Killing Something Before It Even Begins

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Let’s face it: when a new way to communicate and connect comes along, the mass population is quick to dismiss it as clunky, not functional, and not superior to existing channels.

It probably has something to do with the way us humans are wired, but when something new comes along, we’re quick to compare it to what came before it and even quicker to dismiss it if it does not immediately overwhelm us by being so glaringly obvious. It’s not hard to think back and remember the mass amount of negative reviews and press Twitter got when it first came out. That was fairly recent. You can roll back the clock and see that we were quick to negate everything from television to the fax machine and from the telephone to the personal computer. It’s classic and we just keep on doing it.

It happened again today.

Google launched their highly anticipated new communication and collaboration platform called, Google Wave today. It’s not open to everybody just yet (much like their staggered release of Gmail, you need to receive an invitation), but several key Bloggers and media people are already neck-deep in creating their own waves and inviting those they know to dive on in (pardon the pun). In brief, Google Wave is being heralded as "an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more," according to the Google Wave website.

It seems to be confusing most people who are using it.

Comments like, "it’s not as efficient as email," "seeing all of those people typing and chatting in real-time can be confusing" and "this is not a Twitter killer" or "I can do a lot of the things in FriendFeed already" seem to be common complaints. But, they’re all revealing that critical flaw mentioned in the second paragraph above. At first glance, if something is new and unique it’s going to immediately cause us to recoil or shrug our shoulders. Nobody wakes up in the morning and wants their existing patterns changed (don’t believe me? try moving the coffeemaker to a different location in your office every morning and let me know how long you live). After the shock and awkwardness of the newness, and as people settle into a more regular routine with their new applications and platforms, that’s when the "a-ha!" moments start to happen.

Before you go drowning Google Wave, give it a moment to really sink it before passing judgement on it. Inevitably, we all wind up back-peddling on those initial reactions as we begin to realize that the reasons we were chastising it are the exact same reasons that make it so innovative, new, different and relevant.


  1. Great post Mitch. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Wave, and predict it’s going to be an incredible collaboration tool. (And if you get invited to join and then find yourself with 100 invitations — a la the Gmail introduction — please send me one!) πŸ™‚

  2. Well, you’re right again, Mitch.
    When something new comes out on the market and we first try it, often, when we do not feel comfortable with it, we rapidly reject the product. It might be so innovative that people just don’t get it right away. Time will tell…
    I can’t talk about Google Wave myself because I haven’t received any invitations to test it yet, so I can’t give you me personal review about it, but I wish that I can do it really soon because of what I’ve heard, it seems to be a nice cooperative tool.

  3. Human Nature is such that ultimately we resist change… The why fix it when it ain’t broke mentality limits our ability to objective observe a new tool such as Google Wave, see its potential and work to make it better. I personally am excited to see what the Wave can do, provide feedback (if possible) on how it can be improved upon and figure out how it can further be used to connect individuals to build strong tribes / communities.
    Thanks for the great post….

  4. We really do have a lack of imagination when it comes to the adoption of new communications technologies. We seek to understand something new by comparing it with something e-mail, or Twitter. And that just gets us into trouble.
    It’s nothing new. The first television programs consisted of radio actors standing in front of microphones. Eventually we learned the nuances of the new medium and found its sweet spot. We always do. But it takes time.

  5. Well said, Mitch. In the early days of online — around 1982 or so — I asked Gary Arlen why he wore a button that said “1990.” He said that was the year he hoped people would finally catch on to the value of e-mail. Back then we had services like Telenet Telemail and MCIMail, which integrated via clunky X.400 addressing systems (and a prayer). Not many users. A lot of skepticism. But when e-mail took off at last, everybody had to have it. Google Wave may well surprise its critics and do the same, and a lot faster.

  6. I’ve been anticipating Wave since I heard about it specifically because it seems like one of those indicator products – I’m not meaning to be negative about it, but it seems like it’s less of a big deal than it is a cue for what Google is up to, and the kinds of things they’re moving toeward, the same way Chrome the browser is a window into Chrome the OS.
    So what if I can do a bunch of this stuff on FriendFeed? Partly, it’s about integration – look at Tumblr, for example. It’s less known than Twitter, but it’s functionality has become less gimmicky over time, and now people are including Tumblelogs on their sites – mine has a Tumblelog feature coded in, and it’s incredibly useful.
    But then, I’m a cannibal. I don’t want Wave for Wave, I want to see what makes it interesting and take what I can from it to use for myself. Isn’t that how free services work, after all? Brogan just made a post about using other people’s language in advertising and media. I wonder how well this applies to using other people’s functional ideas on your new product/service/site.

  7. Just like texting: I mean, come on! It’s easier and faster just to call someone, right? And surprise surprise… this is one of the main profit earners for carriers today.
    In the end, as always, it’s not the 100,000 that will decide. It will be the masses that will reign.
    Thanks Mitch!

  8. Hi Mitch,
    Ever since I saw the demo I’ve been anticipating it. Yesterday at MIXX Montreal Steve Rubel answered a question about it and when I think of it, I share his answer :
    – it will probably be adopted in Enterprises (over time when Microsoft contracts become an issue or upgrades become necessary…)
    – it probably won’t lift quickly in the general public – too complicated for the common user
    – I further believe techies, geeks and all people to get Interactive will also adopt it as it really seems intelligent.

  9. My daughters and I are starting Blogging the Wave to take three perspectives on Google Wave. One is a college junior and the other is a recent PhD graduate. I have a perspective as a software entrepreneur.

  10. You are exactly right!
    As you mentioned, when Twitter was first released people weren’t on board, including myself. I can even remember when Facebook first launched and was a place for college students only, my friends and I swore we wouldn’t jump on the ‘fad’, but as you can expect, we caved.
    It’s just a natural instinct to immediatley prejudge on anything that might take us away from our daily routine. It’s hard to prove that change is good without immediately experiencing the benefits… and of course this occurs through time.
    Thanks for the post.

  11. You make a great point Mitch, as do all the commentators on this blog. My question to everyone else is, do you think we are slowly losing the valuable tools of face to face communication? Now this question has been asked countless times in recent years. But I can’t help but wonder how all this technology is affecting REAL human interaction. I’m currently a college student, so I have grown up in this crazy technological boom. But my perspective is limited. Those older than I have personally witnessed the shifts from radio to television and the revolution of the cell phone. My knowledge basically begins with the invention of the Internet and e-mail. So I really want to know what other people believe.
    All of these new tools of communication–from texting to Facebook to Twitter to Google Wave—these are all new and exciting ways to communicate. But to me, they all emphasize efficiency to the detriment of personability. I guess it’s possible, however, that this just doesn’t alarm others to the extent it alarms me.

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