Replacing Google Wave - Our Waveless Work Week
Wave goodbye to Google Wave

Replacing Google Wave - Our Waveless Work Week

12/13/2011 by Justin Edelstein
Google Wave, Google’s real-time collaboration and communication platform is formally going read-only as of January, 2012 and will officially be retired sometime in April, 2012. While it’s been a great run with one of our favorite technologies it has come time to migrate to a new long-term solution for collaborative note taking and sharing.

So Many Uses, So Many Features

At Arkus we document everything, really, everything. Every phone call, every meeting, every decision, and every conversation. We like to think that it makes us great at what we do. When looking for a way to document all of this information we chose to go with Google Wave. Our timeline matched up perfectly as Wave was officially introduced as part of the Google Apps suite just as Arkus was taking off. We used Wave to communicate amongst each other in real-time with presence baked into the product. There was nothing like being on a requirements call with a fellow colleague and a new client and watching one of my partners type the answers to my questions in real-time. The Wave UI in itself was fascinating - it was part inbox, part document, and part chat. There was really nothing like it out there and it fit so perfectly into our workflow that we couldn’t imagine life without it.

Over the last two weeks we had to make the hard decision of working waveless. Seeing that the Wave was going to go read-only in about a month we had to start our search for it’s replacement in our hearts and in our workflow. So we instituted our first waveless work week and with a few bumps in the road in the beginning we managed to make it out unscathed.

The Search for a Replacement

We knew that we weren’t going to find a tool that did everything that Wave provided - even though Wave has not been worked on for over a year it was still a feature packed product that did exactly what we needed it to do. So the criteria for us was simple - find a tool that did close to what Wave did and integrates into our current technologies the way Wave did. Our new note taking and collaboration platform must meet the following criteria:
  • There must be real-time abilities to see if there is anyone else within the document or note that you are taking and if they are typing something.
  • There must be comment threading or in-line/in-context comment capabilities.
  • It must integrate via Single Sign On to our Google Apps accounts.
  • Nice to haves include integration with and email in and out capabilities.

The Choice

The choice was staring us in the face the entire time we were using Wave. We decided to move to Google Docs. To be fair, when we started using Wave it was far beyond the capabilities that existed within Google Docs but recently Docs has gotten a huge boost from what seems like concepts from Wave. Real-time works really well within Docs these days, there are comment threads in-line with content on the actual document, and of course it’s single sign on with the rest of the Google Apps suite.

Docs does some things really well but there are still some gaps I’d love to see closed between it and Wave.

The Likes (things Wave didn’t do well but we like about Docs):
  • Folders (collections) with sharing permissions on them.
  • Comments with ability to mark as resolved.
  • Email threading and subscribing to comments with ability to reply to a comment via email.
  • Tighter integration with the rest of the Google Apps Suite.
  • Integration with via Attachments.
  • Key command shortcuts for almost everything.
  • Document templates.
  • Great support for mobile devices.

The Differences/Dislikes (things Wave did better and would like to see in Docs):
  • The inbox style look of Wave was easier on the eyes and easier to see changes to documents you were involved in.
  • The real-time typing was a little faster (Docs is getting better at this).
  • It was easier to start a new Wave and add collaborators.

Cleaning Up After Ourselves

After over a year of using Wave as our “de facto intranet” we have built up a ton of institutional knowledge and property. We obviously don’t want to lose this important data so we have instituted a migration plan. If you are planning on moving from Wave to Google Docs let me be the first to tell you that it’s not trivial. A few months back Google launched the ability to export Waves to either a PDF or to HTML. We tried all the options and found that the following process works the best - please feel free to comment if you’ve found a better way:
  1. Export the Wave to HTML and save the file on your desktop.
  2. Import the HTML file into MS Word (I know, odd, but trust me).
  3. Clean-up all the Wave “junk” like images, odd bullet points, lines, etc...
  4. Save the new Word Doc in the .docx format.
  5. Upload into Google Docs with the Convert Doc option selected.
  6. Save your new Google Doc.
  7. Mark your Wave as “Migrated” and delete it so you don’t go back to it later.

The above process, while somewhat time consuming (a few minutes per Wave), works the best as far as we can tell for migrating from Wave to Google Docs. Odd that you need Word in the middle - Google should look into this but doubt they will at this point in the game.

Wave Will be Missed

After more then a year long love affair with the Wave we are sad to see it go. I still don’t agree with the way Google rolled out the product to such fan fair and then dropped it a few years later. Maybe dubbing it the next email was a little too ambitious but for those of us who adopted and found great ways of using Wave we can tell you that it was indeed an amazing piece of technology. It made collaboration a breeze and if not for the way Google rolled it out and marketed it I believe it could have been extremely successful. Unlike most Google products Wave should probably have been rolled out as part of the Apps suite and geared towards the enterprise first, as opposed to the usual strategy of targeting the consumer first. If it were rolled out as “Collaborative Notes for the Enterprise” I guarantee you things would have turned out different.

Onward we go as always with technology, waveless but feeling comfortable with our choice of Google Docs. Arkus will march forward with our note taking and documentation regardless of what platform we use - let’s hope Docs doesn’t go away anytime soon....

If you’d like to discuss our Waveless Work Week, Google Wave, Google Docs, or any other topic feel free to comment on this post below, comment on our Facebook page, or tweet at me at