Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Making Google Wave work with E-Mail & Facebook

Google Wave is really fun, but that's only when you can actually find people to talk to. That's a problem right now, since it's pretty private and most of your friends, family and coworkers probably don't have accounts. Luckily, some nice people have put together a really good bot that successfully integrates wave & e-mail. The bot is pretty basic, but I've actually made a complete move over to wave without losing contact with people on e-mail, and even facebook. Here's how.

First you gotta understand how the bot works. Just add the bot as a contact like any other:
Emaily-wave@appspot.com. There, you're done! Well... almost. All you do is create a wave with Emaily added as a contact and it'll create a blip for you to add e-mail address to. Pretty simple.

Once you add e-mail recipients to a wave, they'll each receive an e-mail for each blip, and of course they won't be able to see live-typing or gadgets. They also won't receive photos or attachments included in the wave in their e-mail (although the people behind Emaily have that as a priority). In a way I suppose that illustrates just how far behind wave e-mail is, although if you're using gmail, all the blips in a given wave will at least automatically show up threaded, so there's that.

From there they can just reply to those blip e-mails like any other and it will send a response to wave. Unfortunately, wave users will receive a new wave for every e-mail that is sent to them, rather than just seeing new blips in a wave, but the creators hope to have proper threaded wave replies working this week. It's really not much of a problem, though, and it still works great.

But that's just the basic use of Emaily. E-mail users don't have to wait for you to wave them to send you an e-mail. Anyone who has added Emaily as a contact can be e-mailed at a special address that is used by Emaily, which looks like name+googlewave.com@emaily-wave.appspotmail.com. So, if you wanted to send a wave to doctorwave@googlewave.com, you'd send it to doctowave+googlewave.com@emaily-wave.appspotmail.com (but only if he's added Emaily to his contact list).

My first thought was that I'd just give out my Emaily e-mail address to people and let them e-mail me there from now on, and I'd never have to use real e-mail again. So, I went to facebook to change my e-mail address to let my friends know my new address. I went to settings, then account settings, tried to add my Emaily address to facebook to replace my old one, but it wouldn't even accept it as a valid address. It's not that much of a surprise that YourWaveNameHere+googlewave.com@emaily-wave.appspotmail.com didn't work, I guess, and it's a freakin' terrible e-mail address to give out to people anyway.

So, what next? I decided to just set up my gmail account to forward all e-mail to wave. I could have set up my current gmail account to work with Emaily, but I don't want every single one of those messages coming up in wave. I have a lot of junk and message lists and stuff there, and it would fill up my wave inbox. So, I created a new gmail account. To set up gmail to forward mail to your wave account, go to Settings, then "Forwarding and POP/IMAP", and set it to forward to your Emaily wave address.

I went back to facebook settings and added my new gmail account. You'll be asked to validate it. You'll also probably want to set it as the main contact. To do that, click change, click your new e-mail, and click "Change Contact E-mail".

It worked beautifully! See, what I didn't expect was that since facebook sends me e-mail notifications when I get a facebook message that show the message in them, I even see my personal facebook messages, along with e-mails and waves all in my Wave inbox! Not only that, but since facebook has a very robust e-mail notification system (which you can access under your account settings) you can receive waves for wall comments, friend requests, new pictures of you, facebook apps and all that other good stuff. Pretty sweet. Keep in mind, though, that you have to have your wave e-mail address set as your main contact for facebook to send your e-mail to it.

I don't use myspace, but I imagine you could do something similar there, too. You could really do this with anything that sends you e-mail updates, whether it's a website or a newsgroup or a mailing list or whatever. Good way to get news updates in wave.

I also created an e-mail only Inbox in wave by using the saved searches feature. In order to do that, click on the "+" button next to "Searches" in the Navigation window in Google Wave. Call it E-mail for the title, and type in "with:emaily-wave@appspot.com -with:public" for the query. Click submit and it will give you a clickable link called "E-mail" that will list all sent & received e-mails. If you'd like one that worked more like an inbox you could create a search with "is:unread from:emaily-wave@appspot.com -with:public". Or, if you wanted a "Sent E-mail" link, you could use "to:emaily-wave@appspot.com -with:public".

Frankly, the search feature in Google Wave is extremely powerful and beyond the scope of what I'm talking about here - if you want some more tips, I'd suggest The Complete Guide to Google Wave's search section.

One other thing is worth mentioning. You don't actually have to type in the same e-mail addresses over and over in Emaily's blip to add e-mail contacts to a wave. As long as you have Emaily added as a participant in the wave, you can just add e-mail recipients to the wave by adding participants of the form emaily-wave+e-mail name+e-mail domain.com@appspot.com. So, for instance, to add bruce@gmail.com to a wave, you'd add emaily-wave+bruce+gmail.com@appspot.com. It's a pain in the ass to remember all that, though.

The better way is to just add e-mail contacts normally through the Emaily's blip, and once it creates the contact for you and adds it to the wave, you can then save that person as a contact. That way, you can actually keep e-mail contacts in your wave contact list, and then it's super easy to add your e-mail friends to a wave. Add Emaily to the wave, then just add them as a wave contact, just like you would for any other wave user. Gravy.

Keep in mind that Google Wave is still in an early beta and often works very slowly. It may sometimes take a little while for your e-mails to show up there. It also sometimes takes a few minutes, or sometimes even up to an hour for your waves to show up in someone's e-mail inbox.

update: Although the Emaily team is working hard and just fixed a bunch of bugs, it's still a very early release and there is a possibility of missing e-mails waves not sending to e-mail probably, so if you absolutely need 100% reliability, you should be careful about giving up on e-mail and moving to Wave + Emaily.


Norc said...

Very cool, man, thanx!

Peter said...

Great stuff !!!
It works really !

Scruples said...

It is not working for me. I want to set up a google apps e mail as the contact e mail for email to send to but when I add it and post to the wave I do not get a email in my google apps box? Any thoughts?

Scott Sawyer said...

Nice work! I just sent an email to my Wave 20 minutes ago, nothing yet. I'll check again tomorrow.

Thank you for the great post!

Scott Sawyer said...

Kick ass! It just came through. Attachments and HTML would be nice. Also, would be awesome if the subject would become the Wave title, or you could send email to an existing Wave using the Subject.