Google Wave Users Want More of Their Friends on Wave

Google Nov. 27 posted the results of an online survey in which it details what people like and don't like about Google Wave, the company's real-time messaging and collaboration platform. Likes include the Wave concept, collaboration traits and gadgets. Dislikes the fact that not everyone you might want to engage in a "wave" with can, speed and lack of integration with e-mail. Web consultant Martin Seibert, high-tech pundit Robert Scoble and Gmail creator Paul Bucheit weigh in with what they like and dislike about the open-source platform.

Google Nov. 27 posted the results of an online survey in which it details what people like and don't like about Google Wave, the company's real-time messaging and collaboration platform.

People like the idea of a "wave" as a one-stop communications and collaboration hub, allowing users to e-mail, instant message, share files, and network. Users also like the gadgets and robots that help make Wave more useful. BT's Ribbit Wave gadget brings voice communications to Wave.

However, the clamor of complaints also rings loud. Chief among these is that Wave is closed to the majority of people. Google began rolling out Wave to 100,000 people Sept. 30.

Sure, the users who were invited received eight invites, but it takes days or weeks from passing along the invites to have friends, family and colleagues join them on Wave. And without enough people to communicate and collaborate with, Wave is limited. Google recognizes this:

"We understand it's hard to communicate and collaborate if you have no contacts so we're working hard to make Google Wave scale to a large number of users," wrote Aaron Cheang, user experience researcher for Google Wave.

Cheang also found people want Google Wave to be more integrated with e-mail. Specifically, they would like e-mail notifications or alerts when they get a new wave. Wave chats can also get bogged down, making speed another issue. Cheang claims relief is on the way:

"We're working hard to scale our systems so you can invite your friends and colleagues to wave with you. We're also thinking about how to integrate with existing communication and collaboration tools. And since we all know that fast is better than slow, a large portion of the team is working to make Google Wave faster."

Google Wave has had no shortage of supporters and detractors since the company began rolling it out more broadly to users more than two months ago. The Wave team even listened to early criticisms about Wave being too public -- not everyone wants to follow every Wave -- and added a follow feature to let users choose what Waves they see.

Martin Seibert, CEO of Internet consultancy Seibert/Media, said that while Wave is useful now for brainstorming ideas and concept creation -- specifically as a multiuser note-taking platform for meetings and sessions -- it is too complex. Seibert even posted a video on how confusing it can be for all but the most savvy Webheads.

Among the other deficiencies Seibert sees in Wave is that missing revisions with rollbacks; no permanent hiding of replies; no notifications for following Waves (see user criticism above); it's too slow for a real chat (ditto on above knock); and unstable.

High-tech geek/blogger Robert Scoble, who wrote a now seminal post on how Wave has been overhyped when it's so raw, responded to Seibert's post with additional criticisms of Wave: no clear curation of Wave input; and the lack of permalinks.

"We need permalinks for each few inches along the infinite strip so that we can link you to a Wave and say "there's value right here," Scoble wrote. "Right now I can't do that, so I can't point you to specific places in the Defrag conference Wave and say "check out xyz's notes here, they are most excellent."

Finally, Gmail creator Paul Bucheit, who left Google to create FriendFeed and sold it to Google, weighed in over the weekend after weathering criticism for claiming he had not tried Wave. He echoed Seibert and Scoble when he discussed Wave's confusing nature:

""Wave puts the conversation into little Gmail-like boxes, but then makes them update in realtime. The result is that people end up responding (in realtime) to things on other parts of the page, and the chronological linkage and flow of the conversation is lost. I suspect it would work better if each box behaved more like a little chat room. A single Wave could contain multiple chats (different sub-topics), but each box would be mostly self-contained and could be read in a linear fashion.""

He also recommended that Google move Wave into Gmail, giving it a huge userbase, and partially addressing the "e-mail is universal" problem.

Clearly, the Wave team has work to do before the broader roll out, but Google must take care because, after all, part of that work, is the broader roll out.