Web Technology

An Excellent Use-Case for Google Wave

Yes, another post about being engaged (it’s kind of this week’s theme). I promise this will be the last one, at least for a while; there are just a lot of interesting thoughts coming out of planning a wedding. We’ll resume our regular totally-non-marital posts at one per week on Monday.

I’ve been meaning to write up a good post regarding my take on Google Wave pretty much since I launched this blog in October ’09. The trouble was, I could never find a really good use-case that demonstrated how powerful and useful Wave is — until now. So without further ado:

I don’t understand how people planned weddings before there was Google Wave.

My fiancée and I are both the type to do a lot of research and planning before a big financial decision. So when it came to booking a venue, with so many different options and associated costs, we both dove right in. The only problem was that we had a really hard time staying in sync; we would both research the same venue or lose track of contact information for a place we really liked — it was a disaster. We tried ad-hoc discussions in person (this didn’t work; human memory is far too fallible) and a mess of emails (I had to scrub my inbox with a sponge after that one) but we found we were still stepping on each others’ toes. Then it dawned on me:

What we really needed was a wiki.

We needed someplace where we could both see and add and edit information, highlight important dates or phone numbers, and easily compare venues to one another. Nothing huge (a CRM would have been way overkill), just a light-weight wiki that would be approachable for my not-very-geeky soulmate.

So I fired up Google Wave and spent a couple of minutes explaining it to her. Now we have a wave for wedding venues, where each wavelet (that’s what the posts in a wave are called) is about one venue. When either of us comes across a cool-looking venue, we can quickly scan the wave to see if it’s already there, and if it isn’t we can add it and fill in some quick details. If we want to contact them, we highlight the contact info, and if we make an appointment to visit a venue, we highlight the date as well; this way even at a quick glance we can quickly see when our appointments are and if there are any left to make. If either of us have comments about a venue, we can reply to its wavelet; this takes care of the usual meta-discussion in an informal but persisted way (the indent makes it easy to ignore when skimming).

So far, this is working incredibly well. We’re both completely in sync all the time, and it’s easy to find key information by quickly looking in one place. We’re already starting to add new waves for other things we’ll both want input on, like the photographer, the DJ and the cake. I have no idea how else we could be doing this as efficiently as we are; Wave is suddenly crucial to our planning process.

What went right?

I’d like to touch briefly on why this has worked out so much better than my previous experiences with Wave. I think one of the big problems with Wave is that information tends to get scattered — it’s easy to lose something in a mountain of replies, and the inability to hide or mass-delete old content causes a lot of unnecessary and frustrating sifting. What I did differently this time was enforce some basic rules about how the wave should be structured: one venue per wavelet, replies are allowed for discussion if required. This way there’s no checking to see if that golf course with the gorgeous gazebo is nested somewhere in a chain of replies, or deciding what depth to add that maple farm that four different people have recommended. They’re both easy decisions, and sticking to these informal rules really pays off in terms of keeping the wave easy to read and update.

Have you found a good use for Wave?

I’m curious to know what other creative uses people have found for Wave. If you’ve got something good, please share!

4 replies on “An Excellent Use-Case for Google Wave”

Solid post. I found it by way of your comment on this one:

I hope you won’t mind if I just copy/paste my comment from there, as opposed to rewriting it for no good reason but seeming not-so-lazy. :)

How I’m using Wave in conjunction with my blog:
A video “room” ———
A forum for short comments on interesting items out of my RSS reader ———

I have a much more ambitious idea in the works, but I think it’s pretty easy to find ways to use Wave. That’s also a catch-22. How does a person figure out when Wave can provide a good solution to a problem, except by using it? But without an obvious problem to solve, what should a person use Wave for? Until this problem is solved (hopefully by bloggers who embrace Wave and take the time to tell people what to do with it) Wave will remain a bit of a backwater technology, IMO.

I think you’re totally right about that catch-22. It’s so easy and convenient to ignore Wave because “nobody uses it” or “it wasn’t designed for what I’m trying to do”, but it can do so much for so many people if we could only change that thinking and get people to try using it.

But for now, it’s the lucky few like us that know we’ve got it right ;)

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