Google Wave and Jevons' Paradox

A few days ago I wrote about Jevons’ Paradox and “The Attention Question”: The idea that we do not need to create tools that take up more of our time and attention, but instead we need to start building social tools in business that focus first on productivity and results, and on being social as a secondary goal.

Robert Scoble really nails the same point in his post about Google Wave and its email pedigree. When I first had a chance to use Google Wave a few weeks ago I said that I thought it felt a bit regressive.

Is Google Wave falling victim to Jevons’ Paradox?
The search for a better general collaboration tool continues and a lot of vendors are feeling the pressure to build better and better tools to allow people to connect, share and collaborate. Google Wave does this well. Take an existing set of tools such as IM and Email, layer some social networking thought on top of them and open up some collaboration spaces for people to create content.

My experience with Google Wave has been that it is an attention black hole. Part of this is a result of the fact that Email and IM are the primary paradigms on which the user experience is based. The other is that Google Wave is another example of directionless connectedness. Interaction without intent.

You can argue that this is the power of Google Wave and email. The idea that the user is given the tools and it is up to them to figure out what to do with them. I would argue that Jevons’ Paradox still stands, and that these tools will create efficiency in interacting, but not in actual business process or value creation.

Dennis Howlett says that “effectiveness not efficiency has to be the goal. We’re already moderately efficient in our processes” and he is right.

Breakthroughs in effectiveness are not going to be mass-purpose tools, they will be specific tools which allow the user to be more effective than before by using social concepts to make use of the efficiencies that are already in existence.