As you may know, my Ball State colleague Paul Gestwicki and I have been hard at work the last 7–8 months experimenting with Google Wave as a way to explore and visualize student knowledge work. And as you also may know, Google recently decided to end the Wave experiment as we've known it, moving some of its key ideas and features to other Google products.
Given that Paul and I recently published a short proceedings paper discussing our work with Wave, have a forthcoming book chapter that also considers Wave as a potential platform for visualizing collaboration, and have secured $25,000 in funding from two different grant opportunities (an internal $10,000 Emerging Media Innovation Grant, and an external $15,000 Indiana Space Grant Consortium award), you might assume that we were especially troubled by Google's decision.
On the contrary, it really doesn't matter much.
A day after learning of Google's plans for Wave, Paul and I met and realized that the death of Wave meant little to the conceptual and theoretical direction of our work.
Like Zachry, Hart-Davidson, and Spinuzzi (multiple citations—see the ACM SIGDOC Proceedings from 2006–2009), we're simply interested in visualizing knowledge work, whatever form that may take, across whatever applications might be used to produce that work.
From an application development perspective, it's true that we (and when I say "we," I mean "Paul") have lost some time. Working with the Wave API, the Google Data API, and creating a robot that interoperated with Wave took time and energy. But thankfully, we weren't all that far along in terms of investment with the Wave platform and the robustness of our prototype.
Instead, we're much further along in conceptualizing the development of whatever it is we create—in other words, we know much better how we'll visualize knowledge work by focusing on what to trace, how to trace it, and how to create visualizations that are useful to collaborators.
And even more good news? We made the decision, just a day or so after the announced death of Wave, to work with Google Docs in order to continue what we've started. That decision, not even a month on, is already seeming like a good move.
So, am I a little disappointed by the decision? Absolutely. But I feel much much worse for the folks who had invested so much more in Wave than we have to this point. We liked Wave because it afforded robust opportunities for multimedia student interaction. But really, we were always focused on visualizing the writing work that surrounded and enabled Wave's rich affordances. That perspective will only be reinforced as we move toward developing a visualization application that works with Google Docs, a platform we're quite confident isn't going anywhere any time soon...
Did I get caught up in the hype surrounding Wave's launch? I sure did. And I was dead wrong about the long-term viability of Wave-as-platform (not necessarily as an assemblage of technologies, however; an important distinction). But, I'm wrong about a lot of things.
I'm on to something with this, however: our contemporary production technologies allow us to surface and trace complex collaborative writing work in new and interesting ways.
Paul and I continue to work hard at visualizing that writing, and generating grounded, useful, and testable insights into what such visualizations can do for student knowledge workers, collaboration, and formative assessment.