That Buzzing Sound in Your Inbox


The Google Inbox Massacre.

Perhaps Google called it Buzz because that’s the sound of a chainsaw.

The chainsaw you want to take to your Gmail Inbox.

Google announced Google Buzz this week – a Twitter/FriendFeed hybrid that lives inside of Gmail.  The advantage of Buzz is that it allows you to instantly connect to the people you already communicate  with via email messages.  Buzz turns your inbox into status update engine.

You can easily share photos, videos, blog posts, tweets, etc.  As Google notes:

“If you think about it, there’s always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most.”

I really like the ease of sharing dynamic content.  Unlike Twitter and FriendFeed, you can view the photos and videos right from your inbox.  There’s no links – no travel.  That’s a nice feature.

But I agree with Jennifer Leggo that Buzz feels intrusive.  Gmail is my personal, private email account.  I don’t use it often and generally only check in once a day – and often times I skip a day when I’m busy at work.  Yet this once quiet little corner of the internet is suddenly – and quiet loudly (remember the chainsaw) – a social media network.

And it wants attention – like a barking, slobbering puppy.

I’ve got followers in my inbox.  I’ve got people wanting to follow me back.  I’ve got Buzz notifications lighting up my inbox.  This might be the worse feature of Buzz – ongoing conversations (read – long conversations) keep bumping up to the top of my inbox.  This means that popular conversations ride to the top – and not necessary my popular conversations – but conversations belonging to others.

For example, I made one lousy comment to Tom Foremski and suddenly his post is dominating my inbox.  I like Tom – but I’m not all that interested in this conversation anymore and yet it won’t go away.

I’m only following less than 30 people so far and last night I made a few comments here and there – put out 2 or 3 posts of my own.  And this morning I’ve got more than 29 “buzzes” in my inbox.  This is because Gmail alerts me to every new comment on every thread that I participated in last night.  And if you participate in a popular thread – with dozens of replies – you’ll get dinged just as many times.

So much for my quiet corner of the Internet.

David Couresy over at PC World thinks Buzz is Google’s most aggressive attack on Facebook and Twitter.  Hard not to agree with his logic.  It is curious that both Facebook (via FriendFeed) and Twitter can be integrated right into Buzz – considering that it was built to put them both out of business.  Couresy thinks Facebook must do everything it can to protect Facebook proper from Buzz or face extinction.

“Given Google’s modus operandi, Buzz will manage to somehow strip revenue from any social network that it allows it to connect. Eventually there will be just Google. Don’t believe me? Sit back and watch. Facebook must act now to stop this. It should never allow Buzz to aggregate Facebook content or send updates to Facebook users. If Facebook does this today, nobody will notice and not much of a stink will be raised.”

One thing is for sure – and 2010 will likely be the year for this – people are going to start getting social media burn-out.  There’s only so many social networks that each of us can belong to.  And the benefits of social media only exist if most of your social/work circle is in the same place – not fragmented on different networks.  Sooner or later, we’re all going to have to choose one primary location.

Right now Facebook appears to be the place.  But things change fast in social media (Friendster?  Are you still there, Friendster?).

Buzz is Google’s bid on a real-time social media network.  Right now I’m going to give Buzz a shot and try it out for a few days.  If it gets to be more irritation than benefit then I’ll shut it down.  Google, thankfully, allows users return to just email (its a button right at the bottom of your inbox page).

So what are your thoughts? Are you on Buzz?  Do you like it?  Hate it?

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4 Responses to “That Buzzing Sound in Your Inbox”

  1. I think its pretty cool so far. I love how its IN my gmail, however I could do without all the emails when something happens, its like double notices.

    Need to get some more activity from my friends on there before I can make a solid assessment.

  2. Hi Brian:
    I agree – lots of benefits to having an email/social networking system integrated. I like how fast and reliable the service has been so far. But as you say, those darn double notices are a big distraction.

  3. I haven’t yet found a reason to replace my use of Facebook and Twitter in Buzz yet. If you want my time and effort, I need something compelling and new from you Google. And not just a new approach or new integration. I need new innovation and I don’t see it yet with Buzz. I’ll pay attention to it for a few more days and see what happens, but not too excited and certaintly not “wow”d.

  4. Hey Kelby:
    I think a lot of people feel the way you do – if my assessment of the Twitter and Facebook chatter is correct. But I’m sure Google has plans for Buzz. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes next.

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