Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Buzz about Google Buzz

The title reminds me that I have an irrational fear of bees. Just sayin'. Where was I? Oh yeah...

The Buzz about Google Buzz

So a full 50% of all the buzz on day one of Google Buzz was, of course, the "Hello World!" of Social Media: "What's the big deal about this?".




Everyone else is trying to figure out if it's a threat to Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Foursquare. Or Yelp. Or Google Wave, for that matter. Here's my take on the Potential and the Perils of Buzz: What it is, what it is not, and what it may someday be.

The Potential:

1) Open Development

Google has announced that the Buzz APIs will be protected under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means open and shareable development. Programmers like this.

Furthermore, Buzz's APIs will take advantage of other open platforms, like OAuth, WebFinger, Salmon, and Activity Streams. What does this mean for you? Ultimately, smoother integration with many of the sites and services you already use. It won't be long before Buzzing this blog post will have you appearing in it's comment section below at the same time. This ability to aggregate conversations across platforms and media could someday be a game-changer.


2) Location Awareness

By making Buzz location aware on your mobile device, it allows you to stamp your Buzz on a geographic spot in the real world. If you haven't used Buzz mobile yet, you haven't used it.




Of course, this is just the beginning. With Google Maps, Places Pages, Goggles, and Android Navigation, combining location awareness with social is a HUGE opening. If Google can seamlessly tie together all of these platforms with what people are saying in realtime, they can provide instant reviews, give businesses aggregated feedback about their service, and turn every person with a smartphone into a breaking news reporter with a worldwide audience. (More about that last one in a minute)

3) Relevance

What Google is best known for in search, is the ability to find relevant information and weed out the noise. Can you imagine a ground more fertile for that kind of expertise than social media?

The Buzz feed already jumps items that are getting lots of feedback to the top of your list - the first of Google's organic processes designed to promote the relevant over the recent. Don't care about what I ate for breakfast today? No problem, it will fall off your feed pretty quickly in the face of more interesting conversations between friends. Of course, if some buzz *really* takes off, it can get recommended to friends-of-friends. What did I say above about breaking realtime news to a global audience? Now the relevance of your buzz post can surpass the constraints of your follower list!

Of course, knowing Google, their ability to show us the relevant data will only improve over time.

4) Control in the User's Hands

Each buzz post has a simple and accessible option to select whether or not your post will be public, or private to a select group of your choosing. This feature is just wonderful. Not only does it put the power in my hands to determine who sees what I post, but it also lets us help each other keep the posts relevant. (See #3 above).

The Perils:

1) The Big Heads and the Long Tail

(I'm going to call this a conditional problem with Buzz. Whether it's a bug or a feature I'll leave to you.)

More comments --> more buzz --> higher rank --> Domination.

Watch what happens to your feed when you follow someone famous. They have 70,000 followers and hundreds of comments for each post. You'll never see anything but Ashton Kutcher's posts if you follow him. This almost necessitates limiting your buzz circle to the people you actually engage in two-way conversations with (note that your buzz following is automatically generated by people you e-mail with frequently--this is not an accident). If Buzz takes off, I think it will drive Twitter to where Twitter's been heading anyway -- towards the big head of the Long Tail. Twitter will become broad/textcasting. Oh well, it was horrible for conversations anyway.

2) Google PR Problem

People are starting to get twitchy about Google knowing everything about them. Adding in social features and location awareness isn't going to help ease the minds of those concerned about such things. Of course, If you didn't want to be social, you wouldn't be on a social network, now would you? Google's privacy options are good to protect you from prying eyes that aren't your friends, but in this case, it's Google that people are worried about, not the leering stranger.

Considering how much of my life I've pumped into Google's products, I should probably be more concerned than I am, but I believe the "Don't be Evil" jingo.

3) Fizzle

Google's known for launching potentially transformational technologies, and then wandering off like a distracted 10-year-old. If they don't put real muscle behind Buzz, it could die of atrophy. Google has a huge hill to climb if they're going to get some real mindshare away from Facebook and Foursquare. I hope they don't get discouraged very easily.

On the flipside, their products and technologies never really go away. I see Froogle everyday in Google's shopping results. Buzz has more than a touch of Sidewiki in it, and I see a lot of Wave's tech under the hood. (Brief aside: Wave isn't dead Google tech, it's just deep Google tech. It's platform/power-user stuff, and it's not for everybody.)

If Google sticks with it, and developers get crafty with the APIs, this Buzz about Buzz might actually be justified in the near future.

By the way, you can follow my Buzz here:


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