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How is Google Wave intended to be used in a way that I can't use Google Docs for? It seems like it's Google Docs, except they've integrated the chat and the actual document.

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closed as off topic by alex, quack quixote, BinaryMisfit Feb 7 '10 at 9:25

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Get into a wave with over 700 blips and then we'll talk. – random Dec 2 '09 at 4:38
for collaboration and such. supposed to be better than email but it is a bit cluttered – eqzx Dec 2 '09 at 4:41
Google Wave is still in its infancy. It will be a collaboration tool. I say will be because the invitation process is slow and it takes time to get enough people (friends, business associates, etc.) to actually start a collaboration process. I just started last month to actually get enough business associates invited to use Google Wave effectively. – ricbax Dec 2 '09 at 4:50
we all was waiting for something revolutionary, but no, a failure I say, they're looking to attract the community forcing them to use Chrome – user8228 Dec 2 '09 at 6:32
@Revolter: That's one darn fast failure then, considering it's not even completed or released yet. – Ilari Kajaste Dec 2 '09 at 14:15

It's really hard to answer your question, because Google Wave is not the same as Google Docs. Problem is, if you are determined to think of it as such, you just end up using it like a bad version of Google Docs.

There are people claiming it's just a bad IM client as well. They have probably ended up using it as a bad version of an IM client. Well, guess what, it isn't an IM client either.

The point is, it's a new system. Google Wave is not Google Docs, it's not a wiki, it's not email, it's not MSN Messenger, ICQ, or any other IM either. And it's not a blog, or a web forum. Nor is it an USENET news group.

Admittedly, it's easy to mistake as such, since it incorporates features from all of the above. Yet, it's not even just a bloated integration of the above - it is it's own communication system that just has many similarities to existing tools.

But since you asked for differences from Google Docs, here are some:

  • Federation - waves can be distributed between multiple independent servers, like email, and the system isn't owned by Google.
  • Coversation based structure - Google Docs is document centric system, while Wave puts emphasis on conversation instead of collaboration.
  • No forced boundary between modes of communication - any conversation can switches between asynchronous and synchronous communication, simply depending on the avilability of users.
  • No forced boundary between types of collaboration - any conversation can become a collaborative document, and any collaboration can have conversational comments - and the user doesn't have to care about how to do this in the application since the type doesn't make any difference for the system.
  • Extendability by bots and gadgets - eventually, it may be possible to use Wave for interacting with multiple other systems, like writing blog posts and comments, email, twitter, and so on.

Now the use cases specific to Wave are a bit more difficult - Google Docs, like many tools, can probably be used for most cases. Even email can be used for collaborative editing, but it's a real pain. I would argue that the best cases for Wave is communication where there isn't a specific task at hand. If you need to build an information base, use Wiki. If you need to create a book, use Google Docs. But if you need to communicate before doing anything, use Wave.

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One way I use Google Wave with my friends is to organize events. This allows us to collaboratively decide on all the details of the trip and becomes a useful reference refer back to. Having it as a structured document means that it's easy to highlight the important details while hiding the parts of the document that descend into chatter.

The other particular useful part about wave for this use case is that since it's a single document which you can easily invite people to follow, you never have the issue of accidentally dropping people off the recipient list, which is a risk with each reply-all to an email thread. This has happened to us a couple of times, with people being dropped off the email thread without anyone realizing until it's a bit late.

Related to the last point, it's much easier to quickly get up to speed on the contents of an existing wave than an existing email thread as you can ignore entire branches that are clearly not relevant and you can use the replay feature to see the order in which people responded and added new information.

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Are you saying you've been one of the few that has has the replay button work for you? – random Dec 2 '09 at 7:28
replay works for me and my friends! – Phoshi Dec 2 '09 at 11:05

For private use, such as when planning an event, or discussing a topic, Wave bring the functionality of Google Docs plus live chat plus easier change tracking plus gadgets.

For public use (use with:public in the search box, and see), Wave is far more powerful than the other tools, as it brings the best of Wikis, Blogs, Forums and Discussion groups. The easy editing, easy tagging, real time chat, search capabilities, etc. makes the difference.

There are some issues where Wave isn't the best replacement, especially when it comes to permission management (cannot really remove people from waves) and integration with other products. Give it some time, as the technology is still in preview.

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Everything you need to know is in this video. Just watch it.

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