Unless the East Cast blizzard has driven you off the grid, you’ve probably heard by now that Google has announced a new social networking component of Gmail called Buzz. I have only played with it a bit–if you check my profile, you’ll find that as of this writing I have all of one follower (feel free to join that lonely crowd)–but my first reaction is that Buzz is far too Googly for its own good.
The most widely used social networking services, Facebook and especially Twitter, owe much of their success to their extreme simplicity. It’s true that Twitter extremely limited set of features can be frustrating. But it’ also true that a newbie can be up and running on Twitter in about five seconds. Buzz, somewhat like Google Wave, offers a plethora of features and with them a big pile of geeky complexity.
This is illustrated well by a Buzz post by Brad Fitzpatrick, who describes himself in his profile as a “Google hacker.” He gives useful advices on how to connect a blog feed to Buzz. Unfortunately, the process includes:
2) Next you need to verify it, making sure that there’s a rel=me link path back to your Google Profile. Buzz requires verification to connect sites (with the exception of a few things like Twitter and Flickr which don’t require verification, for various reasons). To verify the site(s), you need a rel=me link path from them to your Google Profile URL. For docs on XFN and how to mark it up, see:
And that’s only the second of four steps. In other words, as is common with Google products Google products, many of Buzz’s advanced features are designed for folks with fairly deep understanding about how the Web works and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty with HTML, XML, and all those other MLs. (For what it’s worth, I’m, going to have to spend some time with his instructions to figure out how to link this blog to my Buzz feed.)
Even filling out the Buzz profile page is a daunting experience. It’s not immediately clear what some of the options mean and I found some of the privacy options difficult to understand. For example, just what is the implication of checking “Allow people to contact me (without showing my email address.)”? Is this a way to let long-lost friends find me or an invitation to a flood of spam? Damned if I know.
My brief encounter with Buzz has left me with the feeling that it’s a great plaything for geeks, but the very features that techies find appealing may keep the mass audience at Facebook and Twitter.