Friday, December 4, 2009

Surfing the wave

One of the good things about having friends in Silicon Valley is all the beta preview invites that I get.

So a few months ago, I got a Google Wave invitation from a friend from Berkeley. I accepted but - truth be told - didn't really start using it. The main reason was the old network effect: what's the point of having a communication tool if no one else is in the network? As my professor once said, the first person who bought a fax machine was stupid (if you want to put it a positive light, this is called "network effect").

Some weeks later, there were some people on Wave already, and since you can send invites to your friends, I thought that the tendency was for a valuable network to build up fast. By that time I already had many of the people I email often on my Wave contact list - my wife, my brother and friends.

Now, four months into it, Wave is anything but a success. No one uses it.


I believe people are simply not ready to be so collaborative. A "Wave" is extremely open-ended. Anyone can change the document, add stuff, paste a picture, delete a paragraph. That's scary. It might sound cools if you are a software engineer working in Palo Alto, who uses scrum based project management techniques, but for the rest of the world, the mere mortals who can barely use "compare documents" in Word, Wave is simply too open.

That is a little typical of Google and Silicon Valley. They are all early adopters, get really excited about new technologies and assume the rest of the world is just like them. Sometimes, it turns out to happen. Sometimes, it doesn't.

Let's wait and see where the Wave goes.

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