How I Learned To Love Google Wave

OK, maybe love is a strong word. But I’ve spent some time ‘blipping’ my close tech buddies on Wave and have to admit I think I might have found a problem to connect with this facinating solution.

First, some back story.

In September of 2009 I decided to take a sabbatical from the world of broadcast media and refocus a bit. Actually, ‘decided’ is too kind a word. After watching my #2 client Canwest implode, and CTV cancel their #1 show Canadian Idol and ‘hiatus’ eTalk for a few weeks, I found myself with lots of free time. I also just returned from a very successful gig in Vancouver designing pre-vis and layout a number of animated spots you can see here. But that was temporary and I found myself back in Toronto with a pretty empty calendar.

I got to think about the whole “building a runway” strategy that successful companies adopt during a down economy. Essentially, when times are good you can only wish to have a few moments to rebrand your company, retrain, or take that time off to do something you really want to do. With that spirit in mind, I wrote down a few things that have been lurking in my mind for the past very successful and extremely busy years. My first plan was to rebrand my wedding film company, and after hiring a very talented graphic designer and assembling an ad-hoc focus group, I’m thrilled with the results. Blush Wedding Films has recharged my energy, and after only a few months bookings are way up for 2010. Next was my career outside of the wedding business, which is seasonal in Canada. I’ve always been a geek at heart, and fondly recalled my time in high school on the computer team (we went on to the International finals in Detroit, MI), and I cannot count the number of times I’ve been approached to create a rich web site or do some back-end low level ActionScript coding. I’ve faked it in the past, but I looked into bring that dream back to reality. Finally, I’ve also been very interested in learning how to manage small projects more efficiently, and clients have started to ask me about PMP certification (Project Management Professional).

Flash forward to the middle of September and I’m enrolled at the University of Toronto taking Project Management, and Durham College taking Web Application Development. Already I’m getting a feeling that this is the killer combo if I can pull it off.

But back to Google Wave… how does this all connect?

Google Wave in what email would look like if email was invented today. Think about it – email was invented 40 years ago, and uses a post-office analogy that seemed dated even when you first peeked at a header source many years ago. Rather than having one document copied, appended, and sent around, there is only one living document dished out by an open protocol, that you can invite anyone to participate with. So at it’s root, you can certainly use Wave as an email substitute. Granted, it’s pretty crude with formatting, and the participant has to be on Wave as well, but it this regard Wave is pretty easy to understand. But introduce a new participant and things change dramatically.

Once you invite a circle of colleagues to participate in your thread, the concept of a living document takes shape. In fact, there is nothing quite like it. It’s actually a bit disarming watching your own document being edited in real time by your collaborators while you edit your section. Uploading links and media is somewhat supported, but it’s the living document idea that really takes shape with a small workgroup.

Clients and colleagues that know me know that I’m a huge fan of virtual teams, and in fact just successfully completed my first term at U of T as Project Manager. Everyone including the instructor was very excited about being shown the potential of online collaboration using a well managed cloud app like Basecamp properly. But even a tool as awesome and easy to use as Basecamp has its limitations. Threads can get large and difficult to manage, and the support for rich media is basic at best. The first time I logged into Wave I thought, “this is a Project Management tool!” In my mind’s eye I could see my team-members updating a thread on Project A, while someone was commenting on the latest Risk Evaluation Matrix, while someone else was drafting the latest Executive Sumary of Project B.

It was beautiful!

Unfortunately, it was just me an a few geek pals typing into their console, “hello world”. Followed by, “what now?”

I’m going to be researching this tool as closely as I can. I bought Gina Trapani’s new ebook, itself a living wiki, to try to make sense of the potential of this application. It may end up being the coolest PM tool out there, or a really confusing chat client, but I intend to spend some time getting wet with Wave.

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