Doing the Wave

It was some fun watching the Saints dismantle the Patriots last night. And now I’m doing the wave. No, not the audience wave — I’m not that big of a sports fan and I do still have my basic sense of human dignity. I’m talking about Google Wave.

Wave

Google describes Wave as “a personal communication and collaboration tool,” and at first glance it seems to be highly flexible and powerful. Whether it will also be useful and successful is another question entirely.

It’s a little hard for me to describe Wave, mainly because I haven’t had much chance to play around with it yet. It’s invitation-only at this point, and I only got mine a couple days ago. (Props to Nola Cherié King for hooking me up.) I hope to spend some time poking around at it and exploring its possibilities, seeing what potential it might have. This is just what I do, who I am, plus it’s my job. In particular I’m wondering what application Wave might have in higher education.

Anyhow, I’ve now got a handful of invites (eight, to be specific) which I can pass on to any interested parties, and we can check this thing out together. I’d like to reserve at least half of them for people who are here at the University, but the rest are fair game to friends and readers. So if you’d like an invite, use the comment form below, and make sure to put your e-mail address in the appropriate field (no one will see it but me) so I can send you the invitation. Google says the invites may be delayed but I got mine pretty much instantly. I’ll send invites on a first-come basis, but you have to promise to do the wave with me at least once.

Groups

I used eGroups back in the day. They got bought out by Yahoo in 2000 and became a part of Yahoo Groups, but I know at least one guy who still calls ’em eGroups.

Sometime thereafter Google got into the game. I believe Google Groups started as a Usenet archive, but they rather quickly deployed a service that was basically a Yahoo Groups clone.

I’ve continued to use Yahoo Groups for a decade now. They don’t have that sexy and shiny Web 2.0 veneer that we all know and love, but they get the job done. They are fairly easy to manage, even for people who aren’t terribly tech savvy, and they enable large (or small) groups of people to communicate with one another easily from all over the world. They have a kind of easy egalitarianism which I like.

I have set up such groups for two branches of my family, my book club, Friends of Lafitte Corridor, my neighborhood group, the local Green Party, and several others I’m not remembering right now.

Yet sometimes Yahoo Groups feels kind of clunky to me. Surely there must be something better, with all the innovation on the web.

Such is the luster of Google these days that, at some point, I assumed Google Groups must be that “something better.” After all, many of their other products are pretty amazing. (I hear their search engine is pretty good.) That led me to create a couple or three groups on Google.

After a couple years, I’m ready to say conclusively that Google Groups aren’t that great.

Yahoo Groups has a number of features which Google hasn’t bothered to implement, even after all these years. Want to poll group members about something? Want to start a simple database everyone can add to? Yahoo makes it easy. These features are not to be found in Google.

But the real pisser is the basic functionality of Google Groups just isn’t there. In essence the idea of a group is like a mailing list. A user subscribes and then gets updates sent to the group. Simple, right? Yet in Google’s version, the basic functions often don’t work. Problems with joining the group, problems with dropped messages. Sure, any system has glitches, but I see a lot more of these problems on Google than on Yahoo, despite the fact I’ve at times been responsible for a lot more users on Yahoo than Google — like an order of magnitude more.

In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, but Google Groups just plain kind of suck. Yahoo has the better product.

I’ve heard it said that “Google gets all the attention, but Yahoo makes all the money.” I don’t know if this is an example of that, but it certainly goes to show those whiz kids at Google aren’t infallible.

My Block from Space

Google Maps recently added two zoom levels to their satellite views, and made other improvements that make it even more fun to fool around with. I immediately took a gander at where I live. Here’s my block in Mid-City New Orleans:

My Block

Several observations:

  1. I can actually see our back deck
  2. The imagery would seem to be pre-Katrina. Happier, cleaner days. More living grass. And I can see the abandoned cars in the neighbor’s driveway, which were hauled away before the storm.
  3. The grid in my neighborhood is about 45º off the compass points. No wonder we don’t reference North South East West much in the city.
  4. Dang, but the houses are packed in tight on our block.