Catching the Wave: Prologue

This is a personal introduction from Justin. Many hands contributed to the following series — it was drafted in Wave itself, with lots of back-and-forth discussion — but this bit is my own perspective, so the reader can take my biases into account.

A month or two ago, thanks to my friend Michael, I got an invite to Google Wave; since then, I’ve been playing with it fairly heavily, getting a sense of what it is and what it does. It’s time to talk about that in detail. Those of you who have been curious about Wave, this is the series for you. This is going to be really, really long and in-depth, far moreso than most of the glossy overviews in the press, but I’m going to break it into lots of little articles on particular topics, one per day. I encourage you to share the URL around — this subject goes right to the heart of what this blog is about, and there’s a lot to say here.

(BTW: no, I don’t have any more invites. Sorry, but they went pretty fast, even limiting myself to people who I knew would dig into it seriously. If you ask around, they seem to be getting easier to obtain now.)

Disclaimer upfront: as many of you know, I’ve spent the past two years of my life mainly consumed by trying to build a system called CommYou. That was largely the inspiration for this blog: CommYou was all about fostering productive multi-tempo conversation online. It had a lot of cool ideas — it’s basically my attempt to create the conversation system I’ve always wanted. But it’s never made it past early alpha, because my standards are high: it’s actually in the middle of the second major rewrite now.

So you’ll understand my mixed feelings when I say that the most concise way to describe Wave is, “CommYou, only more ambitious”.

That’s over-simplified, of course: Wave isn’t trying to do *precisely* what CommYou does. But along the way, they wound up coming to remarkably similar conclusions about how you structure multi-tempo conversation in order to achieve serious collaboration. In particular, the look and feel of their conversation system, and the framing of how you present things to the user, are awfully close to CommYou’s.

The result is that I’m just now getting over a sense of frustration at having been “scooped”. The CommYou project is pretty well dead — I’m not dumb enough to try to compete head-to-head against a serious Google project.

That said, the purpose of CommYou was to produce my ideal conversation system. Wave currently has lots of flaws (which will be discussed at considerable length in later articles), but it comes closer than anything I’ve seen to date. So as I get past the frustration, I’m turning into quite a serious Wave evangelist — if I seem to complain a lot, it’s mostly because I can see how great this system will eventually be, and I’m impatient. This is the realization of a lot of the ideas I’ve had for some time now, and I’m hoping to see it evolve into a truly great system.

Hence, this series. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing Wave in enormous detail, focusing less on the basic “what it looks like” (which you can find lots of articles about), and more on what’s really going on here, what Wave is good at, what it’s bad at, what you should be using it for, and particularly why this is going to become an absolutely indispensible tool once they get the bugs ironed out.

So join in, spread the word, ask questions and provide your insights, as we dive into Wave (which shall, henceforth, be the subject of altogether too many mixed metaphors).

As the rest of this series gets posted, I’ll be updating this article with links to the later ones. So bookmark this page, and it will serve as the table of contents for the rest.

Credits: lots of people have helped me with this series of articles. I’d like to especially thank Michael Kleber, Chad Bergeron, Alex Feinman and Anna Bradley, who have done much to help crystallize my thinking, as well as Jessica Polito, my wife Jane for proofreading, backboarding, and generally putting up with me, and Charley Sumner for organizing the first serious Wave I participated in that was about something other than self-referential navel-gazing about Wave itself.

Next time: okay, so what do we mean by “Wave”?

Table of Contents


What is Wave?


2 Responses to “Catching the Wave: Prologue”

  1. David Chilstrom Says:

    I’m interested in your experience working the blog drafts in Wave. That seems like a particularly good use of Wave. Do the messy back end editing in Wave and publish out to blog.

    What worked? What failed? Will you Wave > Blog again?

    • Justin Says:

      By and large, I’ve found that it has succeeded — in particular, for this relatively serious series of articles, that wanted lots of input on the front end, Wave has been great for that. We started out collaborating on an in-depth outline in one wave, and my colleagues have provided lots of sanity-checking as I’ve drafted the articles themselves. So yes, I’ll probably do that again.

      That said, the nuts and bolts of the process still suck. I have to manually copy the drafts over to WordPress to publish them, and it turns out that that loses much of the formatting, so I wind up having to do persnickety cleanup as I go. What I really want is a joint WordPress/Wave plugin, that allows me to use Wave for drafting and then publishes directly to WordPress from there. I suspect it’ll happen, although I don’t know how soon…

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