Archive for the ‘Google Buzz’ Category

Is Google Going to Kill Buzz Next?

Will I Ever Make Explore? (75 / 365)
Photo by somegeekintn

“But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects.”

Google killed Google Wave today.

Personally I could care less. I tried Wave, found it way too difficult to understand, and gave up on it just like that. I tried it a couple of times after that, but I just never saw the point. People would explain to me all of the great ways that *others* were using it for collaboration, and I could grasp that theoretically… but then none of those things really applied to me.

Google Buzz on the other hand is a *huge* part of my online life today. In fact I’d say it’s my primary social network. I get Buzz. I really get Buzz. It’s the best interactive social platform I think I’ve ever used. It’s so much better than Facebook. But now I worry that buzz is next on the chopping block.

Buzz has not innovated as fast as I would have liked it to. There are stupid little things that still feel broken to me after months of use — cosmetic sorts of things. Like why do my Flickr photos show a headline for my most recently uploaded photo, for instance, but then show thumbnails that don’t go with that headline?

Why is it still so hard for me to find anything with the search functionality? And why does Google seem to index Twitter posts in their main search engine but not Buzz posts? Why doesn’t it do a better job at suggesting people I should follow? Why can’t I easily filter it by certain content (show me only flickr posts from my contacts, for example, or only flickr posts from my contacts with 5 likes or more). Some of the sort of stuff that FriendFeed already built before they were abandoned by Facebook.

Then there has been some of the negative PR about Buzz. The initial privacy backlash when some contact information was made public. The confusion that tying it to gmail has created for some users.

In some ways maybe Buzz is a chicken or an egg problem. It’s hard to pull people away from Facebook and Twitter when all of their friends are, well, already on Facebook and Twitter.

Where are the Google cheerleaders for Google Buzz? I mean the Google employees in leadership that were out pumping us all up when it launched. It would be nice to hear some voices from Google tell us that Google is committed to Buzz for the long haul that it’s here to stay and that if anything it will be integrated into future plans for Google’s social plans.

Vic Gundotra apparently has been put in charge of all things social at Google TechCrunch tells us today, a General in their war with Facebook. But best I can tell Gundotra doesn’t even have a Buzz account. Will Gundotra or one of his Colonels be penning a new blog post a month from now about how Google is also abandoning Buzz because, “Buzz has not seen the user adoption we would have liked”?

Is it time to move on to the next thing? And what is the next thing anyways? Back to Twitter? Is it finally time to try to embrace the spammy beast that is Facebook?

Google needs their Mark Twain to step up and tell us that the “rumors of Buzz’s demise are greatly exaggerated.” If they are going to publicly execute Wave for the crime of poor user adoption, then they should reassure us that Buzz is not next. Unless Buzz really is next in which case their silence will be telling.

Update: An interesting comment from Google CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday via CNET:

“Schmidt boiled it down to a mathematical formula. A new product gets announced and gets a certain amount of traction. At some point, growth falls off the first wave of people finishes trying things out. Then, it begins to grow again. “The first derivative of that second growth is a high and accurate predictor of what will happen.”

Schmidt said that Buzz, by contrast is doing well with tens of millions of users, basically Gmail users that also use the short-status product.
“Today Buzz is really an extension of Gmail,” he said.”

This is the first time I’ve seen Buzz referenced as having tens of millions of users.

On the Value of Groups Within Social Networks

I’m mostly spending time in two primary places on the web today. Google Buzz and DMU (a group in Flickr). Both offer unique and engaging experiences in social networking. And both are significantly and radically different.

My experience on Google Buzz is one of an entire limitless community. Your community is defined by those who you choose to follow and those who choose to follow you. You comment back and forth with each other. If someone is following me and comments inside one of my buzzes, I will see that. But if I am not following them back I will not see a buzz originated by them unless I go to it directly. If we are following each other, a symbiotic relationship is arrived at where strangers somtimes become acquaintances and acquaintances even sometimes become friends.

By contrast, my experience inside “the” DMU is one defined not by who I follow or who follows me, but by a broader group association. It’s not who *I* choose to follow and who chooses to follow *me*, rather it’s who chooses to join the DMU.

If someone posts in DMU I will see their post regardless of whether I have chosen to follow them or not. Membership to DMU is open to anyone, but you have to choose to join and be a part of that community. The community is run by admins who can set rules to shape conduct of the group, but each member in the group is largely considered equal.

If I start a thread in DMU it is seen by everyone in the group. If a brand new member to flickr only on the site a single day posts a thread, it is seen by the same number of people initially. Threads are bumped by comments of the members, so collectively the members decide what threads are interesting and of value. The more active members have more influence over the group certainly because they bump more threads based on the time committed to the group.

By contrast, on Google Buzz, a new member can post something that will be largely invisible. Seen by nobody. Of course they can post a comment to a thread of a popular member which will be seen. But their visibility is diminished in a structure like Buzz vs. a group like DMU. In Buzz, the superstars get the most attention. In DMU attention is more equalized and shared.

DMU has been nuked twice. Once by some of it’s own admins over a disagreement regarding harassment that was taking place in the group. And a second time by Flickr themselves. Despite these complete destructions, each time the group has been reborn. And while each time it lost an integral part of its historical record, and thousands of hours of user energy and work, like a phoenix, each time it did return.

The founding principle for DMU is that the community remain uncensored (DMU stands for DeleteMe Uncensored). It also has a photo voting game that uses a photo pool assigned to the group as part of the experience.

There are some key differences between the two communities of DMU and Buzz. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other per se. But I believe that due to the way each is structured it produces different results.

Recently I was introduced to yourworldoftext.com by Jeff Wilson from DMU. It’s actually one of the more fascinating and interesting things I’ve seen on the web in the past year or so. It’s basically a land of unlimited anonymous text. It’s one giant wiki with no borders, no rules and no definitions over what it is to be — as long as it’s limited to text (and no cutting or pasting). It’s a giant graffiti spot on the web. It’s super cool, especially at first, but then it’s cool factor wanes quickly, depending on what is done with it.

DMU has a yourworldoftext page. If you’re not a member of DMU, please be respectful of it and don’t vandalize it just to vandalize it.

I also started a yourworldoftext page for Google Buzz and posted it to my Buzz stream.

It’s interesting to see what happened between the two pages.

Your World of Text Google Buzz

The Google Buzz page quickly turned into complete anarchy. There is no real cohesiveness to any sense of community there. I suspect that because the bonds between people on Google Buzz are weaker than the bonds between people in DMU this is why this largely happened, I’m sure some people don’t even really participate in my buzz stream but just lurk.

Your World of Text DMU

On the other hand DMU turned their page into something actually really interesting. The group together created an interesting creative graffiti wasteland, full of rich ASCI text art, familiar group themes and slogans, lots of sexual references and innuendo. And feels much more familiar and recognizable to the members of DMU.

It is a far more cohesive community experience. Take a visit. It’s fascinating what the group built in just a few days (warning, the place has a lot of offensive content and again please be respectful of the community who has created this).

I do suspect both pages end up in anarchy in the end, but it is interesting what they both became after a few days of use.

Although DMU is older than Google Buzz I think that it is better at creating more intimate and personal connections than Google Buzz is today. Many of the DMU members have met in person. Many group outings have taken place. The group created a magazine together. A book together. A smaller group of people have spent thousands of hours with each other both online and offline. I think the members know each other a lot better and more personally than Buzz members know each other.

It’s also been a far more volatile experience than Google Buzz.

I’ve seen disagreements, skirmishes and fights on Google Buzz. But *nothing* like what I’ve seen in DMU. Intense, very personal fights lasting weeks and months and even in some cases years. Members that have felt so hurt by the place that they have permanently left. Some to return, some never to return. DMU frequently eats it’s own, spitting them out worse for the experience and making them wonder why they ever participated in the place in the first place.

But for better or worse, the emotions and connections seem to run much deeper and stronger within the structure of a group.

So should Google Buzz add groups? I don’t know. FriendFeed did and I never really felt that they were entirely successful.

After flickr nuked DMU, some of us set up shop in a friendfeed group for a while, but it just wasn’t the same. It lacked some key components to our old group. You couldn’t post images inline in comments. FriendFeed wouldn’t allow paragraph breaks, allowing for longer free form conversations. Friendfeed sometimes stopped bumping a thread, so some of our most favorite long living threads (like listen to DJ Mo) wouldn’t be bumped when people added a new link to the thread to a new song. It lacked an integrated photo pool for us to play our photo voting game in.

Certainly from a user engagement standpoint Groups are H*U*G*E. I bet people who are active in Flickr groups spend 100x more time on Flickr than people who are not.

If I were working on Buzz I think I’d build groups. But I’d do a better job than FriendFeed did. They’d look more like groups on Flickr. Nobody on the web has groups like Flickr right now. Nobody’s groups come close. I’m not sure why this is.

I think an ideal group would have a photo pool and a video pool. I think it would have a wiki like yourworldoftext with admin controls over it to keep it from falling into total anarchy. I think I’d create a feature that allowed admins to set the group to undeletable. One of the problems with groups at flickr is that they are too often killed by their admins over petty disagreements. If members knew from the start that an admin couldn’t kill it I think this would be powerful (you’d have to really think this tool out though).

I think an ideal group would allow easily identifiable urls that could be promoted elsewhere around the web. I think it would contain tools to hide people (this was a killer feature at FriendFeed that Flickr lacks) — I think this would help with some of the animosity that can be created.

I think I’d set up a notification or tracking system where you could see when people posted in different groups. I think this would allow more cross pollination. If my good friend from group A is posting in group B, right now at Flickr I don’t know about it. You could set up a system though that let me track this and then I’d likely go engage in group B as well.

I think I’d integrate stores for groups. Let them create merchandise. Tshirts, mugs, clothes, books, magazines. Collaborative sorts of things that help build identity and association. I’d have all this stuff done at cost to keep the profit motive out of the hands of the members of the group, or let them add profit into their merchandise that went to charity maybe.

The communities that have been formed out of groups on Flickr are not limited to DMU. There are so many other rich, successful groups. Local user groups. Groups built around the art of photography. Other voting or game groups. Groups are where the flickr hardcore live and I’d think every web site in the world should want a piece of something like that.

You can find and join DMU here (you have to have your Flickr settings to 18+ to be able to join). You can find and follow me on Google Buzz here.

Update: To see a more travelable snapshot of one version of DMU’s yourworldoftext page as of June 4, 2010 click here.

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over My Computing Life

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over my Computing Life

Years ago I used to only use Google to do internet searches. Slowly but surely though Google has been taking over more and more and more of my computing life. This is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. Google makes things that make my life easier and their corporate values are more in synch with my own than most publicly traded companies. I’ve especially noticed in the past six months that the trend of Google taking over my computing life has accelerated dramatically. This could have to do with the time I’ve been spending on Buzz, but some of the changes (like changing my internet browser) have involved big chunks of my computing experience.

Below is a loose chronology of the evolution of my experience with Google Products.

1. Search (can’t remember exactly when, but years ago), got off Yahoo pretty early in the game and switched to Google. Google has the best search on the web today. I appreciate Google’s more open nature than other search engines and their better track record when it comes to keeping the web uncensored.

2. Blogger. Used Blogger since 2003. Abandoned Blogger for WordPress last year, mostly due to Blogger’s inability to deal effectively with comment spam.

3. Google Analytics. Still use this. It’s free which is good. I’ve never really gotten what I want and need out of this product though. It’s complicated to build things for me. The two most important things I want from a stats package are the number of page views and referring url information. My view I’m most interested in is the past 24 hours. Before Analytics I used Sitemeter. I liked Site Meter’s analytics product much more, but you have to pay for that and Google Analytics is free.

I get the sense that Google Analytics is a bit like Photoshop for me. You can do anything and everything with it, but I’m still only using about 2% of its true potential.

4. Google Docs. I’m a lightweight user of word processing and spreadsheets, so this works just fine for me. Replaces the need to buy expensive software from Microsoft to do this sort of work for the casual user like me.

5. Google Maps. I used to use Mapquest and Yahoo Maps. Now I use Google Maps exclusively. It’s the best mapping software on the web. I use it *very* heavily when traveling.

6. YouTube. Like everybody I’m on it. I rarely use it though. Occasionally I’ll consume content on it. It takes so much time to watch YouTube videos though. It’s probably the internet site that my kids use more than any other site on the internet though. My son Jackson has spent hours on there learning how to do Yo Yo tricks. One of these days I’m going to have to get him a Google Yo Yo. Actually I just ordered him a green one and a yellow one. He’ll love them. :) I used Google Checkout to buy them from Google (not sure why the shipping charge is more than the yoyos though).

7. Google Earth. I don’t use Google Earth a lot. I find it a bit unweildy actually. But I do use it to do the geotagging with Geotagger for my photos.

8. Gmail, part 1. Unfortunately I was late to the game with Gmail. So alas, I’m thomashawk22 instead of thomashawk. I got a gmail account and then never really used it. A few years back though I was getting so much spam email that I began filtering thomashawk.com email through gmail first to filter out all of the spam. That worked tremendously well. My spam pretty much went away entirely overnight. So I was using Google gmail as a passive filter for my Mac mail reader for about 2 years. Part 2, later.

In the past six months.

9. Google Buzz. Buzz has really become my primary social network. I still use a number of different social networks (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed), but Buzz now gets the bulk of my social networking time and attention. One of my favorite things about Buzz is that it shows photos *really* well. You can feed your Flickr feed into it and if people click on the thumbnails they blow up huge to get an easy big view. There’s a link to Flickr included that I can cmd click to go fave the photo on Flickr too.

The majority of my faves that I’m faving on Flickr these days are coming from Google Buzz. If you haven’t hooked your Flickrstream up to a Buzz account yet you are missing out. :) Even if you aren’t going to use Buzz, don’t have time for another social network, etc. You should still at least hook up your Flickrstream to it so that people can see your Flickr photos there and get back to your stream via Buzz.

10. PicasaWeb. I’ve had an account on Picasa for years, but just never really used it. I’ve started using it much more though. Presently I’m maxed out my free storage there so I’m just using it to host small sized screenshot files and deleting my larger high res photos as I need space. I’ve thought about paying the $5 to buy more ($5 is really totally insignificant for me to pay) but I need Picasa to convince me as a product first why I should do that.

If Picasa had photostreams and SmartSet technology I’d totally pay. But as it stands today, it’s too much work organizing my photos there manually without SmartSets and it feels to me like the photosharing community is still very much at Flickr. I do use the service though almost daily to host my screenshots.

11. Google Profiles. I like having a profile page on Google and look forward to seeing them continue expanding this product. You can find my Google Profile here.

12. Google Chrome. After a rocky marriage with Firefox for many years we finally split up a few months ago. Google Chrome is just a far better, faster, more stable web browser.

13. GMail, part 2. I haven’t opened my Mac Mail application for about a month now. I’ve been consuming all of my email directly from gmail on the web. Mostly it’s just faster to do email this way. So now it is not only my passive spam filter, it’s my main mail application that I use to consume all of my email.

14. Picnik. Probably technically not a Google Product yet, but acquired by Google recently so I’m including it. I just bought a Pro account there for $24.95 for a year. I did it just because I was curious about what you could do there more than anything. I don’t think I’ll renew it after my year is up based on what I saw. I didn’t really see anything there that I can’t already do in Lightroom or Photoshop. But for someone who doesn’t want to spend the money for Lightroom/Photoshop, this seems like an excellent way to go. You really can do quite a bit for $25 a year.

I need to play around with Picnik a bit more though. Maybe it will grow on me. Google should consider giving away the Pro version in Picasa to get more people on there.

15. Google Calendar. After using 30 Boxes for many years I switched to Google Calendar. Not sure why really. 30 Boxes was working just fine. I think I like Google Calendar better. I like how now that I’ve synched it up with my iPhone that I get a little notification from my iPhone calendar 10 minutes before I’ve got an appointment.

16. Google Chrome URL shortener. this is kind of a minor little tool. Not a product really. But I love it so much that I wanted to include it. You just click on a little icon in Chrome and it automatically copies a shorter url to your clipboard. :)

The future.

So what’s next for me in terms of adopting Google products. I’m not sure exactly but here are a few ideas.

Android. I suspect that when my contract with AT&T ends in July that I’ll likely switch to a Google phone of some sort. They seem to be ahead of Apple right now, are a more open company. And I can’t stand how poor AT&T’s 3G network is in San Francisco.

Chrome OS. This will be an interesting one. Switching your OS is huge. It took me years to get off Windows and on to my Mac about 5 years ago. Overall I’m pretty happy with my Mac. Still I paid over $3,000 for my last MacBook Pro. Chrome would seem to make computing cheaper. I don’t know enough about Chrome to really blog about it, but if I can install it on my MacBook Pro when it comes out (later this year?) to check it out I definitely will. Apple’s OS is pretty damn solid though, so I think this switch for me will be a harder one.

Thoughts on Community Management

Community

Chris Myles, an active Buzz user, albeit a critical one, has a buzz post out suggesting that Google Buzz needs a “Customer Advocate,” to do “community management” for Buzz. I suspect that as Buzz grows over time, that community management types might begin being added to the product team. Having been very involved in web communities over the course of the past seven years or so, I thought I’d post some of my own thoughts on this subject matter.

So far to date, I think Google has been doing a *very* good job with community management on Buzz without having any specific individual as a formal “community manager.” Overall it seems that many on the team, from product managers to engineers, are simply informally doing a lot of good community management directly themselves.

Engineer DeWitt Clinton has perhaps been the most vocal Google engineer interacting with Buzz’s users, but his voice is far from a solo one from the team. Bradley Horowitz, who describes himself as a “Product Dude” at Google, is a significant Google executive voice who is providing community management. So is Todd Jackson, Buzz’s Product Manager. Josh Willis has been vocal. And many, many others on the team have consistently dropped into conversations providing sort of unofficial community management.

Even more impressive, many Google employees who are *not* on the Buzz team, still are actively participating in Buzz and directing threads to the team or helping out in other ways whenever they can. I’m talking about you Erica Baker. :) It is obvious to me that the spirit of good community management is highly valued by the team and it’s leadership. I’m impressed.

So, does Buzz *need* an official community manager? I suspect that they *might* at some point. Buzz is still early and the hand holding that the team is providing likely can’t scale with millions of users in the long run. But before we just assume that they need to start hiring managers, let’s keep in mind that community managers aren’t always necessarily good for communities. In fact community mismangers can sometimes actually be poisonous for a community. That said I think that great care should be used in the selection of the right community managers for any community and whenever possible non-interventionist tools should be considered before community management intervention.

Principles of good community management:

1. Whenever possible, empower your users to deal with internal community problems *themselves* directly. Empower them with the technological tools to self manage community conflict.

One of the problems on Flickr is that over the years there have been some powerfully and negatively hostile community interactions. Malicious anonymous harassing trolls have invaded groups and people’s photostreams and other public areas of the site and posted the most hateful and objectionable material. The first line of defense against these sorts of negative elements is to empower your users to deal directly, immediately and decisively with these sorts of situations.

Trolls, spammers, racists, hate mongers, etc. will invade any community. It is only a matter of time. But the first line of defense against dealing with these individuals should be a robust “block” feature. One of the things that FriendFeed did right from the get go was their “Block this user” function. Basically using the block this user function on Friendfeed wipes that user off the face of FriendFeed for you. They are gone. Entirely invisible. This is a powerful tool. It’s powerful because it *immediately* removes personally objectionable content from before a users’ eyes (by choice). Rather than reporting bad behavior (which still ought to be able to be done) this immediately addresses the negative situation and empowers the offended party by feeling that they have power and control over the negative situation that they are dealing with.

Further, a robust block command actually *discourages* trolling, spamming, racism, hate speech, etc. Because these people are quickly minimized and end up talking to themselves and unable to get a reaction grow tired and move on.

If you can solve a problem with technology, that’s superior to solving it with community management.

2. Be very, very, very, careful with censorship. Censorship should *not* be an everyday hammer that a community manager uses to solve every potential problem. The censorship on Flickr as applied by community managers is really bad. I’ve had literally hundreds of hours of my own work permanently deleted there. This pisses me off as a user to no end. If feels personal and spiteful and petty and creates an enormous amount of ill will. A good community manager should resist the urge to simply censor someone they disagree with, or who is reported, or who they don’t like personally.

There will be times when censorship is necessary. Illegal content for example. If a company gets a DMCA notice, they will likely have to deal with copyrighted material in their network. But even here, the *greatest* of care should be taken to censor as little as humanly possible. A few years back I posted a screenshot of a known griefer’s television appearance on Fox news. This individual filed a false DMCA request to have the image removed with Flickr. The EFF later pursued this individual and as part of a settlement against him made him publicly apologize for illegally abusing the DMCA. But the way that Flickr handled this was not by simply doing the legal minimum of removing the image, they actually nuked hundreds of comments that went along with the image unnecessarily.

If there is some thread that must removed. Kill the absolute bear minimum. Be strategic. Take out a single line, not an entire thread, and certainly not thousands of other completely non-offensive threads, simply because they are tied to a user that you’ve found offensive in one instance.

3. Hire someone who lives, eats, sleeps, breathes, your community. Consider hiring from within. Good community management is not a 9 to 5 job. It doesn’t go on vacation. Hire someone who is emotionally invested and involved in your community and who has a deep seated passion and love for the product you are creating and for the difference that it is making in the world.

4. Hire someone who can get out on the road. There is nothing like face time. You cannot underestimate the enormous amount of positive energy that can be generated for any community when real life social interaction begins to take place. Recently I had an opportunity to spend some time photographing music service Pandora. I met their founder Tim Westergren. When I met Tim, one of the things that he was most proud of was of a map pinned up outside his office which documented all of the cities that he’d visited going around the entire U.S. holding meet ups with their users. Set a budget and get your community manager out on the road. Set public events where the most active emotionally invested users can personally get to know this individual face to face.

Town hall meetings are great. Use your corporate offices all over the world as much as possible to host get togethers, etc. People that work for your company will be encouraged to attend because it’s easy for them (at their office already) and people that love your product will consider it a wonderful experience to get to see your offices first hand. It’s also easier to get management to stop by for an hour for a meet and greet if they don’t have to drive somewhere specifically.

5. Authorize transparency. You will never be able to please everyone in your community. You will always have people who hate things that you do. Don’t shy away from these problems and issues. Keep the lawyers as far away from the community managers as possible. Be open and comunicative even if it means telling people something that they don’t want to hear. Err on the side of being too transparent over withholding information. If there is some reason why information can’t be shared, explain the reasoning behind that.

6. Acknowledge your critics. Critics of a service should never be marginalized or dismissed or certainly locked out of help forums or censored. Critics can be a pain in the ass, they can create discord in your community, they can hurt esprit de corps. But… oftentimes their points are valid. They document real problems and bugs. They challenge your service or product to be the most excellent that it possibly can be. One of the highest ambitions a good community manager should have is to turn a critic into an evangelist. There is no greater accomplishment in my mind or measure of the success of a community manager.

7. Act immediately. Nothing creates a worse problem than letting an issue fester over time. And internet time moves fast. In 24 hours a community problem can easily move outside of your community and be significantly amplified across the web. Digg, reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, blogs, etc. are very quick to latch on to community problems. Nip your community problems in the bud. Immediately address them, even if the address is simply that you need more time.

Recently Starbucks decided to launch a social media beachhead on Flickr. This was probably not the best idea as Starbucks historically has had a less than good reputation for prohibiting photography in their stores. But rather than deal with this conflict immediately, Starbucks let this issue fester on and on and on for months. Users in their Flickr group got so upset about Starbuck’s inability to address this problem over the months that almost every thread kept bringing this failure up over and over and over again. Finally Starbuck’s was forced to lock down the entire group. Effectively censoring all who had participated. Had Starbucks come up with a faster solution to this problem this failure could have been avoided.

8. Monitor all channels for your product. Recently when I updated my CoolIris/Firefox I found that cmd-click would no longer open a new background tab. This was frustrating to me as a user because it was a change that I wasn’t used to and made it much harder for me to use that product. So I tweeted out that I disliked this. Within hours someone from Cool Iris tweeted back an easy solution to my problem and I tweeted back that they were the Bestest after that. They turned a very negative feeling I had about their product into a very positive feeling. Good community managers should not just monitor their own community. They should monitor what is being said about their community outside their community. Twitter, facebook, FriendFeed, etc. And while the eyes of a community manager cannot be everywhere at all times, all employees of a company should be empowered to forward things that they find out there to the community manager.

9. Promote, promote, promote, promote. A good community manager’s fingers should be blistered by the end of the day from hitting the like button over and over and over and over again. Give praise to the most prominent members of your community religiously. Acknowledge them even in the smallest of ways. Build them up. These are your evangelists. These are your ambassadors. These users provide you a tool to leverage good vibrations. They broadcast and spread your message of product excellence. Let them feel the love.

Look Who’s Sportin’ Google Buzz

Look Who's Sportin' Google Buzz

Photographers are Flocking to Google Buzz

Photographers are Flocking to Google Buzz

Yesterday my Pal Justin Korn posted a simple query to Google Buzz asking people to post to his Buzz if they were a photopgraher and on Buzz and so far over 100 different photographers have posted to his thread. It seems like photographers are flocking to Google’s latest social network and for good reason. Here’s another view of many of these photographers from Justin’s blog.

Buzz displays your photos much more elegantly than they do on Flickr. As you upload your photos to Flickr, or Google’s Picasa (where I’ve started getting more active myself), your photos are imported into Buzz as a stream of nice looking large sized thumbnail images. But here’s where it gets better. Click on an image and Buzz loads up the image’s full large size, in all it’s glory. I don’t know about you, but I love looking at images really big *much* more than I enjoy looking at the medium sized 500 px default that Flickr shows. Rather than have to leave the page that I’m on (like on Flickr to see an image big) I can instead just advance through the images with the keyboard one by one.

Each image includes a link back to flickr/picasa where if I want to I can click on the link and it will open that image in a new tab on my browser to go fave or comment on or do whatever I want on flickr/picasa.

While you are on Buzz you can “like” a photographers import, or comment on it, or whatever. I’m finding that Buzz is every bit as social as a site like Flickr is for photographers and am having some really great conversations about my own work. If you are a photographer, come join us.

Are you a photographer and on Buzz? Then definitely post your info to Justin’s thread above. Are you a photographer and not on Buzz yet? What are you waiting for, come on over, the water’s nice. It’s another great place to showcase your work. Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to spend time socially interacting on Buzz, you still might want to at least link it up to your Flickrstream so that people that want to follow your work on Buzz still can.

If you’d like to follow my stuff on Buzz you can find me here. I’m going to be very active on Buzz in the days and weeks ahead.

Testing out Google’s Picasa Web Albums

Loretta's New Friend, Plate 3

I’m testing out Google’s Picasa Web Albums. I’m blogging the photo above to see what a photo blogged from Picasa looks like.

I’m posting my thoughs on Picasa over at Google Buzz here.

If you want to add me on Picasa you can find me here.

Google Buzz, Don’t Listen to the Naysayers, They’re Wrong

David Pogue of the New York Times is out with a lukewarm review on Google’s latest entry into the socialmedialand Google Buzz. Pogue calls Buzz a “Twitter wannabe,” and chalks the product up to being too confusing for the average user. In the end Pogue says that Buzz isn’t much of a threat to Facebook or Twitter or even FriendFeed, but that it will have it’s own following.

Meanwhile, over at TechCrunch, Mike Arrington takes Google to task for “force feeding” Buzz to Google’s 175 million Gmail users. He says his post is not about the backlash and privacy issues, but those feature prominently in his critique.

And top PR Blogger Steve Rubel says he’s thinking about checking out of Buzz.

I think they’re all wrong and here’s why.

As my friend Robert Scoble has said in the past, you want to go where the ball is going, not where it’s at today.

Once upon a time people used to share photos on sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Ofoto. These sites were mostly concerned with printing photos for people and sharing with a very tight group of private friends. Who would have ever thought people would want to *gasp* let the whole world see their private digital photos?

And then Flickr came along and said, you know, why don’t we just make photos public by default. Maybe all these concerns about people not wanting other people to see their photos are overblown. And it worked. And you know what? I’m sure more than one person has accidentally uploaded a photo to Flickr that they wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. That person probably quickly figured out the problem, made the image private and life goes on.

So while there are likely stories out there about how people accidentally uploaded private oriented photos to Flickr, in the end, using public photos as a default showed that the vast majority of people simply are not that concerned with people seeing photos of their dogs or their house or their friends or heck, even their kids.

Similarly a very small, but vocal, group of individuals are shrieking from the mountain top about the fact that Google Buzz might have allowed people to see who you email alot. Big deal. The story came out quickly. Those privacy zealots could quickly correct this by making their contact list private if they wanted to, while the vast majority of us don’t really care that Buzz lets people know who we follow. Want to know who I follow? It’s right here for the whole world to see, go for it. The whining about these privacy issues (which have now been fixed by the way) is getting old.

But here’s what Google did right. They took a risk in turning this product loose on the world *in the name of innovation.* They said hey let’s do this now and course correct later. The perpetual beta even without the silly meaningless beta label. Google Buzz has bugs and flaws right now. You’d better believe it. And even as I whine about them myself on Buzz, I *love* the fact that they are there. I love the fact that Google is willing to push an exciting, innovative new social network out there warts and all. I love that they are taking risk in the name of innovation.

You know what I love even more than Buzz as a perpetual beta? I love the passion of the people building Buzz. I love that they have a war room where people hunker down and work all weekend long on fixing Buzz. I love that passion. I love that Google Buzz engineers like DeWitt Clinton are actively engaging the user base of Buzz and giving real time feedback and answers to questions. I love that the Google VP of Product Management Bradley Horowitz himself is writing posts like this on Buzz and that he’s actively engaged with the early Buzz community. Todd Jackson, Buzz’s product manager is also very active as well.

And Google is using Buzz to promote open non-proprietary standards. This is hugely positive. Read Dewitt’s post on that here. Hopefully Buzz will be able to put pressure on companies like Twitter and Flickr to support things like PubHubSubbub. Standards that get our data out of the silos that so many companies like Flickr have become.

It is so, so, so early in the social networking game. And Google has passionate engineers and resources that they clearly are dedicating to this product. Buzz will get better and better in the days ahead. Google will use it as a major tool to help refine their more general search algorithm. Smart photographers who have buzz worthy posts and photos would be wise to embrace Buzz and build a presence there now. A lot of the photos that I sell today are found by people on Google. Having your photos prominently indexed in Buzz will help promote them on the web more broadly speaking. And Buzz is doing a really good job at showing our photos off elegantly.

Already all kinds of interesting conversations are popping up all over Buzz. Last week I used Buzz to announce a photowalk a bunch of us went on last night. Earlier today I posted about Obama’s flip flop on the gay marriage issue and look at the engagement that these sorts of posts are seeing.

Buzz will get less complex. Buzz will get better and faster. Bugs will be fixed. The right features will be rolled out. Too many smart passionate people are working on it for this not to happen. It’s the first inning in a long, long game. Buzz will take market share, significant market share from Facebook, and Twitter and Flickr and definitely FriendFeed, which now feels like an old mare that Facebook’s put out to pasture. And this is a good thing.

To those of you that tried Buzz and found it too complex. Stick with it. It’s going to change quickly and dramatically.

I hope Buzz doesn’t lose that spirit of innovation that I see there today. Too often super innovative companies end up complacent and stop innovating. Because if they keep going in the direction that they are, the internet will in the long run be a better place.

If you want to follow me on Buzz you can find me here, I’ll be spending a lot of time on Buzz in the days and weeks ahead.

10 Ways Google’s Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

10 Ways Google's Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

I’ve been using Google Buzz now for four days since it launched and wanted to take a minute to blog a post about 10 ways that I’ve found Google Buzz to be better than FriendFeed.

1. Google Buzz feels like an exciting product backed by significant Google engineering talent, commitment and dollars. FriendFeed feels like an old mare that Facebook’s put out to pasture, one that if we’re lucky Facebook engineers *might* work on, but not a primary growth product for the company.

2. Google Buzz’s mobile version is impressive. The ability to geotag a post and also to search others nearby is very slick.

3. It’s refreshing to be able to use paragraphs on Google Buzz. FriendFeed did not allow the paragraph. Perhaps they did this to encourage people to be brief, but it’s really nice that Google Buzz allows you to enter paragraphs in your post.

4. Photos are displayed much more elegantly on Google Buzz. In addition to showing actual sized thumbnails (instead of mini square box thumbnails), Buzz has a super cool lightbox feature that allows you to click on a photo and have it displayed in full high res glory without even having to leave the post and go to flickr. Also if you post a link to a flickr set of yours, it automatically pulls in the thumbnails, which is also cool.

5. Buzz allows you basic text formatting options. Want to bold a word or phrase? Put asterisks around it. You can also italicize with the _ or strike text with -. You can’t do this on FriendFeed.

6. The “M” key. If you enable keyboard commands in your gmail preferences you can use the M key on any post to mute it. This allows you to go through posts and filter out what you don’t want much faster.

7. Buzz allows you unlimited characters for your initial post. Character limits suck. FriendFeed was better than Twitter’s paltry 140 characters, but even FriendFeed would limit your initial posts. I never liked that and frequently found myself having to continue my main post in the first comment.

8. Buzz seems much more sticky to my non-geek friends. I’m not sure if it’s because they already use gmail, or if it just feels easier for them to use, but I’ve found more of my non-geek friends trying and using Buzz than I did FriendFeed.

9. Buzz has verified Google profiles. This is just a little thing, but when interacting with strangers sometimes it’s nice to be able to see that.

10. Buzz’s user profile page is much better. FriendFeed just allowed you a sparse little text box to write something about yourself. Buzz has a cool little slider that shows all your flickr photos and allows much meatier profiles. This is nice if I want to check someone out and learn a little more about them.

See also: 10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google’s Buzz

You can follow me on FriendFeed here.

You can follow me on Google Buzz here.

10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google’s Buzz

10 Ways FriendFeed is Better Than Google's Buzz

I’ve been using Google Buzz now for four days since it launched and wanted to take a minute to blog a post about 10 ways that I’ve found FriendFeed to be better than Google Buzz.

1. FriendFeed’s ability to selectively hide content. One of the things I hate about Google Buzz is that is an all or none proposition when you decide to follow someone. I may *love* someone’s Flickrstream, but hate the fact that they send a new tweet every 3 minutes describing a blow by blow version of their day. I might find that I *love* someone’s funny witty tweets, but hate the fact that they put 300 new items into Google Reader everyday about eco-friendly politics. On Friendfeed I can easily subscribe to someone and then choose to hide certain parts of what they have linked up if I want. This is very helpful in managing noise. Google Buzz does not give me this option.

2. On FriendFeed when I block someone, they’re really blocked. When you block someone on FriendFeed you are prompted with the following message: “After blocking this user, you won’t see any of their posts or comments on FriendFeed, and they won’t see any of your posts. If they’re subscribed to you, that subscription will be removed.” When you block someone they become invisible to you. Poof. They’re gone. It’s a truly beautiful thing.

Nothing ruins a good social network like crappy trolls. Being able to blot them out on FriendFeed if I want is nice. Unfortunately, on Google Buzz they take a different approach. They’ll block the troll from my own posts, but they still make me look at everything they post on posts that are not my own. I don’t want to see this. I want to truly be able to block them. Please Google. Let us make the bad people go away.

3. Best of Day. FriendFeed has a great page where each day the most popular entries (based on likes and comments) for the people in my social network are shown. Not just best of day, but week, month, 2 days, 3 days, etc. This helps me catch up if I’ve taken a break from FriendFeed for a day and want to see what the main entries that my friends are talking about are. Buzz doesn’t have anything like this.

4. I can better track my discussions on FriendFeed. One of the nice things about FriendFeed is that they give me a link of all of the threads that I’m currently having a conversation in. While Buzz lets me filter out only my own threads that I’ve started, they don’t give me an easy way to see all of the threads that I’m currently participating in.

5. FriendFeed’s Share This Bookmarklet. On FriendFeed if I find an interesting article somewhere I can use the FriendFeed “Share This” bookmarket to easily post it to my stream, complete with photos from the article. I’m not aware of any such tool for Buzz yet. Someone made one that I tried that was somehow hacked into Google Reader, but I found it very unsatisfying. I tried to share a page from Boston.com’s Big Picture on Buzz and it didn’t inlcude the most important part, the picture.

6. Lists. Lists on FriendFeed are HUGE. Being able to slice and dice my contacts and create different buckets to look at at different times is very cool. On FriendFeed, for example, I can create a list of only my immediate family members. These people may be much less active than my social butterfly social networking friends and so their stuff my get buried if I don’t watch carefully. By going to my family list I can more easily make sure I’m not missing any of there updates in the sea of noise. FriendFeed lets you set up unlimited lists for any reason you want. You can have a list of coworkers. Of people who live in San Francisco. Of photography buddies. You get the idea. At present there is no way to do this on Buzz.

7. FriendFeed lets me pause live updating. Sometimes when you follow a lot of people, real time updates become just too much. On FriendFeed if I want I can pause the live updating. This calms things down a bit and allows me to catch up on what I’m reading without having the screen go all jumpy on me. Google has no way to pause their live updating.

8. FriendFeed is much less buggy. Right now there are still a lot of bugs in Buzz. I’ve seen comments on some of my posts that just mysteriously disappear. Sometimes I’ll scroll down my page and see the same stuff that I just scrolled past but without some of the comments. Sometimes when I mute stuff I find it still comes back. There are still lots of little gremlins running around in buzz. The other day the “Load More” entries link temporarily disappeared. Buzz is still a work in progress it seems. FriendFeed doesn’t have near as many of these little annoyances.

9. Search seems easier and more intuitive on FriendFeed. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time trying to figure out Buzz’s search yet, but I’ve find that initially search feels much easier for me on FriendFeed. For instance. On FriendFeed I can easily search for all entries containing Banksy and filter them by my contacts. FriendFeed has a great advanced search box. Best I can tell Buzz has no advanced search box. I may be able to do some of these things if I can somehow figure out advanced text search strings and operators, but I don’t get a nice advanced search box to make this easy for me.

10. FriendFeed shows my Flickr photos *and* my Flickr Faves. One of the brilliant things that FriendFeed did, was to pipe in not only your flickr photos, but your flickr faves. Because people generally fave really interesting photos, this means that on FriendFeed I constantly get to see really amazing photography. It makes the place much more visually appealing than Buzz, which in some ways feels still a bit clinical, despite the fact that they have a better interface for your own Flickr photos. Getting to see what other people have favorited and getting to play virtual curator and share my faves with other people is nice on FriendFeed.

See also: 10 Ways Google’s Buzz is Better Than FriendFeed

You can follow me on FriendFeed here.

You can follow me on Google Buzz here.