave is that it is a new – and more effective – way of communication. Something like Twitter on so many steroids that it has mutated above and beyond any imagination.

If you think about how you (or your parents) used to use calculators for complex formulas. Doing step by step computations, writing temporary values on a piece of paper to plug them into next formula a few seconds later. I am talking about times before even Calc or Excel came along.

Or you can think of making payments in old days – you tear a check off from your checkbook. Then you find the bill and fill out amounts, dates, who is this check made to, maybe a note. Then you put both return portion of your bill and a check into the envelope, place a stamp on it and then run to the post office to make sure it has a slightly less chance of being lost.

These examples are what we are living with now, that’s the way we communicate. Slow, elaborate, multiple step manual and often painful process. That, in turn, is dependent on other processes, that are also manual and elaborate (think – getting a right calculator, a sharpened pencil and paper, or buying stamps and envelopes). Pain in the neck and other places.

Think of how you schedule a meeting. Think how you keep track of your group activities. Think of how you keep track of your own projects. Think of any daily activity that has any continuity to it.

So What’s In It For Small Business Owners?

Being a small business owner has one, most notorious yet unavoidable disadvantage to it. That is having only 24 hours for any given day. No matter what you do, you can’t make it 25, even if you hire enough muscle to turn mountains upside down. Google Wave can make that time count, save you time on multiple hassles and create more opportunities by just being there.

To show you how small business owners can benefit, I will cite an example of one of my clients who runs a successful business but still finds himself being totally lost in regards to what activities are current, what are done and what are pending, who works on what, which projects are complete and which are still open.

My communication with him is primarily through e-mail. He is using Yahoo mail, I am using GMail. He needs about 15 minutes to sit down and think what he wants to ask. Then he opens up last e-mail that I have sent him and replies with his new request. Which totally screws history of each issue and request as well as messes up threading in my GMail. Few hours later he decides to inquire about the status of another issue and the previous request gets buried under the previous one. So is the history of each of request on client’s side, because he fires off these e-mails randomly, without any regard to the previous contents. Issues get overlooked and lost. Important notifications get missed. Status reports and requests get looked at late. Mess is running the place.

Now let’s fast forward couple of years and imagine Google Wave is already open for business and I have actually succeeded moving my client from old and clunky Yahoo Mail to Google Wave. I create a Wave for each project I am working on or possibly will be working on. Or client can do it himself – doesn’t matter. Each Wave represents a stream of communications in regard to this specific project. Emails, images, videos, documents, requests and responses – everything is ordered by project. If something gets orphaned or request gets into foreign territory – we can move it into right stream, unlike e-mail of which we have no control over once it sent. The whole history is visible to both me and my client. We can refer to it and it is much clearer than a heap of e-mails without any order. We can invite participants to discuss certain issues, we can create sub-discussions to branch off discussions or to separate certain issues if we need to prioritize them or if we don’t want new participants to see the whole thing. I actually have submitted this to Google Wave ideas – should be somewhere among New Ideas now, feel free to vote. So if you are discussing something with your internet marketing guy, your accountant and your store manager in the other part of town – you don’t get confused, you can easily follow the stream and see what is going on with that particular project. Less time wasted, more money earned.

This example incorporates the following activities most of us are doing manually on a daily (and some on an hourly) basis:

  • e-mail sorting (is designer asking about the banner he sent us Monday last week or this week?)
  • assets sorting / file management (where the hell are those banners anyway?)
  • issue prioritizing (should we tell him to fix product image on a front page while we are searching for the damn banner?)
  • branching off the discussion (when did we say the money will be ready? Let’s ask bookkeeper if she sent the check already)
  • including other participants in the discussion (let’s ask what our marketing guy thinks about these banners)
  • having a meeting on the fly (alright, if everybody likes this banner, it’s a winner, case closed, move on).

As you can see, it may sound a bit convoluted. Indeed, it does – mainly because we are so used to doing the computation on calculator and piece of paper we cannot imagine having a computer with most of the solutions built in.

Long Time No See

Yes, that’s me – long time no see, but I am finally back. Two vacations and some life-changing experience as well as four months are through – and this blog is back online.

Since my last post was about iPhone, I will start with iPhone again now. So far it has proven to be a wonderful device, although it still has that toy feeling. Throughout all these four months I couldn’t help but think that I can’t wait to put this toy aside as soon as something more suitable comes along.

By being exposed to AppStore and the multitude of iPhone Apps, I kind of got an idea of the market, the possibilities and the progress one can make. What happens on iPhone market is very much similar to PC shareware scene back in the eighties. Lots of free programs with limited functionality with bunch of nagging screens asking for money in exchange for a full version. Lots of small software teams of few people (sometimes it’s just one person).

If current state of PC software market is any indication, in just a few years we’ll see the next generation productivity tools, massively multiplayer online games of all kinds, collaboration and communication suites.

And speaking of communications – recently I had a chance to try out Google Wave. My first impression – imagine Microsoft Work stuck in review revisions mode when a lot of people are making changes and you’re looking at them in real time. And instead of that annoying (at least to me) “copy column” you get to have instant messenger right inside the very document you’re editing. And you can play it as a movie to see who said what and when. And you can use it to blog (I am looking into that!). And share pictures. And create automated “bots” that will annoy people who try to talk to you when you’re away.

At some point during the I/O presentation (which I had to watch just to get an idea how to use the Wave) I got this funny feeling that Google is a self-improving artificial intelligence network that keeps googlers as ambassadors to humanity. Come to think of it – when you have a project (and you can call a project either building a web site or a vacation) and you communicate among a number of people, it’s hard to keep everything in order – meeting minutes, e-mails, instant messages, phone calls, to-do lists and so on. Google Wave takes care of all that. In fact, it does it so good that you don’t even need to come back to your old e-mail anymore. Each wave – is a task, an e-mail thread, a repository of documents and a to-do list. Once you start thinking in waves – I haven’t seen anyone using this expression, but it’s pretty obvious – you just can’t go back to old-style technology.