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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gmail Buzz: Mixing Real Life And Your Preferred Discussion Group In All the Wrong Ways?

If I would talk to you about my family life, I think you wouldn’t understand the one half, and you wouldn’t care about the other half. Conversely, if I would talk to my family about the latest tech topics, perhaps they wouldn’t be interested on any detailed level, nor understand half of what I’m saying.

Enter Google Buzz. After one day of using it I get the feeling it mixes the two groups (and a couple of other groups) in potentially all the wrong ways. When you sign up with Buzz you can choose who to follow, and unfollow everyone from Google’s list of suggestion with whom you actually prefer to just email. But here’s the thing... other people may still decide to follow you. You send them emails often, which makes Google suggest you to them. So now Buzz turns out to be a kind of Friendfeed, but it may get the most crucially important thing crucially wrong: picking the relevant discussion group.

Yes, perhaps you do manage to split up your life into several different Google accounts (work, peer group, family, ...?), and maybe you use different browsers or a browser extension to help you with the signing in and signing out. But that looks like it could become confusing (and people subscribing to you may pick the wrong account of yours to subscribe to, unless you always used these multiple accounts in the past). In the meantime, Martin Rix in Buzz writes: “My dad and my 13 year old cousin are following me. I expect my mum and sister will be following me soon.... which will be when I disconnect my Twitter account :P”

It’s still too early for me to tell if above-mentioned is high enough a usage barrier to render Buzz useless (useless in the sense of “If your product Fails, it doesn’t matter if it’s Good”). And I suppose it will take some more days for all of your family members to discover your Buzz stream. So what is your experience with Buzz so far – is Google helping you find the right discussion groups? Will Google pushing Buzz so aggressively to so many people – all of Google’s email users – make it a casual tool for casual users, but not so suited for in-depth discussions of a certain area... and a perfect teen user repellant because “mom is lurking"?

Update: A user by the name of Doyle in a comment at Lifehacker writes:

What annoys me most about this is that I have used my gmail for years, including as a forward for a small business I once owned. ALL of my previous clients were put into my contacts by gmail automatically. (...)

[N]ow, tons of people on a list I want nothing to do with can track me online, connecting my business and personal life in ways I am not even remotely comfortable. (...)

I like the idea of interconnecting, but by connecting, I want compete and total control of the situation. I do not need my mother to know my business, and I do not need my business to know about my mother.

If this was started on a blank slate those divisions could be made clear


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