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.   (drewclist@rdd.name).

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.   http://productideas.appspot.com/#16/e=224f1 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 (4.1.249.1042) 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.

Drew