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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The psychology of Google Wave and a sceptic won over

Innovation: The psychology of Google Wave - tech - 09 October 2009 - New Scientist

I was reading this article and then tweeted an article by Chris Brogan on how he had started to like Google Wave and was using it to help him on managing a project that he is working on with a colleague.

I also think that it would be useful to do a brain storm style exercise when the team are distributed throughout the organisation or for example when bad weather sets in (as I type this it has started to snow again)
 I think that this is probably what I'd want to use it for - however the major problem and I hope that Google sort it out is to allow people to use say their work e-mail addresses to use rather than if you aren't already signed up to a Google account.

It will be interesting to see if this forms part of the Google Apps Premier edition where as I see it you pay $50 a year or £33 in the UK. A colleague was telling me that her husbands company (Jaguar Land Rover and is advertised as a user on Googles site) has already signed up - a few teething difficulties but generally ok. Google Wave might be a useful add on as part of the collaborative element of the site especially for small businesses.

However what about the 600 pound gorilla companies with all their legacy systems - will they for example start to put pressure on Microsoft to develop something similar for Sharepoint 20XX. Or will frustrated people use skunk fund monies to sign up a few users because their IT department can't deliver. £33 isn't a lot.

I looked back through some of my old reader feeds and came upon the article in the New Scientist - not a publication given to hyperbole as I wondered how this might change the way we communicate if it was in wave format as I find that e-mail tends to be more formal an electronic version of memos that I used to send to my boss. My wife tends to say that some of my messages tend to be stream of consciousness which lends itself more to a Wave style conversation.

Two of the features of Wave that are likely to alter how people communicate are related to time: it allows users to see others typing live, even if they later delete that text; and a "replay" function plays back the complex tangle of interactions that produced a wave.
Past research has shown that the real-time, synchronous, nature of instant messaging (IM) encourages an informal tone, says Susan Herring, who researches the convergence of computer communication platforms at Indiana University in Bloomington. "It invokes face-to-face communication and encourages people to use conversational strategies," she explains.
Seeing live typing may accentuate that effect, but Wave can also be asynchronous, like email. "We won't see the difference between the two types of communication disappear," says Herring. "More elaborate messages are still possible, but when the other person is online you will be drawn to a more informal style." The pace and style of communicating with Wave will be more varied than with email.

The replay button I think can be useful as it gives you a way of seeing what the other correspondee was thinking about a little earlier and gives more of a sense of the conversation.

The problem that this article doesn't address is the culture of the organisation and whether it encourages more free wheeling conversation and whether in working in a project group you would address say the project leader in a more relaxed format.  I consider that people will tend to use the more relaxed style amongst their peers. I've found by experience and across cultures that people express more individual opinions and brainstorm more openly when a senior member of the team isn't present. I'd also find this useful if I was in a small informal community of practice and wanted a quick tool to work on a dialogue on an issue if I didn't have any internal forums that could be quickly set up.

If you have a number of you in the organisation and you have access to Google Wave why not try it on a small and relatively unimportant project either to project management or to brainstorm an issue and see how you find it.

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