Digital Insights: Sink or Swim? Beta-Testing Google Wave

Thoughts on beta-testing the Google Wave? A little fishy.

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

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I got my Google Wave invite and successfully logged in. Now what? If you were like me and had a chance to test the Beta version of Wave (i.e., the Internet’s “next big thing”), you sat post-login wondering what to do next. And wondering where all the other 100,000 Google Wave testers were.

Eventually, I did figure it out, and entered a world of waves of all shapes and sizes. I found them in different languages and on almost every topic from politics, religion and healthcare to holiday drinks, sudoku strategy and even zombie survival.

But for some time, I still wasn’t quite sure exactly what a wave was. So I began waving by myself, and quickly found that Google Wave is an innovative and snappy—and real-time—platform for people to come together to pose questions, comment and share information based on interest, profession, etc.

Wavers can easily drop in and out of live chats, drag and drop documents in real-time to share with others, or search through a wave’s archives and play back the entire thing. It seems Google Wave will eliminate the need for long email chains, attachments and the dreaded ‘Reply All’ button. Waves can even be embedded on web pages for topic-specific dialogue and communication. This interactive technical forum encourages high-level mindshare and has the potential to be extremely helpful to the future of the pharmaceutical industry.

I joined a “Pharma Wave” whose main topic for discussion was just that, in fact—how Google Wave might work for the industry. Members of the Pharma Wave, which included industry professionals, bloggers and media experts, began a dialogue about the merits the wave platform would have for the industry—in particular, having the potential to transform patient communication, technology demonstrations and industry education in terms of virtual meetings, collaborative materials and tutorials.

Google Wavers also started a discussion wave to prepare for FDA’s Hearing on Social Media back in October. Hearing presenters used Wave to share and collaborate on agendas, documents and presentation share and review.

While the Wave has many positives, for now, it is still a bit choppy, pardon my pun. The Wave’s Inbox feature is messy at best. It is close to impossible to tell when you have new mail and messages intended just for you are not marked any differently than messages directed to the entire wave. Also, the fact that you can edit/delete anyone’s posts seems like a breeding ground for misspeaks and wave vandals. The “real-time” features are impressive, although my waves froze several times and I saw several complaints of “unsynched waves,” thus defeating the purpose of a live conversation platform.

Another drawback: You need to have a Google account to participate in a wave, which means if the platform does take off as planned, Google may in fact succeed in taking over the world (wide web).

That said, I do think the Google Wave has the potential to transform web-based discussion, but there is still much work to be done. Google granted me eight more wave invitations . . . anyone else want to try? I’m sure the Zombie Survival Wave is dying for new members. Email me: mvaccarello@putman.net.

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