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There Is No Undo in Google Wave

google-wave-logo.pngMy good friend Bwana was kind enough to nominate me for Google Wave, and I finally received the invitation yesterday. With all the hype surrounding Google Wave, you may be surprised to learn that it still lacks one very simple piece of functionality that one might take for granted until it’s gone: Undo. There is no undo in Google Wave! Can you believe it?!?

I’m not sure how Google could forget to include undo. I suppose it happened the same way that Apple forgot to include copy/paste on the iPhone. So what does the lack of undo functionality say about the product? It must really suck if there’s not even an undo button or keyboard shortcut, right?

Google Wave is More than Just Advanced Email

I’ve seen some reviews and previews of Google Wave that describe it as the next logical step for email, and some even call it Email 2.0. However, advanced email is not what came to mind when I first started playing with Google Wave. Certainly you can use it as an advanced email replacement, but I think it is much more than that. If had to choose two words to describe it, I’d say it is more like a real-time wiki. Okay, so if you exclude the hyphen it’s actually three words, but who’s counting?

Bwana added me to a few public waves with tips and FAQs on using Google Wave. I made a few contributions to some of them, most notably my realization that there is no undo. Rather than explain how to undo something without undo functionality, here is a screenshot of the section I added to the Wave FAQ wave (sounds kinda funny when you say it that way):


Google Wave and Wiki Comparison

Here are the similarities between Google Wave and wikis:

  • The content is editable by all members
  • Discussions about the content take place
  • The history of the wave can be reviewed
  • Anyone can modify the wave
  • Anyone can view the wave (if it is public)

Some of the differences:

  • Wave discussions take place on the same page as the content. Wikis have a separate page for the discussion.
  • You can see updates being made in real-time.
  • You can see who is making those updates in real-time.
  • When you close a wave or log out of wave, upon your return, you can see what updates have been made to the wave.
  • You can add others to a wave. (I suppose you could email someone a wiki page, then they could view/modify it, but it much more seamless w/ Google Wave.)
  • Discussions (i.e. blips) can appear anywhere within the wave.
  • With Google Wave extensions, the sky is the limit as to what you can put in a wave. For example, there is a Google Wave gadget that allows you to embed HTML, which means you can embed streaming videos, entire webpages, web-applications, etc…

How Google Wave Works

Heres a quick and simple rundown on how it works:

  • When a wave is created, the first “blip” is also created. The entire wave is nothing more than a collection of blips.
  • Typically this first blip becomes the main part of the wave. It can and will become quite long and full of information.
  • The discussion proceeds down below the first blip as more blips are added. You might consider this to be the discussion page behind a wiki page. It takes on the form of a threaded discussion, much like any other message board.
  • You can also embed blips within other blips. So you can have discussions taking place at any point within the first blip, or any other blip for that matter.

What I’ve described here is what I’ve seen happen on a typical, well-organized public wave. I’m sure there are plenty of other waves out there that don’t fit this mold, and have all sorts of craziness happening. There’s nothing that says a wave must have a main blip at the top with discussion blips below it. Fundamentally speaking, a wave is just simply a collection of blips.

The ability to embed blips within blips and modify anything and everything is where the magic happens. Functionally speaking, theres no distinction between content and discussion, but somehow it does all manage to remain organized. It is organized chaos at its finest. It’s all pretty cool, and when you see it in action you really get a good feel for how it works and what it’s all about.

Why Didn’t Google Call it LiveWiki?

The irony I see with Google Wave is they did not put the word “wiki” in the name of the product. Google already has two products with the word wiki in them, SearchWiki and SideWiki. Neither of them is hardly like a wiki if you ask me (you can’t modify public content, only add it and modify your own), especially when you compare them to Google Wave. If any Google product ever deserved the word wiki attached to it, it is Google Wave. Perhaps they should have dubbed it LiveWiki.

11 thoughts on “There Is No Undo in Google Wave”

  1. Pingback: Around The Interwebs with (jeff)isageek – October 2nd | (jeff)

  2. Absolutely correct. I highly appreciate your concern. Its really sucks if you donot have the option to rectify your mistakes. Hope to get more posts on concerns like this. Thanks a lot

  3. Pingback: Google Wave | kerstins kleiner blog

  4. You do realize Google Wave is called a Preview and is invite-only for a reason, right? It's not even beta, more like an alpha version at this point. I'm quite sure they didn't forget to include undo, more likely it's not a priority at the moment. I agree there are certain features (or more like lack of features) which really bug me, too, like the inability to remove participants from a wave. Just make sure you don't click on a wrong icon when adding participants to an existing wave…

  5. Pingback: Google Searchwiki, Sidewiki och Wave | Celare Artem

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