What should I do when google wave topics become too popular/cluttered?
The other day, I released a mind mapping gadget for google wave, and its proven to be quite popular. Popular for something I knocked together quickly anyway. There's an active wave discussing features, which also serves as the main description of the gadget. Its getting a bit long now, and I'm aware that there is a limit to how big waves can get before they start to slow down. It also gets to the point where I want to simplify things so that a new reader coming upon the wave doesn't get confused by the threads of conversation there.
The way that I am using wave at the moment is that there is a single shared document at the top (the root blip) which contains the topic of discussion, and in this case, a mind map of features and votes for features. The blips that come afterwards are a discussion list, much in the same way that comments can be added to blog posts. Whilst they form an important part of the wave, the value of information they contain decreases as they become less topical. It is really the latest comments and blips that are the important bit, at least to people that are returning to long running conversations.
Other systems show the most recent comments on the top, and show older comments on separate pages to stop the page from getting to big. I'm tempted to suggest that wave should do the same thing, but I wonder if its because we're all still figuring out the best way to use wave. Are there different usage patterns for waves that means it makes sense to have every single blip on the screen, even if it means the page is three miles long? I'm still mulling that one, but in the mean time I think there is a need to come up with a way of managing long running waves. Here's my thoughts on how it could be done.
Option 1: Create a new wave to "Continue Discussion". This is what most people seem to be doing at the moment, but it means that anybody who has linked to the page is now linking to (or embeding) a dead version of it, and would then need to click through to see the new version. It also breaks the fundamental principle of URLs in that a URL represents an object for its lifetime.
Option 2: Delete the old crufty posts. That's not very nice to the people that wrote those posts in the first place. Besides, those comments provide useful context for a new reader to be able to catch up with the rest of the people on the wave. In the end, you are removing information from the system, rather than presenting it in an accessible way, and thats never a good idea.
Option 3: Have an archival bot participant on the wave. This bot would monitor the wave, and when the number of blips starts to get high, it would progressively copy the older blips into an archive wave and subsequently delete them from the original. It would also add a link to the end of the root blip showing people where the archive wave is.
I've had a quick look to see if anyone has done this yet, and I haven't found anything, but I think its a great idea. The only technical issue with this approach that I see at the moment is that the archived blips would not have the same author(s) as the original blips, as it would be the bot that authored them. The bot could add some text indicating who the authors were, but its not quite the same.
I really like the idea of the archival bot. Once I get back from Sydney I might give it a go.