/Warning, on this big scale of quality of the written word this piece is much closer to the ‘stream of consciousness rant’ than ‘well though out argument.’ What that means is I will likely jump around a lot and I reserve the right to change my opinion on anything I say at any given moment./
This week we saw the launch of Google Buzz and the acquisition of Aardvark by Google for $50 Million. These two things have sparked a lot of discussion about the social web and how we all use it and what specifically we use it for. I have a lot of feelings on these things but I don’t know that focusing in on my explicit experience with them really makes any difference. I tried out Aardvark for a while and after getting a grand total of zero useful replies to anything I asked (once I asked for recommendations for a local dive bar and got responses suggesting scuba diving schools) and frequently got pinged to ask questions that would be much better just sent to Google. Luckily LMGTFY was there to keep me amused, briefly, then I quit it as the annoyment trumped the utility. The Buzz launch was similar in that I was very excited to see it added, then every time I looked I just saw posts from my friends that I’d already seen elsewhere. My point being neither of these things have instantly compelled me to use them. But neither did twitter originally and since then I’ve fully admitted that it’s changed my life.
But again my personal experience isn’t important, the overall experience of the people using it and the people who may end up using it is much more interesting. I know that the big hype around Buzz is it’s use of open standards, similar to identi.ca. But I think it suffers from the same problem as identi.ca which is if all my friends are on twitter, even though I know identi.ca is “better for the web” so to speak, I don’t have any reason to switch. I’m not going to twitter because of the technology, I’m going there to communicate with my friends, and so without my friends, as a user I don’t have any motivation to use this other platform.
Buzz has opposite end of this, all my friends are there already, but it’s not unique interactions with them, it’s just copypasta of interactions with them from other places. It pulled in all of the suck of Friendfeed which is the last thing anyone needs. No matter who I’m following, and no matter how interesting something they say is, I only need to read it once. When I see something they said on Twitter and on Facebook, seeing it again when I go to Gmail is just annoying. Even if it’s “better for the web” because of the open standards it’s built on, it’s still annoying. Add the fact that you can reply only on Buzz, and now if someone has an interesting though that I want to follow the discussion of, now I have to look on twitter to see who replied to them, I have to look on facebook to see if there are comments to where this was posted as a status item, and now I have to look on Buzz too. Why do I want this exactly?
Jyri has a really great piece about Buzz and talks a bit about the launch publicity. He writes:
“Most of the conversation over the last 24h has been centered around predicting if “Buzz will kill” this or that service. The unspoken assumption that lies behind this debate is that Buzz and the rest of the social web are mutually exclusive.”
I agree that it’s stupid that anytime someone launches something it has to be described as the killer of something else. How many iphone killers, twitter killers, facebook killers, google killers, etc have we seen in the last 12 months alone? Something doesn’t have to destroy something else to be useful, it just has to be useful. It has to solve a problem.
While closed standards are certainly a problem, they aren’t a problem most people care about. My mom doesn’t give a shit about open or closed standards, she just wants to see the photo of my cousins kid and be able to post a comment saying how adorable he is. Know what I mean?
So nothing is really the killer of anything else, and nothing is mutually exclusive – the point of the open standards is they can be used anywhere by anyone – but if I’m already seeing this exact content in one place, I really am being asked to switch to seeing it in another place. Otherwise I’m just being asked to see it twice, which makes no sense at all. I guess what I am missing is what problem, for the normal internet user, is Buzz solving? Again I didn’t know what problem twitter was solving at first either, and it didn’t make sense at first either, but it was something new and different enough to get me to try it, and then things started making sense. Buzz seems to just do the same thing other services do so I don’t have that motivation to use it, and it’s firmly in the realm of annoying right now. So what am I missing? What is the problem that Buzz is solving for me? How is Buzz going to make my life better and easier, other than “well you can do it in one place” which translates too quickly in my head to “stop using that service that already works for you and come use this one instead.” What is different?