Last week’s Google I/O left me feeling very optimistic for what’s to come in the world of web apps. I don’t have a whole lot to add to the coverage of Google Wave and the other cool things disclosed at I/O. However, after seeing the demo of Google Wave, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities of the platform as it relates to the Enterprise world. Today, Jake and I were just discussing how Google Wave is actually a huge enterprise play for Google. I haven’t seen much coverage about this but if you think about it, Google has been creeping into the Enterprise for the last several years. Google Wave is most likely the platform it will use to expand that strategy.
Google Wave as it stands is a collaboration app. It ties together all forms of communication and collaboration in a nice browser based app. The biggest features of Google Wave are those that haven’t been built yet. Google Wave’s underlying platform was built for extensibility — for features that haven’t yet been thought up. Most of the features that were demonstrated are cool techie-whizzbang features that web devs and web aficionados appreciate — features like live concurrent editing. However, for average consumers, I’d argue that live concurrent editing isn’t that big a deal. Think about it… most people are so accustomed to delayed communication patterns (email and snail mail) rather than the real-time, instant feedback style of communication that we get when using instant messaging or sms. I suspect that’s not going to change for most consumers. Regardless, I love the live concurrent editing feature, but I think the Enterprise is where a feature like that will be very useful. Collaborating on documents in real-time is a great feature and one we’ve used in the past with Google Docs. Since Google Wave will allow developers to build on top of this technology, think of what type of apps you can build that utilize live concurrent editing. What if you can build a Bespin type of app inside Google Wave and make writing code a collaborative task. Those of us who practice agile development and TDD do this already, but what if we could do it in one application that allows us to easily mashup other commonly related tasks — like automatically creating bug reports and user stories in external apps, etc?
Google Wave’s extensions consist of robots and gadgets. Robots are basically participants that you can add to your wave that allow you to automate certain tasks within a wave. A robot can read the contents of a wave and then perform an action. There’s a myriad of robots you could create that will allow an enterprise worker to be more productive. Here are a few:“Expensie”
One common example that pops up whenever someone is talking about some enterprisey thing are expense reports. We could build a robot that can be used to create or append to an expense report out of web receipts you receive. All you have to do is add “Expensie” to the receipts you receive.
How about a robot that streamlines the whole recruiting process. An applicant applies for a job through some standard web based form, that form gets sent to the recruiter and a new wave is created. Now the applicant and recruiter can collaborate within the wave. But, to automate the process, the “Recruitie” (recruiting assistant) robot is added to the wave by the recruiter. This robot’s job is to schedule the candidate’s interviews with interviewers and make sure the candidate is well informed of the process. It’s also responsible for making sure that the interviewer is well informed of who the candidate is by packaging up a “file” (resume, cover letter, and automated background search results facilitated by Google search) for the interviewer to review prior to the interview. Once the interviews have taken place, the robot can solicit an evaluation and vote from each interviewer then notify the hiring manager and the recruiter of the results. Once the hiring manager makes a decision to hire or not, the “Recruitie” robot carries out the appropriate tasks. If hired, the appropriate notifications are sent to the candidate and then a new robot (“Onboardie”) is added to the wave to begin the on-boarding process for the candidate.
This may seem like a standard recruiting workflow found in other systems (including ours), however, the big difference is in where this process takes place. In this case, the wave becomes the central source of truth from beginning to end with all participants interacting within the same system. The user experience is simple, clean and very intuitive. It’s not a series of web based forms but more like a checklist that different participants engage with.
There are so many interesting examples that can be applied using the Google Wave paradigm. My head is still spinning with ideas. One thing’s for sure, we’re definitely going to kick the tires and build some of these ideas out. Let us know if you’d like to participate. Google Wave is ripe for enterprises.
Just the plain vanilla functionality of Google Wave would significantly increase productivity at my workplace. Too much stuff is going on in long e-mail chains and a lot of valuable information just gets buried in some Outlook folder. Add to it the poor search capability of Outlook/Exchange and the same kind of work gets done over and over again, because nobody can find the results of the same task done previously.
Interesting stuff Rich. Since I didn't attend the show, I'll have to look deeper into this.
Interesting that you mention search b/c that was one thing I wanted to see. I have to assume it will have kickass search, but maybe not. Reader didn't have search until a year or so ago, and GMail's search wasn't that great to start.
I'm really hoping search is baked in from the get-go b/c as you say, it's critical to unwinding the tangle.
I also wonder about importing threads from other sources . . . anyway.
Didn't they show search? Which was updated in real-time as the wave contents changed.
Yeah, search is real-time… it was part of the demo
Thinking of Wave in terms of “replacing” such as GMAIL (or even email, itself) is just silly. Not every Internet communication needs to be (or even should be) as would be in Wave. Traditional email, at the very least, should (and likely will) never go away. Of this, I think there should be little fear or doubt.
Now, that doesn't mean there won't be a place — and a potent one, indeed — in our lives for such as Wave and its ineluctable variants. It, too, will be useful, under the right circumstances. In fact, from my admittedly only-cursory analysis of it to date, I'm thinking that what actually MAY be “replaced” by Wave, as a practical matter, is traditional “chat,” as we now know it (though traditional chat, mark my words, will continue to be around for years and years, too, no matter how good Wave ultimately gets).
Regardless, one thing about which we should all be clear in our minds is that we're not talking about the mere replacing of anything, here. Wave, for better or worse, seems very nearly of the nature of paradigm shift… and far be it from me to suggest that that's, necessarily, a bad thing, here.
It does, however, come with pitfalls about which we should all be watchful, if not actually downright concerned. For example, though it's now coming out in articles (and/or rebuttals to such as I am posting here) that it's likely to be user-configurable, initial writings about Wave touted the ability (and represented it as essential to Wave's very way of operating) of all persons in a “wave” (or a thread) to be able to see, in real time, all others' keystrokes, as they type.
Let me repeat the salient words of that, here: AS. THEY. TYPE.
Think about that, please, for just a moment. It's a far larger problem than, perhaps, it initially seems. Like how sausage is made (or, as some joke, like how laws are passed), some things in life may better be left something of a mystery to those who ultimately consume (or are regulated by) them; and, most importantly, solely at the creator's option.
The ultimate impact and meaning to the reader of anything written would be inordinately influenced by said reader's having been a witness to its creation. If one is a thoughtful writer who doesn't just blurt out every wayward thing which flits through one's brain, then one is going to pause to think while one types, and back-up and delete and re-type, and whatever else behind-the-scenes activity goes into what ends-up being the finished written product. If the reader were able to witness what the writer merely paused before writing; or actually did write, but then thought better of and either removed or changed to something else, then the bell of what the reader saw along the way cannot be un-rung; and the reader's ultimate interpretation and understanding of the final written result will be indelibly affected in ways (even if not immediately obvious) more likely than not to be inherently bad for all concerned.
Now, if it's true, as some who challenge such as my assertions, here, are now saying, that the ability of others to view one's keystrokes as one makes them is (or at least will be) user-configurable in the version of Wave which is finally released to the end-user wild, then my concern, at least on this particular privacy-related point, is happily ameliorated.
However, of larger philosophical concern to me is that the creators of Wave apparently believed, even if only briefly, that something as basic as this issue would not be important. What, then (if anything), does that mean we should also be wary of in the realm of personal privacy protections, just generally, for users of this new and groundbreaking product? For what else should we be watching which may, ultimately, negatively impact us because of fundamental, and at least initially seemingly harmless, privacy encroachments…
…encroachments which may not even be recognizable as encroachments to Wave's creators because, perhaps, of their nationality and upbringing (nothing negative, mind you, intended by that wording, I assure).
One potentially troubling impact (at least from the standpoint of Americans, in my opinion) of globalization (which, incidentaly, I'm not fundamentally against, despite how what I'm about to write may make it seem) is how the sensibilities of those non-Americans who create things which all others on the planet end-up using can unintentionally contravene that which Americans hold perhaps nearer and dearer to their hearts than do non-American others. Those who grew up and still live in countries where such things as privacy and freedom of speech are not as absolute and paramount as in the US may or may not necessarily value such rights to the same degree as do Americans; and it sometimes shows in their work.
It has not escaped my notice that the two brothers — brilliant though they are — who created and continue to develop Wave were neither born and raised in, nor now live in, the US… and so I fear (and I may be completely wrong about this, I realize… but absent, at this point, any reason not to, I am nevertheless fearing that they) may not place as much of a premium on the notion of absolute privacy (if desired by the end-user of Wave) as do Americans.
Or, who knows, maybe they do. I don't know them, and it's unfair of me to presume, I suppose (or even to suppose, I presume). One way or the other, though, it should be at least a concern to all that the default behavior of Wave seems so inherently and joltingly privacy-denuding.
So, then, again, begged is the question: Of what else (if anything), in Wave, should we who hold inviolate our privacy be wary?
To appeal to (at least thinking) Americans, the makers of Wave need to take steps to ensure that if the end-user wants to protect his/her absolute privacy while using this admittedly exciting and paradigm-shifting new product, it can, via easy configuration settings, be satisfactorily and incontrovertibly achieved at all possible levels, and in all possible ways. Moreover, as it is developed, the makers of Wave might need to realize that they may, because of their nationality and upbringing, not necessarily even recognize what all of those levels and ways might be; and the Americans (or even the non-Americans who at least fully grasp the American viewpoint regarding all this) who work on the development of Wave should ensure that no privacy holes such as I'm discussing here remain anywhere in it when it's finally and fully released into the end-user wild.
Or so it is my opinion… my two cents worth, as it were…
…which my ex-wife, for example, among others, has been known to quickly attest tends to be about all it's usually worth.
Gregg L. DesElms
I cringed a bit when I saw the real-time typing. How am I supposed to write that flame-mail I never send 🙂
I agree that the real-time element, though shiny and definitely the flexing of development muscle, is not as usual as the amount of effort they spent to build it. Probably the first feature I would disable, frankly.
I go back and forth with real-time. I sometimes like seeing in Adium/Pidgin when someone is typing. It catches my attention, which is both good and bad.
Privacy is always a hot button issue with Google, as it should be. I wonder how they will address the movement of bit across international borders, but again, this is a known issue.
Paradigm shifting rarely happens all at once. We're all curious to kick the tires. I hope they're not delaying that initial release to build momentum, although I might 🙂
I think I'll re-read your comment again in a bit to make sure I hit all the points 🙂 Thanks for the analysis.
“My head is still spinning with ideas.”
I know how you feel.
“One thing’s for sure, we’re definitely going to kick the tires and build some of these ideas out. Let us know if you’d like to participate.”
Count me in. I am excited!
Don't forget “Goalie”! 😉
Great post, Rich. Thanks for getting our thinking going on this.