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The Single Biggest Reason Why I Can't Yet REALLY Use Google Wave

googlewavepreview.jpgI'm a big fan of Google Wave. A huge fan in fact. I've written about it, posted a screencast about using it in conference collaboration and have much more about it in my writing queue. I love the promise of the Wave protocol that will allow for distributed/decentralized collaboration that is in line with "The Internet Way". I've been a long-time fan of the XMPP protocol that is underneath it all. There is so much great potential in Wave.

But I can't really use it today.

Not yet, anyway.

It's NOT because of the common sentiment I hear about not having anyone to communicate with on Wave. Between Voxeons trying it out, PR/marketing folks associated with FIR trying it out, and a whole lot of other early adopters I know, there are probably easily 150-200 people that I could use Wave with.

And I very definitely can use Google Wave for PUBLIC Waves like those I described for conferences in my screencast. For public waves, it's great and works well.

But I can't really use it for true collaboration with a team a people - and therefore can't really push Wave to see what it can do.


Two simple pictures illustrate the issue:




Figure it out?

Yes, indeed....


Like I alluded to earlier, no big deal for a public wave. Public waves are by definition, well,... public... and so anyone can join in a public wave. And anyone contributing to a public wave should realize that anything they type there is potentially visible to everyone. It is an annoyance that you can't leave a public wave... but that's it.

(Note: the Google Wave team did hear the cries from Wave users and have allowed anyone to remove a bot from a wave. So bots can be kicked out, but not people.)


I'll give you two examples, though, where this is a huge problem.

First, imagine that you are trying to use Google Wave to collaborate on, say, a news release for your company. The content of the wave is confidential. You invite your team into the wave and you all work on the document. Then, because the current Wave user interface is, um, not entirely intuitive, one of your team members accidently adds someone from outside of your company into your confidential wave.


There is no way to boot that person out. In fact, via Playback, he/she can see everything you have ever typed into that wave... every edit... every snarky comment...

All you can do at that point is: 1) appeal to the person's brother/sisterhood as a fellow early-adopter to excuse the problem and try to pretend they don't see everything going on in the wave; and 2) start a brand-new wave (copying content over) that includes just your team and not this person.

Not ideal solutions.

Second, let's say that you are working with a team of people and one of the people decides to leave the team. Maybe they quit or are fired from the company. Maybe they start a competing project. Whatever the case... you don't want them to have access to the Wave any more.


copytonewwave.jpgAgain, no way you can remove them. The best you can do is go up to the upper right corner of one of the "blips" in your wave and do the "Copy to new wave" command... and then add everyone to this new wave.

I recently had to personally do this for a wave of 25+ people. Not a fun experience, particular because the current Wave UI only seems to let you add one person at a time. So I had to create the new wave and then figure out who all was in the old one and add them one at a time to the new wave. It didn't take a long time... it was really only a few minutes... but it was a pain. And then I had to flip between the old and new waves to be sure I had brought everyone over.

And then, since everyone would still see the old wave in their inbox, I had to change the title of the old wave so that people would not go into that one and would know they could archive it to get it out of their Inbox.


As The Complete Wave Guide indicates, it's not necessarily an easy problem to solve due to Wave's collaborative nature. Having said that, the problem has been solved in the IM space in places like Skype Group Chats, IRC channels, etc. Now, federation isn't here yet, but Wave's distributed and decentralized architecture could add some interesting syncing challenges to this issue - but yet it still seems to me to be solvable.

As "GeekLad" notes in "5 Reasons Google Wave Is Not Ready, it's an issue of lack of any real kind of "access control". I agree with with GeekLad that something like this kind of system needs to be in place:

  • Allow the wave creator do add/remove any participant from a wave.
  • Allow the wave creator to assign/modify the following permissions that can be set at the wave and participant level:
    • Permission to add bots to the wave.
    • Permission to invite other participants to the wave.
    • Permission to remove participants from the wave.
    • Read-only or read/write access to the wave.
    • Permission to grant/modify each (or all) permissions for other participants and/or the entire wave.

That's what we need.

Access control and the ability to remove participants from a wave.

Until that time, as much as I dearly want to be using Google Wave for all sorts of collaborative development... I won't... I can't in good conscience do so with private information.

Here's hoping that the Wave team does give us this feature real soon now... until then... I'll keep using it for public waves, and for non-confidential private waves... but I want to use it for so much more...

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