Group Collaboration with Google Wave

Wiki’s are great, but even with technical people, the special markup is a bit of a pain, and during the early phases of group collaboration, it’s really useful to maintain some idea of who’s promoting what idea.

Catch the Wave

When Google Wave was introduced, it seemed ideal. A cross between wiki, threaded discussion and email, with lots of rich embedding and an API!

If you are not familiar with it, there is a terrific overview here:

I decided to use it to collaborate with my senior tech leads on several infrastructure projects for our company. Now this turns into a bit of a rant, so I want to say up front that I really like Wave, and that it fits my style of thinking/collaborating perfectly. It does have some serious flaws that I hope google will address in short order.

Invites – scarce? No, Pain yes.

Google Wave is in Preview, so they are limiting the signups through a bit of a clunky invite system. Once one of your crew is in, the invites aren’t that scarce, as each of those people get some fairly generous number of invites.

The invites aren’t approved instantly (with a really annoying message about having a lot of stamps to lick.) So if I want to share a document/wave I’m working on with someone, I can either make it public (not so good for company proprietary documents) or:

  1. Get the person’s google account (assuming they have one)
  2. Send the invite
  3. Tell the person to send you their google wave ID when they eventually get and approve the invite
  4. Add them to the wave.

Yikes, If I have trouble getting them to use the Wiki, how am I going to get them to embrace this?

Google buzz, introduced yesterday uses the same account info as GMail, so instead of using your GMail to get a special google wave address. Hopefully wave will adopt a similar authentication model.

Security Model

I covered authentication, what about authorization? Here too, it’s pretty primitive. From what I can tell there are three basic Roles, and they only apply to individuals, not groups:

  • Editor – can change the wave
  • Reader – can read the wave
  • Public – available to anyone, and can be embedded.

If I’m working on a wave with a group, I have to add each individual, and manage that for every wave I’m involved in. Tedious at best and dangerous at worst. Here, another pet peeve of mine is activated. The participants are represented by their profile icons, and if they don’t have a picture, they all look the same! You can mouse over, but it’s really hard to see if everyone you want is included, and you haven’t added someone from outside work by mistake!

There is a workaround using google groups but again, another step, and another system to maintain.

I really do like Wave, and will continue to use it. I’m sure if it starts to gain traction, Google will apply appropriate resources, and fix many of these limitations. While Buzz fixes some of these problems, it’s really not for the same purpose: archival collaboration. Join me in encouraging Google to continue to develop this valuable tool!