Wave: Adoption Fails to Get Adopted...

Google's decision to learn from their experiences so far with Wave, by ending the experiment, is evocative of their earlier beta business era. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of wave style thinking from the advertising juggernaut who also dabbles in the enterprise collaboration space.

Google's decision to learn from their experiences so far with Wave, by ending the experiment, is evocative of their earlier beta business era. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of wave style thinking from the advertising juggernaut who also dabbles in the enterprise collaboration space.  Venture capitalists bellied up to the funding roulette table in the go-go good times of the 2006-09  2.0 buzz world which was reminiscent of the dot com era ...but then the banking melt down ended the no-profits-needed party.  Google can afford to 'fail upstairs', to use Venture Capital parlance, over time and learn from what didn't work with wave.

Even with Google's size it's hard to give away a product people don't understand use cases for, and in many ways wave's demise also represents the end of the 'adoption' era. The 2.0 world is pretty rear view mirror fuzzy these days in the enterprise space: the underlying thinking which informed the technology of read write web applications has subsequently informed generations of enterprise 2.0 technologies from technology vendors of all sizes.

Fostering adoption typically means evangelizing to help people understand why they need something, whether it's cats from the local animal shelter or a technology that isn't immediately obviously useful to you. Most of us don't have much time to explore possible new ways of getting things done as alternatives to how we work now unless there is obvious benefit in doing things a new way, and we quickly become cynical when product managers and sales folks espouse exciting new philosophies that just happen to be perfectly encapsulated in their product.

In the business world you're typically dealing with legacy technology decisions around enterprise licenses, anxieties around governance, getting work done with the tools you have and finding cost effective new tools that will solve more problems than they create. The rip tides inside businesses caused by short term 'social media' marketing initiatives using featherweight, free tools such as Twitter and Facebook has placed significant strain on IT departments already struggling with separate shadow IT departmental initiatives. Collaboration silo owners typically evangelize internally to try and drive 'uptake' and 'adoption' of an online world they control and would like to see thrive. There's often an element of 'ego 2.0', with 'extrovert 2.0' personalities needed to push for adoption, further complicated by the frequent conflation of marketing activities with enterprise 2.0 collaboration, two very distinct disciplines.

The scale of Google Wave made it harder for environment owners to push the adoption approach in terms of ownership, and this combined with the sheer complexity of the product made it hard for anyone to get on board. Wave wasn't like the no-barrier-to-entry 24 hour Twitter bar room world (assuming the API hasn't broken) where folks hang out and swap witty tips and bumper sticker insights.

Real time information flow is notoriously tricky to filter (unless you're spending most of your life reacting in the flow) and the wave experience is sure to be refined both by Google and by others influenced by the experience thus far. Twitter is an IT uptime/support and governance train wreck, and most of the alternatives aren't credible for serious business use either. Enterprise 2.0 applications are adapting much of the flexibility of successful experimentation over time within governable parameters that will be viable and useful tools for specific business uses, but the focus required to put these tools to good use requires disciplined use models ...throwing stuff at the wall to see if it gets used isn't a good way to 'drive adoption' as wave has demonstrated.