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Archive for February, 2010

Why I’m going to give Google Buzz time

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

While I’ve been busy covering millions of dollars in budget cuts this week, otherwise known as doing my day job, the Internet has been abuzz itself, over Google Buzz. (Apologies for the pun.)

I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out, but most of the posts from my network so far have gone something like this: “I am so uninterested in Google Buzz. I ALREADY HAVE TWITTER.” (That was my friend Kate’s buzz, which spurred a conversation that in turn has spurred this blog post.)

One of our mutual friends, Ben, replied to Kate’s post questioning the purpose of “making a crappy version of something that already exists.”

That is a valid point, but only to an extent. And I think it overlooks something that is fundamental not only on the Internet but in the world, at least the capitalistic system that governs most of the world we live in. That is, if you weren’t constantly improving on something that’s already been invented, then we’d all still be riding around in Model T’s. We’d have no cell phones. We’d have no iPhone or any iPhone competitors. That isn’t to say all these inventions were crappy revisions (obviously they weren’t), but it probably depends who you ask and on which features you measure.

And to bring it back more precisely to the Internet, as I did in my reply to Ben:

Ben by your same logic, however, the world wouldn’t have Facebook. Think about it, there was already MySpace for connecting with your friends. Or continue that logic to pre-MySpace… we’d all still be stuck on Friendster. Also, they’d never have invented GMail, because Yahoo and Microsoft beat them to the free Web mail game.

I don’t think this is a crappy version of Twitter. I don’t think Buzz is a game changer, not yet. But it has potential to do things that other social networks don’t, with the added benefit that it’s built into much of your existing network. Give it some time to grow. Everything is always hyped up or shouted down when first introduced. I still don’t “get” Google Wave. It’s stupid to me. But I’m testing it to see what it becomes. I did the same with Twitter and Facebook, which I stuck with, and plenty of other things that I didn’t.

I am probably much more early adopter than the majority of Web users. That’s why I was on Twitter 2.5 years before my company started seriously talking about social media (i.e. now). That’s why I’ve at least tested the waters of everything from FriendFeed to Tumblr to Four Square to Google Wave to Yelp to … a multitude of other lesser known sites. I don’t use those sites on a regular basis, but I have a presence there and know how they work and why they don’t work for me.

Part of being on the Internet, especially in an industry like media where the Internet and its tools are so vital, is learning to evolve with it. You can’t evolve if you dismiss every new potential tool as stupid because it does something some other product already does in a different (or even similar) way. If it’s a worthwhile tool, people will migrate toward it (e.g. MySpace to Facebook exodus) or the other tool will evolve itself to better compete (e.g. Yahoo Mail today is better than it was before GMail, though still not as good in my opinion).

So, yes, I think the buzz about Buzz is a bit much until we see how useful it actually proves to be. (Sorry that’s the second pun!) And yes, there are some valid concerns:

  • Do I really want my e-mail network to suddenly become my social network, particularly when there’s danger that my social circle and work circle don’t — and shouldn’t — overlap?
  • Do I want my flooded inbox gushing with trivial status updates from that collective network? (I already fixed this.)
  • Given my limited time in a day, how many social networks can I realistically engage in meaningfully? Does the world really need Buzz, or are we all stretched enough on existing sites?
  • How much of my online life am I truly willing to cede to Google, as it moves increasingly toward becoming Googlezon?

But I’m going to be playing around with it and at least giving it a spin to see if it really is worthy. Right now, I’ve already identified several things I like and several I don’t. But I could say just as much of any Web site, including Twitter and Facebook. So my verdict for now is it has potential. And that alone means it’s worth serious consideration.