Streams with banks vs. Waves without shores

October 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Wave Tweet

Many in the tech press are wondering whether Google Wave will achieve mass adoption. And while I haven’t yet been granted a golden ticket to try the beta,  I’m already skeptical of  whether this platform will find a place in my lifestream.  I think the biggest issue I’ll have with Wave is that it strives to be synchronous while at the same time having few design constraints. Let me explain . . .

I find utility in Twitter, Yammer, and Facebook as both synchronous and asynchronous platforms. At times, I’m actively engaged in streams of data from these services. At other points in time, I momentarily dip into the stream or receive push notifications of certain types of information. And all three of these platforms have inherent technical or behavioral constraints, which is actually what makes them so useful: Throughout the day, I snack on bite-sized Tweets and links from people involved in my interests. At work, I tap into Yammer to get a brief glimpse of what colleagues are tackling. And Facebook, while not as constrained as Twitter, provides me with a ready stream of social snacking. All three of these platforms combined with MMS, Skype, and good old telephony are always at hand with my iPhone.

So while constraints have helped make platforms like Twitter useful for me,  Google Wave’s lack of constraints and demand for synchronicity may ultimately make it useless. Lev Grossman said it well in his recent review of Wave:

Wave operates in real time, it demands immediate attention like an IM or a phone call, or for that matter, a crying baby. When Wave is up, it’s hard to focus on anything else. That isn’t a defect, but it does narrow the scope of its usefulness. Getting more information right away isn’t always the most efficient way to work.

I suppose only time and experience will tell whether Wave is a useless firehose of distraction or a useful collaboration and aggregation platform. So I best get back to finding myself one of those golden tickets.


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