Considering the amount of time I spend on art groups and discussion forums, I was thrilled to hear about Google Groups support in Google Wave. After moving a couple of online and offline groups onto Google Wave, the other group admins and I realized how effective waves are for managing group content.
We use the groups to share our artwork, everything from five-minute sketches, to work-in-progress pieces, to finished paintings. Once or twice a month, we send out group assignments where everyone picks one reference picture or theme to work on. Once they've finished working on it, members drop their work in the wave for that theme. This is a lot of fun since we get to see a variety of interpretations from different corners of the world.
Before, our conversations were distributed between 4 or 5 websites and online tools and it was really difficult for new members to catch up with the rest of the group. Google Wave now serves as a one-stop-shop for our group, and the conversations are livelier since we aren't restricted to text-only interaction.
We no longer need to keep track of member locations in spreadsheets and group databases. The Clustered Map gives us a visual representation of where everyone is located and is a handy tool for organizing offline activities like sketchcrawls.
The Plus One extension has eliminated the need to scroll through pages and pages of "+1s" and "I agree" to figure out what the group wants. The Waffle extension makes it easier for the group to pick a topic for an online class or a weekly challenge.
Discussions don't need to begin and end in the Google Wave interface. We can embed waves in our websites or blogs and access the conversation both on our website and from the Google Wave UI.
Given all the benefits, there is a learning curve for new members and they do need a little hand-holding to get used to the features (from "How do I send my photos? There's no attachment option." to "Oh, I can just drag-n-drop! How cool!"). So, here are some tips for admins and members to get started on group waves:
Tips for group admins:
- Use tags to organize your waves and create redirects or short URLs for members to access these waves easily
- Have an FAQ wave with tips on how to post and participate in the group waves
- If you have certain waves you don't want the group members to edit, set the group alias to read-only access on these waves
- If your group creates specific kind of waves frequently, create templates
- Minimize panels if you find the incoming waves in the inbox distracting
- Group waves do not show in your inbox yet, so save a search to locate group waves easily
- When you find a wave interesting, follow it so that it will automatically go to your inbox
- Check this wave for some ideas on how you can participate in art groups
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