Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The grand experiment is over.

If you follow(ed) me on Google Buzz, you have been subjected, for the last month, to an endless barrage of imported tweets. I tried to keep them as boring and mundane as possible but unfortunately a few tweets containing actual amusing content slipped through.

One of the highlights:
buzzkillor buzz was the matrix revolutions of google

But for the most part the tweets were as boring as humanly possible.  You can check them out in all their asinine glory here:

So, what the hell was the point of all this? Well, when Twitter first came out I decided it was the Stupidest Thing Ever, mainly because it seemed like Facebook status updates with minor sugar- and easy enough for Facebook to implement the features necessarily to replicate and kill Twitter. I have now amended my position to say that Twitter simply does not suit my needs- although it is still true that Facebook could easily implement the features required to kill it. When Google Buzz first came out (and still to this day), it was the new Stupidest Thing Ever. Google has customarily been known for releasing products that are a clear cut above the competition. Google search had the most accurate translation of your query into usable results. Gmail had huge mail storage capacity and conversation-threading, among other great features. Google Maps had the best UI (click and drag map scrolling and zooming in and out via mousewheel). And so on.

So what did Google Buzz have? Nothing good.
  • No ability to require followers to authenticate first.
    Yes, I realize that one can remove followers after the fact but that is hardly a solution.
  • No ability to filter out friends' Buzz content by import stream.
    For example, the ability to filter out all imported YouTube updates but still get everything else. Do we really have to wait for Farmville to get ported to Buzz before Google realizes the value of being able to selectively filter out feed content? Of course haha I'm just kidding, Zynga wouldn't be dumb enough to waste their time porting to a failed social media platform.
  • No privacy controls whatsoever.
    No concept of groups of friends with differing levels of visibility, the aforementioned inability to require authentication before allowing a follower, etc, etc.
  • Use of email for notifications, effectively devaluing email.
    Note the way Facebook uses a separate notification system, a separate requests system, etc. Using email for everything will just cause people to either start ignoring email (which won't happen) or turn off Buzz (which will).
Anyway, it was a clusterfuck, and their worst product launch ever, as far as I can remember. So, in response, I combined my twin hates of Twitter and Buzz and devised a plan. If only I could have done it all on a Netbook, I would have achieved the trifecta.

I created a Twitter account aptly-named "buzzkillor", set Buzz up to automatically import its tweets, then disabled buzz in my GMail. What this amounts to is that I would be able to annoy the everliving fuck out of people following me on Buzz without actually being on Buzz and thus not receiving any of their annoying updates or comments or likes or whathaveyou.

Here were the results (click for bigger):
day 1. mar 21: 39 followers
day 2, mar 22: 35 followers
day 3, mar 23: 35
day 4, mar 24: 32 followers - end of day 4, admission: no i'm not on buzz
day 5, mar 25: 31 followers - sera hill follows on twitter
day 6, mar 26: 28 followers - rachel stops following
day 7, mar 27: 28
day 8, mar 28: 27 followers
day 9, mar 29: 27
day 10, mar 30: 27
day 11, mar 31: 27
day 12, apr 1: 26 followers
day 13, apr 2: 26
day 14, apr 3: 26
day 15, apr 4: 26 followers - started ikariam tweeting
day 16, apr 5: 25 followers
day 17, apr 6: 25
day 18, apr 7: 25
day 19, apr 8: 24 followers
day 20, apr 9: 24
day 21, apr 10: 24
day 22, apr 11: 24
day 23, apr 12: 24
day 24, apr 13: 24
day 25, apr 14: 23 followers, mentioned that everyone should unfollow me the day before
day 26, apr 15: 23
day 27, apr 16: 23
day 28, apr 17: 23
day 29, apr 18: 23
day 30, apr 19: 23
day 31, apr 20: 23

I started with 39 and quickly dwindled down to a very Discordian 23. I can only assume that the 23 followers who remain are some combination of the insane, stalkers, and/or also have Buzz disabled and thus haven't seen my deluge of tweets.

I'm hoping that Google fixes the problems with Buzz, but thus far their response has been fairly weak. Facebook is in serious need of strong competitor, especially given their repeated privacy violations/questionable moves.

Designing a social media platform today without placing privacy considerations at the top spot is a recipe for failure.


  1. I think the point of this post is that you don't really get Twitter. Which is fair enough. But that doesn't mean Twitter sucks. It just means the one-liner is not your idiom of choice.

  2. No, as I say in the post "I have now amended my position to say that Twitter simply does not suit my needs- although it is still true that Facebook could easily implement the features required to kill it".

    Twitter doesn't suck because you can filter by groups or by favorites, which Buzz does not offer. All or nothing.

  3. Seriously, you actually spent more time typing this article that looking at Buzz.

    3 of your 4 requirements are already met, and it's my opinion that the last one is irrelevant anyway.

    Since day one, Buzz has allowed you to post privately to groups that you control, I know it's well hidden, the "Post Privately" link is on every Buzz submission page, and the groups are controlled from the "Contacts" link... So in short, since it began Buzz has allowed you to post as publicly or privately as you like.

    As for filtering, this has also been included within Buzz since it began. To filter based on sources, use the "source:" keyword. See if you can guess what happens if you use "-source:twitter" in a search...

    Filtering out notifications is just as easy, use a GMail filter "is:buzz" on your inbox, and do what you like with it. Not exactly difficult, and again available since the launch.

    That leaves the authentication of follow requests. I think this is irrelevent because I firmly believe that if you press the "Post Publicly" button that your post is, well public, and anyone can view/follow it. If I want a post to be private, then I can use the "Post Privately" button, and only people I choose get to see it. The contact groups form all the authentication required for a social medium like buzz.

    This article is really a testament to laziness. Actually try looking at the features presented to you, none of these have been hidden, and they've always been since the release.

    I find that Buzz suits me because Twitter is all or nothing (You're either private or public, there's no fine grained control) and Facebook outright lies to you. Facebook shares info you specifically request to be private, and goes to great lengths to make it difficult to be private.

    Buzz, so far, just does exactly what it says it will do.

  4. Hey Glenn thanks so much for the detailed response. I should clarify something right off the top- I am definitely not a Facebook or Twitter advocate. In fact, I started I've become extremely dissatisfied with Facebook's recent privacy violations, to the point that I started a group called "anything PRIVATE shall never be made PUBLIC" in attempts to gather the support necessary to fix the privacy problems. You can check out the group here, if it interests you:

    Anyway regarding your comments, you are mostly correct in terms of the factual claims being made.

    In fact, I was totally wrong about the privacy control of items posted to Buzz. I'm not quite sure how I missed that. I guess with all the kerfuffle regarding auto-selected followers at the onset, I misdiagnosed the problem in the extreme.

    Regarding filtering, I was not aware of the "-source:" syntax, but this seems to search all public buzzes for any non-twitter sources. This is not what I want. I'm talking about filtering the stream of follower content and removing, for example, all twitter content, which, to my knowledge, is not possible. So, a single user importing an extremely annoying Buzz-compliant app (such as a theoretical Farmville for Buzz) would flood one's feed, with the only option being unfollowing.

    Regarding turning off notifications, I am aware of the ability to do this via a GMail filter, but this is a pretty hacky workaround. I think it's fair to say there is no general UI for dealing with this cleanly. It's the sort of thing the average user will not do, which is the point when I say that the average user will be inundated with notification emails and choose to disable Buzz rather than have their email be flooded (since adding a filter won't come to mind).

    Regarding authentication of follow requests, yes, you're right that I could post everything privately to a contact list. But this goes against my intuition. Shouldn't, to the average user's mind, posting something on buzz only go to their followers? It doesn't, and this is not immediately clear. In fact, I didn't realize this until I saw what happened when I tried the -source search trick you talked about. At any rate, this is more of an architectural-intent/UI issue, again. In order for me to post things only to those who I wish to allow, I must create a contact list, and post privately to that list at all times- instead of simply choosing who can and cannot follow me and posting "publicly" to those followers only and not the internet at large. A UI/intent issue.

    I don't think I was so much lazy in my approach as simply befuddled by the UI design. Consider the number of steps required to get the functionality I desire (which is considered standard in other social media sites) and the number of misconceptions I had. Is this because I am a dumb user? I don't think so, not particularly. I think it's because the design is so oblique.

    At any rate, thanks very much the comments, and I hope to hear your response.