When Google Wave hit the world last year, it came with many oohs and ahhs and an onset of geeky people like me and you — then reality set in and, for many, Wave lost its appeal. People complained that it was slow and confusing, often in the same breath as praising it for being brilliant and innovative.
The biggest issue, however, that kept Wave from mass adoption, was that people just couldn’t figure out what to use it for. In an effort to address such concerns and continue building out the platform, Google has released several major feature updates over the past months; the most recent of which aims to increase the usability of Google Wave by adding use-templates for new waves, and the ability to remove a user (including yourself) from a wave.
Hit the jump for details.
Remove Users From a Wave
Since January, 2010, Google has added Read Only and Restore features to Google Wave, as well as Wave Notifications (to email), several usability improvements like shift-enter to end editing a topic, and the incorporation of some of Wave’s real time editing and collaboration features into Google Docs. The one seemingly basic feature that was missing from Google Wave, however, was the ability to stop participating in a wave, or the ability to kick someone who is annoying you or not playing nice.
This is not as basic as it seems, due to the interactive nature of Wave. For example, if you remove someone who has participated in a collaboration and is no longer a good contributor or you have had a falling out with, cutting them off from all access to their work to that point could have some serious repercussions, both for Wave and on a general legal front. Google now feels they have solved the potential issues by allowing users removed from a wave to have read only access up to the point they last logged in to that wave, before they were removed from it.
This adds a much needed layer of control over the chaos that Wave can sometimes become. Google’s blogpost on the new feature paints a few interesting and colourful use cases for this feature, such as removing your boss in the wee hours before he or she sees the rather derogatory remark you made about them on the wave in the night’s drunken stupor… Real life scenarios. Got to love Google for things like that.
Use-Templates for a New Wave
When you first open Wave, you are now presented with a 6-button dashboard that allows you to set up a Wave with a single click via a preconfigured template. You can also access these templates from the ‘New Wave’ dropdown menu. The templates are meant to make it easier and faster for you to set up a wave based on some of the more common uses for Google Wave:
This is your basic Blank Wave. Just open it up and start typing. You can configure a blank wave anyway you like.
With the Discussion template, Wave starts you off with an easy format that works much like a Microsoft Word template. Just click in the Topic header to put in your own, and fill out the topic in the proposal area. In addition, you and those you add to the wave will have access to an “Are you in favor?” widget that makes for easy, poll-style voting. The discussion takes place below this first entry, as is normal to Wave. As with any of the templates, you can configure and customize it as you would any wave.
The Tasks template provides you a basic setup for GTD-style (see our post on Getting Things Done) task management. Don’t look for any advanced features here – this is still just a text-based wave. No checkboxes or anything like that are forthcoming so far, but it is a great way to do some collaborative task tracking and discussion, especially if you are already working on a project in Wave.
The Meeting template saves you the time you would have to spend organizing a meeting notes/minutes wave. This is a cool use for Wave, considering that people can add themselves to the Attendees list (once added to the wave of course), and can even add their own agenda items. The meeting could take place online, offline or both and multiple people can take the minutes or add notes and highlights as the meeting goes on.
the Document template allows you to set up a collaborative (or solo) document quickly and easily. The base organization of this template gives you examples of some of the most used or useful document editing features. If you aren’t very versed with navigating the Wave interface, you can always copy and paste the various elements as needed. One of the most useful features of this template is the included widget that allows you to set the document-wave as Draft, For Review, and Final.
The Brainstorming template gives you a few guidelines and general organization for a productive brainstorm session, and sets you up with a very basic Paint gadget to help you illustrate ideas visually.
The slew of new features that are steadily being pumped out by the Google Wave team is slowly but surely ensuring the longevity and increased use of the Wave platform, even if it is only truly successful once the technology is adopted by third parties.
What do you think? Do these features make Wave more useful to you? What features would you like to see in Google Wave?