Catching the Wave: Sprechen sie Jargon

Okay, for real this time: let’s start talking about what Wave is. Bear in mind, I’m going to be talking about how I see it, not the official Google hype.

At its heart, Wave is a tool for shared workspaces that involve conversations. In this, I’m using “conversation” in the most general sense: a group of people interacting. At the moment, that’s mostly through text, but in the long run those interactions will involve everything from party-planning tools to maps to spreadsheets.

To begin with, here’s some terminology. Okay — some jargon. But it’s official Wave Jargon, so we may as well get used to it now.

  • Wave (with a capital W): the tool itself. If I specifically mean Google’s version, I’ll sometimes say Google Wave, but since that’s the only real implementation yet, that’s usually what “Wave” means.
  • wave (with a small w): a shared workspace/conversation, which includes a specific group of people who are working together. (You can have public waves, but they have lots of problems. Personally, I think they’re currently a bad idea; I’ll get into why later.)
  • wavelet: a single permissions boundary within the wave. This is the bit that matters a lot to the techies, and very little to everyone else. A wave is composed of any number of wavelets, each of which potentially includes a different list of participants. This is how you can have what are called “sidebars” in some conversation systems or “private replies” in Wave: side-conversations that only a couple of people are in. In practice, though, most waves contain exactly one wavelet.
  • ping: a private wavelet between two people, sometimes inside another wave, sometimes on its own. Pings typically look a lot like IM conversations inside Wave.
  • blip: an individual element of collaboration. In practice, usually a single message sent by somebody. If you think “blip” == “message”, you’re reasonably close most of the time.
  • thread: a bunch of blips that are responding back and forth. Threads can be stuck anywhere: as sub-threads that reply to a particular blip, or even inside another blip. This is weird, different, and possibly the most useful single thing about Wave: that threads can not only be deeply nested trees, but that you can put one of those trees wherever it seems useful.

So you create a wave to talk about a given topic. This contains one or more wavelets, each of which is essentially a separate conversation about that topic. Each wavelet contains a root blip, which is most often the thing you’re talking about, and lots of other blips that make up threads of replies; these threads can be placed more or less anywhere in the wave.

Next: an example of Wave; or, Shall we Play a Game?

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One Response to “Catching the Wave: Sprechen sie Jargon”

  1. Catching the Wave: Prologue « The Art of Conversation Says:

    […] Sprechen sie Jargon […]

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