A little bit of some colorful language that’s bleeped out in this one, but it’s completely true.
“How many of you have Google Wave accounts? We don’t even understand that one, but you signed up anyway, because we said you needed it.”
Google Buzz is rapidly approaching its 2nd full day in the wild, and there seem to be two questions from a couple different audiences. (Actually, there’s three, but I refuse to address the hysteria of the privacy question, because it’s a setting that can be adjusted when you start using your Buzz profile).
Question 1 is from the ingrained, social media junkie. They see Buzz and ask, “Why do I need another network that does things mine already do.” It seems excessive to them, and another barrier in the way to the grail of Inbox Zero.
Question 2 is from the regular Gmail user who may not be used to status message aspects of networks like Facebook. When they first get Buzz in their inbox, the question is, “What the hell is this?” I caught the firehose-to-the-face analogy yesterday in a Bizzle (a term coined by a friend), but I think it may be closer to learning how to swim by jumping in the deep end…from a high dive.
I think all of the questions can be answered by looking at what Buzz takes from other networks and what it does on its own. For the second half of that, the biggest separator is not in the technology, but in the social grid it’s built upon. Instead of needing to reinvent your network, it’s taking advantage of the one that already exists, and doing so in a way that actually rethinks what defines an online contact. It may be a cold and calculated version of networking, but auto-creating contacts over approval processes is a pretty big shift.
The other part is how Buzz may be doing more to morph the other networks of its users. Buzz will take some adoption for it to truly be mainstream, but those who embrace will immediately change how they are using other things like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, if it matters, FriendFeed.
Think about the components that make up each of these networks. Facebook, for example, is mainly a relationship-driven element. Who are your friends, how do you represent yourself to them, how are you connected in statuses, etc. That part Buzz will never touch. But the newer parts of the community – things like the news feed – seem to be at a direct pull for Google’s application. Buzz comes through, cuts off one part, and redefines the other network. That’s the “Buzz” Line:
The idea here is that the sum of Buzz is the news, commenting and sharing features it collects from the other services. Here’s the way I see the split:
- Facebook, as mentioned, becomes the personal, relationship management network. The news articles you usually share on there probably end up being commented on only by the small percentage of contacts who are in your Gmail anyway. However, the relationships are still really valuable, and can’t be replaced.
- FriendFeed is completely co-opted. The only thing keeping it separate is the difference of the start-from-zero network of contacts.
- LinkedIn lends the idea of managed contacts, but Buzz doesn’t really have much to offer in terms of corporate networking. Mild trickle over, but the professional-only network really goes back to being just that.
- Twitter becomes more about discovery and less about the conversation. Farm links there, share and talk about them in Buzz. With a plugged in Twitter account, that’s automatic.
There are probably many other networks impacted here (I’m thinking of what will happen to the niche Flickr communities), but those are just the main four that seem to be infringed by the application. Managing the conversation on Buzz may soon be the most active, and I can see that happening for me. That may be partially because of the ticking time bomb of a new message counter, but also because it provides a funnel of merely information and conversation among the filtered group of my contacts.
The trick will be learning how to handle the information flow. If you can survive the first blast, it should be fine, and the overlapping of new groups will also create new connections. There’s nothing wrong with muting the epic conversations of a chatty friend (trust me, I’ve done it). No one’s feelings are going to be hurt if you don’t follow them, either. Remember, that isn’t blocking them from your mail or talk, just not watching their lifestream.
Day 2 of Buzz has gone. By Day 3, maybe we’ll figure out even more ways to build on it and find utility. I’ve already changed my habits on other networks…have you?
Special thanks to Courtney Tincher for her contributions to this post.
For those of us stuck in piles of snow in D.C., social networks have been pretty helpful for letting us post messages such as, “Oh my God it’s still snowing,” sharing pictures and videos of snow, passing along blog posts written about other people who are talking about snow, etc. It’s been part entertainment, part cabin-fever-combat, but it also helps beautifully illustrate two social media stories from the week.
First, Facebook got some notice for its new position in the world as a major news destination (news in this case being actual news, not how much snow is out your window). It’s now the fourth biggest traffic driver to mainstream news outlets out there, and it really shouldn’t be that surprising. Given the growth in usage of the publisher feature and how – even if we fought it the only way we know how, with Facebook groups – the news feed actually has become central, this is inevitable. There is critical mass and people with whom you likely want to share things.
The second social news story is buried within the hoopla around Google Buzz. The Buzz feature, announced yesterday, seemed to have “Google Reader Explosion” as its modus operandi. Everyone across tech, social media, mobile, and news blogs went nuts with the unveiling, and it made the iPad coverage look like a small gadget announcement. Why? Mainly because it’s easier to explain than Wave. Kidding, but only a little. This was just easier to grasp – it’s just a modified version of the other status sharing tools we’ve all come to use in the last few years. It’s part FriendFeed, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader – just built on a different social grid.
The difference with Buzz isn’t how it works (remember, that was Wave’s big problem), it’s who you are sharing these updates with. Gone are follows and friend approvals; instead, the network is the people with whom you e-mail frequently. The funny thing is how that may split the user base. Some (like me) fundamentally using Gmail for personal contacts and efforts (including this blog). Others use it as a main center of business. I’m much more likely to be willing to share than the latter group.
Between Facebook and Buzz, there are clearly a growing number of ways for us to share information and news – but the ability to create and report also grows significantly. Buzz may never catch on across the board, but it’s always possible since it’s ingrained into Gmail; it at least has a better chance of being used than Google’s last attempt. The Facebook news feed may truly be focused on news, both personal and journalistic. Either method, the future will certainly revolve around the audiences of these networks.