Category Archives: application

Google Wave: Good for a 2009 Year in Review but is it useful for more?

Barb Dybwad over at Mashable picked up on a video by Whirled Interactive where they use Google Wave as vehicle for a clever 2009 Year in Review that breaks down the major news events.

As Dybwad writes, this video shows the potential for Wave as a “video production medium,” like the “Pulp Wave Fiction” movie that Mashable shared elsewhere. And as Adam Ostrow tweeted, the folks over at Whirled Interactive are “super talented.”

As funny as these videos may be, I’m still looking for a personal use case for Google Wave. I’ve been dipping in and out of Wave for months as new people log on and explore. I expected the network effect of having more contacts there to result in some pick up. Enterprise 2.0 is not THAT big of a deal,as Andy McAfee says: what about Google Wave?

The Good

Google proposes any number of functions for Google Wave, including:

  1. Event Organizing
  2. Creation and Management of “Living” Group Projects
  3. Drag-and-Drop Photo Sharing
  4. Creation of “Living” meeting notes
  5. Interactive Gaming

The best way to learn about the software, however, is to read Gina Trapani and Adam Pash’s Complete Guide to Google Wave and to watch this (long) intro video from Google itself:

Lorraine Lawson wrote about Google Wave’s potential for enterprise integration over at IT Business Edge back in June and offered any number of potential use cases. (I have yet to hear about their transition into case studies.) Dion Hinchcliffe was bullish on the potential of the tool when he wrote about the enterprise implications of Google Wave at the end of May. He offered an excellent “first look” review there, for readers who want a more detailed breakdown of what Wave it and how it works.

More recently, Lifehacker included Google Wave on its 5 best collaboration tools, and collected an impressive breadth and variety of Google Wave use cases that range from family life to wedding planning,  disaster relief to translation for research.

The bad

For me, combining a heterogenous suite of wikis, microblogging, email, IM and Skype has continued to be more useful than Wave. As a working environment, I’ve found it to be both noisy, as I watch other contribute, and often unstable.  (I even gave it a try on my iPhone over wifi, an experience akin to pouring molasses down a snowdrift).

My colleague, Rachel Lebeaux, expressed much the same reaction when she wrote about Google Wave as an enterprise collaboration tool. (She found a CIO who is installing a Wave server in her comments; I hope to hear more on that.)

Since then, however, the reaction online has often been withering, due in part to the learning curve required of new users that don’t have the attention span to watch that video or read the manual. For good or ill, people expect to be able to figure out collaborative software without that time investment. The editor-in-chief of TechRepublic, Jason Hiner, put the software at the top of his “worst tech products of the year.” Tough year in review to make:

“After trying Google Wave when the product was released into the wild, my opinion hasn’t changed (and others such as Robert Scoble have come to the same conclusion). Google Wave is basically a super-chatty IM client, and a badly overhyped one at that. The only use I can see for this product is for geographically dispersed project teams collaborating and brainstorming on documents and product development ideas in real time.”

And as Shaun Dakin @replied tonight, “@RWW named it as one of the top 10 products failures of the year, I agree. Solution in search of problem.” To say that Jolie O’Dell was rough on Wave is an understatement:

“We have to hand it to Google’s publicity team; we don’t know one geek who wasn’t positively salivating for a Wave invite. The ReadWriteWeb back channel was a complete melee when the first invites were rolled out to team members. But once we got there and saw the new tech tricks, like watching one another type, we started thinking about use cases. And the more we struggled to understand and use this product, the more frustrated and bored we became. Blame it on the steep learning curve. Blame it on our misunderstanding the product. Mount whatever feeble defense you like, but techies know Wave was a flop.

The trouble-y

Even with all of that negativity, I still have trouble with dismissing Google Wave as a victim of hype. I’ve already read about some innovative use cases for those who can get through the UI challenges. And I’ve met CIOs and CTOs who are interested in what happens next, when Google’s engineers iterate to address user feedback.

Many media organizations are trying out Google Wave for news, as Leah Betancourt shared on Mashable and Lifehacker wrote about above. As she writes:

Additionally, as Revolution Magazine reported, Welt Kompakt, a spinoff of the German daily Die Welt, is among the first newspapers around the world to integrate Google Wave into its coverage.

When I asked if any of my followers had found a use for Google Wave, Wayne Kurtzman @replied that “Google Wave is amazing if people use it as a collaboration tool; not just e-mail. Google does not make it easy to learn how & holds it back. I used Wave to collaborate on a voice over script for a video; elements SoundFX, vid, script, etc. Goog has no resources to teach others. Security, cultural (collab) and our size are challenges. Wave can be a game-changer.”

As quoted in Forbes, Tom Mornini, CTO and founder of Engine Yard, “pointed out recently (see: “The Real Meaning of Google Wave”), the major impact of Google Wave will ultimately come from its power as a development platform for serious, distributed applications.” If you’re wondering at how far Google Wave will get, consider whether enterprise software makers like SAP are taking it seriously as a platform. As Forbes described, SAP Research  used of it in its Gravity demonstration prototype, combining SAP’s business process modeling (BPM) technology with Google Wave.

My colleague Kristen Caretta was balanced  in assessing what Google Wave may mean for IT, offering that Gravity use case. Kristin also wrote that “Salesforce.com is working on a prototype extension to Google Wave that could help its customers provide customized, documented support in their own businesses.”

Attendees at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this fall were presented with other Google Wave use cases by Google Wave product manager Gregory D’Alesandre, including Novell Pulse and ThoughtWorks. The collaboration tool is certainly part of Google’s plans for its enterprise customers. “Wave will be available as part of the Google Apps suite if you have Google Apps for your domain,” said D’Alesandre.

That might all imply that at least some techies do not, in fact, regard Wave as a flop. Google continues to add more to its development team with the recent acquisition of Etherpad, a Web-based collaboration app that may well be a boost to Google Wave.

As for this geek, caught somewhere in the intertices between journalism and techiedom, I’ll be on the lookout for more enterprise and media use cases. If you have one at hand, please share it in the comments.

Welt Kompakt, a spinoff of the German daily Die Welt, is among the first newspapers around the world to integrate Google Wave into its coverage, Revolution Magazine reported yesterday.
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Distributed collaborative birding? Yup, there’s an app for that.

My friend Ed shared something me that’s pretty nifty if you’re a geeky birder, like me: an iPhone application that gives you instant access to reports of birds near you.

As Mary Esch wrote in an “App in the hand” for the AP, the BirdsEye bird-finding app “gives users instant access to recent reports of birds spotted near their location, tells them where to look for specific birds, and keeps track of their lists of all the birds they’ve ever seen.”

As Mary also observes, the BirdEye app makes its debut just ahead of the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

If fellow birders are going to take it out and about with them, I hope they bring along an Otterbox or the like. The count tends to be a squishy slog that’s more conducive to hardy clipboards than sensitive consumer electronics.

That said, BirdsEye looks nifty.

Good thing, too, since at $19.99, the app isn’t cheap. I suspect, however, that many avid avian chasers might just be happy to fork over for it.

It uses the iPhone’s GPS to calculate your location and then displays a list of either all of the birds ever displayed in the area, sortable by recent activity. You can also filter for birds that aren’t on your lifetime sighting list, if you’ve spent the time on inputting that information from the back of your dog-eared and battered Petersen’s Guide. (For iPod Touch owners walking fields with no nearby wifi access — imagine that — there’s an option to  manually enter locations too.)

Birdseye includes some nifty interactive features, including tie-ins to maps, recorded bird calls, photos and spoken explanations by Kaufman about whether a given bird is likely to be spotted in trees, waterways or in the fields.

The application was developed by Birds in the Hand, LLC, of Virginia, and brings together content from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and field guide author Kenn Kaufman.

BirdsEye is now available on the App Store. (Direct link)

That collaboration of ornithologists means users have access to some of the best birding resources on the planet. According to Brian Sullivan at the Cornell lab, as quoted in the AP story, about 40,000 birders enter up to 2 million sightings every month into eBird.

And if people decide to spring for it this holiday season, you might well see some of my fellow geeky birders using a bird in hand to identify two in a bush.

For more on Birdseye, check out:

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