Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or, okay, under a few feet of snow — stay warm DC area!) you will have heard about the launch of Google Buzz. It actually launched a few days ago but has only within the last day or so been set up for all GMail accounts.
Do you use Twitter? Google Buzz is sort of Twitter for GMail. A new menu item is set up within your GMail, and when you click on it you’ll see posts from people who you’re following. (You can see a brief video demo and explanation of Google Buzz at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi50KlsCBio.) You can also see other content they’re posting to other Web properties, depending on how they’ve set up their Google Profile.
The people you’re following? Oh, yeah, Google recommends people for you to follow based on the people you most frequently communicate with on GMail. You have the chance to edit that list, but if you talk to a lot of people on GMail you may end up with a big list of people to follow right from the start. When Google Buzz first launched, there was a lot of complaint about this default list of people to follow and how visible it might be to people viewing your Google Profile. Google has addressed that issue with a couple of tweaks to the Google Buzz service.
I got Google Buzz yesterday, and started by following about twenty people. So far I’ve had one person make a comment, which several other people responded to. (Google Buzz threads the comment, which is nice.) Another person I follow, who had an RSS feed publishing into Google Buzz, had the same update posted about twenty times. So I’m not totally overwhelmed with the Buzz that I’m getting. If want to find more people to follow, Google has a way to search, and it does make suggestions (though in my case just one.)
It’s not like I hate social media tools. I use Twitter to send out brief pointers to search engine and database use, and I like it fine. I use Facebook and I like that fine.
But here’s the thing: when I’m using GMail, I’m using GMail. I’m not interested in changing from using GMail to passing on a note in Google Buzz. The interface for slipping back and forth between Buzz and regular mail feels kludgy. To be fair, I’ve always found Twitter to be somewhat kludgy, which is why I use a third-party tool and not Twitter itself.
This isn’t Google’s fault, but when I first read about Google Buzz I thought, “Eegad, I already have enough things to keep up with.” Looking at it I don’t see anything that solves a problem for me, or creates anything else other than a tool I might feel faintly guilty for not using. Compare that to, say, the recently-announced ability of Google Reader to track changes on pages. That changed Google Reader from a Google property I had vaguely in the back of my mind (I follow so many RSS feeds that a Web-based reader doesn’t do it for me) to something I check a few times a week.
I’ll take a look at Google Buzz again in a few weeks, perhaps after more people have started trying it.