The Google Wave Preview has been available to one million+ people for over three months now, but questions about Wave still abound, even by the early adopters who have gotten in and taken it for a test drive.
After publishing a book on everything I know about Wave, I still get many of the same questions I heard back when I started. Even folks usually bullish about new technology still don’t understand what they can use Wave for, how to sell it to their friends and co-workers so they have someone to use it with, and how to fit it into their workday.
As much as I’d love it if everyone bought a copy of my book for every person they invite to Wave, reading 102 pages just to “get” a product is ridiculous. So, I’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten about Wave and my best (and briefest) answers for them right here in quick-fire format.
Step inside to hear a two-word definition of Wave, what it’s useful for, why you’d choose it over similar products, and how to do the things in Wave that most often trip up new users.
A: Two words: Google Wave is multimedia wikichat.
Ok, I cheated a little. Wikichat is my made-up word for the combination of document collaboration (wikis) and messaging (chat). Imagine a Wikipedia page that only your workgroup can access and that multiple people can change simultaneously, with live, inline chat embedded in it and the ability to add online multimedia like an image slideshow, videos, maps, polls, a Sudoku game, video conference call and other interactive widgets. See it? That’s Wave.
A: You’d use Wave instead of email because you can have real-time, IM-like conversations inside it, and cut out the lag time of asynchronous email communication — you know, when you send an email and have to wait for your recipients to read, reply and send one back. In Wave, if your recipient is online, you don’t have to wait. In fact, your recipient can start typing before you stop. It’s wacky.
A: You’d use Wave instead of instant messenger because you can edit the same text, images, captions as someone else is at the same time. During an instant messenger conversation you pass back and forth a series of single-author, uneditable messages. In Wave, anyone can edit any message (or blip, in Wave-speak). Imagine correcting someone else’s typos during a chat yourself, without pointing out to them that they mistyped.
Wave also supports conversation threads, which means that instead of one linear discussion where new messages appear on top or below old ones, you can branch off sub-chats on different topics in one wave.
But mostly you use Wave to collaborate on a single copy of a document with multiple people at the same time.
A: GDocs is more like collaborative/web-based Microsoft Word, where the object is to create a flat file that gets printed or emailed to someone. Wave is more like a real-time wiki, which creates pages meant to be linked and constantly revised, pages that contain web-based multimedia and interactive gadgets.
In Wave you can drop multimedia like image slideshows, YouTube videos, Google Maps and countless other gadgets that you can’t in Google Docs. Like a wiki (and unlike Google Docs), you can link waves to each other very easily.
Wave is more like a real-time, workgroup Wikipedia than Google Docs or email.
A: Wave works when two or more people need to co-write a document. A few common use cases include:
- collaborative meeting, conference, or class notes — whether or not everyone’s in the same physical room, several people taking notes in one place is much more efficient than everyone taking their own individual notes
- interviews — each question and answer series can be one thread within the parent interview thread, where the interviewer and interviewee can revise and expand questions and answers inline
- group event planning, like a party, trip, wedding
- co-writing and editing — whether it’s books, blogs, brochures, policies
- project management
The following are questions I’ve gotten from people already in the Wave Preview, trying to figure out how to use the system.
A: Search for a wave called “Invite others to Google Wave”. Enter title:”Invite others to Google Wave” into the search box, and press Enter. One wave with only you as a participant on it should turn up. In it, you can enter the email address of the folks you want to invite.
If no wave gets returned, be patient! Google may not have doled out nominations to you yet. Save your search to check back later by clicking the Save Search button on the bottom of the Search Panel.
Q: How do I use Wave if no one I know is ever online while I am?
A: To experience the real-time magic of Wave even if your friends aren’t online, search for public waves in action using the with:public search operator. Select a wave at the top of the list of results, and watch as others type into it — then jump in yourself.
Q: How do I make a wave public?
A: Press the Spacebar. In a big wave with lots of unread blips in various locations, the Spacebar will take you to the next unread blip in one press.
A: Right now the Madoqua Bot can give you the embed code for putting a wave on a public web page. Add Madoqua to your wave to get started.
Remember, though: the people viewing your blog post or web page will have to be logged into Wave to see the embedded wave. Otherwise they’ll just get a prompt to log into the Wave Preview, which is frustrating for people who aren’t in Wave yet.
A: To remove a contact from your Wave contacts list, you’ve got to do so in the regular Google Contacts interface. Click on the Manage contacts link at the bottom of Wave’s Contacts panel. Here’s how to remove a contact step-by-step.
A: You can only remove bots from waves — not regular users. Yes, this is crazy and needs to be fixed stat. Here’s more on the inability to remove participants from a wave.
A: You can create a link to a wave in another wave by simply dragging and dropping the destination wave from the search panel onto the linking wave while you’re editing it. Make sure all your participants have access to the linked wave, otherwise they won’t be able to open it.
To link to a wave outside of Google Wave, first open the wave then minimise your Search panel. Copy and paste the link in your browser’s address bar — that link will open that wave with those panels minimised for anyone who clicks on it, is logged into Wave, and has access to that wave.
A: Click on your name at the top of the Contacts panel. From the profile pop-up, click the Edit profile button. A special profile wave opens, and there you can upload an image that will appear as your icon whenever you participate in a wave or appear in others’ Contacts lists.
A: Hover over the gadget, and an arrow will appear on the top-right corner. Click it to view the drop-down and choose “Delete”.
Q: Since my friends and co-workers don’t use it every day, I forget to check my Wave inbox. How can I get notified when waves are updated without logging in?
The Google Wave Notifier (Windows only) is a system tray application that notifies you when you have unread blips in waves.
The Google Wave Add-on for Firefox notifies you of unread waves in Firefox’s status bar.
Now I’ve got questions for you. I’m working on the next edition of The Complete Guide to Google Wave, and I want to know: What do you want to see get added to the book? What burning questions did I miss here? How are you using Wave day-to-day — or what’s stopping you from doing so? Post your thoughts in the comments, and thanks in advance for your help expanding the book.