About those velvet ropes

A post about Google Wave.

Back at the turn of the year, Peter Kim launched his ‘social media predictions for 2009‘. The paper, downloadable in PDF format, featured forward thinking insights from such social web luminaries as Jason Falls, Charlene Li and one of my favourite players in this space, Chris Brogan.

The predictions themselves make for interesting reading and I would (even now), recommend going back and taking a look if you have the opportunity. To cut to the chase though, it was the thoughts from Mr Brogan that stood out the most for me, mainly around his notion of the ‘velvet-rope social network’.

“I believe we’ll have more focused velvet-rope social networks in 2009 where the tools and the goals match verticals instead of the general commons of Facebook.”

Nicely put. At the time I remember agreeing with the idea, but I wasn’t entirely sure about the execution. Chris himself has returned to the subject a number of times on his own blog (often with examples). However, the reason this particular thought came back to me recently was in large part, thanks to Google Wave.

Google Wave is currently in private beta and the invites only started pouring out into the web just under a fortnight ago. With them came the promise of a new dawn in co-working, a new way of true collaboration on a global scale…  A brand new vision of the future.

Except that so far, based on at least 99% of my own experiences at least, no one has found any real use for it.

Well that is until I realised exactly what it is.


Google Wave is, to my mind at least, one of Brogan’s new velvet roped social networks.

You open your Wave (this is your network) and invite in whoever you like to join you (as long as they are on Wave). This is, of course absolutely by invitation only. One inside you can chat, share and exchange.. basically do anything you would do normally just within the comfort of the Wave.

As Brogan said: “…the tools and the goals match verticals…”

But there’s more.

The answer? They’re both velvet-rope social networks. Why? Allow me to explain.

Not soon after I started thinking about Google Wave, I realised that another service from the big G shares the same commonalities as the velvet-rope social network: Google Reader.

Google Reader is not too dissimilar. The sharing functionality ‘baked in’ to the UI of the RSS service allows me to one-click push the stories that I’m reading out to my buddies on Google Talk (Google’s Instant Messenger service, aka ‘GTalk’). These stories then appear in my contact’s own Greader – sometimes with an added note from me – and that, is my choice.

I like sharing. I also like, occasionally picking and choosing with whom I share.

Is this the way forward?

Maybe. The point is, Google Reader is cool. I like it. I like sharing stories with my friends and I like them sharing with me. It’s closed (to a point) and I know who I’m sharing with.

Google Wave, while being no replacement for email or IM, is actually really quite useful for actually doing some work. Of the 36 ‘waves’ I have going on at the moment; one is for a specific project, a handful of massive group chats – the IM equivalent of an MMORPG (eesh), – and the rest are along the lines of ‘Is this thing on?’, ‘testing’ and my own favourite, ‘is this actually the future?’

It’s closed, for now. If you have an invite, find the people you want to work with and start a new collaborative project.

Treat it right, and you’ll yield results.
Don’t, and you’ll never see the benefit.

Thanks for stopping by.

Additional reading: “What problems does Google Wave solve?” (via Renate Nyborg)