Not Feeling the Buzz

Like most of you, my gmail account was integrated into Google’s new “Buzz” social networking tool, and unlike many in the blogosphere, I decided to give it a little while before commenting on it. So, after using it for a few days, and seeing what the “early” commentators had to say, I’d have to say that I think Google really is too little, too late to this game, and that Google has no idea how normal people use social networking tools, or email for that matter.

See, here’s part of my problem with Google. Months ago, I wrote about Google Wave, that it was underwhelming, but that I had faith that Google would continue to add to it and make it something useful. They haven’t done anything useful to Wave yet, but here they are rolling out Buzz as the new “This is going to be great” application, only it’s not, in it’s current format, great, or even good for that matter. Given the past few months with Wave, I have no faith that they’re going to really improve this much, and as it stands now, it just sort of sucks. Like Friendfeed, it can pull things from other sources into Buzz, but currently those sources are severely limited. Twitter, Reader Shared Items, Flickr, Picasa, and maybe a blog feed. That’s it. It’s not Friendfeed on steroids, it’s Friendfeed on diet pills.

Those aren’t even the only Google products that I am have been expecting improvements to, that never seem to come. I don’t use Google Reader’s shared items feature, because there’s no way to tag items, which would generate different RSS feeds based on those tags, or items you could follow based on a tag, so that I could use shared items on both of my sites at once. Delicious does that, has for years.For that matter, Google still hasn’t integrated Google Reader’s shared items with Feedburner’s link splicer feature, and they own both of those! So I have to use Delicious if I want to be able to put daily “links” in the RSS feeds for my blogs, not that I care, because again, I can use Delicious to send different tag groups to different blog feeds right now too!

So now, they roll out Buzz, and integrate social networking into email and Google Reader, two places I don’t actually want social networking. (And I’ll leave the ridiculously stupid idea to autofollow your Gmail contacts and the privacy implications alone, since they’ve already sort of acknowledged that was a bad idea.) They’ve hacked their way into two products I actually do use, Gmail, and Reader (as an RSS reader only), and made them more annoying. They’ve decided that I want to follow the people I email most frequently, which is where they are too late to this game. The people I follow on social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, are not the people I email the most. When I need to send them a message, or see what they’re up to, I go there. My Gmail account is for people who aren’t connected to me in those places. I use email to interact with people about my various websites, give them a way to contact me for help, and, occasionally, I get an offer to get a copy of a book for review, or a request from someone doing research, etc. I reply to those people, about that subject, but that hardly means I want to start following them on Buzz. Again, the people I want to follow, I already do! I don’t need them added to Gmail or Reader, and most of them don’t have Google Profiles anyway. Why would they? They have Facebook and Twitter profiles, and are easily accessible from there.

Seems to me that someone in Google has been charged with making a social network, no matter what. So they’ve tried Profiles, only there wasn’t any incentive to use those for much. Then they tried Wave, which showed some promise, but confused people too much to really grow beyond the geek crowd. So, they looked around at the various Google services, saw the large number of users on Gmail, and decided that if they couldn’t make a truly revolutionary product for social networking, they would just glom onto that user base, and add Buzz to existing Gmail accounts. Voila, millions of users! An overnight success!

Personally, I haven’t seen an iota of value from Buzz. The only place I see the potential for usefulness is in the mobile version, which can show you Buzz going on nearby, but even that doesn’t interest me all that much as a every day tool. Might be great when tailgating at an OSU game or some other big event, but when I’m looking at Buzz from the office, or my house, not so much.

Still, I’m going to leave Buzz up and running for a little while longer, but I fully anticipate that I’ll either be turning it off completely, or unfollowing everyone and leaving my “buzz” posting so those who really want to use it to follow me can. Just don’t expect me to reply to you there. I’m already interacting with folks in plenty of other places.

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  1. They’ve essentially cloned FriendFeed. Like you, I’m not entirely sure why…

    I see Buzz not so much as a social network, but perhaps a way to bring aggregators to the masses. Nobody in my family uses an RSS reader. I convinced my wife to set up Google Reader once, but she eventually decided it was just as easy to manually check in on the 10 or so sites she visited rather than use the RSS feed. Buzz, by being integrated with GMail, won’t seem as much of a “different” destination. For someone who lives in their email, Buzz is right there, and it might take hold as an aggregator.

    That said, like you, I’m not really *using* Buzz. Sure, I’m bringing content into Buzz, but I’m not posting things there directly, and I’m keeping tabs on my contacts via Twitter, their blogs, Flickr, and Facebook.

  2. Aaron, I’ve tried to figure out how this works, for the masses. Like the iPad, which I recognized right away was not designed for me, because I have no real reason to use one if I can’t multitask, I’ve tried to take a look at Buzz and see how a typical Facebook/email/web surfer might look at it, and I just don’t get it. Might they use it as an aggregator, perhaps, but I’d argue that Facebook fan pages are actually better suited to that. Take your wife for example, by following 10 fan pages on Facebook and getting updates, she is basically using RSS feeds, just through the fan page interface. Following people gets a little messier than that, you’re dependent on what they decide to share.

    Ultimately, I’m looking at Buzz the same way I looked at Wave, the same way I’ve looked at Reader’s shared items, the same way I’ve looked at Feedburner. When is Google going to put all of this together into one easy to use, full featured, tool to pick and choose all the various ways you want to work. Thus far, it seems more like throwing spaghetti and seeing what sticks than a cohesive plan, and it’s been going on for quite a long time. I’m having doubts that there is a plan at Google any more, at least not a plan that’s about the users.

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