The Obligatory Google Buzz Review

It’s been a few days since Google Buzz was born and it’s time for an AppsLabber to review it, so here are my thoughts.

Day one
It was a lonely experience — akin to showing up to a party you knew was going to be fun, but you ended being one of the first ones there. After a few hours more people started to show up and I started to engage more by following more people since hardly any of my Gmail contacts have showed up.  I broke out of my usual shell and started following people I’ve never met in meat and virtual life.  I felt sort of strange, but it felt good to engage with “outsiders.”  I remember feeling, “wow, Buzz is cool… it’s what I’ve been waiting for, etc.”  Just like feelings I get with shinny new things, I felt “buzzed” by the thought of it all.  I tried to get more friends into it as well… not sure they felt the same way I did when they joined the party.

Day two
Day two was when most people started showing up.  I noticed that some of the people I started following — big names like Scoble and Rose — started to take over my stream.  All of the sudden the people I was more interested in hearing from started getting dominated by those with larger voices and larger crowds hovering over them.  This sucked.  I don’t want to be forced into a crowd of people having a convo about stuff I didn’t care about.  This is when I discovered the “mute” feature.  I knew about the mute feature with Gmail and it’s cool that Buzz takes advantage of that.  However, one of the things I expected Google would be good at is extracting signal from noise, Sergey claims this himself.  I’ve gotten so used to Twitter’s simple pattern of showing you the most recent posts and showing trends to let users keep track of the conversations that are happening.  I guess I expected something similar with Buzz, but instead Buzz forces you to pay attention to the larger conversations happening inside your circle.  Google Buzz team: I don’t always want to be forced into a conversation I may or may not care about.  So, I think the sorting and filtering of buzz items need to be worked out.  Otherwise, my finger’s always going to be hovering over the “m” key waiting to mute items — that’s not a good pattern to encourage.  By the way, the “mute” feature doesn’t work.  Every time I “mute” Scoble’s postings it pops back up a few minutes later.

Day three (today)
Today, I’m starting to see real friends buzzing about.  Most of them are confused — like they were forced to be a part of something they didn’t want to be a part of.  Some are finding it useful.  And others are just going with it, but aren’t sure what to do.

If it were me calling the shots, here’s what I’d do:
  1. Don’t require GMail for Buzz. It should have launched as a stand-alone app with close links to Gmail and the ability to launch inside Gmail (as it does today).  I find it confusing that you can use Buzz from your mobile devise in a stand-alone app, but you can’t from your desktop.  One of my Google buddies did tell me to be patient when I told him about this, so maybe that’s in the works.  Either way, it should have launched as a stand-alone app.  The motivation for doing so means that you can capture people who don’t have and want GMail accounts, but maybe it was Google’s intention to require GMail.  Also, for those that don’t think your social network should start with your inbox (I’m not one of them BTW), this would have been a good way to separate the two.
  2. Fix the signal-to-noise algorithms. I ended up sinking lots of valuable time avoiding and muting items I was being forced to see over and over again.  This is not something I expect from Google.  Fix it.
  3. All the usual patterns we’ve come to know and love from Twitter would be nice: hashtag support, search, trending, and a solid API out the gate are keys to success.
  4. Better profile pages. I appreciate Google’s sense and discipline for spartan user interfaces, but when you give me my own page to allow me to share a piece of me to the world, I’d love it if you can allow me to add my own flair and dress it with my own unique style.  It doesn’t need to be fancy… just allow me to change the background and colors around and use a better looking font.  Google profiles remind me of profiles you’d see in a company directory, bleh.
Start with those.  With that, here’s what I do love:
  1. Media handling. I love that when I put a URL in, it extracts images from the site, very cool.
  2. Longer postings. I love that I can post more than 140 characters, but the UI serves as a subtle suggestion that this isn’t a place for posting essays.
  3. Private postings. I’m not sure why I’d post a private message that only I could see, but I do love that I can share privately to a group of people.
  4. Shortcut keys. I love that Buzz has some of it’s siblings DNA and allows me to wade through posts using the same shortcut keys.
  5. Aggregation of other sites. I love that Buzz follows FriendFeed’s lead on allowing users to share more than just messages but also twitter posts, blog posts, reader items, flickr images, etc.  I just wish we had the ability to cross post to Twitter/Facebook… highly unlikely this will happen though and I understand.
Overall, I think Buzz is cool.  The “buzz” I had on day one is gone, but I still think it’s got potential.  Great job Google!  Next time, however, please leave it in the oven a little longer.

AboutRich Manalang

a.k.a.: manalang

4 comments

  1. Buzz has promise, but I agree w/Rich that it's not fully baked yet. It suffers from the same problem FriendFeed did w/Twitter, i.e. people's tweets clutter up the joint, and even worse, it's not a full client so you can't use it to tweet (not a FF problem).

    I think the contacts thing is a bit blown out of proportion, especially by people tweeting about it, which seems odd considering. But I guess the inbox has a sacred feeling that Google shouldn't be violating.

  2. Buzz has promise, but I agree w/Rich that it's not fully baked yet. It suffers from the same problem FriendFeed did w/Twitter, i.e. people's tweets clutter up the joint, and even worse, it's not a full client so you can't use it to tweet (not a FF problem).

    I think the contacts thing is a bit blown out of proportion, especially by people tweeting about it, which seems odd considering. But I guess the inbox has a sacred feeling that Google shouldn't be violating.

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