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Thoughts on trying out Google Buzz

Since posting my lengthy write-up of the launch of Google's new Google Buzz social-networking/info-sharing/friend-following service, I've started tiptoeing into it.


As I suspected, Google didn't suggest many other Buzz users at first, thanks to my using Gmail as an inbox for commercial messages. In comparison, my wife uses Gmail as her primary address and had Buzz recommend 26 other people to follow. (You can read my public Buzz updates at my Google profile.)

The default setting for Buzz, as Silicon Alley Insider warned yesterday, will publicize the people you follow and therefore suggest who you talk to most often on Gmail--a fine way for journalists to out their sources. I didn't like it when Facebook updated its default privacy settings to make status updates visible to everyone; I don't like Google's assumptions here either.

Writing, reading and commenting on buzzes seems straightforward enough, and in some ways simpler than Twitter. You don't have to chisel away letters to abide by an arbitrary character limit, and you can link to other sites directly instead of by creating a shortcut.

But pulling in content from other, non-Google sources is difficult to set up, as former Business Week tech columnist Steve Wildstrom complained on his blog.

I've yet to make any real use of Buzz's mobile software, mainly because I've been confined to near my home for the past two days and don't want to advertise that location.

To get a little more context, I Twittered and Buzzed this query earlier today:

Pop quiz: Name one thing Google Buzz does better than Twitter or Facebook. (Bonus question: do you think Buzz makes either site redundant?)

Here are some of the replies I got:

"Two things: Buzz lets me edit typos out of posts, and Buzz sorts by most recent activity."

"Realtime conversation"

"better: NO FARMVILLE OR MAFIA WARS IN BUZZ worse: i can't block ppl? (I know i can just post private, but still)"

"lets you edit posts, has no character limit, displays media better, integrates seamlessly into Gmail"

"geo" (That is, geo-location)

It's safe to say that Buzz easily out-features Twitter. But that may be a problem: Twitter works well because it's so simple. You don't have to worry about fine-grained privacy settings or tending friends lists, because by default everything is public.

Buzz's greatest potential probably lies in Google's plans to open it up to other sites, software and services. Google software engineer Dewitt Clinton wrote a lengthy Buzz this morning about those goals:

The idea is that someday, any host on the web should be able to implement these open protocols and send messages back and forth in real time with users from any network, without any one company in the middle. The web contains the social graph, the protocols are standard web protocols, the messages can contain whatever crazy stuff people think to put in them. Google Buzz will be just another node (a very good node, I hope) among many peers.

For now, Buzz seems more like an evolutionary descendant of FriendFeed, a cross-social-network service that Facebook recently bought, and which I never saw the point in using -- it just seemed like more work to me.

If you want to try out Buzz, read Gina Trapani's cheat sheet on how to manage the service. Note also that you can opt out of the whole thing by clicking a "turn off buzz" link on your Gmail page.

How do you see Buzz fitting into your online life? Post your thoughts, and any review you have to share, in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 11, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Taking better photos of our snowy landscape
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I don't see the need for me to use it. I use Facebook for personal friends, but that annoys me sometimes so I do not use it much. I use Twitter sometimes -- as you say, it is simple, and I like that. What does Buzz buy me? Will it be another Wave and not pick up critical mass? I won't be an early adopter on this one. But I am very interested in your reviews and comments of others who do use it. Based on that I may pick up on it.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | February 11, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"I don't like Google's assumptions here either."
Yeah. Definite problems for those of us who have to be careful of the privacy of those we email back and forth with.

Posted by: wiredog | February 11, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Buzz seems to fall, feature-wise, somewhere in between Twitter and Tumblr. And IMHO, it has room to grow in terms of adopting the best of both services' feature sets. In general, though, I like Buzz 1.0. The two things that annoy about it so far are:

(1) The extremely limited markup ability. There's an irony to this. When I import a post from Google Reader, Buzz formats it beautifully with hyperlinked text, blockquotes, italics, etc. So it makes no sense that I can't do the same sort of formatting when I'm entering text directly into Buzz. In effect, you're penalized for using their interface, rather than "reblogging" your post from somewhere else.

(2) The limited ability to integrate other services, which you mention. Perhaps they're concerned about making sure users really own the accounts they're hooking into their Buzz feed. But Tumblr, for instance, lets you integrate any RSS feed you like into your Tumblr feed.

Posted by: JoshuaBraun | February 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it was just a one time quirk, but as soon as I began using Buzz, my desktop application for Google talk (winXP) stopped working...

I could see friends online, but they could not see me, & I could not receive their messages; I was only able to chat through gmail, online.

Since Buzz was the only thing that had changed, I turned it off, & presto change-o, I had Gtalk back to normal.

Posted by: j0nharris | February 12, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I really wish they'd have rolled this out as opt-in rather than opt-out, but c'est la vie.

They told me about buzz at 10:02 A.M. when I logged into gmail. By 10:05 I'd disabled it. If I wanted my data broadcast I'd go join Facebook.

Posted by: | February 12, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

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