I'm not on Google Wave, but Slate's Farhad Manjoo is, and he's stumbled upon something hellish. When you're chatting with a partner, he or she can see everything you write the second your finger hits the key. Wait, so talking on Google Wave is like IMing without a delete key? If this is the future of online communication, I'm going back to pen, paper and wax seal stampers.
On a conventional IM, you only see what other people say once they hit Enter. (True, the IM program will tell your partner whether or not you're typing, but this is too little information to get embarrassed about.) On Wave, every misspelling, half-formed sentence, and ill-advised stab at sarcasm is transmitted instantly to the other person. This behavior is so corrosive to normal conversation that you'd think it was some kind of bug. In fact, it's a feature--indeed, it's one of the Wave team's proudest accomplishments.
Oh that just sounds dreadful. It's not just a matter of my bad typing -- which readers of this blog can undoubtedly attest to -- it's also that many of my conversations online are highly personal. I'm giving (or receiving) advice about important issues like life and work and relationships and I want to make sure that my advice is calibrated to be honest and palatable. I can't always do that on a first draft. And if I want to make a joke, forget about it. The only thing worse that having to explain a joke is having the audience watch you as you try to invent the joke in real time:
"Man, it's so cold in my office that [20 second pause] Kelvin would have to reconsider negative numbers! [10 second silence] Sorry terrible. Um, that even Mr. Freeze from Batman&Robin would complain. [5 second pause] No? Um, Martha Stewart [5 second pause] no that's not going anywhere [20 second pause] Point is it's cold."
In conclusion, Google Wave needs to add an option to disable live typing. Anything less is a fatal flaw.
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