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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Checking Out Gmail Buzz

Just got Buzz rolled out to my Gmail account. The first step was to pick who to follow, which feeds to connect to your account, and to check who follows you. From the 150+ people suggested to me to auto-follow I unchecked quite a few, for one thing, I don’t want my public profile to show this social network (if I understood Google’s wording right, then “people you follow” will show on your profile, and it must be public). I also unchecked family members. If this is going to be a type of Friendfeed, then I want to have other discussions on it. [Update: Apparently, simply unfollowing others won’t avoid that overlap.]

Note there’s a bug in Buzz that when you unsubscribe from someone in the intro settings dialog, you still need to refresh the page, apparently – I was presented with a whole lot of items from people I wasn’t suscribed to per the first dialog, including the option to unsubscribe from them.

My first impression after saving my settings and loading the buzz stream: Alright, yeah, this is just like Friendfeed. My second impression: Google didn’t copy enough from Friendfeed. For instance, Friendfeed automatically collapses large discussions, which makes it easy to scan the whole page. Gmail on the other hand showed me discussion after discussion in full view, making for long scrolling and a noisy feeling. However, later on when I refreshed the page, the discussions were collapsed fine in Buzz. At first, I also didn’t like how Gmail presents the name first – in bold blue nonetheless – and the comment of the person second; Friendfeed feels much more well-aligned and uncluttered. The latter, however, may simply be something I’m used to in Friendfeed (in typical chat clients like mIRC, the name is presented first, too, and it feels natural there).

Another detail: in buzz, I can Like my own messages. Which seems odd, at least at first (Friendfeed doesn’t offer such a thing, as far as I’m aware).

I now went to post my first Buzz message. I’m learning that 181 people are following me, and I can choose between making a Public (“Let anyone find and read your posts”) or a Private post (“Keep your posts restricted and only visible to the people you choose”). My first message is related to asking where exactly my message will appear, and whether it’ll make it to the inbox too...

... because I really don’t have a clue how this will appear to others. I guess that should be expected for a new product you’re trying out.

One thing I notice after posting is the refresh button in Buzz. Should I now click this constantly to find out when someone commented on my buzz? In Friendfeed, there is no such refresh link, and sure enough Friendfeed will automatically scroll in new items for you as they appear. If Gmail intends to do the same, their refresh link is confusing.

The first comment to my post is by Peter, who tells me “Comments will appear in the inbox ;)”. Sure enough, checking my Gmail inbox there’s a new item on top, namely Peter’s reply (the subject formatted like other items but with a buzz icon). To the right hand side, a link offers me to find out more about “Buzz Aldrin”, but I suppose that could be a place where semi-relevant ads could show in the future.

But... ouch. I don’t want these types of discussions to take over my inbox. Perhaps others have different use cases where they’d want that, but too me emails are often connected to very different tasks. A post (buzz?) by Google employee John Mueller points me to another page – a permalinked buzz post – which suggests that in order to keep the inbox clean you need to...

Create a filter for the words “is:buzz” (ignore the warning) and filter to archive or trash as fits your needs. All gone out of the Inbox.

So, Buzz is quiet for now, and I will click it in the future to see how interesting the discussions in it are. All the software details aside, what I like about Friendfeed are the smart posts and comments over there (and conversely what I dislike about Friendfeed are when there’s no discussion on items I find interesting). In the end, that could be what determines if Buzz is interesting to me, too.

What are your first impressions?


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