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A Gentleman’s Guide to Google Wave


The first Google Wave invites went out late last week, which means the next couple weeks should see the ground breaking email/instant message/document sharing hybrid spreading through the public at a buzzworthy rate. On the off-chance you’ve missed the hype, we’ll sum it up for you: Wave reinvents email as a long string of chatroom-style reply-all messages, viewable all at once to everyone involved. TechCrunch is calling it the dawn of passive-aggressive communication (they seem to think that's a good thing), but it doesn't have to be that way.

In the interest of progress, we to suggest updates to email etiquette. It’s an incomplete list, but it should keep you safe for long enough to figure out what's kosher in the new medium.

1) If it takes more than five minutes for someone to respond, consider it an email. The biggest feature of Google Wave so far is its merging of instantaneous conversations and email which might take days to respond to. And given that much of the working world has trouble keeping their inbox empty, expecting a chatroom-style reply might be a bit too much to ask. For now, keep your expectations politely low.

2) Wave permission is not the same as actual permission. Just because Google gave you permission to edit a document doesn’t mean your boss did. Google’s hoping offices will use Wave to work together on group documents—think quarterly reports, grant applications, and so on—but if you’ve got any changes in mind that rise above the copy-editing level, you’d better clear them with the honcho first. Better yet, just leave a note; Wave will even mark who left it.

3) The e in e-mail stands for evidence. Most people learned this with the rise of the blackberry, but it can’t be said enough times. Don’t say anything you aren’t ready to see repeated on CNN. That includes good-natured bad-mouthing of the boss, inside jokes, or anything anybody anywhere might take the wrong way. People can be shared on Waves long after they’re sent, there’s no erasing past messages when later ones are sent along, and there are all manner of new variations on the reply-all button. So if it’s funny enough to repeat…maybe just say it out loud.