2010-08-04

How to learn from Google Wave

One thing I have seen a lot of is projects that start up, do a lot of work, and then disappear.. you never know what is going on, where it is at, why etc. One day the links work and the next it does not. This can cause quite a lot of problems because many times people who signed up to the project also signed up a bit of emotional capital in choosing your potential product X over another's why , and you end up with cranky frustrated people both inside and outside of the project. People inside are frustrated that something did not take off, and people outside are miffed because they have no idea what is going on. In the end, you end up with crankiness and if its your commercial product pissed of customers.

Thus in the open source world there is a lot of talk about "Failing Fast and Open". Make sure that if something isn't panning out for you that you tell your customers whats not working and then leave them something that if they really want to improve they can do so.

About a year ago Google announced its product of Google Wave which was meant to be a next stage collaboration site. It had many interesting and neat ideas of combining everything from Usenet, Email, Editors, Wikis etc into a "new" thing, and from that it sounded all very cool and WoW. However in practice things did not work out as well as hoped and today Google announced a sort of EOD for the product. I am not going analyse why Google Wave didn't become the next big editor.. I am sure there will be plenty of MBA and Master of Sociology/Psychology papers on it in the next couple of years. But instead I wanted to go over how the End of Development was handled as it can be an example of what to do when a project you are working on goes to the great Apple Lisa hunting grounds.

Good things
  1. It is announced openly and in a very public manner what has happened to the product.. basically it didn't take off and overall development will be moved into other areas
  2. The developers are given laurels in public of the hard work they did and the various innovative things they enabled.
  3. The customers are told that Google will work on making sure that the work the customers have put into the product will be 'liberated' back to them.
  4. Source code for important parts are said to be available for people to improve on if they wish to.
  5. Google Wave was not shut off and everything 404'd [been part of that at least once sadly.] Instead the site will be around til the end of the year which gives customers 3-5 months to move on, etc.

My not great things is rather short but no where does it say where that source code is or where customers can get more information on the transition of their parts out of Wave. In the end, I think this is (on the outside) a good lesson for other organizations that need to move off of a 'project' and onto something else.
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