When e-mail first appeared on the scene, everyone knew right away what they wanted done with it. Google’s Wave has been around for about six months now; we may know of some obscure collaborative use we personally have for it, but an idea of the typical mainstream use of it still eludes us.

Google Wave is a place that allows you to share documents with other people, work on them all together, and do so with real-time instant e-mail and instant messaging. High-level research students have found a good tool in Wave finding collaborators and critics for their work around the world. Topic initiators set up a Wave to take something up, a-la Google Docs. Collaborators and other interested parties from around the world can join the discussion and post their observations and notes, in real-time. For note-taking, Wave provides options for groups within the Wave discussion: extra-curricular groups, rotating in-class groups and so on.

One application is used to take the place of several discrete ones. Applications like Google Docs can easily bring a number of people together to collaborate in real time developing and debating an idea using real-time chat and e-mail; frequently a collaborator might need to trace a line of discussion to its beginning: with a Rewind function.

Unlike how it would be in a real group, a virtual group like this allows anyone who wishes to slack off to do so without ever having anyone else know about it. There is no inherent check and balance system you’d find in a virtual group that can expose the absence of a contribution from slackers. Google Wave can be a wonderful tool: for those who are self-motivated. As with other examples of modern technology, a person who needs a group to march in step with will have a measure of trouble keeping accountable.