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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Buzz-Kill

Okay, I know I'm late to the discussion of Google's new social network offering called 'Buzz'; but as you can see from the last few posts, I've been a little busy.  So à propos of this site's name, here are my 'afterthoughts' on the subject:

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with my friend and fellow blogger Ben Chorin at two consecutive affairs.  This in and of itself is not terribly surprising since our 'worlds' overlap on many levels.  And seeing as our wives are walking and knitting buddies, and Ben and I share a more-than-academic appreciate for the distiller's art, meetings by chance or design are equally enjoyable.

At one of last week's affairs, Ben and I started talking about Buzz... first on a general level (as in "How could Google have done something this stupid?"), and then on a personal level (as in "How could Google have done something this stupid to me?").

On a general level, I think we can all agree that in its haste to dive into the deepest end of the social networking pool and start swimming with the big boys (Facebook et al), Google made an deeply flawed assumption about its gmail users: that nobody would mind having the people they email most frequently automatically set up as a ready-made social network.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.  Remember how lonely those first few days of Facebook membership were while you tried to populate your virtual clubhouse with friends (real and imagined)?  Well Google figured since they know who you communicate with most frequently, those would be the obvious choices to kick off your new Buzz social network.

This by itself was not disastrous, since the basic assumption is sound.  What set the barn afire was the subsequent assumption that you would want to make your new, ready-made Buzz world visible to the real world.

On a personal level, whoever made this deeply flawed inductive leap must have been some sort of Eagle Scout.  It never occurred to him/her that, for a good portion of the Gmail world, email activity might be split fairly equally between 'legitimate' friends and family... and a mixed bag of mistresses, bookies, drug dealers and other 'unsavory' types.

While I'm certainly no Eagle Scout, I must lead a fairly chaste life since I was more annoyed by being automatically opted into the whole Buzz thing than by the possibility that my wife might find something/someone damning among my most frequent email correspondents. 

But by the same token, to paraphrase George Costanza: Having 'world's collide' can be an extremely unsettling thing, even for someone with nothing unsavory to hide. 

I know from my own experience that before I got married, my work, music and community lives almost never bumped up against one another... and it was only Zahava's entrance upon the scene that created bridges and tunnels between them where none had existed before.  And I'd be lying if I said this was an entirely welcome and pleasant development.

I'm having trouble articulating why a person would want to keep business, social and family 'worlds'  from touching one another (I think this may be more of a guy thing).  But to some extent, their separateness allowed me to have a slightly different persona in each... a somewhat liberating experience that can only be duplicated by going alone to a foreign country.  Once those worlds began colliding (thanks to my lovely wife, who had to be introduced to everyone), I heard more than once that someone was surprised to see me in a 'new light' (whatever that meant).

Now that I have spent nearly seven years airing my personal life here in the blogosphere, I can't fully recall what it was like having separate worlds that had no inkling of the other orbits in which I traveled.  But I remember enough to know that - even for an Eagle Scout - having Google smash all of your worlds together must have been a tremendous buzz kill.

Note:  For those who want to disable Buzz altogether, simply scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail screen and click the 'Turn Off Buzz' link. 

Posted by David Bogner on February 21, 2010 | Permalink

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Here in Israel, worlds don't just collide. They practically smash into each other at the speed of light.

The cashier at the bank turns out to be your neighbor's brother-in-law. And your new client turns out to be the anonymous woman sitting next to you at a wedding the night before. Etc.

Posted by: Mrs. S.. | Feb 21, 2010 3:53:08 PM

"Note: For those who want to disable Buzz altogether, simply scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail screen and click the 'Turn Off Buzz' link. "

Luckily, Google changed that option... initially, clicking that link just made Buzz disappear from the inbox' sidebar. It didn't make a user EXIT from Buzz and -for those with public profiles and all- reset everything to zero. Now, they set the link so that you're taken to your account settings where you can delete both all Buzz stuff, BUT it'll also delete your Google profile.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10455087-2.html

That's sort of a punishment, isn't it? I believe many people have no problems keeping a public Google profile but are not the least interested in using Buzz.

As for mashing "private" and "public" together -- many small businesses utilize Google instead of running their own email server. They trust Google to not play foul with their privacy, and Google knows it.
A Google profile works like a neat business card on the web; it even provides a kind of contact formular without exposing your email address. But now that Buzz enters the playground, it could easily expose whom I am doing business with, whom they do business with... it's a bit like my secretary hacking the entire mailing list of customers (and competitors...) into the To: field of an email once again. No one loves such secretaries.

Google misses the point when they seriously assume that all their users are fun dudes who don't care about privacy, and when they assume that they can ignore industry standards because "they can".

I liked this piece, btw.: http://gawker.com/5419271/google-ceo-secrets-are-for-filthy-people

Posted by: a. | Feb 21, 2010 3:58:13 PM

Dunno if it's a guy thing, but I concur. This is the same sort of thing that enables me to hang out with a buddy for hours, have the wife ask "how is how wife and kids?" only to have me answer, "the subject never came up." ;o/

So, to summarize:

(a) iPad was developed by men

(b) Buzz was developed by women

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Feb 21, 2010 7:58:02 PM

Google itself answers your questions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGwYrZLvvJU

Posted by: Baila | Feb 21, 2010 11:09:34 PM

But when you try to kill buzz there is a warning.
"Disable Google Buzz
This will disable Google Buzz in Gmail and delete your Google Profile and Buzz posts. It will also disconnect any connected sites and unfollow you from anyone you are following."

What does that mean? Why should this delete my profile? I had a profile before buzz. Is my blogspot blog going to get deleted too?

Posted by: Andy | Feb 22, 2010 1:10:00 AM

There are a lot of time sucks out there and all sorts of things that are adding noise to our daily lives.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 22, 2010 2:03:34 AM

Most of the people I e-mail own stores that owe us money. The next largest group are all yahoos.

Of course, if we are talking social non-work related, there's bloggers, zionist agitators, friends, and relatives. Only the first three of those four overlap.
Facebook is fine. Hyves, for the few Dutch speakers I can still tolerate after years of bile, is also fine. Didn't even know about buzz, as I only use my google account to have a blog.
Whoo, as the say, pee.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Feb 22, 2010 8:02:57 AM

It's not a guy thing. I'm not a guy, and I've eliminated Buzz from all my gmail addresses; I have separate ones for separate worlds which I don't want colliding. I don't do facebook or twitter or anything like that, either. I cannot fathom why anyone wants their every move and thought broadcast to the entire world. I think it's a generational thing, personally. I value my privacy, but my kid and her peers think entirely differently about such things. Yikes... it's probably only a matter of days beore I start yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn...

Posted by: bratschegirl | Feb 22, 2010 8:52:07 AM

"But when you try to kill buzz there is a warning.
"Disable Google Buzz
This will disable Google Buzz in Gmail and delete your Google Profile and Buzz posts. It will also disconnect any connected sites and unfollow you from anyone you are following."

What does that mean? Why should this delete my profile? I had a profile before buzz. Is my blogspot blog going to get deleted too?"

Andy, your Google profile is your Google profile. Buzz works via a public Google profile, so to speak. Your other Google tools portfolio should not be affected when you completely disable Buzz.

That's another point that bothers me to no end: Google knows that its services are being used by a lot of not-so-tech-savvy people, yet by taping out products, Google often acts like it was all about geeks and nerds. No average person gets Google's tech writing, and it looks as if the tech writing has deteriorated with Buzz.


@bratschegirl:
It is not a generational thing. It is an issue of media competency. The often-praised digital natives may be experts when it comes to handle the internet, but shockingly many are badly educated with things regarding their privacy and safety. If no one teaches them, they just can't know better - which parents don't tell their kids about looking left&right before crossing the street, to never talk to strangers, to never step into strangers' cars? It should be the same with the internet, just that many parents and teachers are under-educated themselves when it comes to the internet.

You can use Twitter and Facebook for purely promotional reasons, e.g. to market your online and offline business and services, without ever revealing a peep about your personal life and sensitive data about your business if you decide not to. How so? Because reasonable, well-designed social media applications are strictly opt-in (something which Google's Buzz isn't) and let a user define their own level of privacy before broadcasting the first blurb to the internet.

Posted by: a. | Feb 22, 2010 6:54:15 PM

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