28 November 2009

The Wild, Wild Wave

 by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.



It is far too early on a Saturday morning, and I am far too undercaffeinated to even be considering writing this.  I've been on Google Wave since Monday, and I want to pontificate a bit, especially in light of my previous article, On Collaboration.

This little article is going to take on a slightly different form.  Since the potential for writing coherently is approximately 50/50, I'm going to kick it Socratic.

What's the point?  Isn't Wave the bastard child of instant messaging, email, and maybe the a baby mamma of virtual whiteboards?
Yes.  It is.  But that's what makes it great.  Email hasn't been really overhauled since it was invented over 40 years ago.  It's a pain to collaborate over email.  You never have the current version of a document, you cannot work "together," only in alternating waves.  Example:

E1: Here's the most recent rev.  It's got stuff on it.  Let me know what you think.
Four Hours Later, as E1 twiddles thumbs or has moved onto other things, and has completely forgotten what he's written.
E2: Looks good.  I'd change X, Y, Z.

E1 looks over email, looks over original attachment, makes changes, uploads a new version, ad naseum.

I've worked this way.  And I've always despised it.  Manual changing, etc.  It is unproductive, and not collaboration with a capital "C."  It's reviewing and revising.  Big difference.  Ideas can't flow over email.

Instant messaging is great because of the key word: instant.  Unfortunately, it has the pre-teen girl stigma and is a colossal time suck.  Collaboration is a little better here, but you still have to manually revise documents that are downloaded.

I've never used virtual whiteboards.  I like mine.  I like the smell of the markers

What about film? You're a film guy, spew forth some Wavian virtues.
 Here's where Wave's potential is the greatest.  If all the preview bugs are ironed out (and that's important for everyone to keep in mind - this is a preview.  It's not the final version, and it has a looong way to go), Wave will radically alter the filmmaking landscape - in all phases of production.

This article, Google Wave for Filmmakers: A Concept, by Jonathan Portisky of the candler blog pretty much sums up the potential for film.  I really have nothing to add to his work, except a few thoughts.

As Google Wave becomes more open, and is adopted by more individuals and companies, the prospect of worldwide working will become more acceptable.  For instance, Wes Anderson was much derided for not being on-set during the making of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, instead viewing frames, etc. from his iPhone.  Now, I think this outrage was equal parts iPhone marketing (unofficially), and I personally am of the opinion that the director should ALWAYS be on set, no matter if the best shot you get is the moving of an arm a single millimeter, but it does show the potential for what's to come.  Wave will make this even more commonplace, especially with animation.

An individual Wave could be created by the director to monitor all phases.  A pre-production wave.  A production wave.  And a post-production wave.  Ideas could be interchanged between departments more freely, as opposed to the closed-door mentality of some post-production, where the editor is separate from the DP, or the makeup artist, or the continuity supervisor.

This would an absolute fantastic asset - and a potential detriment.  When decisions can be made so quickly with so many people involved, a feeling of finality and the acceptance of a decision may be difficult to come by.  Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Which brings me to point number three ...


Isn't this more of a time waster than a time saver?
Yes and no, but, like any product, it depends on how you use it.  Ground rules must be set, and a new form of discipline must be attained.  I liken it to the delete key on the keyboard.  People got a lot sloppier in their typing skills once a delete key showed up.  With a typewriter, if you wanted to change something, it took some effort.  You took your time, and kneejerk decisions weren't made.  Now, you can delete any screw-up in an instant, like it never happened (and like I've done countless times in this tirade).

There is the potential for Wave to become a glorified and difficult to use instant messenger time suck.  But only if we let it become that.  There's a flip side to every coin, and that is you must set ground rules.

I would propose the following feature be added to Wave (and if it's there, I've only worked with it since Monday, sorry), and that is a Wave admin.  Each Wave should have an administrator whose duty it is to add and delete co-Wavers, compile the Wave, delete messages that are fluff, etc.  There should be a series of predefined rules the admin can add, such as no media, etc.  Each Wave needs its head chef to wipe up the plate before serving.  This may take away the vastly democratic nature of a wave, but in the interest of efficiency and ground running for a business, especially something like a film where every second is a dollar wasted, and discipline must be paramount.

Now, this should only be an option, because quite frankly, I think there should be a water-cooler wave for each group working.  Random thoughts, exchanging random ideas outside official channels.  This is the biggest thing I miss about working in an office with other people.  I don't get that one-on-one interaction.  Wave could go a long way towards changing that. 

What are some problems with Wave right now?
We have to be honest with ourselves here.  Wave is in preview, which means shit will break.  It won't work all the time, and it won't be the end-all-be-all holy grail of connectivity and interaction - yet.  Here's a list of what I have issues with:

* It's a completely overwhelming interface to newbies and non-computer savvy people out there.
* The "live typing" function should be turned off.  It adds nothing, and is fluff. I don't like being interrupted in person, and I don't like being interrupted online.  It makes one self-conscious when typing, and doesn't promote thoughtful responses.  A simple icon, a la IM when someone is typing would be sufficient, and would save a lot of bandwidth.
* It's presently the wild wild west.  No administration of individual waves - yet.  Once this feature comes in, it will be a big step forward.
* Very few keystroke shortcuts.
* No real differentiation between Pinging and Waving.  Admin control over Waves, with the pinging function being more IM one-on-one would go a long way.  Again, I'm big on this admin thing.

Are You Done Yet?
Yep.  Though I will leave you with two links.  One is the article mentioned above, Google Wave for Filmmakers, and the other is from TechCrunch, Why Google Wave Sucks and Why You Will Use It Anyway.

OK, now for more coffee.  My head hurts after all this Wave talk.

BRIEF UPDATE - Found this excellent video that in (largely) human language answers the question "WTF is Wave?"

5 comments:

Lee Bishop said...

Thanks, my head hurts too now lol. Completely overwhelming info, but come time to work with someone on a larger project at a more complex level it could be cool, and I'll keep it in mind. I love email, hate chat, and need a bigger white board.
-Lee

Tyler Weaver said...

Thanks for reading Lee. My head's on overload too - hence why I wrote the article - a "Wave dump" as it were.

Lee Bishop said...

It's a great article nonetheless!

Gaia said...

Gmail is not gonna make sense at all to people who grow up with Wave. I hope this develops into some super awesome crazy smart AI bot with enhanced reality and lots of rockets someday.

Tyler Weaver said...

Indeed. I think The Terminator was actually a Wave gone awry.

 
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