The Problem With Google Buzz Is That It Solves Google’s Problem At Your Expense

This is part of the behind-the-scenes section of Mixergy, which I call etc.

buzz another counter

I got in this morning and, in addition to the counter that shows how many unanswered emails I received overnight, Google added another counter. This one shows me that Google’s day-old service already managed to shovel over 100 new unanswered messages into my life.

If Google cared about its users, it would recognize a major pain point for us: we have too many messages being flung at our footsteps every day, each demanding a response. If they cared about us, they might pay attention to their original mission, ” to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Instead of this new addition to our burden of unread messages, they might have found a way to organize what we already get and make it more useful. Maybe they could start by finding ways for us to sort email by importance, instead of by date. Or maybe by some other Googly, algorithmly way that I couldn’t even begin to fathom because I’m not Google and they’re the experts at data management. It’s what THEY do better than anyone in the world, even today’s “cool kids” Facebook and Twitter.

So, why isn’t Google doing this? Because they’re looking at the cool sites and noticing how deeply they’ve woven themselves into our lives and they want to be like them. In other words, instead of playing to Google’s strengths, it’s giving in to Facebook-envy and Twitter-envy.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re not doing this to be cool. Maybe their goal is to find a way to figure out who your friends are so they could improve your social search results. Hey, I can get behind that. I can see how getting search results based on my friends’ preferences would be better than getting results that are sorted by which site knows the most SEO tricks.

Cool.

But to do that, can’t they take the friends I already have on Facebook and Twitter and every freakin’ other site? The data is already there. Can’t they focus on doing what they do best: Taking information that’s already out there and organize it.

This post my seem like the ranting of a mad man, but check my logic by asking yourself this question:

When you got up yesterday, were you more bothered that people couldn’t share enough information with you or by the growing pile of messages that you’re already getting?

One day someone will solve the problem of data overwhelm. I hope it’ll be a Mixergy entrepreneur because Google is busy with other things.
buzz adds another counter

  • http://www.ryanborn.net ryanborn

    Do you think one of the top search terms this week is “how to turn off google buzz”?

  • http://edge4.blogspot.com Chris Hamoen

    It's an interesting take (both source and aggregation) – I look forward to see the impact Google Wave will play.

    The challenge is that most non-techy people live in the facebook world. If they use twitter at all (most don't), they just connect it to FB. What does Buzz really give to these people that they don't already have with facebook?

    I think I agree with Calcanis – this could be more useful for business (ie in the LinkedIn world).

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I just opened my buzz link and you know what I saw?

    a post from Calacanis about his new, funny TWiST tshirts

    a post from Calacanis with his press photos

    a post from Calacanis about how Axe is telling guys to clean their balls

    Are you really sure this is what the business crowd wants?

  • Ben Tilly

    Want to turn off buzz? Go into gmail, scroll to the bottom of your screen. There are several links in the bottom couple of lines, one of which is named “turn off buzz”.

  • http://edge4.blogspot.com Chris Hamoen

    Well, I'm wondering if this can be packaged up for internal use at some point (ala google apps).

    Guys like Calcanis are sure to overuse Buzz.

    What is missing in all of this is how to properly categorize and filter data. This doesn't just apply to Buzz – but twitter, etc. For instance, I'm following someone because they're an expert on MySQL – but I don't need to hear about their dog visiting the vet.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I don't see that. Where?

    http://google.com/trends ?

  • http://www.ryanborn.net ryanborn

    It's not on trends specifically…I'm just sure many people are
    wondering…I know I searched for it. It's actually easy turn off Buzz by
    clicking a link at the bottom of gmail. Nevertheless “how to turn off
    Google buzz” is likely a popular query this week.

  • Miles

    And the hundreds of Facebook updates and Tweets that most people have to wade through are not a problem because…? If information overload were a problem people were really concerned about, they would unplug from those sites, but they don't. Sure, Buzz initially seems like FB/Twitter envy, but the integration w/Gmail and support of open standards make it a better fit (for me, anyway).

  • Noobdooder

    “But to do that, can't they take the friends I already have on Facebook and Twitter and every freakin' other site?” Short answer: no. Facebook is a closed system, thus the data isn't accessible to Google for obvious reasons.

  • http://hellosorld.com Andrew Benton

    Andrew, while it's true that your data is already out there on twitter and facebook, it's not necessarily open for consumption by any other old service that wants to come along and take it. ReadWriteWeb had a really good article about this yesterday, posted to Hacker News: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/how_google

  • mattmc

    Well, at least Buzz lets you group your contacts, post different things to friends, coworkers, and family, etc. Selective sharing is very well done. It's a big improvement on Twitter for that and for the gmail style conversations interface– and that I don't need a separate tool to track it. It's just there if I want it. I don't think it gets into the Facebook territory too much, as their friend graph is a little better.

  • http://tawheedkader.com Tawheed Kader

    Great post. I think Google (and all the social networks) are after the wrong goal here. Their goals are to exploit the human tendency to constantly seek — whereas what we really need them to do is help us answer the 3 most important questions every human being faces: 1) Who should I hang out with? 2) Who should I start a company with? 3) Who should I make babies with?

    I wrote more about this at my blog post:
    http://www.tawheedkader.com/2010/01/social-netw

  • John

    Andrew,

    Hopefully Google is listening and will streamline filtering for various messaging types and categories.

    I think the key is types of contacts and importance. e.g Business “important”, Business “chatter”, Friends, Family etc.

    I think a social network for business would be an interesting start-up.. beyond the level of a LinkedIn clone. Google seems more open to linked (federated) XMPP services than other providers.

  • Frederick Cook

    It seems like the simple fix here is to recognize that Buzz is a “stream” just like Twitter, and not mark every unread one as new. One of the great things about Twitter is that it is always there, always providing content, and you can choose to pay attention to it or not.

  • namwith

    Amen!! I could not agree with you more

  • http://darwinweb.net/ Gabe da Silveira

    Thanks for standing up and saying this. It's all too easy for bloggers to go all weak in the knees at this stuff because it fits their use case so well. Just like Scoble continuously blowing his load over Twitter day in and day out for years. Sure Twitter is perfect if you spend all your time just trying to stay connected and you don't actually *do* anything in your life. Since tech bloggers have to work so hard to stay on top of trends, it led to a huge hype bubble that is completely out of proportion to real world usage. That's why when Twitter hit the mainstream it didn't go hockey-stick like Scoble predicted—regular people just don't have the time.

    Stepping back a bit, the social media revolution was the 2000's contribution to the greater ongoing struggle of dealing with the data explosion of the information age. Friendster / MySpace / Facebook figured out how to use the social graph to make information more relevant. Twitter figured out how to make data very granular and thus easy to consume. But these ideas have already been pushed to the limit. The next innovation is going to be around quieting the noise.

    Still, you can't blame Google for trying to get a piece of the real-time social action while the gettin's good.

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  • khurammalik

    Great post Andrew,

    I'm really enjoying the posts and anecdotes.

  • http://www.YourDoseofLunacy.com Monica Hamburg

    Agreed. I face information overload everyday. I can really get behind the idea of a “Googly” (thanks for that – that new word makes me happy) way to organize. Personally, I don't want a shiny new toy with more stuff.

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  • http://www.assaydepot.com/ Christopher Petersen

    I had the same thought, great one more list of message. :/

    Question, if you turn off buzz, what happens when someone mentions you? Does it look like you're not replying?

  • jerbear

    I Quite like Buzz. I would gladly use that over Twitter any day as you can write longer messages and embed rich data unlike Twitter with its cryptic abbreviations, code, and sketchy shortened URLs. I like it as much as Facebook because it keeps the status updates and link/content sharing but gets rid of all the spammy apps and games that I have to block with browser addons to make the service usable. Inly downside I see is that some people are really wedded to their old yahoo and hotmail accounts and won't switch to Gmail despite the many benefits.

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  • Brian Crockford

    Google's actually already trying to figure out who your friends are for Buzz. The most obvious way is using your Gmail contacts; but if they aren't already, they'll be using their Social Graph API (http://code.google.com/apis/socialgraph/) to track down the people you know so they can suggest them, just like Facebook does internally for its suggestions.

  • Aeiluindae

    I don't use twitter of facebook, but I might actually use Buzz. Why? Because it's in my GMail account already. Because it offers better control over where my stuff goes, even if the auto-adding can be a little scary. I got off of facebook because, aside from me not using it, I hated the way it worked. I'd use Buzz to share stuff with people that I would normally put in a one line email, at the very least.

  • jstein81

    Its not like using Buzz is a requiment to use gmail. If its too much shut if off. Just becuase its there does not mean you have to use it.

  • http://gregcohn.com/blog gscohn

    well said andrew.

    (hey, any reason i can't login with yahoo here?)

  • Juan

    100 with you.

    To much information… and all mixed up!

  • kareem

    nah, not a madman, i totally agree. i checked it out for all of 30 seconds. i don't need another information firehose – i need something that'll help me filter smartly. seems like that's right up google's alley, too…

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  • <twitter/facebook> — buzz

    everybody is gleefully following the bandwagon that says this is G's attempt to compete with twitter/facebook. One should look at it as another progression toward a complete UC, something twitter and facebook couldn't hope to achieve. it's like this facebook and twitter do their thing well… buzz is in it's own unique category. Google has within 2 36 hrs modified the privacy settings.

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  • tiredofit

    That was exactly my feeling — I turned off Buzz immediately because I am obsessive about having my inbox empty, and I really don't care about all these little tweet-like messages that are not directed directly to me. E-mail is for people who want to communicate something to ME, and social media is for people who want to communicate to the public. Mixing the two just makes things problematic.

  • <twitter/facebook> — buzz

    everybody is gleefully following the bandwagon that says this is G's attempt to compete with twitter/facebook. One should look at it as another progression toward a complete UC, something twitter and facebook couldn't hope to achieve. it's like this facebook and twitter do their thing well… buzz is in it's own unique category. Google has within 2 36 hrs modified the privacy settings.

  • tiredofit

    That was exactly my feeling — I turned off Buzz immediately because I am obsessive about having my inbox empty, and I really don't care about all these little tweet-like messages that are not directed directly to me. E-mail is for people who want to communicate something to ME, and social media is for people who want to communicate to the public. Mixing the two just makes things problematic.

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