On how Google Wave surprisingly changed my life

Wave with Sharks
I use google wave every single day. I start off the day by checking gmail. Then I look at a few news sites to see if anything of interest happened. Then I open google wave: because that's where my business lives. That's how I run a complicated network of collaborators, make hundreds of decisions every day and organise the various sites that made me $14.000 in december.
It was not always like this. There was a time just a few months ago when I did not have google wave. I think of that time with horror - because that epoch was marked with conflicts, total chaos, money was being lost every day, fights were happening between me and my collaborators. Google wave came in, and within a couple of weeks, a heavenly peace had descended on my business.
But let me start from the beginning. I am involved in about five different web based businesses. Niche sites, iPhone apps (simple ones), developer tools, downloadable desktop software and a subscription based web service. They all have varying degrees of success, but all bring in some income every month (well, apart from the web service one). Each business has a different set of collaborators (people who work with me on them, partners, employees, freelancers). Each business requires quite a lot of management, because they all are made up of a lot of individual software that have an update cycle, reaction to new releases, customer email answering and so on.
Before google wave, I was in a period I like to refer to as the age of chaos and anger. This was when I collaborated by email. When something needed to be done, I would send out an email. When I discovered something new I would send out an email. After two months, one of my freelancers replied my email with a screenshot. It showed his inbox, and there were about 50 unread emails from me, 10 of which where various threats about why he was not replying my emails. We would use skype messaging to communicate and skype conferences every two days, in addition to the emails.
At the time, we would also send designs and screenshots by email - needless to say, things would get lost - hardly anything would get done on time, and the most common reply I would get back is that they missed the particular instruction in the mass of emails I would send.
To compound my trouble, we were collaborating across multiple time zones - UK, US Pacific Time, Indian time and Singapore time. Emails would arrive in the night and it is depressing to wake up to 35 new emails from different people.
Then I got my google wave invite. First of all, I didn't really get it. I was not really sure how this would help me. However, after I had a skype conference and one of my partners complained for 15 minutes about how I would write unimportant emails like
"I need a status update next week"
I decided to try something new. All emails that were NOT time critical would be done with google wave, and all important emails could be written normally. We started off doing that.
Things changed.
Suddenly, communication habits of everyone changed. People started grouping their communication into topics and resurrecting old 'waves' when it was about the same topic. For example, if we were talking about bonuses, and then spoke about something else for two weeks, then came back to bonuses, we would simply resurrect the old wave. Business became structured.
Then something unexpected and suprising emerged. Google Wave took over from skype chat. Previously, we had been using instant messenger to communicate things quickly, but the problem was that because of our time zone differences, we would have 3 out of 4 people usually on. So one person would totally miss the entire conversation. But with google wave, we could hold long discussions as a chat, then when the other people woke up, they could contribute.
Another suprising effect was that chats became slower and more thoughtful. Because google wave functions both as email and as chat, it is not unusual to wait 5 minutes to get an answer to something you wrote. On skype, this would not happen. This slowness is very beneficial, because it makes the answers more permanent (like an email) and not so hurried (like an IM).
And Google Wave is even great for massive fights. The indentations and the ability to review what you said in the past means that you can go back and answer to an accusation. It's like a WWF cage rumble for fights, multiple people can rage on about different topics at the same time. But the thing with it is that because the fights can last for days, they slow down, and then people are no longer angry and solutions start to appear. Contrast this with IM fights, where one person shuts his messenger and that may be the end of your partnership.
What has Google Wave done for me?
  • My stress level is way lower
  • Conversations are now organised in topics, and no longer flat
  • Fights have become more constructive
  • Working across multiple time zones is no longer a problem
  • I can share screenshots, design documents with multiple and different people with ease
  • I have a single control panel to manage all my conversation with everyone I am working with
  • Before Google Wave, I felt like I was working very much and getting very little done. After google wave, I feel I am doing little work, but I am making more and more money every month
  • I feel in control of my business - with my iPhone I can access the heart of my business anytime and anywhere
What's missing from Google Wave?
  • You cannot manage your contacts or create contact groups. It's easy to add people to waves that you don't want in there.
But in general, if you are collaborating with people and you have not tried Google Wave, then you are perhaps missing the greatest thing to happen to small web based businesses since Dropbox.

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