... ... Solveris Marketing and Communications Blog: How We Used Google Wave to Produce a Magazine

Friday, January 15, 2010

How We Used Google Wave to Produce a Magazine

I’m not sure when it happened exactly? I mean, I was never into technology and even lost a grade on a paper in college for refusing to use a computer to type my paper (crazy rebel, that I was), but somewhere along the line I became a techno geek.

Google Wave was not an easy sell in my circle. I had to beg people to accept invites, and many people who accepted them have not signed on. But I did get my partner and Creative Director of Specialty Insider to join and also, after some nagging, the EIC (that’s fancy publishing talk for Editor-In-Chief). My goal in this, of course, was to eventually suggest we try Google Wave to collaborate to put together the magazine.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I think email is not the best tool for a lot of the things we task it with doing these days. The thought of emailing back and forth huge, high-resolution, image files, tons of text revisions, different versions of a complete magazine with evolving roadmaps made me cringe. I could envision us searching for the correct versions, waiting while email strained to send megabytes, tying up our emails while the files transmitted and filling our hard drives with copy after copy of this and that. I didn’t dread the work. I dreaded the process.

The mission was to create a well-designed, informative magazine in a ridiculously short amount of time, even for media veterans, which we all are. Most people, might have balked at the time to do all that we had to do with the smallest amount of people I’ve heard of putting out a magazine. Plus, this was a launch publication and the President and Publisher kept reiterating, it had to be really, really informative with strong edit and design. He wanted a real home run.

So, when I enthusiastically suggested, “Hey! What do you think of trying Google Wave!”, I was greeted with a silence that was not totally unexpected. If I could have been a fly on the wall of their brains, I am pretty sure they were thinking something like, “Hey, we have a matter of weeks to write, concept, design, market, distribute and produce a new magazine here! This is no time to be trying out new technology! Go play Google Wave with your other nerd friends, jackass!” But they didn’t say that. They kind of hesitated and dragged out a low, “Ahh, Ooookkk”. I give them a lot of credit.

So enough preamble. How was it? Ok, a little more preamble. First, one has to recognize this is a beta. Maybe even a pre-beta. That said, I would say that our review is mixed. Part of that is that Wave is not really your first thought on collaboration. The first thing you think is “email this out”. It takes a second or two to say, “OK, I need to add this to wave now”.  Also, the notification is still a little weak in Beta. The workaround notification software I downloaded from a third-party tended to be a little buggy. It works, but sometimes it kept notifying me of blips that I read already numerous times. Sometimes it failed to notify me at all. Occasionally, it failed to automatically load.  

Part of our Wave

I found myself emailing my colleagues to check the wave. Also, Google Wave sometimes crashes (even though I’m using Chrome) or logs you out. On one occasion, where we were rushed to make changes and see revisions and I had a ridiculous amount of browser windows open it would not cooperate and I was forced to email the new file which I later put on the wave. My partner had some difficulties getting things off the wave which he later resolved. I noticed that sometimes dragging and dropping into a wave would work flawlessly. But sometimes I had to save from an email onto my computer then I would have to hit the attach icon to upload to the Wave. Also, one complaint we all had was that if someone commented on an earlier blip, it was easy to miss the comment without going back and reviewing the entire wave. Another is that it is not really conducive to travel and mobile, yet. It’s much easier for a traveler to just use email (right now) then to have to logon and mess with a Wave via their mobile web browser and many applications are unlikely to work at present. We did deviate from the Wave for a couple of days with our editor while he traveled. I can honestly say, I missed Wave during his trip.

Those glitches aside. I would say, and I think my collaborators would agree, that Google Wave has many strong points. In fact, one of the people on the project who was the most resistant to using it even said, “I can see that there are many good points in using this now”.  It was very easy to know the latest version of what we were working on at the moment. It was also great to not have to search and search through tons of emails. I loved not having 100’s of high resolution files cluttering my email and my hard drive. It also did not tie my email up trying to send or receive big files. Plus, one could comment right next to a photo or story with a caption or a change, even later. Plus, and only I did this without telling my collaborators, one can extract just the photos onto a new wave. This makes it easier to just see the photos separate from all the other stuff. You can also see all the photos in a wave in a nice slideshow which helps one see what you have. We all liked, I think, the real time, as-you-type viewing in a blip.

Personally, I would have loved to use the video chat and some of the other more advanced features for this (I’ve separately forced others to use them and they worked great), but I knew I would be pushing it with these guys a bit. We did use some of the cooler features. For instance, the editor was interviewing a retailer for a story and I effortlessly was able to upload a video for him to watch for further background right into the Wave, in seconds, right before his interview. It was there to go back to, watch again, etc. I also was able to i-frame websites so that my co-workers could see the site right in the wave instead of just a link or screen shot. Try that with your email!

It would have made it better if we could have emailed things received via email from others into the Wave. I am sure that this capability will be added since it’s in other Google products already such as Google Blogger. And to email a blip would also have been nice. I am sure that this will be added later, as well. Also, if we were not limited to invitees, we may have had a more pleasurable experience. This is another obstacle that will be removed as Google Wave is rolled out to everyone and gains acceptance.

I would definitely use it to produce the next issues of the magazine and for other projects. But next time, I want to use more of the robots and gadgets (even if they don’t make sense for the project). I wonder if Specialty Insider was the first magazine to be produced using Google Wave? If anyone has any questions or comments, I am happy to answer and help. Try it. I can honestly say that even in Beta, I think it’s a winner for these types of projects and it will only get better. And let us know what you think of Specialty Insider. We think it's a winner and we hope you do, too.

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