Ryan Dement<br />Information Technology (17:610:550:02)<br />Term Paper<br />December 17, 2009<br />Google Wave: A Review ...
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication
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Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication

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Google Wave: An Overview of Ability and Implication

  1. 1. Ryan Dement<br />Information Technology (17:610:550:02)<br />Term Paper<br />December 17, 2009<br />Google Wave: A Review of Ability and Implication<br />With the onslaught of Web 2.0, innovative networking tools have seemed to appear faster than the Web community can process in the past few years. As developers are beginning to realize a fuller level of potential activity inherent in Web communication, the exciting array of possibilities have virally caught fire in dozens of intuitive applications, addressing the essential problem of the Internet (information overload) and simultaneously identifying a nested problem within it (information service overload). Web-users network (Facebook), blog (Twitter), manage photos (Flickr), explore their environment (GoogleMaps, Yelp!), organize tasks (E-mail), search information (Google, Bing), and many other tasks (with many other tools). However, this new found aspect of “pull” on the Web, while empowering users greatly, still requires one to navigate several “sites.” Though cross-communication between these applications is growing, inevitably the problem of streamlining valuable Web tools will have to be addressed.<br />The first effective glimpse of a potential answer to these issues has been revealed in Google Wave, a new web application, touted as the “Swiss Army knife of communication and information management services” (Arnold 2009, 12). It was announced as a new development by Google at the I/O conference on May 27, 2009. A “preview release” (as Google is eschewing the “beta” term for this tool), geared specifically towards developers was released in September 2009, though most requests for invites have been granted in November. (Fox). <br />Google Wave is Google’s answer to sharing, an Internet phenomenon that the Web mogul has left to Facebook and Twitter until now. It combines two broad issues at the core of its functionality: Content and Document. (Arnold 28). Essentially it is a smooth, clean conflation of already present Web 2.0 features: <br />Imagine that your email program got a bit hungry and ate your instant-messaging client. And your wiki. Not to mention a good portion of your blog, most of your word processor, and rather large chunks of your photo-management program, along with a light dessert of a spell checker and translation software. (Harris 2009, 12).<br />Such a lofty goal is admirable, and the implications have dazzled Web users in anticipation. Arnold describes the tool most accurately as an “information operating system,” which speaks to its potential power (Arnold 29). Even if Google Wave eventually putters out of existence, its innovative take on the next generation of using the Web for social networking and task/file management has already introduced a paradigm shift of how we communicate and collaborate online. (Harris 12).<br />Discussion of Features<br />Google Wave looks like a Google product. It’s clean and crisp presentation initially misrepresents the tool’s power. Initial thoughts upon a first use might include, “So, what’s the big deal about this?” and “It doesn’t look like there’s much to do.” Video tutorials are immediately provided upon signing up and comprehensive guides can be found easily (Parr; Trapani). However, the best tool is diving right in. When I began my first “wave” with an old friend, within an hour, we had deciphered many features and shortcuts, traded files, employed gadgets, embedded a map, and garnered a confidence strong enough that I decided to organize this paper’s research within the tool, itself. What’s more, our entire process was recorded and was navigable and organizable on many levels.<br />The layout consists of four windows. At any point, one or all of these windows can be minimized, forming a tabbed toolbar along the top of the screen. This allows the ability to view a “wave” in full screen. Two small windows on the left side of the screen are familiar tools: Navigation and Contacts. Linking to a users Google Contacts through the company’s other tools (Gmail), allows quick importation to a crisp searchable list displaying wavenames and thumbnail avatars. The Navigation window appears like the traditional email service; however, it sports great customizability in the ability to create/delete folders, color code messages by folder, and also to save and organize the powerful searches Google Wave supports.<br />These folders, when selected, are displayed in a third window much like an Inbox page. “Waves” (conversations, threads) appear with the avatars of participating users (of which there can be multiple), the (possibly color-coded) title, first line of text, icons for included gadgets or attachments, if present, a last updated time, and the number of “blips” within the “wave.” (A “blip” is any one comment, file, or piece of a larger “wave.”) In this window, one can start a new “wave,” search the text of all “waves,” and perform other familiar email functions (read/unread, “move to…”, trash, mark as spam,). It also offers a “follow” function to notify the user of each update, if desired, and the ability to “archive” a “wave,” making it invisible until an update occurs.<br />The final, and most important, window displays the selected “wave.” Here is where most of the innovations of Google Wave play out. A redesigned version of a scrollbar, employing one-stop “click” and “drag” movability, is one way to navigate a “wave.” A non-intrusive tool in the bottom-left window allow the user to “tag” a “wave” with relevant information, which appears on all participants’ versions of the thread, making similar threads easier to group and find. At the bottom-right, menus allow the user to manage the thread’s files and images.<br />Now, to dissect an actual “wave” is difficult as the format lends itself to versatility and serendipitous growth. “Wavelets” can be made among “waves” that involve more than two people. These are more private embedded threads between some members of the group making an aside sub-conversation possible. These are displayed in a form similar to a flowchart within the initial “wave.” A formatting toolbar avoids clutter or overload by only appearing once a text box for a new “blip” has been initiated, which is done through clicking an inconspicuous down arrow to the right of the actual “wave.” (A much easier shortcut of SHIFT +ENTER makes replying to and starting “blips” quick and painless in a natural way, making the instant message factor much more executable.) This toolbar includes standard text formatting tools (justification, font details, bullets, hyperlink), but also serves as a launching point for many of the applications most dynamic features. <br />One of these “gadgets,” or in-“wave” mini-apps, is the ability to use Google’s Web search in a drop-down window, which displays results in a familiar format with the added function of being able to embed the results page or any specific site as a hyperlink straight into the “wave.” Another simple, but useful, gadget is the “Yes/No/Maybe” tool, which places a customizable question within a “wave,” so that other participants may click an answer and record each answer in a user-friendly way. A third standard tool is the Map gadget, which embeds a GoogleMap into the “wave.” While the member who initiated the map manipulates it to show the desired area or highlight a route, the other “wave” participants watch the map move in realtime. One can explore the map on their own by switching on/off the “Shared View” mode. Using these three standard functions, conceivably a “wave” of multiple coworkers could post a Yes/No/Maybe question asking who would like to go to lunch, display a digestible list of people’s answers, search the Web for a nearby restaurant, hyperlink its page, and display a map with directions all within the confines of Google Wave.<br />Google Wave functions mostly as an amalgamation of email and chat/instant messaging services. For email needs, the tool optimizes file sharing, allowing the user to either upload via a familiar paperclip icon or simply drag and drop any file into the wave itself. Image documents are viewed as thumbnails and videos are automatically embedded. A variety of organizational options (open, save, relocate) are available through immediate use of the browser’s tools. Google Wave also capitalizes on the long-drooled after idea of the “thrask” (thread + task). “Blips” are organized like message boards with tabbing indicating to facilitate sub-discussion of specific “blips.” Any “blip” is editable by any party at any time, making old “emails” completely updatable. “Blips” can be deleted to clean up a “wave” or thread and any “blip” can be extracted to a new “wave,” alleviating the immediate problem of “waves” going off track and growing into too much information to process. A potentially powerful tool is a “robot,” much like the IMbots of yesteryear, but with much more dexterity. A “robot” can be customized to find and replace or even to perform constant complex formatting commands on each incoming “blip,” taking more pressures of compatibility and structure off of the user.<br />The Instant Messaging aspect of Google Wave appears in its realtime facet. Unlike traditional chat or email, a user does not click “submit” to contribute a “blip,” but rather a “done” button. This is because as a “wave” participant types, the words are instantly shown to others. In multiple-user “waves,” participants are assigned a color. If one were to self-edit a “blip,” the changes would appear in one’s respective color. Also, the program allows for users to edit each other’s posts even as they are being typed, using the color coding to show who has done what, giving the “wave” a wiki feel, and providing the ability to change information without resending and replacing tasks. This also helps in addressing multiple aspects of a single “blip” and greatly increases the pace and immediacy of communicating via “wave.”<br />Finally, an impressive innovation is a tool simply entitled “Playback.” As one would imagine, with the chat feel of Google Wave (further convoluted by the participation of multiple users) long, complex, and winding “waves” grow to intimidating sizes. Some of this issue is addressed through the powerful search function. Another way to understand a “wave,” especially if invited in halfway through it, is to click the Playback button. Playback displays a “wave” in slideshow type format, where a user can watch the “wave” grow from nothing into an intricate information document. By viewing each user’s actions piece by piece as they occurred, a valuable “paper trail” can make exhaustive meeting notes or conversation tangents easy to navigate.<br />It is important to remember that Google Wave is still in a early developer’s preview form (done by Google mostly to begin the Open Source generation of gadgets and extensions and generate reviewable feedback in order to make the first full version as potent as possible). Because of this, the “beta” version is somewhat buggy, working less smoothly in Firefox and other browsers as it does in Google Chrome. The Map tool can be laggy, and sometimes typing itself is delayed, making spelling errors common via realtime publishing (though spell check and a forty-language translator are embedded instant tools in the “wave” window). An “undo” function is severely needed to stem consequences of hasty or accidental decisions. Also, higher “read-only” customizability will be highly useful to prevent vandalism of “waves” and to set some information as constantly controlled. The overall power of the tool would be intensified with a non-browser application version, as well.<br />Personal Information Management (PIM)<br />The aspect of Information Science most relative to the discussion of Google Wave is Personal Information Management. This specific brand of IS combines the topics of personal archiving, task management, Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS), and the science of Information Retrieval systems building. Though the academic field has been slow to fully consider the impact of Web 2.0 on all of these points, much of the recent research has identified issues which social networking has been based on. Specifically, much of the PIM discussion revolves around email as the Web tool moves into its second decade of prevalence. By observing how people in different contexts approach their information worlds using email, the future. (Jones 2007). In fact, Google Wave has been described as developers asking, “What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?” necessitating a new framework containing “equal parts conversation and document” (Vascallero 28). <br />Barreau’s 2008 study revisited research data of ten years prior by tracking down participants to see how their interaction with email had changed since 1998. Barreau found that the users employed mostly the same habits and were consistently frustrated with the same problems. Email was found to be used in three facets: personal archiving, task management, and contact management. (67). Google Wave provides decent improvement on the former, facilitating document viewing and sharing with greater ease. Task Management is greatly enhanced through the previously discussed options of realtime productivity, organizing information across and within “waves,” and intricate coding and classification options. Contact Management shows no great improvement over previous systems, though this aspect of PIM has generally satisfied users for a while now.<br />It remains clear that Google does pay attention to IS research (even contributes to some). Whittaker’s 2009 study concluded that future PIM interfaces needed to “provide organization at the task level rather than for individual messages, provide visualizations that allow users to view and organize information from multiple related messages, and [be able to] propose actions based on email and make them easier to initiate” (68). Google Wave has addressed all these issues with multiple features. Whittaker also hoped new PIM programs would “anticipate messages accordingly, detecting obligations and message urgency” (69), which Google Wave does not address so far, though this seems like a perfect opportunity for these updated “robots” to shine.<br />Potential Uses<br />The possible implementations of Google Wave are as far reaching as the imaginations of its users. An introductory tutorial provided by the program suggests the tool be used for “organizing events, meeting notes, group reports, brainstorming, and photo sharing,” and for all except possibly the latter purpose, Google Wave presents itself as the most powerful tool so far introduced to facilitate such tasks.<br />WWW.Mashable.com (which also sports the most thorough online guide to using Google Wave) posted a list of real life uses already attempted, ranging from high-productivity business models to silly entertainment. One company took advantage of the Open Source nature of Google Wave and built a business ”process modeling tool” with a specific set of customized commands specific to the company’s collaborative goals. A cell phone company has employed sophisticated robots to handle realtime customer service claims with hyper-intuitive human-computer interaction and the ability to “wave” with reps easily. Ecomm executed a lecture in which an entire auditorium took place in a concurrent discussion/wiki linking documents, recording discussion, and producing self-progressing notes for the presentation as it was being delivered. Already a manhunt has been aided by the help of citizens providing tips, pictures, and leads on a fugitive’s whereabouts in an interactive forum. On the lighter side of things, in order to explore the power of Google Wave, many have recreated famous movie scenes (Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting) or humorous retellings of historical events (the writing of the Declaration of Independence) by exploiting all of Google Wave’s features. These “waves” when viewed in “Playback” mode provide progressing interpretations of words and events that could very well evolve into a new creative medium. (Parr).<br />Whitaker (2009) sums up a lighter, yet practical, exemplum of Google Wave use in an everyday context: <br />For example, if you’re planning the next company barbeque, you can include the weather forecast using the Accuweather.com extension. You might also include an interactive map gadget to give the address and directions, as well as an interactive yes/no/maybe gadget to determine a firm count of the guest list. (48).<br />The biggest drawback in his eyes is that users may be too tempted to “collaborate the day away” (48).<br />Implications<br />Google Wave has already made a modest impact on the technological business world. It is not quite the first next-gen PIM platform on the market. Microsoft Sharepoint began to be developed in the late nineties and has fought its way slowly into widespread use. However, Microsoft’s processor-heavy proprietary version of such software seems clunky and problematic next to Google’s new, simplified, Open Source, freeware model. Google Wave is poised to negate the uphill climb Sharepoint has built in one fell swoop. Microsoft also struggled, as the launch of its new search engine, “Bing,” coincided with the announcement of Google Wave’s development, casting “Bing” in the light of “playing catchup,” whereas Google was already forging ahead into new territories. (Arnold 29). <br />Cisco, another IT giant, has also felt threatened by the advent of Google Wave, causing the company to drastically revamp plans to release long-developed IP technology and inciting the company to “invent and reinvent [its] unified communications offerings” (Hamblen 12). <br />Beyond the information technology financial sector, Google Wave has even bigger implications for the future of Internet use, as a whole. The application introduces a new, more sophisticated approach to social networking. Albro (2009) speaks of the growing problem of “oversharing,” in programs like Facebook, where all of a person’s online relationships are in largely public view. Google Wave makes the Facebook model seem like the Wild West. “Each wave is like a new Facebook page created on the fly to share specific content with specific people” (14). <br />A potentially game-changing outcome of Google Wave is its threat of cornering the email market. As powerful as the application’s functionality may be, any social network is only as potent as its user list. A key factor in Google Wave’s structure is that communication can only be performed by two Wave members. Google is in the position to control the PIM market as completely as it controls shares of search engine use. If such a monopoly develops, we may see a change from the already baffling influence of disjointed networks like Facebook and Twitter to a pervasive and necessary technological presence provided by a single corporate entity:<br />Until now, we’ve mostly been able to manage [social media] to our own desires. If you didn’t want to blog, no one was going to hold a gun to your head. If you preferred not to Facebook, your friends might miss you, but so be it. If you chose not to use instant messaging, your peeps could still call you up on the phone. And if you didn’t think the world would be improved by your no-more-than-140-character witticisms, then no worries. Twitter would live without your participation. But if Google Wave is as revolutionary as it purports to be, those of you who have been hiding out under the figurative rock will be facing a whole new world. (Tennant 21).<br />The omnipresence of cellular phones and email services in the Western world has already drastically changed social life on all levels. With the growing inertia of projects like Google Wave, this saturation may not only increase, but do so with a new powerful bent, strengthening needs for ongoing discussions on the nature of privacy, findability, and legal process.<br />Google, as a company, seems dedicated in defusing accusations of corporate control before such thoughts can gain social momentum. One way in which they take the Orwellian bite out of Google Wave is its Open Source nature (Google recently announced that they would release the coding of the program, itself). Combined with the ability to embed any “wave” into any website, the fact that “anyone with a good understanding of XML, Javascript, and current Web 2.0 systems will have little trouble integrating,” the democratizing force of Web 2.0 is amplified by Google Wave, not dampened (Rapoza 22).<br />By empowering the users as much as possible, the company can sidestep any claims of aggressive imposition on its part. Highly customizable robots and third-party extension and gadgets make Google Wave as organic as the iPhone. Though some see the software’s Open Source potential as a possible detriment to the program’s success, there is no denying the plethora of promising utilizations being offered, a Google Wave virtually custom-fit to any user’s desires or needs. (Brooks 28). <br /> Such a commanding engine of ability nested within Google’s typical sleek simplicity is a combination not to be ignored. This program could very easily change the face of any institution concerned in Knowledge Management. Libraries are certainly included in this, but the specific applications of such change have yet to be seriously explored. Certainly, libraries would benefit from the implementation of Google Wave in almost all of the ways that any other institution would. The most immediate use would be in form of the reference interview. The online reference chat with a librarian has only recently become a popular choice for learning centers. However, instead of developing specified in-site interfaces for online chat, which are lacking in comprehensive search, save, and share features, a live realtime conversation with a librarian on Google Wave could result in fast, effective interaction, the fluid sharing of documents, and most importantly, an editable permanent version of the process (something valuable to patrons, information specialists, researchers, and systems builders). Clearly, the twenty-first century is beginning to be defined by information, what can be done with it and how it can be done. Growing development in tools like Google Wave will inevitably shape our world in years to come as people’s ability to process and organize information grows exponentially.<br />Bibliography<br />Albro, Edward N. and Juan Carlos Perez. (2009). “Google’s Wave: Many Online Apps in One Tool/Can Wave Solve Social Network Oversharing?” PC World, (Aug), 14.<br />Arnold, Stephen E. (2009). “Content, Document, and Knowledge Management: Google’s Wave is Building Off the Enterprise Shore.” KM World, (Sept), 12, 28-29.<br />Barreau, Deborah. (2008). “The Persistence of Behavior and Form in the Organization of Personal Information.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(2), 307-317.<br />Brooks, Jason. (2009). “Google Wave could hit hard.” eWeek, (Aug. 17), 28.<br />Fox, Pamela. (December 7, 2009). “Google Wave Developer Blog.” http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com. <br />Harris, Christopher. (2009). “Get Ready for Google Wave.” School Library Journal, (Aug), 12. <br />Hamblen, Matt. (2009). “Google’s Unified Tools Pose a Threat to Cisco.” ComputerWorld, (Jul), 12.<br />Jones, William. (2007). “Chapter 10: Personal Information Management.” Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 453-503.<br />Parr, Ben. (May 28th, 2009). “Google Wave: A Complete Guide.” Mashable: The Social Media Guide. http://mashable.com/2009/05/28/google-wave-guide <br />Rapoza, Jim. (2009). “Google Wave does not make much of a wave-yet.” eWeek, (Aug), 21-22.<br />Tennant, Roy. (2009). “Google Wave: How Social Do You Want to Be?” Library Journal, (Jun), 21.<br />Trapani, Gina and Adam Pash. (December 11, 2009). “The Complete Guide to Google Wave.” http://completewaveguide.com. <br />Vascellaro, Jessica E. (2009). “Google Waves ‘Hello’ to a New Communication Paradigm.” American Libraries, (Nov), 28.<br />Whitaker, Tyler. (2009). “Google ‘waves’ at Web collaboration.” InfoTech, (Nov), 48.<br />Whittaker, Steve, Victoria Bellotti and Jacek Gwizdka. “Email in Personal Information Management.” Communications of the ACM, 49 (1), 68-75.<br />

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