Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You’re Looking For

Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You're Looking For | 40Tech

In our last post on Google Wave, we talked about the impending final shutdown of the service on April 30th, 2012 (it is currently in read-only mode), and the potential for Apache Wave and Walkaround to keep the real-time collaboration tool going. We’ve even done a bit of hunting on our own for a suitable Wave alternative, but the reality is that Wave was a bit ahead of its time. Fortunately, another possibility for resurrection has surfaced: Rizzoma.

Rizzoma is a free, open source version of Google Wave that boasts some improvements to the look, feel, and function of the service. Some of the features they talk about on their site are an easy to use mobile version that actually works, improves search, the ability to to assign and track tasks within Rizzoma, easy team management and content sharing, and a built in mindmap mode.

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Rizzoma also promises the ability to re-install your favourite open source gadgets from Google Wave, and the ability to import your old Waves to the new platform.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that Rizzoma’s current level of marketing far outstrips the actual state of the product. Their website looks very promising, with a big button that says log in with your Google account and a video that makes you believe that the service is ready to go. I don’t know if it was an oversight on their part that they don’t include a note that the service is in beta and most of the truly awesome features are still on their way, but the reality is that a newcomer to Rizzoma will likely find themselves confused and disappointed. At least for now. After a bit of hunting on their support forums, I found that the bulk of what’s promised should be available within a month.

Right now, @mentions work, basic document creation, editing, and collaboration is available, the mobile version is functional, and the improved look and feel is on point. Importing your old Waves is also working, via the WaveShortcuts Chrome extension created by Project Volna — who are also the people behind Rizzoma. Importing your Waves via the extension is fairly simple, and the final result is readable and usable, though huge Waves with a lot of nested upon nested replies could get a bit unwieldy.

If you have been on the hunt for a Google Wave alternative, or are just looking for a real time collaboration tool that works across platforms, Rizzoma looks promising, despite the potential marketing/first impression snafu. If they are true to their word about getting the big features up and running effectively within a month, then we may finally have a winner here — proivded they can get enough support. Rizzoma is definitely the most promising Google Wave alternative I’ve come across so far. If you are at all interested, you may want to check them out and start importing your Waves now, as the time window is closing fast.

Check out the video below to see where Rizzoma is taking Wave:

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Learn how to import your Waves to Rizzoma:

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Check out Rizzoma and tell us what you think!

Google Wave’s Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It

Google Wave's Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It | 40Tech

Yeah, yeah, I know. Google Wave is dead and gone, right? Not quite. We already talked about the potential of Apache Wave, and mentioned that the Google original is still available to those who care to squeeze every ounce they can from the innovative flop. Today, though, Google circulated an email to Wavers containing the end dates and Wave’s last gasp.

Wave was originally supposed to only be maintained to the end of 2010. For reasons of their own, however (likely to court potential future developers like Apache), Google let that date blow by with the waves still… waving. The final shutdown date is now, officially, January 31, 2012.

As of that date, Google Wave will become read only. Exporting waves (individually) to PDF will still be possible up until April 30, 2012. After that, the service goes down for good.

If you love your Wave and want to keep using it for your projects, you can keep going with the open source forks, most notably Apache Wave and Walkaround. Walkaround has an experimental feature that allows — or at least attempts — to import all of your waves from Google Wave. This will stop working on April 30, as well, so if you want to take advantage of it, do it before then.

Personally, I want to see more of Wave’s features integrated into Google+ and Google Docs, especially the potential for third-party addons. I don’t see Google opening that up anytime soon, as it could take Plus down paths they aren’t ready for, but who knows? Maybe down the line, eh?

What do you think?

Collaborate on the Fly with Google Shared Spaces

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If you were a fan of Google Wave’s integrated gadgets, or just need a place to set up some easy real-time collaboration, then check out Google Labs’ new Shared Spaces. Shared Spaces uses Wave’s technology to provide private collaboration spaces that you can invite others to via a provided short link. There are about 50 gadgets already available, such as the Map Gadget, Draw Board, WaveTube, yourBrainStormer, Napkin Gadget, and a few games. Once you choose the gadget that suits your needs, you simply click Create a Space and your window will open, complete with a chat area, link, and buttons to invite others via Email, Buzz, or Twitter. Once you’re finished, spaces can be deleted simply by selecting the Delete this Space button.

Each gadget on the list has a short description, and can be opened in its own page, where users can leave comments via Disqus, which will help others decide if the gadget will work well or not. This will be especially good if Shared Spaces catches on with the JavaScript programming community, and a ton of new gadgets start appearing.

You need to be logged in to your Google Account to use Shared Spaces, and authorize it for access. It should also be noted that, as of yet, it doesn’t appear to be working in Internet Explorer.

EDIT: According to the Google Blog, you can also log in via Twitter and Yahoo accounts.

What are your thoughts on Google’s Shared Spaces?

Google Wave Isn’t Dead After All, Just Changing Hands

In case you missed the announcements last week, Google Wave will live on, and quite likely prosper, in the open source development hands of Apache. In November, Google made a proposal to the Apache Software Foundation to take over development of Wave, hoping to keep the potential of the project alive and bring new blood to its development. The proposal mentioned several weighty companies (including the US Navy) that are still actively using Wave, which was originally set to shut down at the end of 2010, and listed people willing to commit to the project from both within and outside of Google.

Prior to talks with Apache, Google had already made a standalone version of Wave available to interested developers. The end product was named “Wave in a Box” and maintained much of Wave’s functionality. It was even able to import Wave data and communicate with other Wave in a Box installations through a federated protocol. Apache is essentially installing Wave in a Box to their servers and adding it to their Incubator projects as a means to gather a community that will continue active development. I’m not sure whether all existing Wave data will come with it, or not, but it is always possible that the new Apache Wave will offer importing of your Wave data at some point. If you want to act now, there is already a button in each single Wave that allows for exporting to HTML, or PDF with attachments, and Google is apparently working on a tool to export large amounts of Waves at one time, as well as a way to access your Waves in Google Docs.

At any rate, for those of you who were following our Wave Alternatives posts, there is definite hope on the horizon for a better, stronger, and ultimately more useful Wave in the near future.

Keep tabs on the Wave Incubator project here.

What are your thoughts on Apache Wave?

The Hunt for a Google Wave Replacement Part III – Socialwok

Socialwok -- A Possible Google Wave Replacement | 40Tech

This is the third in a series of articles evaluating potential alternatives to Google Wave, which Google is discontinuing.  Check out Part I (Shareflow) and Part II (Google Services).

UPDATE: As of June 26, 2011, Socialwok announced that they would no longer be accepting new user sign up and are discontinuing the service. This comes due to a lack of funding and developer availability. Socialwok will allow users to continue to access the service for the purposes of downloading their data until July 12th, 2011. — Thanks to Ron for the update.

In an effort to discover a reasonable replacement for the collaborative powers of Google Wave, 40Tech has gone forth and tested several free or mostly free services and methods. So far, we’ve reviewed Zenbe’s Shareflow, as well as a conglomeration of other Google services (which, reportedly, will be absorbing some of Wave’s features). As our next candidate, we tested Socialwok, a free, very Facebook-like service that allows you to not only create your own focused social network(s), but was designed to integrate tightly into Google Apps.

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The Hunt for a Google Wave Replacement, Part II – More Google Services!

Google services as a Google Wave replacement

This is the second in a series of articles evaluating potential alternatives to Google Wave, which Google is discontinuing.  Check out Part I (Shareflow) and Part III (Socialwok).

For those of you who have never used Google Wave, sorry, you’ve missed your chance.  As you may have heard, Google announced recently that it won't be developing Wave any further as a standalone product, although Google will keep it open at least through the end of the year.  This is pretty unfortunate, because Wave filled a unique niche by providing a great platform for real-time team collaboration and discussion.

So, here at 40Tech we’ve begun a search for a replacement for Wave.  Last week we reviewed Zenbe Shareflow as a possible replacement for those of you who used and came to love Google Wave.  Today we offer a second suggestion.  This suggestion isn’t a collaboration site so much as a system to replace Wave.

The system to replace Wave is based on using the full-range of Google’s other products.  One of the main advantages that Wave shares with the other products in our "Wave Replacement" series, is that it brings all communications and documents into one platform.  While using several web products is undeniably a bit more complicated and messy than a single website, it also offers some advantages as well.  For example, it provides you with several layers of flexibility, and new features to allow you to adapt the system to how you and your group prefer to work.

The idea of using Google’s full suite of products to replace Wave started with the realization that we likely will see new features rolled out to Google products, based on features that got their start in Wave (real-time email communications perhaps?).  Google said as much in their blog post announcing the end of Wave.  We then realized that many of the best aspects of Wave are already available across Google’s other offerings, if you use those applications to their full potential.

First, we'll look at why you should consider using Google’s other services to coordinate efforts and communications in real-time with a group.  Second, we’ll look at what specific services you should use, and the aspects of the communications for which they're best used.  And finally we’ll look at how you can manage all of those services.

 

Why use Google’s suite of products to replace Google Wave?

Anyone who has used the internet to do anything (i.e., everyone) has probably at some point become concerned about the amount of information that Google possesses about them.  Add to this concern Google’s recent stance on net neutrality, and there is a valid question as to why someone would rely on Google even more.  Put simply, tens of millions of people continue using Google’s products every day because they are just so good.

When I see a website with that light blue and white color scheme that is simple and powerful, I know that I’m using a Google product.  Almost every product that Google offers is available across all platforms, with many of those products available offline.  Almost all of them have very simple ways to archive, import and export your information, and they are so widely used that there are tons of add-ons, plug-ins, gadgets and tie-ins to complement what are already great products.

Google has had problems with some server availability, but my experience has been that those problems are exceedingly rare and are very quickly fixed.  Many of Google's products have automatic save functions to eliminate the dread of losing something you just spent hours working on, like what I experience every time Microsoft Word crashes on my work computer.  There are tons of keystroke shortcuts to speed up your work, and of course the search functions within Google's products can’t be beat.  Google offers HTTPS access to many of its services for secure access, and all of its products are available free of charge.

There are of course other services that offer a full-range of products that are similar to Google’s products; Yahoo, Zoho and Microsoft come to mind, but all in all I have found that Google gives you the most powerful and flexible set of tools to coordinate your full range of communications.  Perhaps most importantly, I already use at least one Google product every day.  As a result, the learning curve is much shallower for me to get up to speed on a Google product’s capabilities.

For this post, I’ll assume that you have a Google account, and a working knowledge of the Google tools.  If you don’t have an account, then you may want to sign up.  It only takes a second, and if you need more background knowledge you can go to the main page of each service (links are provided below).  To pull all of these services together I’ll be using iGoogle and One Number, an extension developed for Chrome by Dan Bugglin.  However, if you would like a desktop-based application that is a much richer experience, then check out Google Desktop and add gadgets for the services I’ll discuss.  Desktop has enough capabilities that at some point I’ll probably write a post just on it.

 

On to the system!

If you click through Google’s main page to its full listing of services, it can be overwhelming.  Google offers 24 different services under search alone!  However, you don’t need every service.  You can more than compensate for the loss of Wave through the use of Gmail and Chat for communications,  Docs for editing emails and real-time collaboration, GCal for calendaring functions, Tasks for the obvious tracking of tasks, and iGoogle or One Number to pull it all together and display the other services in one place.  I’ll give a brief description of the high points of each, but if you’d like to hear more about how I’ve used these services to replace Wave feel, free to contact me or ask your questions in the comments, below.

 

Communications: Gmail and Google Chat

Gmail as a Wave replacement One of the most important aspects of coordinating any team is coordinating communications.  Because of Gmail’s use of collapsible email chains (tied to the subject of the email), it is easily the best way to communicate with a group.  It provides a permanent record of communications that is easy to follow and get out of the way when you have finished reading it.

For more real-time communications right inside of Gmail you have the option of using Chat.  If your account is set-up for it, Google will even archive your chats and make them searchable from within Gmail, again to maintain a record of communications.  Using a combination of Gmail and Chat will usually suffice for discussion purposes, but it offers some additional advantages over Wave, including ease of use (even my grandmom knows how to use email), a permanent record of conversations that can’t be altered, and the ability to turn an email into an event or or task by exporting them to Calendar and Tasks (both of which I’ll discuss below).

Wave has a major advantage over email and chat in that it provides a platform for a group to develop ideas because, as you surely know, you can’t go back and edit an email to develop an idea further.  However, Google has provided this ability through a combination of email and Docs

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Real-time Group Writing: Docs

Gmail as a Wave replacement Docs is probably one of Google’s least used offerings, besides the obvious exception of Wave, which is presumably why they are shutting Wave down.  Docs allows for real-time collaboration on documents, presentations, spreadsheets,  and even drawings.  It has hundreds of searchable templates and the ability to create your own templates for later use if you choose to do so.

You can create shareable folders which will automatically modify the permissions of any document that is placed into that folder to match those of the folder.  As an example of why this is useful, I created a folder that gives Evan and Bobby full permissions. As a result, I can dump any document regarding 40Tech into that folder, and Evan and Booby will be able to review, edit and comment on it.  At the same time, they won’t be able to access the folder that I have set-up for my wife and I to coordinate  our vacation plans.

Another useful feature of Docs is the ability to import Gmail messages into Docs.  Once a Gmail message is imported into Docs, the text can be edited or added to for additional collaboration.

Also, for any document that has been made public, you can subscribe to the document's RSS feed to track changes as they occur.  As far as I can tell, this option is currently only available for public documents.  This is unfortunate, because it would be very convenient to be able to subscribe to those documents that I’ve set as private but am working on with others.

Another disappointing shortcoming of Docs is that although it bolds a document title if someone has worked on it since your last log-in, it does not identify what changes have been made.  Wave did a great job of this, and even had a function to scroll through time to replay changes as they happened.  I am hoping these features will be brought to Docs shortly.  What Wave lacked, though, was any kind of ability to schedule meetings or create and track tasks, which Google thankfully offers in GCal and Tasks.

 

Scheduling conference calls and meetings: GCal

Google Calendar as a Wave replacement In much the same way that Gmail is the gold standard of email offerings, GCal is the gold standard in calendaring choices.  GCal’s main selling point is simplicity.  In Gcal you can quickly create an event, add notes and attachments, create a reminder, and add guests.  There are probably thousands of public calendars, so I don’t even need to do the work to add the U.S. holidays to my calendar, for example (or, more importantly, the Penn State football schedule).  It has a clean display that makes keeping track of your schedule a breeze.  Critical for group collaboration, though, it is just as easy to share your calendar with others and add their calendars to yours.  In doing so, GCal even converts events to your time zone.  One of my favorite aspects of GCal, though, is the ability to display tasks that are coming due on your calendar.

 

Task Tracking: Tasks

Google Tasks as Wave replacement As mentioned above, using several services to replace Wave offers the advantage of being able to personalize the system to your liking.  Using Tasks is such a tweak that I have made for my personal system.  Tasks is a very Spartan tasks tracking system, especially when compared to Remember the Milk and others of that level, but it gets the job done.  You can create tasks and subtasks quickly, either in Tasks or by moving an email to it.  You can have the task displayed in your calendar, set due dates, and even get reminders when you want them.  What more do you want?  If there is anything else that you may want, then Tasks probably isn’t for you because there really isn’t much more than that.

 

Pulling All of This Together: iGoogle and One Number

image To pull all of this together and be able to view everything on one page, Google offers iGoogle.  You can add gadgets for each service mentioned here and look at them all side by side.  You can of course add tons of other gadgets (Dilbert anyone?), but I have one tab set aside just for these services as kind of my command center.

If your browser of choice is Google’s Chrome, one of the best extensions available is One Number.  The extension checks your Google services at intervals that you designate, and notifies you of updates through a non-invasive tool bar icon.  It is currently limited to Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and Wave, but in speaking with the developer he has said that the next release will have more services, including Docs.  At this point it is a nice convenience to be notified of new communications, but as it adds new services it could completely replace iGoogle for me in this system, thus eliminating the need for me to leave the page open and further streamlining my group communications.

I know this sounds like a lot of work to replace one service, especially since our series looks at other single services to replace Wave.  Once it’s set up, though, I really have found it to be a comprehensive and, just as importantly, simple way to maintain open lines of communication with members of a group.  Further, it allows me to schedule appointments and keep track of the tasks that result from those communications and appointments in services that I already use.  To top it all off, it’s all pulled together in one simple interface through iGoogle.  I think if you give it a try you will find that it is worth the effort.

 

What do you think?  If you use Wave, are you going to use other Google services as a replacement?

The Hunt for a Google Wave Replacement, Part I: Shareflow

shareflow vs google wave

This is the first of a few articles over the coming weeks that will evaluate potential alternatives to Google Wave, which Google is discontinuing.  Check out Part II (Google Services) and Part III (Socialwok).

While many people had no use for Google Wave, the recent announcement of its impending demise is a disappointment for those who found it to be a useful tool.  Are you looking for a replacement?  If so, come along with us as we try out some alternatives over the coming weeks.  The first candidate that we’ve tried out is Zenbe Shareflow, a tool that is surprisingly Wave-like.  Read on for our impressions, and then let us know in the comments what you think of it.

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Google Wave Gets More Useful With Templates & Remove Users Feature

Google Wave Gets More Useful With Templates, Remove Users Feature | 40Tech 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.

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How Google Can Save Buzz and Wave From Irrelevancy

Google buzzwave We have one question for you right off the bat- how many of you are still using Google Wave or Google Buzz?  Have both services flopped?  Back in August, we wrote about 3 reasons why Wave wouldn’t flop.  Has it?  What about Buzz?

My personal take on Buzz and Wave is that  Buzz is a flop, and is useless in its current form, while Wave is useful, but for limited purposes.  Read on, though, for how Google can save both services from irrelevancy.

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Wave nominations have been submitted.

Thanks to everyone who requested a Wave invitation.  Invitations have been submitted for everyone who requested one as of the time of this writing.  As mentioned previously, you now need to wait for Google to act on the invitations.  Keep an eye on your inbox and your spam box, and hopefully Google will send them out within the next couple of days.  If you get yours, hop on over to the 40Tech Public Wave, and try out Wave.