It wasn't that long ago that the RPG blogging community was going crazy for gaming in Google Wave. I even wrote an article, Gaming with Google Wave, that included suggestions for best practices. Since then, Google had announced that it will be ending its support for Google Wave at the end of 2010 which has been extended through 2011. Several existing products, including Google Docs, have incorporated some of Wave's features such as real-time collaborative editing and messaging. Now, a team of former Google Wave developers are using their 20% time to bring us a new Google Labs product, Google Shared Spaces, which allows users to still be able to use all of those fantastic gadgets developed for Google Wave! Here are some of the key details about Shared Spaces.
Before I continue, there are a couple of things to keep in mind about Google Shared Spaces. Some obvious things missing, some of which the team has acknowledged is under development, include a notification for new chat messages posted, changes to a gadget, or changes to a shared space in general.
Keep in mind, too, that these gadgets were designed specifically for Wave and will need some adjustments for Shared Spaces. Some gadgets depended on Wave's user experience which isn't entirely duplicated here. The Shared Spaces team is reaching out to developers to update their gadgets for use in Shared Spaces.
My biggest concern is in regards to whether or not developers will bother updating their existing gadgets or developing new ones. I can imagine some developers refusing to spend time on these gadgets, feeling slighted by the demise of Google Wave and wondering why they should invest any more effort in yet another project that has a risk of sharing Wave's fate. Regardless, I'm excited to see these gadgets available outside of Wave. It was one of the main features I was going to miss about Google Wave.
Accessing Shared Spaces
Google Shared Spaces offers several options for using what used to be Wave gadgets. Before you go any further, you'll need to log into Shared Spaces using OpenID. Unlike most Google products that require a Google Account specifically, Shared Spaces allows you to use either Google, Twitter, or Yahoo! as your OpenID log in.
Once you've logged in, you can browse for the gadget you want to use and simply click "Create a space" to create your unique instance of the gadget.
Within each shared space, you'll see a chat too and options for inviting others to use the gadget. Once others have accessed the gadget, they'll appear in the list of participants. Unfortunately, you can't control who can gain access to your shared space with a shared URL, but the Shared Spaces team is working on that.
What's really cool about Shared Spaces is the ability to embed a gadget into a web page, including Google Sites or an iGoogle Gadget. This allows you to build a campaign site in Google Sites, for example, and include gadgets for specific functions.
There's obviously a lot of potential here with using the gadgets in Google Shared Spaces to facilitate RPG play, but it really depends heavily on the developer community. If you know a developer who created a Google Wave gadget you loved, ask him or her to submit the gadget to Shared Spaces and update it to work well within the Shared Spaces UI. For gadgets that are already available, post your request via a comment on the gadget's page. The Google Shared Spaces team is monitoring those comments and reaching out to developers for this very purpose.
For example, I posted a query about Bones not functioning properly outside of the Wave user interface as it was designed to have one instance per blip. Googler Pamela Fox replied in agreement and contacted the developer who then left a comment soliciting some ideas for changes. He appreciated the conversation that followed and planned to provide an update after the holidays.
Google Chrome ExtensionThat's right. There's a Shared Spaces Google Chrome extension. It provides quick access to existing gadgets as well as your list of Shared Spaces that you've either created or in which you've participated.
The Shared Spaces team is moving fast with their work on Shared Spaces. I see updates from Google almost daily via the official Google Shared Spaces Google Group. If you're interested in keeping up with these improvements or have any questions you hope they can answer, I strongly recommend joining the Google Group. On a related note, they also have an official bug report/feature request page.
So what are you waiting for? Go give Shared Spaces a spin!
Update: I forgot to mention one of my favorite gadgets, Cards! It's perfect for managing initiative in a Savage Worlds game!