Google Wave – first steps

You may have been hearing about this thing called Google Wave; Google’s latest, and very effectively hyped, development.

Google Wave is online communication re-imagined. Google has described it as ‘what email would be like if invented today’. It approaches online communication as a collaborative and ongoing conversation rather than the asynchronous exchange of static messages. One aspect of email that Google Wave rejects is the compose-send-receive workflow that we’ve all become accustomed to.

But rather than think of it as a new version of email, it is perhaps more helpful to approach Google Wave as a collaboration tool, one that draws heavily from instant messaging, document sharing and even RSS feeds – all happening in real time.

What this actually means for web communication will not become clear anytime soon. Access is still by invite only and it is very much a work in progress. Even in these early days, there is clear potential for libraries to use Waves to better facilitate communication with library users.

There is some new terminology to get used to. A ‘wave’ is the conversation channel. These can be public or private. And the name? Well, it’s not a throwback to the 90s internet metaphor of ‘surfing’ but rather a slightly more up-to-date pop culture reference. Characters in Sci-Fi television show Firefly communicated in ‘waves’ and this is reportedly behind the name. Google Wave is also responsible for one of my least-favourite new linguistic inventions; ‘blips’, used to refer to individual contributions or messages.

If you have managed to score an invite, the first steps can be confusing and a touch lonely as many on your contact list may not have access. Public waves are the simplest way of finding your feet. To get started there is one key command you need to know (with:public). From there, you can search, find and follow public waves of interest. There is a handy cheat sheet available. It is also well worth working your way through The Complete Guide to Google Wave.

There are already various waves for librarians in the UK and internationally. But, if it gets too much, you can always take a break by exploring things that are Easier to Understand than Wave.

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