"Thank you for signing up to give us early feedback on Google Wave. We're happy to give you access to Google Wave and are enlisting your help to improve the product".
Since I'm all about making improvements, I clicked the link to accept my invitation to Google Wave. Once I signed in with my handy dandy Google account (OK, so I'm going a little overboard here), Google Wave opened in my Firefox browser.
I clicked on the first welcome message (there were two) and got this:
Google Wave is more fun when you have others to wave with, so please nominate people you would like to add. Keep in mind that this is a preview so it could be a bit rocky at times.
Invitations will not be sent immediately. We have a lot of stamps to lick.
Gee. Who would I wave with? I took a look at my contacts and saw that four of them were already on Google Wave. Still, I should read the other welcome message before continuing (linear or anal, I don't know which).
The second message lead me to a YouTube video of "Doctor Wave". Volume was up full blast, so it almost blew my head off. Took me on a nice tour on the GUI, just to orient me (all of us who are using Wave so far). The video is a sparse 2 minutes, 12 seconds, just enough to point out all of the major areas of the UI but not enough to bury the audience in details. Below the playback, is a small group of links that lead to further content.
Now I felt free to check out my Contacts to see if anyone was around I could "wave" with. I clicked on a name and the YouTube video in the wave panel vanished and was replaced by a text editor. I created the message, clicked "Done" and waited. Nothing happened, but then, I didn't know what to expect. Also, all of the nifty links that were below the YouTube video on the wave panel vanished, and I had no idea how I can get them back.
Thought I'd try out the navigation panel and clicked from Inbox to All. More messages became available, including two unread ones; more introductory material. I clicked on the "Welcome to Wave" message again, and the YouTube video and the aforementioned links came back to the wave panel.
I must say, I'm probably the perfect person to try this out and review it. I'm experiencing Wave from a total "end user" perspective, having not read up on it previously, so the whole thing is new. Also, I'm still working on my morning coffee, so I can't promise my brain is as agile as it should be if it were fully caffeinated.
I sent out a cry on twitter for more Wave people and then continued to explore. One of the messages in the "All" folder (already read) listed Extension Settings, which I could uninstall or remove. Basically, these are Google Gadgets, like the ones I used to pimp out my Google home page. I looked around, but the "under construction" message from Google let me know that more Gadgets for Wave weren't available yet, so the pimping would have to be postponed. The noticed "Unfollowed" appeared by the message title. Apparently, you can follow and unfollow specific waves. I found an unfollowed wave that said Profile and decided to "edit" my Google Wave identity.
I was surprised that it wasn't imported from Google proper. My Google av was as I could see it in the Contacts box and by all of my waves, but it wasn't available in my actual profile. Nevertheless, I clicked Edit Profile and see what was what. I inserted the URL to my blog and updated my av photo and that was about it. There was a field for "status" but I have no idea what it's used for. Is it like updating one's "status" in twitter or Facebook?
Just for giggles, I followed the "unfollowed" waves in my All box, then continued to explore Navigation. The rest of the folders were not surprising. By Me is like a "sent" folder, Requests was empty and must contain waves relative to receiving invitation requests. Spam and Trash are self explanatory and Settings held the waves related to the customization of my Google Wave.
No responses to my message that I possess Google Wave invitations yet (has it become that passe' already?). Doctor Wave was right. Without someone to Wave with, this isn't much of a power surge. Of course, if a new message arrives, will I know? My Google page automatically refreshes, and so does Gmail, but I don't know about Wave. I did notice that the number of messages changed in my Inbox from time to time. I don't mean that new messages arrived, but that the messages disappeared and reappeared. Sometimes they all vanished and the all returned. Then, about half of them vanished. Of course, this is a beta, so you can expect the occasional glitch.
While waiting for anyone to respond or to care, I continued to nose around. Under Navigation, you can expand Searches and Folders. Folders just lets you make more you-know-whats and Searches is like searching Gmail, only with a few more options. You can also search your Contacts, though with only four registered in Wave, that's hardly a chore.
Within the Wave window itself, you can click Reply, Playback, Unfollow, Archive, Spam, and Read (which is only active for an unread Wave. It's nice to finally have the option to Unfollow an Gmail/Wave, since an unending conversation in Gmail can sometimes get annoying. Playback?
When you click Playback on a Wave that's not a video or audio file, you get the controls but they affect nothing. I found myself wondering if the Playback button shouldn't also be inactive on all Waves that don't actually play. A minor point, but Google is asking for suggestions.
While waiting, I decided to see if my Google Wave profile was able to work and play well with CredMe. I found out that not only it did, but there were a set of instructions (apparently written by a developer and not me) telling me how to insert the CredMe URL code. I've been playing with CredMe for awhile, so I didn't really need to RTFM. I quickly verified my Google Wave profile with CredMe and was back to the Wave.
Oh, I did get a reply from a friend of mine in the UK. His new job won't let him get online as freely as he could in the past, so I had to wait for the workday to end in that part of the world. Message arrived automatically. When I revisited Wave on a break from my own job, it was just there. Somebody please tell me how this is an "email killer". It's nice, it's smooth, it's slick...it looks like the next generation web-based email interface...but it's email. What makes it "Wave"?
To be fair, I've only been on Wave for a few hours and have only exchanged messages with one person. Probably not a fair test of Wave's abilities. While I'm going to post this article now, I'll be back with updates on Wave as (or if) they develop.
Oh. One more thing. You can reach me on Google Wave at james.pyles AT googlewave.com.