Google Buzzfail

Google Buzzfail

Summary: Quick - how do you tell when someone's sucking too much Kool-Aid? Answer: When they take an almost entirely positive view of a technology and miss something that is less than bleeding obvious but still a showstopper.


Quick - how do you tell when someone's sucking too much Kool-Aid? Answer: When they take an almost entirely positive view of a technology and miss something that is less than bleeding obvious but still a showstopper.

So it is that my colleague Dion Hinchcliffe says of Google Buzz:

My take: Google Buzz is well-designed and useful but it’s going to be seriously challenged because the very people most likely to be interested in Buzz will already have places to carry out their online social activities. This means Google Buzz may end up being more useful in places where there’s a lot less dominance by the consumer Social Web, such as in the enterprise.

Hold it tiger. While I wasn't exactly straight out the gate on this one I sure am glad I hung back. Google Buzz is intrusive and contains a major privacy problem.

Jennifer Leggio had this to say:

...there’s no hiding from it. If you’re on Gmail, you’re buzzable. You can choose not to buzz and you can choose not to follow others but you can’t really choose not to participate (Updated: There is an option to turn off Buzz at the very bottom of your Gmail pane). If you are using Google Picasa and Google Reader yet are not wholly aware of Buzz, you  may not realize what you are publishing and promoting to your Buzz stream because you may not know it exists. Yes, Virginia, there are people who don’t live and breathe social networking.

I've not seen anything from Jason Perlow on these pages (Update: Jason describes his woes with Buzz)  but I saw what he had to say on Twitter (you need to read from the bottom up):

In other words - we're being spammed.

In my own assessment niftily titled Google: Buzz Off! I said:

Despite the claim to help me: ‘to start conversations about the things you find interesting,’ it does nothing of the sort. Instead, it adds in any ’stuff’ that people it has decided I am following put into their Buzz (a bit like Twitter) along with any other accounts that Google has linked via their profiles such as Flickr, Twitter, Google Reader, assorted blogs….the list goes on. In other words it is aggregating a pile of stuff and lobbing it over the wall into my GMail.

Now – don’t get me wrong. I like my friends. A lot. But I’m blowed if I need or want to know their EVERY movement on the Internet. I’m pretty sure the same feeling is reciprocated.

Then I discovered that Google has opened up a way of messing with my privacy that even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg must be kicking himself for not exploiting. According to Silicon Valley Insider:

The problem is that — by default — the people you follow and the people that follow you are made public to anyone who looks at your profile.

In other words, before you change any settings in Google Buzz, someone could go into your profile and see the people you email and chat with most.

This is so whacked out as to be beyond the pale. While Google has yet to incorporate Buzz into GAPE, the intention is there. Google should be praised for its recent successes in getting into some large corporates and replacing more expensive email systems. But if it does include Buzz as currently iterated then I also say:

Make sure you REALLY understand what it will and will not do. The last thing you want is for Buzz to effectively mine and expose your internal contacts list and blast that out to the world at large.

Suw Charman-Anderson makes a more nuanced observation in her Google Buzz: Not Fit For Purpose post:

Email is causing significant problems for people, not just because of the volume of email we get these days but because dopamine circuits in our brain encourage us to seek new information and cause us to check our email more often than we realise. Every time we check email, we waste about 64 seconds getting back into doing what we were doing before. Some people check email every 5 minutes. That’s an 8-hour day each week that we waste in mental limbo. Email is a significantly counter-productive tool yet it’s our default for almost all communications.

By adding in a new source of random reward – Buzz – Google have made their inbox even more addictive and unproductive. Not only do you have a new unread Buzz messages count to lure you into checking and rechecking, Buzz also tangles up Buzz replies with your email in your email inbox. Whilst that may seem sensible from an engineering point of view, or for someone whose inbox is quiet or beautifully organised, for me and the many people like me for whom inbox is a daily struggle, this is a disaster. I just do not need extra fluff filling up my inbox.

Within two hours of Buzz invading my GMail I'd found I was wasting so much time, nothing productive was being achieved. OK - so we need give attention to the new shiny toys. But if you live in the corporate world, that level of productive destruction is unacceptable. I turned Buzz off.

Topics: Collaboration, Google

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Yes, I might turn mine off too. But, I think we are still trying to figure

    out how social networking should work, and how to
    filter out the noise. Google may be the best
    prepared in the end to search through the muck and
    only present you with the most relevant things, so
    it takes less time and is not irritating, or at
    least less irritating, and also respects your
    privacy in terms of how YOU want it respected.
    • We allready know how social networking should work

      The problem is Google is clueless as how it should work.
      They have [i]their[/i] idea of what they want it to be in a way they can monetinize, so I'm sure thet're hoping that people leave Twitter or whatever to go "their route"

      The bottom line is that social networking is handled like social gatherings: you choose when and why you want to socialize: it shouldn't wake you in your sleep unless you want it to.
      John Zern
      • They need to explain it better.

        Its there in my Gmail but I don't understand
        whether it is on or off. I tried one buzz from
        my Google Maps and it seems to have gone
        through. But now I tried to send one from Gmail
        and it said I need to set up a profile. Now I'm
        not understanding what setting up this profile
        will do. From the looks of what people are
        saying all of my email communications will be
        buzzed which I of course don't want to happen.
        Pics and stuff that fine.

        It looks like they've got to come up with some
        better controls.
        • Make that a public profile

          You need to create a public profile--never mind that you might want to
          keep everything private!

          While you're at it, why not hand over your 3rd party account information
          to Google?
      • NO, we do not know how social networking should work. As we have more back

        end processing power, and more information on the
        user, his location, what he is doing, his
        preferences, etc, we will be able to better present
        the information that is appropriate. There are many
        huge areas of research on how the user interface
        should look, how to filter, and on, and on, . . .

        The biggest problem is how to use all of the
        information to give the user what he wants, but
        still protect his privacy as he wants.
    • No...

      ...MY privacy is such that I insist on being asked if I want to participate in something, not signing me up for it and making me opt out. Just because I signed up for GMail, that doesn't mean I want Google to share everything about me with everyone else. Where are the Terms and Conditions for Buzz that I can read before deciding to participate?

      Something like this causes me to re-think using GMail at all.

      Carl Rapson
      • But Google would not have gotten a critical mass without making it opt-out

        Just like MS knew that everybody would stay with
        Netscape unless they had IE by default.
        • So?

          Does that make either one right? If it was wrong for Microsoft to force IE down users' throats, why is it OK for Google to force Buzz down users' throats?

          Carl Rapson
          • Of course the big difference, you can disable Buzz with one click.

          • RE:Of course the big difference, you can disable Buzz with one click

            Is that a cookie thats keeps the setting?? if it is, its not good enough because people clean out there cookies ALOT,that would mean,well you know what that means
          • Doesn't matter

            It should never have been turned on by default in the first place. That was wrong, and cannot be justified.

            Carl Rapson
    • Told you it's garbage, didn't we?

      And you were there stupidly defending it for Google. Put down the koolaid now.
  • What does it all mean?

    I haven't deactivated Buzz, figuring I'd just leave it there as a possibility when there's time to learn (haven't clicked on it either). I don't have accounts for Facebook, Twitter or the other services folks are posting about, but do maintain both LinkedIn and Classmates. Nothing new has come in, but does this mean my emails are going out to some social site I don't know about?

    Transferring everything to commercial in the next week or so, and from posts it doesn't look like Buzz is there. But a little elaboration on current state of affairs would be appreciated.
  • RE: Google Buzzfail

    From what I seen Buzz is nothing but noise. A friend showed me a whole conversation between two other people using it. I'd stay far away from this service. Its another failed attempt at orkut, only worse.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Google Buzzfail

    Come on folks, Buzz is a LOCATION based social networking tool. If you aren't using it on your Google Maps on your mobile phone, you aren't doing it right.

    Install the most updated Google Maps on your phone and turn on Buzz. Then you'll see what it's supposed to be. Using it only in Gmail is not what the point of it is.
  • RE: Google Buzzfail

    I was a little annoyed by the extra tabs and windows being spawned and left about as I checked for help on buzz and explored various buzz, gmail and other google services settings.
  • RE: Google Buzzfail

    "social networking" is an artificial construct that neither works nor doesn't work. the issue is relevance, velocity, adjustment. google buzz was being promoted 3 months ago by marketers as a way in which to control space and focus. so now the "techies" once again realise that they are out of touch, and that the vaunted efficiencies of a technocracy are merely a means for accelerating an idiocrasy.
  • RE: Google Buzzfail

    I turned it off. IMMEDIATELY. A former client was (forced by default) now following me, a client who had robbed me of both time and money, and the Google FAQs and forums both told me there was no way to block him. So I found the itsy bitsy link "Turn off Buzz" and I flushed it down the toilet. Let somebody else debug it. Google isn't paying me to do it. I already use Twitter x5, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, mulitple Nings, Meetup, & I sure as heck don't need another interface just for Gmail-ers.
  • Maybe Google should amend their slogan to be:

    "What we do may be half-assed, but it won't be evil."
    • Evil is as evil does

      Hence, Google is evil.