Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Buzz—Social Networking We're Not Ready For?

The web is abuzz—and your in-box may be too—with news and reactions relating to Google's newest entrance to the social networking world, Google Buzz. Are we ready for the buzz? I don't think I am. And it doesn't seem as though I'm alone. Still, I had to check it out. So I activated my profile, declined to upload a photo, and made a post. Almost immediately, I "earned" 4 followers. But they weren't people I regularly emailed (that particular group was oddly silent on Buzz), and I'm not sure that they're folks I would want to share the banter that Buzz seems set up to encourage. Digging deeper, I found that Buzz had taken it upon itself to share my Picasa album as well as my Google Reader. My Picasa album is strictly for this blog—nothing sensitive housed there, nothing to hide—but I would have liked to have been asked. If I had been asked, perhaps I wouldn't have removed the links. Think about that, Google. And my Reader is just that. It's my Reader. Do others really want access to my Reader? Really?

I think that Buzz has potential. And this isn't an "I'm uncomfortable with technology" response, but I think the users could have been better prepped for this release. One post turned my in-box into a very noisy place. Google Chat has served me faithfully all these years, allowing me to reach out quickly to people I like from different platforms, to check in and keep working. Yes, there are filters to be applied to Buzz, but it didn't seem intuitive. Does Google perhaps think that we want to be connected all the time? Buzz's design suggests this, and indeed this is the message we've sent via other social networking platforms by friending hundreds of people on Facebook and acquiring massive numbers of followers on Twitter. We connect to these applications on our cell phones while waiting in line for lunch to comment on what we're planning to eat or to pass along some remark we've overheard (if we're actually listening). But we're only just starting to understand rules concerning digital etiquette. When is it appropriate to join a conversation? Are geo tags open invitations? Buzz has the potential to usher us into the next age of digital social connectivity, but we need to confront these issues first. We need to get comfortable setting digital parameters. If nothing else, for those who haven't just been blindly "buzzing," Google could help our awareness concerning our digital persona—for example, do you want to share your Picasa album?

There's real value for Buzz in the business world though—if implemented properly, it could help rid work email of horrible attachments and improve communication between team members. It could easily become a monitoring tool too as I can easily envision some bosses regularly scrutinizing Buzz and using it as a gauge for productivity. In other words, too much buzz could mean you aren't working hard enough in your little cubicle. But if you work in a more open and collaborative environment, where brainstorming is big, it might be helpful to share ideas via Buzz. It's definitely something to keep in mind as a new generation enters the workforce and brings with them new methods of communicating—methods that they've likely grown up with and are most comfortable and confident with. 

What are your thoughts on Buzz and potential "real world" applications? Personally, I'm going to wait a bit longer before reinserting Buzz into my life. I'm craving a little silence anyway.


  1. Good take on this. I tried it out and Google snet an email to me, from me, telling me I had contributed to my own Buzz. Huh?

    The other impression I had -- do I really want to be social everywhere all the time? I'm tired of being social. It's exhausting being social. I want my mail to be quiet, please. : )

    Thanks for the great post, Krystal!

  2. Thanks Mark. I think we're beginning to see a saturation with social networks and being socially connected. People haven't mastered social "netiquette" yet and I think people are need to wrestle with that before we hit the next step--and buzz has the potential to really change the face of email. But I see that Google appears to be listening so perhaps we'll see another version of Buzz soon. For now though, I think I'll watch from the sidelines.

  3. I wouldn't be so negative - for me it finally serves as a place where all the tens of social networking sites are put into one. I'm tired to check all the sites my friends are participating and - tired to send out a link to blog just because not everyone is using RSS readers or checking all the sites every day. No, actually I'm not tired, I simply cannot handle so much information in the virtual space.
    Buzz is a perfect way to unify (or at least to try to)the enormous online world.
    If you don't want to share something, simply do not do that. Make ur photo albums personal and invite people to view them, make ur tweets available to certain group of people. For God's sake, do not push the Buzz option in ur gmail. No one is saying that with the amount of new social networking sites, we need to keep up to them. It's not only unnecessary but actually impossible.
    But it's nice to find all information in one place and what's more - interact within comments, gtalk or e-mails. That's a huge value in this age of information overload.

  4. Hey Vaira. Thanks for the pro-Buzz comment. I agree that Buzz has potential to really change the way we connect and manage these connections, but many people don't take advantage of the privacy settings available—either they don't know how or choose not to, and this changes the online experience. Until the majority of the public resolves issues of netiquette, I think Buzz-like services will be met with similar noise. I'm interested to see where Buzz takes us though.