Among the bleeding-edge hipsters that read this blog, Google Buzz isn’t doing so well. It had a strong launch, but was scorned after only a few days, not only due to its privacy issues (which have fortunately been fixed tenfold). The invisible consensus seems to be that this has given Buzz an early grave, and there’s really nothing more to come back for. Which I genuinely disagree with. Buzz just has to find its place, and where it’s useful. Here are a few ways to fix Google Buzz
1. Realize that Buzz can never be Twitter and stop the automatic Twitter integration
If you have a Twitter account and a Gmail account, chances are your Buzz was automatically hooked up to receive all your tweets. This is ridiculous and should be turned off, not only by you, but by default. Here’s why.
Twitter has succeeded because of its minimalistic, slimmed down approach to status updates, not in spite of it. Buzz is not better than Twitter because it adds media and conversations to the mix; it’s something different. And because it’s something different, tweets that are crossposted to Buzz are useless. Because they are tweets, they are meant for the flowing loop that you sometimes want to be in. They have no images, they have no media, they are just shouts at the sky that someone may pick up. Buzz isn’t.
- Turn off Twitter integration by default
- Make it easy for users to filter out others Buzz integrated tweets
2. Separate Buzz from Gmail
The Gmail integration is a profound misunderstanding from Google. No doubt the integration was an attempt at giving Buzz that critical-mass boost such a service needs to succeed, but it’s clear if anything that this strategy hasn’t quite worked the way Google wanted it to.
So cut your losses and if you believe in Buzz, make it a separate service. Optional integration with services such as Gmail is alright, as long as we can turn it off. Buzz, however, should be a separate entity.
- Rejigger buzz.google.com to be the go-to URL from where Buzzes are posted and your followers explored.
3. Give me a memorable URL to my Buzz stream
Directly related to #2, part of making Buzz relevant means giving it a sharable location. Right now, you can follow my buzz at google.com/profiles/asmussen#buzz, the length of this URL speaking for itself. And when you get there, you get my Google Profile, of which my Buzz stream is a small part.
I’m not averse to Google profiles, I know their effect on search results (which is a different, interesting story). I don’t even mind my Buzz being shown there. But sharing links, images and stories is no fun if no-one is reading my shares, so naturally I want to make it easy to follow my Buzz.
- Clean up the Buzz URLs
4. Make it easier to follow me
Feel free to substitute “me” with “you”.
Have you noticed how there’s no “follow” button on my Buzz profile? Yeah, that’s an oddball decision. At first, Google made it too easy to follow people, by doing it for you. Now I’ve all but forgotten how it’s done.
Turns out, you do it in Gmail under the Buzz label by clicking “Find people”. One problem with this is that it’s all but impossible to see what this person has shared before following them.
- Make an inviting, soft, Follow button that’s easily visible on a Buzz profile
5. Build on the strengths of Buzz
Immediately on launch day, the strength of Buzz seemed to be the fact that you automatically had a huge bunch of followers among your contacts, and that you had already buzzed quite a bit since Buzz had connected to services it attributed to you and sucked out their contents. Now, I believe, that’s Buzz’ biggest weakness.
Related to #1, reading tweets in your Buzz stream is a waste of time at best, and confusing at worst. I’m not opposed to your ability to hook up your chat status, your Picasa, Flickr or YouTube streams, but it should be done in a way that makes it feel like it was meant for Buzz, not just an “oh by the way”, a lifestream or a backup system.
I now believe Buzz’ has a number of main strengths, which makes it more a Digg.com competitor than a Twitter alternative.
The good thing about Buzz, is that it’s
- easy to share things
- shared items are nicely layed out with readable text and pretty images or video to go with it
- a nice place to comment on stories, whether it be with your friends only, or the public as a whole
I’ve previously applauded the concise discussions that take place on Twitter. It keeps things fresh, and it’s now clear to me that the steady decline in blog comments has meant a steady increase in Twitter. This is all very good. Except that for some discussions, 140 characters doesn’t cut it. And that’s where Buzz has a shot.
- See points 1-4 and the pieces will fall in to place.
6. Give Google Reader a usability overhaul
Google Reader may have been the progenitor of Buzz, in that you could share things with friends, follow people, and comment on stories.
Now that Buzz is here, Google should decide the role of Google Reader. Either it should be
- more integrated with Buzz, so that the overlap is clear and easy to grasp (which I think is a hard task)
- less integrated with Buzz, so that all Google Reader does is post to your Buzz account
I’m personally a fan of the second option. Which means removing all social aspects of Google Reader, and working them into Buzz instead.
The result would be a Google Reader which is a feed-reader with the ability to post stuff to your Buzz stream.
- remove follow, unfollow and block features from Google Reader
- let the only remaining social features be “Share” and “Share with Note”, which posts to Buzz.
Aside from the larger issues, there are a number of smaller issues to add to Googles Buzz ToDo, things that would trim and tweak the overall experience. Things such as:
- make it easier to integrate feeds
- make it easier to permalink to individual buzz posts.
- make buzz posts, optionally with comments, embeddable
- make it easy for me to create a “comment on Buzz” button on my website, so that I can finally turn off my blog comments
Coming Soon To A Blog Near You
I consider these bulletpoints to be rather straight-forward and even easy fixes for Google to integrate. Frankly, they’re not even novel ideas, they’re features one would assume Buzz to have launched with anyway. Which begs the question if Google omitted these tweaks on purpose.
I don’t think they did. It’s always hard building new products like this. I’m sure Google wanted to genuinely innovate in this spot. Failing to do so, they should make it work. Which I believe it can.