Monday, August 24, 2009

Google Wave Vision and Usability

I'm confused about Google Wave.

I got excited about it at first, I thought, wow, this is huge, it's going to replace email, IM, wiki's, Word, you name it...

Then I went to the Sydney Wave API Day and actually got an account and used it. Tried to use it, that is.

It's not broken, far from it, what it does is amazing. Sure, it crashed a few times, but you refreshed and you never lost more than a word.

It's Noisy. As a member of a group (of about 80 people), I got added to about 20 waves. I had a few waves with just me and some friends. Every time anyone in that group typed a character in one of those waves, it went to the top of my Inbox - I may not have read it yet, I may have read it and not been interested. There was nothing I could do to stop it becoming the most prominent wave in my inbox. My waves with my friends got buried; Since waves don't really properly have a title, or a subject, it was even hard to find them, when it's far more likely that they are the ones I'm really interested in.

Now, we're talking computers here. These issues can and most likely will be solved, but the noise made my Vision of Google Wave ruling the universe become very blurry.

How do I want Google Wave to rule the universe? Maybe what I want is not what Google thinks Wave will be and I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I still know what I want. As a software developer at a big company, I have multiple work flows I have to tend to on a day-to-day basis. Email, internal forums, external forums, bug tracking systems, wikis, HR Systems, Timekeeping systems, the list is endless.

I want all of these things in one place. I want a huge centralised work flow system, detailing all the tasks I need to attend to. With Google Wave it's definitely possible to do this (with some extra features added to wave, like input validation, extra permissions etc.), but with the current Inbox scheme, it would be a nightmare.

So I was thinking about the Inbox. As I've said, it doesn't really work, but it doesn't really work in email either. It works OK if I get a small amount of email, any more than that (or a few days off reading email) and I get flooded, have to set up loads of automatic rules to filter out things I'm not really interested in etc. in an attempt to find the emails I really care about. I think this is a flawed paradigm.

I don't know what a better paradigm is, but Wave certainly has a chance at improving it because it has to, it's currently unusable!)