I just got in on that Google Wave action, and it is great, but mostly I find the potential change in online conversation habits to be very interesting.
Let me frame it for you: here on the PA forums, I find myself occasionally discussing three separate issues with another forumer in three separate threads, and then meta-discussing our discussions in the chat thread or in PMs. We follow entirely different conversational paths in these threads, even while knowing that we are about to discuss something else in another thread. It is a fascinating parallel conversation model.
What Google Wave seems to do is make that exact parallel conversation occur in one place,
because as you wave with someone, you are not even necessarily watching what they write and then replying, as you would in an exchange of instant messages. Neither are you reading through a thread on a forum and then inserting a reply at the end of the thread.
Eventually, a conversation splits into multiple threads. Issues that were not immediately addressed can be responded to while the other participant(s) pursue other issues, which you can in turn address at your leisure. GWave also updates you about replies as you receive them, allowing you to monitor the conversation's diverging paths. You can be talking to someone without actually being talking directly to them,
as their focus is on a different aspect of the conversation.
In effect, it produces (or at least, approaches) a heretofore unreachable thing: a complete conversation. Every conversation seems to have potential branches of discussion that are never explored, places where one line of thought is sacrificed in order to pursue another one. If you finish one branch, you might move back to another one, but too often the conversation changes entirely into something else, or the previous branches are forgotten.
The fact that this takes place over time, and not just in one single instance like a chat, means that these conversations can grow and grow and grow in multiple directions, and eventually begin to interconnect and reference each other.
Language is generally linear. You start, you read forward, and then you get to the end of that text. GWave seems to really be the first organically non-linear text that is easy to use, and I think it might well change the way its users interact online.
I'd like to hear people's descriptions of their Google Wave experiences as they relate to conversation and flow of information and use of language, and if they've noticed anything strange or interesting or new.
I fucking hate you Canadians.