Friday, March 26, 2010

Google Wave - Mixed Reviews

Google Wave - Mixed Reviews

Last June I pointed out some videos Google had posted to the web showing a preview of Google Wave.  Quite a while after those Google announcements a public preview of Google Wave began.  I eventually managed to find a friend who'd gotten Google Wave invites to share, signed myself up and have found myself mostly disappointed with the preview of Google Wave.  To be fair, the good folks at Google aren't even calling this a "beta" release.   But I really expected better quality and more features than seem to be present.

I now have a limited number of Wave preview invites to give out.   If you'd like to have one, send me some e-mail, please.   (

What's wrong with the Google Wave preview?

Here's my list from a Wave I have in my collection:

  • There doesn't seem to be an adequate feedback mechanism associated with the preview.

    Even if there was a clearly designated way for me to report problems that I've encountered, there doesn't seem to be any clear way to see what version of the software I was using when I had the problem. That's going to limit the utility of any trouble reports unless there's a completely marvelous change control mechanism lurking in the background so my time stamp immediately identifies exactly what versions of everything I had involved. I expect there are multiple servers and they aren't in lock step, so this change control identification mechanism starts to sound mythical even before thinking about what I'm running on my PC. 

    Bit by bit Google has added some limited feedback mechanisms. is for submitting ideas for improving Wave.   I suppose I could twist that and submit bug reports as "an idea", but that certainly doesn't seem to be what the page is meant for.   And Google added a "Feedback" link to the top of the Wave page.  But, again, that survey form doesn't appear aimed at collecting bug reports.

  • The server sometimes loses content. Contacts on the contact list have been seen to vanish. "Hey, where did that Wave go?" has been too often asked.  A communication tool that loses messages has to expect to be criticized for that. 

    I have one wave with a couple of pictures embedded in it. Spontaneously, it is mysteriously reporting it can't load one of the attachments (wave without title)    But today they are again visible.   Flakey!

  • It seems to have scaling problems. Waves can be very slow to load and to edit. Hundreds of blips and hundreds of users on a Wave seem to be a troubling combo as seen in many public Waves.  Intolerably slow times to echo typing keystrokes, long pauses to open a Wave.   If that's the price of having the pleasure of watching my friends type as they type, I'd rather give that up and have snappy system response times.

    Google Chrome Browser ( seems far better as a Wave interface than Firefox on Windows (Vista) and Ubuntu.

    WaveBoard on the iPod Touch seems to have bugs of its own, but when it isn't failing, it seems to work more smoothly than Firefox on Ubuntu for working with Waves. 

  • The translation Robot, Aunt Rosie, dribbles.  There should be a general rule that one blip gets translated to just one blip.    But if I set a target language for a blip and continue to type into that blip, a long sequence of nearly identical translation blips gets dribbled into the message.

    Another simple complaint about Aunt Rosie is that when she's invited to a Wave, the target language for translation has to be set with each new Blip added to the Wave.  Something on a per-user basis would make more sense.

    A deeper complaint about Aunt Rosie that needs to be noted somewhere, is that the language translations are still low quality. As robots go, Aunt Rosie is still a long way from C3P0 in her linguistic skills.

  • There ought to be a way to limit the view of a large Wave to "the good parts". Perhaps a slash-dot style voting up/down of a blip would make large public Waves more manageable.

    Another suggestion I saw of "the good parts" is where someone has posted a reply in a Wave to something I said. 

  • The revision tracking evidenced by "playback" is a seemingly very good idea, but access to the revision history is far more primitive than is available in Wikipedia.

    I think I found a bug (or feature?) in the revision tracking. I went back to where a Sudoku game was added to a Wave and played the game at that point in the past. I noted down the answers on a piece of paper and then returned to the present state of that message. I tried to complete the game from my notes. Things froze. Is that a feature to defeat cheaters or a bug when there's a side branch of the revision history? 

  • In general, Wave doesn't seem to have been designed with the presence of bad-citizens taken into account. With better tools, the revision tracking would seem to be a way to clean up spam and defacements, but better control of who has access to Waves involving me might be a better way to head off spam and defacements before they happen.

    The preview's inability to uninvite a user (not even to uninvite "public"!) from a Wave is a huge short coming, especially given that some unimplemented robots add public to a Wave on their own. 

  • I've been unhappy with the preview's lack of a mechanism for telling me what robots and gadgets are available or even when someone has updated something such that it is now worth another look. e.g. I tried bloggy early on in the preview. It didn't work at all. Am I expected to just come back and try it again now and then to notice when it has gotten implemented?

    I received a Wave about Extensions from Dr. Wave back on Sep 30, 2009. Surely there has been activity on Extensions since that time, but that Wave is showing no activity.   Is Dr. Wave asleep? 

  • The text editor of the preview front end is not sufficiently full featured. I'd like it to be easy to paste in snips of code, and then I'm sure I'd want to way to peel the snips of code out of a message and into a file where I could try doing a compile. But there could be snips of multiple files in one Wave (e.g. a C program, and some #include files, and, say, a makefile). Maybe I'm on my way to reinventing tangle and weave, but it would seem there ought to be a "Software Developer's Wave" where code and test cases can be discussed and revised without my having to go crazy to extract the products of that colloboration out into the file system.

    Another structured use that I'm not seeing as obvious how to do it. Suppose some folks are collaborating on constructing an exam. There's some overall outline of the material to be covered by the exam. Questions and answers in various forms get added to the exam (e.g. multiple choice question, fill in the blank question, true/false question, essay question). Eventually, I want to extract a numbered list of questions (without identifying the answers) as the test, and a likewise numbered set of questions with answers as the answer key. 

  • Didn't the demos promise slick integration with Google docs?   Yet to come? 

  • Integration with the rest of the world needs more attention.   e.g. there should be a way to mail a Wave to an outsider and for the outsider's e-mailed reply to tidily get integrated into the wave as a fresh blip (with quoted material automagically stripped out since it is already in the original wave).

  • Notification to my e-mail inbox of when there's a Wave with new activity?    Polling the site seems like such a 1960's way of seeing what's new. Distinguishing "new activity" from "interesting new activity" is asking too much?

    On 12/13/2009 Chip noted: There's a bot which does email notification.  It sucks.  I added it to a wave then turned on notification.  It sent an email to everyone on the wave.  Needs to be completely opt-in. Also, I'd prefer not to have to add something to every wave I want notification about. Seems more of a per-user preference thing.

    There's a bot which does XMPP notification.

    Speaking of Chrome... The Beta channel added extensions this week. One (two?) of the extensions is a wave notifier. So this morning there was a W in my browser with the number 1 hanging off it. 

    And the tragic reply from Fred was:
     This is strange. I made a whole bunch of comments. They seem to have been lost. I had an "unsynced waves" thing on my page but could find no way to sync. I went to the wave home page and now things are lost. GRRRRR 

  • A gentler initiation to Wave for new-comers is needed so I don't have to cringe when inviting a non-Wave user to join a discussion on Wave. The original Looonnggg video is way too long and "promotional". Searching YouTube for Google Wave turns up an overwhelming number of clips. A short tutorial video and a concise tutorial document is needed for newbie users.

  • Here's a public wave talking about much the same things as this gripe list is discussing.The Six Most Important Features to Add to Wave - Article - ContentWave (TM)

    Fred's 12/20/2010 reply to that item:    I avoid public waves. Too much noise.  

  • The limit on the maximum size of a Wave is startling low. "Is Google Wave Succeeding" has trouble. Less than 500 blips and the Wave is declared to be too big. 

  • A bug provokes a bug?  I was adding a brief plain old text blip to a small wave when a dire looking error message appeared: "This wave is experiencing some slight turbulence and may explode" and a details button revealed what looked like a stack trace.  I opened a wave addressed only to myself to save a copy of the error message and details.  Next day I found that Wave would not allow me to access that message, saying "You are not a participant in this wave".    Perhaps a small bug, but it bothers me that I have no clue who to report it too.

OK, so Drew has gripes.   What do others think?

   Reviews so far have been, at best, mixed.

Google Wave Crashes on beach of Overhype.

Google Wave Sucks and Why You will use it anyway.

Lifehacker - Google Wave First Look.

Google Wave - Why it will fail.

Mashable: Testing Google Wave - This Thing is Tidal.

But, hey!   Don't just take my word for it.   (Maybe I picked unrepresentative reviews here).    Use your favorite search engine to search for google wave review and see for yourself.

Bottom line.

Google Wave is an interesting experiment, but from what I've seen so far, I don't think it is likely to rock the world of online collaboration.  I'm disappointed.


Backyard Swimming Pool? - Just say No!

Backyard Swimming Pool? - Just say No!

Back in the old days when I had young children, we had one of those inflatable wading pools.   They are little so they only kill a modest size spot on your back lawn, and aside from the perpetual quest for the leak that is letting the air out, maintenance mostly consisted of dumping the water out and refilling the pool each day before letting the kids cool off in the carefully supervised pool.  I still recall the miracle of totally instant toilet training of my daughter.  She wanted to go into the pool.   Mom explained a rule that she wouldn't be allowed in the pool while wearing a diaper.  Made sense to the little girl.  From that day forward, she always used the toilet when she had to go.  Of course it follows that the little girl taught herself removal of her diaper on her own too.  There was no formal "Swim suits optional" sign in the back yard, but how can you claim to be closely monitoring the kids in the pool if you're going to take the time to run upstairs to fetch a swimsuit for one of them.  You've got to keep your priorities straight.  The kids survived the wading pool and eventually earned 4 year degrees from college.   I'm leaving out some of the details, but to this day my daughter favors bikinis that are only slightly more modest than "Swim suits optional" when she's vacationing on exotic beaches, many of which are well south of Belmar.

But this little essay isn't to dissuade you from the simple pleasures of an inflatable wading pool.  My target audience today is anyone thinking of installing a more serious swimming pool in their backyard, perhaps an aboveground pool.   From experience, my advice is to just say "no!" to that.   Instead, buy the family an annual membership in some nice local community pool.   It might look expensive, but I assure you the community pool will get you more hours enjoying the cool pool instead of endless expensive trips to the pool store for parts and supplies.

I'm willing to concede that my advice is not equally applicable to everyone.  Maybe you're rich and have found a reliable pool maintenance person who will take care of the pool chores for you.   I'm not rich so hiring someone to mind the pool isn't something I'm comfortable doing.  We did try it one year and the guy we hired wasn't too reliable.   He left the pool rover plugged in and sitting on the deck.

The pump motor in the rover burned out.  In fact it got so hot it melted the rover's bag and casing.  I think as the insulation in the motor broke down, the rover's power supply died.   Debate continues to this day as to just how close did it come to sitting the deck on fire.   That would have been expensive compared to the several hundred dollars to buy a complete new pool rover.  We remember that expense each time the idea resurfaces that maybe the solution is to find someone who we can hire to do the work for us.

So what's the hassle of maintaining an 18 foot round body of water in your back yard?   You'll need a GFI outlet to power the pool filter.  Ours is a cartridge filter with a Chlorinator attached.   In theory, I need only keep the Chlorinator stocked with Chlorine tablets, and take out the cartridge once in a while to rinse the gunk off of the filter element.   And every few years a replacement cartridge is a nice treat to assure the pool that you still love it.  Current price on a small bucket of Chlorine tablets is about $25.   A replacement cartridge is about $50.   But the local pool supply store this year is no longer selling the same brand of filter as the one he sold to us.   The in-stock cartridges don't have the same model numbers as they used to.   I've got to haul the drippy wet dirty cartridge on another trip to the pool store to try to find a match to it.   Imagine my delight.

But the pool chemicals don't stop with only chlorine.   You need a little pool chemistry test kit to keep an eye on the water.   This year we got a bottle of test strips that seems a lot easier to use then the add 3 drops of this liquid to a vial of water and match the colors after you give it a shake.   Then add 3 drops of another liquid to another vial of water and match the colors to a different chart.   Then count the drops you need to add to the first vial to wipe out the color.   And at this point I'll confess that over the winter the instructions for the test kit were lost, so I'm not quite sure what to do with some of the test liquids.  The general idea is to adjust the water's Ph to a slightly alkaline reading, and to make sure there's enough buffering alkaline molecules in the water to protect against sudden swings in Ph level.   They'll sell you powder to add to raise the Ph, another powder to add to lower the Ph, and another to condition the Ph by providing additional buffering.

Wait, there's more:   There's Green-out, strong chlorine to shock the pool to clear it of algae, but then you have to close the pool until the chlorine level drops back down to a safe level.  $8 for a 1 lb bag.   Buy 2 and get 1 free.   For an 18-foot round pool, I was told to throw in 3 pounds to get the pool started this year.  But there were a lot of leaf particles in the water (because I'm past due for a replacement filter cartridge) and the organic matter in the water seemed to instantly gobble up the chlorine.   Even 3 pounds of "shock" didn't raise the chlorine level to "keep everyone out of the pool this afternoon" levels.  Oh, and you might also want to have a bottle of "Golden Glop" water clarifier and maybe a bottle of algacide.   Not exactly an organic approach to maintaining the water quality.

With each passing day of skimming leaves and bugs out of the water, the idea of getting a swim club membership is looking more and more attractive.    And with each expensive trip to Island Recreational for supplies and parts, a swim club membership is looking more and more affordable (and that's before trying to tally up the price of electricity to run the filter).

I drafted this cautionary tale late in the summer of 2009.  Cold weather arrived and I was able to ignore the pool and the draft of this essay for mercifully many months.  Now that the ice is gone from the pool, fixing the GFI on the post next to the pool filter pump is weighing on my mind and it seemed time to post this entry to my blog in case anyone maybe comes along online to read it.

Dissenting opinions are welcome.   Post comments or send me email (  Have a great summer!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Increasing Innovative Work Behavior

Increasing Innovative Work Behavior

Pretty much random travels on the web this morning brought me to an interesting little presentation on Increasing Innovative Work Behavior by  Gisela Jönsson.    The slide show is on her blog,, and though the slide show is in English, her blog is mostly in Swedish, which I can't read.  So, for all I know, she may have lots of other wonderful things to say, but they whizzed right by my English-only head.

As summarized on her opening slide:

Fear does not make fertile soil for ideas.  To succeed at innovation, you must learn to embrace failure.

The posting I'm recommending is dated 3/7/2010.  Based on this sample of 1, I'm impressed with the results she got from using the presentation tool, which I confess I hadn't heard of before.  I'd have been happier if I could have figured a way to snag a copy of her slide show instead of having to depend on the lifespan of the URL I referenced for you to be able to see Gisela's slide show.  Anyhow, enjoy.

A link to another place for her slide show outside her blog: