I know I’m late to the Google Wave comment party but you will have to forgive me since I’m coming off of a two month near constant client travel schedule.
Like most, I was impressed with the Google Wave demo. What struck me as most important and foundational was Google’s core grasp of the power of the collective. By collective, I mean the root of the term; “collect.”
In the early days of personal computing we were all excited about being able to produce more rich individual efforts using office software (e.g., word processing, spreadsheets, presentations).
With the coming of the Internet we then could take our wonderful individual efforts and widely distribute them creating a world where relatively small contributions zip about the world with dizzy speed and scale.
We live in a world where distributions dominate. We distribute products, ideas, information, etc. and the way others feel about those products, ideas, information, etc. is also highly distributed. We have tried to glean some greater meaning from these distributions with tools and techniques like surveys, polling, focus groups, voting, etc.
We are now entering the age of the “collective” (empowered by social software) where like never before we can cost effectively capture massive “collections” from this world of distributions.
I know this sounds philosophical but it is very real. What makes the social Web so powerful? The collective does. We, in potentially tremendous masses go to (or collect around) the collaboration entity. We collect around the facebook social graph to participate. We collect around the YouTube repository to share our videos. We collect around wikipedia to contribute to the world’s largest encyclopedia.
Google gets this with Google Wave. Google Wave derives its power (at least as demo’ ed) from a foundation based on the collective not the distribution. The cool functionality like comprehensive persistence, history playback, live concurrent editing, wave management, and the apparently seamless integration of functionality (e-mail, IM, content editing, content sharing, etc.) is all predicated on everyone collecting around the content-based interactions.
You can’t accomplish this with a model based on distributions but you can when you enable collective efforts.
Now I still have some concerns with Google Wave (such as information overload and content “discoverability”) but they certainly get the power of the collective.
See Gartner research entitled, “The Web Wins Whether or Not Google Wave Succeeds” (available to the general public).
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