When I started Tweeting, I didn’t de-construct the service because I didn’t feel I knew enough about what I disliked or appreciated about it. I also didn’t know what it was actually for. The same thing goes for Facebook – when I joined, I didn’t get it, mostly because all of my friends were using it in such starkly different ways. Dynamic networks are like that – you can’t judge the entire service or network based on the habits of a few groups of users. Much as we like to burn the Midnight Oil, it’s impractical to over-study networks that just came out.
But then Google released Wave. Instant internet-wide love/hate relationship. And now it’s Buzz. And it’s another case, in part, of twenty people using the same services fifty different ways, and no one seems to know what they’re actually for. As much as we like to think well of Google, this is far from The Cure for Social Media.
It’s easy to see why. Buzz interrupts you, something internet marketers have been trying to avoid for years. It makes a mess of your inbox, when its default settings are on, and there’s no real way to get right of it, short of turning it off. This all or nothing approach has a number of people convinced that Google’s off their own kool-aid and making some key errors in product development.
To me it just looks like they’re taking the tactic of Ship-Then-Perfect to an entirely new realm – I wonder what Seth Godin would think about that, actually. But I doubt he’s on Buzz. He’s not even on Twitter, really – which is fine. However, Jeff Jarvis, one of Google’s few scholars, has a great deconstruction of the visible intent of Buzz on his blog; post titled “Google’s Buzz(machine)”
I turned Buzz off after my BlackBerry went ballistic over the first fifty alerts coming in within five minutes. The merging of my inbox was too much – I don’t want that, and it’s easy to see from all the clutter on Twitter and elsewhere, that not many other people do either. Stephen Hodson noted that Search Engine Land completely killed a story about the rumoured split between Buzz and GMail – which may have proven an important point about exactly how much we try to appease El Goog, even when we dislike features of their services.
The important point that many of these de-constructions are missing is that this is a service stil in Beta. Google is well known for their endless cycles of public beta. Christopher S Penn made the first good point when he talked about why Buzz is Brilliant and Deadly for Social Media 1.0 on his own blog – and I agree with much of what he says there. Robert Scoble, Supercurator, made a note about Google’s announcement as well, taking the tactic of talking about why Google won’t go after Twitter or Facebook on their own. The bit that convinced me to look more into Buzz?
Google isn’t willing to piss its users off to get to the next level. [Facebook’s] Zuckerberg is willing to piss off Facebook’s users by changing the platform. He is in the midst of changing his platform once again from something that was only for private friends and family to something that’s more public so that Facebook can effectively compete in search (or, at least, be like Twitter and sell its feeds to Google or Microsoft). Google just isn’t willing to do that over and over.
I think Scoble’s got it right here – the features we hate about Buzz are temporary. Already, people are coming up with stupid Buzz tricks to make sure that the service is usable – and it works. I’ve turned Buzz back on, having followed about three of the tips from AEXT.net‘s article on Undocumented tricks for Buzz. Most important trick there? Convincing GMail not to deliver Buzz notices to your in box. Anyone with a Smartphone needs to use that, just to make the service liveable while Google is still ironing out The Kinks. Tip number 5, on finding a user’s name to @ them with is also very handy for larger following groups and conversations. Props to Mark Dykeman for sharing this one, as well – I would have written Buzz off entirely without these tips.
I’m still not sure how I’m going to use Buzz. Don’t be surprised if you see some posts in the next week about how I actually do use social networks personally – I think some study might be required before I can decide if I really need that extra tank in my motor pool.
What do you think? Is Google off its rocker, or is this another instance of the Big Country saying Yes before it’s time?
UPDATED: Jeff Jarvis dropped a post about Buzz’s to-soon launch.
UPDATED x2: The Supreme Court of Texas Blog also added some privacy concerns about Buzz, especially poignant information for journalists, lawyers and, yes, even bloggers.
Photo by Aitor Escauriaza.