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By Request: What Do You Think of Google Wave So Far? The LazyWave Experiment

December is “By Request” month at DennisKennedy.Blog. I’m invite you to ask your questions about legal technology and other issues I cover in this blog, or even stuff I don’t usually cover. I’ll my best to answer them during the month.
Here’s the question:
What Do You Think of Google Wave So Far?
Google Wave, once you cut through the hoopla and hyperbole, is, according to Wikipedia, “a web-based service, computing platform, and communications protocol designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.”
While some consider Google Wave as the next generation of email or even the replacement for email, Gina Trapani’s fundamental insight that Wave is “mostly a document collaboration tool” is the most useful way to think about Wave. In fact, Wave addresses and corrects the most annoying omission from Google Docs (Google’s collaborative word processing tool) in that it allows collaborators on a document to communicate in real-time without switching over to a separate instant messaging tool.
There was initially a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about Wave, in part from the outsized expectations for it, in part because it had an invitation-only release where only a limited number of people could try it, and in part because, as I am wont to say, there is a consensus that email is not really working for any of us very well anymore.
After a month or so of people working with Google Wave, it’s probably fair to say that people experimenting with Wave are generally underwhelmed, puzzled and still trying to figure out how they might use it well. If there’s one word that captures the general reaction I’ve heard, it would definitely be “Meh.”
Tom Mighell and I set up a public Wave in connection with our podcast, in part as a way to generate questions for our audience Q&A segment (we’re looking for more questions for our recording session this week) and in part to provide a place to continue conversations started by the podcast. If you are already a Wave user, search for it in Wave using “with: public” “Kennedy-Mighell Report.”
There’s been some activity, but not a whole lot. The This Week in Law podcast has a similar public Wave and I’d say it has had mixed results at best.
Other Waves I’ve been part of seem to gradually wash out.
One Wave that I found successful illustrated that Wave is really useful as an instant message platform for multiple people who are available at the same time to talk about a specific topic. I started an ad hoc discussion of the pricing of the recent release of our collaboration book on the Kindle platform with some other Kindle authors. It was great while we all online one evening, but the discussion died off afterwards.
At this point, it strikes me that Google Wave could work well for document collaboration, brainstorming, planning a presentation or conference and the like, where notes could be collected and gathered. But, you can do that on Google Docs, too.
It could also work well as a companion or adjunct to a podcast, webzine, conference or even an article. But, the comments section on a blog post or even a wiki can accomplish similar things.
As I said, I really think Wave works well as a multi-participant instant messaging platform. But, you can accomplish something similar with Skype or other IM tools.
Wave is definitely in beta. There are some uses that people will build out and find that they work. Bob Ambrogi has written a good article called “Google’s Wave” (free registration currently required) that explores ways lawyers might use wave and suggests some ways that lawyers might experiment with Wave. In my opinion, Bob is a bit of an optimist on some of these ideas, but his list gives a roadmap for lawyers who might want to experiment with Wave.
Speaking of experimenting, this brings me to my latest idea for using Wave. I’m calling it the “LazyWave.”
Many of you will recall the long-running web tradition of “lazyweb,” pioneered by Matt Jones and Ben Hammersley, which was the first example of what people now tend to call “crowd sourcing.” The idea was that you simply put up a question on your website or blog and hoped that knowledgeable members of your audience would answer it for you. As the Wikipedia entry says:

“Asking the lazyweb” as a phrase has become a way to request an idea you have neither the time nor the inclination to create.

Examples might be: “In Boston next week, looking for a good lobster restaurant that’s affordable.” “iTunes not syncing my podcasts to my iPod Touch. Any suggestions?” “Want to buy a small (<25”) HDTV – what’s a good choice?"
Sometimes you got answers and sometime you didn’t, but it was a quick way to do research with little effort.
You can still see the actual LazyWeb.org site, which shuttered in 2006.
So, it struck me that the same idea/principle could be used in Wave, and that Wave could be a perfect vehicle to be a platform for “lazy” requests, those where you might not know the answer but others might know the answer off the top of their heads and be willing to share the answer.
There are a couple ways this LazyWave could be done – public, private, small, focused, etc.
I got the idea for this the other day when I was thinking about getting a new computer bag. Usually, when I’m thinking about a new computer bag, I’m interested in what people like my pals Reid Trautz, Matt Homann, Ross Kodner, Adriana Linares and others who travel and speak frequently on legal tech are now using, recommending or wanting.
I thought, hey, this might be a job for Google Wave. I could ask the question as the start of a new “wave” discussion and see what everyone had to say.
Then I thought I could take it a step further. What if I put together a “wave” that stayed open, added a group of knowledgeable experts (or least people with shared interests) and encouraged these people to drop in and participate and ask their own questions from time to time. We could all share answers to questions, insights and experiences. This seemed to be a good way to experiment with Wave.
I also thought it reflected the “Lazyweb” approach. I thought I might even call it my “LazyWave.” When I think I might have come up with a new term, I always figure that someone else has probably used it already and run a Google search. Interestingly, at least to me, was that when I did a quick search on Google, no one seemed to have used this word for this purpose (and still hadn’t as of tonight).
I went ahead and started a Wave I called my LazyWave as a placeholder until I decided how I wanted to work it. It looked like I could not start a Wave unless I added another person to the Wave. I added Tom Mighell and he noticed it before I could explain to him what I had in mind. Tom’s response: “Okay – the point? Especially if it’s just you and me?”
A less than auspicious start.
To sum up, very mixed, generally disappointing, results with Wave. A couple of areas where I see good potential, even though other tools accomplish similar things. And a couple of ideas, like the podcast Wave and my LazyWave (as yet still an) idea.
I’d be curious to hear specific examples of Wave uses that readers have found successful.
Hope that helps. I welcome your comments and questions.
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REMEMBER: It’s “By Request December” at DennisKennedy.Blog. I’ll be answering reader questions all month about legal technology, blogging, social media or whatever topics interest you. Send me your questions.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog; Follow me – @denniskennedy.
Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools
Listen to The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Twitter: @tkmreport
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6 Responses to “By Request: What Do You Think of Google Wave So Far? The LazyWave Experiment”

  1. Brett says:

    I’ve been using – or, more accurately, trying to figure out how to use – Wave in a couple of different communities. The most promising looking idea so far: the FIRST robotics team that I mentor is looking at using Wave as a team Engineering Notebook to document their work in the upcoming season.
    I’ve come across two main problems to actually making good use of Wave:
    1) Limited number of users. Obviously, the more people that you want to Wave with that actually have Wave accounts, the better. Even “public” waves are only open to others that have a Wave account. I know they will be truly public once Wave matures, but limited “membership” makes it hard to try anything significant.
    2) Lack of extensions/robots. There is a lot of potential, but not straight “out of the box”. Early on I got a wave sandbox account so I could play around with writing some extensions and using the APIs. Haven’t done much yet, but again this is because the sandbox account and actual wave account are separate, and to test extensions etc with others they also have to have a sandbox account. (This is why Google actually gives you two accounts in the sandbox: a main one and a “test” one.)

  2. Dennis,
    I can totally see the advantages to Wave. I’ve had two successful public Waves already, one involving Google Scholar and another involving a recent case issued by the Texas Supreme Court. Being able to have a “conversation” (there’s a parity here you don’t get in e-mail) is essential to learning. Knowing someone is “on the line” motivates one to participate in the Wave. Once it’s over, it’s over. That’s it. The Wave rolls in, then crashes, and it’s done. Some can take longer to form, like the Google Scholar one (or some of my internal Waves at our company), or are shorter, like the Texas Supreme Court Wave.
    If I had to guess, there really isn’t a place in Wave for laziness. Too hard to find, and no reward for the user. And the reward (i.e., feedback) cannot be overlooked. IMHO, it is essential to the success of a Wave.

  3. Joe says:

    I’m sure Google will figure out a way to meet the market demands for their products. They’ve already revolutionized so many things about the internet for us, and I don’t think they’re done yet.

  4. Hi Dennis -
    To answer your question, I love Wave and I can clearly see its potential. From what I can tell from your posts, your disappointment comes from lack of engagement. That is clearly a problem, particularly in a community of users that may not be at the peak of tech-savvy. Wave has a fairly steep learning curve compared to other web tools, but it can be managed. My personal experience is that there is far more collaboration in Wave among my tech friends than among my legal friends, but I am not surprised at all by that. Stick with it, keep inviting Wavers (legal and non-legal) to participate and you will help push Wave more into the mainstream and into a place of greater utility for you.
    You can add and wave with me under the name “startoestudio” – I will always be happy to participate!
    Cheers,
    Martha

  5. Mike Mintz says:

    Great post Dennis. Currently I am using Wave to write a chapter of a book on a collaboration project and to co-write another book. I am one of the underwhelmed. Wave promised to be a revolutionary tool, “what email would be like if it was invented today.” My biggest issue with it so far is the editing posts on a Wave. The interface gets “jumpy” and it is almost impossible to edit what you have written. Until Google smooths out this glitch me and my co-author have decided to just use Word Press and start putting our work on there publicly (the whole Blook thing).

  6. Larry Port says:

    I tried Wave out. I’m sure it’s a wonderful tool but I dropped it after day one and haven’t been back.
    As far as I can tell, it’s a real-time collaboration tool and would be great if I didn’t already have Skype, which I use for everything.
    It may just be me. I may be suffering from new social media fatigue. The desire to make it work for me just isn’t there.

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