The best use of Google Wave’s new anonymous access feature is public group chats on a specific topic that anyone can watch or refer to on a vanilla web page, no Wave login required. Last week, in lieu of IRC, I started holding virtual “office hours” with the ThinkTank community, and it’s been super fun and productive. Here’s how I set things up.
To restrict access to a wave to a particular group, you’ll need a Google Group. The ThinkTank developer community mailing list is already a Google Group, so we were all set. Grab the group’s email address, and add it to your contacts in Wave. Then, add the group as a participant to a new wave to give all mailing list members edit access to the wave. To make the group wave available for anyone to read, you’ve got to have your Google Group set up correctly. In your group’s settings area, in the Access tab, make sure “Anyone can view group content” is checked, as shown here.
Next, schedule your office hours. I hold ours at 9AM Pacific time on Wednesday mornings, for about 90 minutes. When it’s time for office hours–or you just want to find all the group waves–search for
group:firstname.lastname@example.org. (To see all the ThinkTank office hours transcripts, search for
group:email@example.com in Wave.)
While your chat is happening, or after the fact, you can give the whole world access by embedding it on a web page, using the new Wave web element. Here’s last Wednesday’s ThinkTank office hours wave.
The advantage of using Wave over straight group chat or IRC is that several conversational branches can happen simultaneously in the same workspace. While Chris and Mark discussed the transition to PDO in one thread, Bill and I discussed MVC frameworks in another–and it was easy to hop back and forth between them, because Wave supports inline threads.
In my experience, a wave that’s limited to a small group with a specific purpose–like developers discussing a project–is WAY more productive and useful than a public wave that anyone can add to. Those, inevitably, always lead to all-out anarchy, unless the moderator is willing to do aggressive, long-term gardening. To me, Wave’s best use is small groups working on specific projects, and weekly office hours is one really good way for remote teams to touch base about any number of topics in a single place.
Google Wave isn’t dead; in fact, tons of minor-but-important features have rolled out even since Adam and I published the first edition of The Complete Guide to Google Wave two months ago. (Here’s the changelog.) The fact that Google I/O sessions next week will be waved indicates a strong commitment to Wave from Google in general. For more on what’s been going on with Wave, check out my post about it at Fast Company, How Google Wave Got Its Groove Back.