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Google Wave in the JIC

January 13, 2010

Last year, mostly in the late summer and early fall, there was a palpable buzz in tech spheres about a new tool that was slowly being released by Google. Called Wave, tech evangelists shouted from the rooftops that this new tool would change the way we communicate. Google has been letting more and more people get access to Wave over the last several months, and the buzz has since died down.

So, what is Google Wave?

Well, I asked myself the same question. One definition is that it’s “email modernized,” which is really a crappy definition.

Then somebody made this little video to help explain things:

Everything clear as mud? Yup, that’s what I thought too.

Then somebody came up with this (admittedly rad) video of them actually using Google Wave (warning: language and violent sounds):

But really, after that, it just kind of looks like a toy. How was this toy going to change the world?

Then I saw that the Google Wave team had built a Wave that (humorously) recounted the writing of the Declaration of Independence. And then that some gamers were using Google Wave to run role-playing games. And that’s when I realized that this was a platform, not a tool. It didn’t matter what people did with it; the important part was that people were taking situations that needed minute-by-minute tracking of ideas. Ideas that could be changed and updated as needed. Stories that were ultimately controlled by forces beyond the control of the participants, and could, at any moment, spin the entire story off into the stratosphere.

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds and awfully lot like an EOC, or better yet, a JIC, or Joint Information Center.

To me, and obviously this is stripped down, a JIC is a place where people come together to take stock of a developing situation. One that can, at any moment, spin out of control. The goal of this meeting is to organize press releases, copy, language, a presence that speaks to the external situation. That this presence is built by all of the participants is important because this presence will ultimately become the word. It will become the lens through which the emergency situation is viewed.

And didn’t I say that folks were already using this tool platform to build documents with lots of authors communicating in real-time? And that others have had to keep a timeline that was ultimately dictated by someone external to themselves? This might actually work.

I know that there is EOC software that does this kind of thing. And I’ve even heard of JIC software that does it, too. But if you needed something in a pinch? For the price of FREE? And you had a bunch of extra accounts sitting around? It might just work. And I’m not the only one that thinks that either. In an emergency management wave that I found, one commenter says:

We recently implemented WebEOC into our EOC at the Prov/State level. In its simpliest form, it provides many of the same benefits of [Google Wave]. While admittedly purpose built software is much more focussed on the specific needs of the EM community, there are advantages to using something soft, bendy and intuitive when you can’t afford the expense of buying purpose built software.

So, how best to show this off? I’ve rolled a quick video, hastily uploaded to YouTube, of a fake scenario. Sorry in advance for the crappy video. In any case, you see me skipping around the wave, making changes throughout, much like I envision would happen in reality in a JIC. Obviously, each of the particular messages would be from a different station in the JIC, but you can hopefully see what I’m talking about here:

Pretty rad, huh? Well, I posit that it gets better. I’ve always wondered what the best way to get someone caught up on the eight or ten hours of decisions you’ve made once an incident needs to change shifts. Sure you can tell them what’s going on right now, but, especially for a public information situation, it helps to tell why you did something, or what trains of thought you’ve already discussed and decided won’t work. Well, Google Wave has this great playback feature that walks you through every change made to the wave. In the video below, you’ll see me “playing back” the wave I showed above. If you came in late, you could quickly page through this playback and be all caught up on things.

So, what do you think? Not perfect, but maybe workable?

If you’ve used Google Wave before, let me know you thoughts in the comments. If you haven’t used Google Wave, and would like to try it out, I’ve got twenty-some invites to give out. You’ll need a Gmail account, so please email me and I’ll send it over.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 7:32 am

    I’d like to see what this might be able to do. Begging for an invite seems tacky, but this seems like a time for desperate if not tacky measures.

    Who knows I might be able to convince someone @ the local EOC that they really need another tool in their box…..

    “Lets Roll”
    Ralph Dutcher
    Monroe County Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator

    Office of Public Health Preparedness
    Monroe County Department of Health
    Rochester, NY
    (585) 753-5453

    View my profile on LinkedIn

    @DutchR on twitter

    • January 13, 2010 7:53 am

      Thanks for the note, Ralph. I’ll send you an invite as soon as I get to work.

      Keep up the great work, as always.


  2. January 14, 2010 4:58 pm

    Jimmy Jazz

    If you still have one available…I would love to try it out!


    • January 16, 2010 2:08 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Brenda. I just submitted your request of an invitiation. If you don’t hear from them by Tuesday or so, let me know and I’ll resend it

      All the best,

  3. Ryan Kelzenberg permalink
    February 16, 2010 8:28 am

    One thing our EM organization did was to set up a 2nd domain and use Google as our backup Email and also for E-mail for all our volunteers. The actual costs are only the fee for the domain name each year and the time our volunteers spent to setup the domain and all the settings to work with Gmail.

    It’s not that difficult and Google has all the information on their site. We decided to use Go Daddy for the domain and their tools are very easy to use. So if you are looking at using Google Wave, think about setting up a domain and using Google Apps for your backup E-mail and all the tool available.

    One of the other tools I like about Google is the ability to forward E-mails to another account. In the case of Emergency Management and the requirement to retain documents, you can set Gmail to also forward E-mails to your main account and not delete them. That way your main E-mail account has a copy of everything sent to your Google account for any document retention requirements.


  1. Daily Digest for January 14th

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