I was interviewed by Marie Boran from Silicon Republic recently for an interesting article she was writing entitled “Will Google Wave topple the e-mail status quo and change the way we work?“. I thought that maybe my longer answers may be of interest and am pasting them below.
As someone who is both behind Ireland’s biggest online community boards.ie and a researcher at DERI on the Semantic Web, are you excited about Google Wave?
Technically, I think it’s an exciting development – commercially, it obviously provides potential for others (Google included) to set up a competing service to us (!), but I think what is good is the way it has been shown that Google Wave can integrate with existing platforms. For example, there’s a nice demo showing how Google Wave plus MediaWiki (the software that powers the Wikipedia) can be used to help editors who are simultaneously editing a wiki page. If it can be done for wikis, it could aid with lots of things relevant to online communities like boards.ie. For example, moderators could see what other moderators are online at the same time, communicate on issues such as troublesome users, posts with questionable content, and then avoid stepping on each other’s toes when dealing with issues.
Does it potential for collaborative research projects? Or is it heavyweight/serious enough?
I think it has some potential when combined with other tools that people are using already. There’s an example from SAP of Google Wave being integrated with a business process modelling application. People always seem to step back to e-mail for doing various research actions. While wikis and the like can be useful tools for quickly drafting research ideas, papers, projects, etc., there is that element of not knowing who is doing stuff at the same time as you. Just as people are using Gtalk to augment Gmail by being able to communicate in contacts in real-time when browsing e-mails, Google Wave could potentially be integrated with other platforms such as collaborative work environments, document sharing systems, etc. It may not be heavyweight enough on its own but at least it can augment what we already use.
Where does Google Wave sit in terms of the development of the Semantic Web?
I think it could be a huge source of data for the Semantic Web. What we find with various social and collaborative platforms is that people are voluntarily creating lots of useful related data about various objects (people, events, hobbies, organisations) and having a more real-time approach to creating content collaboratively will only make that source of data bigger and hopefully more interlinked. I’d hope that data from Google Wave can be made available using technologies such as SIOC from DERI, NUI Galway and the Online Presence Ontology (something we are also working on).
If we are to use Google Wave to pull in feeds from all over the Web will both RSS and widgets become sexy again?
I haven’t seen the example of Wave pulling in feeds, but in theory, what I could imagine is that real-time updating of information from various sources could allow that stream of current information to be updated, commented upon and forwarded to various other Waves in a very dynamic way. We’ve seen how Twitter has already provided some new life for RSS feeds in terms of services like Twitterfeed automatically pushing RSS updates to Twitter, and this results in some significant amounts of rebroadcasting of that content via retweets etc.
Certainly, one of the big things about Wave is its integration of various third-party widgets, and I think once it is fully launched we will see lots of cool applications building on the APIs that they provide. There’s been a few basic demonstrator gadgets shown already like polls, board games and event planning, but it’ll be the third-party ones that make good use of the real-time collaboration that will probably be the most interesting, as there’ll be many more people with ideas compared to some internal developers.
Is Wave the first serious example of a communications platform that will only be as good as the third-party developers that contribute to it?
Not really. I think that title applies to many of the communications platforms we use on the Web. Facebook was a busy service but really took off once the user-contributable applications layer was added. Drupal was obviously the work of a core group of people but again the third-party contributions outweigh those of the few that made it.
We already have e-mail and IM combined in Gmail and Google Docs covers the collaborative element so people might be thinking ‘what is so new, groundbreaking or beneficial about Wave?’ What’s your opinion on this?
Perhaps the real-time editing and updating process. Often times, it’s difficult to go back in a conversation and add to or fix something you’ve said earlier. But it’s not just a matter of rewriting the past – you can also go back and see what people said before they made an update (“rewind the Wave”).
Is Google heading towards unified communications with Wave, and is it possible that it will combine Gmail, Wave and Google Voice in the future?
I guess Wave could be one portion of a UC suite but I think the Wave idea doesn’t encompass all of the parts…
Do you think Google is looking to pull in conversations the way FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter does? If so, will it succeed?
Yes, certainly Google have had interests in this area with their acquisition of Jaiku some time back (everyone assumed this would lead to a competitor to Twitter; most recently they made the Jaiku engine available as open source). I am not sure if Google intends to make available a single entry point to all public waves that would rival Twitter or Facebook status updates, but if so, it could be a very powerful competitor.
Is it possible that Wave will become as widely used and ubiquitous as Gmail?
It will take some critical mass to get it going, integrating it into Gmail could be a good first step.
And finally – is the game changing in your opinion?
Certainly, we’ve moved from frequently updated blogs (every few hours/days) to more frequently updated microblogs (every few minutes/seconds) to being able to not just update in real-time but go back and easily add to / update what’s been said any time in the past. People want the freshest content, and this is another step towards not just providing content that is fresh now but a way of freshening the content we’ve made in the past.