Buzzing, Waving, Googling.

Buzzing. Waving. Googling.

BzzzzzzOn the phone with my friend and colleague Catherine Ventura the other day, after discussing the focus and path of a project, we got to talking about meetings, recent topics of conversation in our worlds, and what's hot out there in the tech & geek world.  "What's your take on Google Buzz?" Catherine asked me.  As fate would have it, except for the chat on last week's Yi-Tan call on this subject, I'd barely thought much about Buzz.  I'd tweeted about the woman who felt so totally violated by the initial release and information blast setup, retweeted  John Blossom's tweet linking to a post on it, or made a casual observation, but otherwise had just paid it little mind.  But as happens, once Catherine and I began to talk, it dawned on me what I actually thought about Buzz, and the buzz on buzz.  At Catherine's suggestion (urging?), I am blogging about it, posting it as she suggested.

Here's the gist of what I had to say:  There are many different houses within the Google bubble. A variety of development teams, web thinkers, doers, marketers, scattered across many different disciplines and areas of concentration.   The Buzz team seems to have come out of the same house or type of environment as the Google Wave crew


The very groovy, aptly colored Google Wave logo. Why make this comparison?  It's the geekiness of the two projects.  A bunch of tech heads, engineers, coming up with a really geeky product.  Yet one that at time of release to the public at large seems not to have been tested on "civilians," those not of the technogeek persuasion.  Or as though the team had just never thought of running it by regular people.  Google Wave is clearly not for those who are not accustomed to the geekier side of computing.  It has all sorts of collaborative features and can be used as a wonderful tool. But, of course, try selling that to the average computer user who spends most of his or her time with email, websites, the usual social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) maybe using a word processor and a spreadsheet from time to time

At launch both products seemed rough around the edges. But Google Buzz, planted within Gmail and perceived by many as Google's answer to Twitter, was the oddest of launches from the Sultans of Search.  Unlike the launches of most social networking or social media initiatives, the Google Buzz glaring lack of focus on user-directed data sharing and protections as default was even out of character with Google's stated commitment to respect of individual identity and personal data. The monolith may know everything about your search habits, gathering and storing all those queries as well as your activity as it relates to Google Docs, Reader, photo sharing, even blogging -- but while it takes all this contextual information about you and algorithmically attempts to cash in on that with ads beside all those screens, that data is held from others.

Buzz broke that rule. It was remedied poste-haste, faster than Tiger Woods could apologize and just about as fast as David Letterman took to grab control of his embarrassing situation.  But what an odd, unusual and woefully embarrassing faux pas for the company that swears they may keep a ton of data on you, but they'll never pass any of it on.   Except when they launched Buzz.

The "oops we fixed that one" rapid response seemed to strike a rough chord in the blogoshere, the twittersphere, and just about everywhere.  Kudos for fixing it, but WTF was that all about to being with?!  When did Google forget that personal data was sacrosanct?  And yes, they hopped right on it and solved most of the issues, but many posited that this was all part of a larger plan.

Considering that Google does indeed house multiple development teams working on a vast array of projects, plus the bevy of ideas they play around with well in advance of determining whether or not to pursue beyond investigation, it would seem that such an idea factory would have a well established method of vetting the applications before launch.  Is this a Machiavellian plan?  Is the famous "do no evil" mantra slipping away as the public company strives to increase shareholder value every quarter?  Perhaps the bubbles of developer pods in the House of Google are running a little rampant, like children, eager to show off their new creations . . . even before those creations are truly ready for prime time.

The Google Bubble?  It sank to the ground and then sputtered for most with Wave.  For a good many reviewers and users, the Google Bubble popped with Buzz, never to be seen again.  Well, maybe to be seen in Gmail and ignored until it goes away.  If it goes away at all.  There may have been a klutzy step or two from Google of late, but don't let that fool you: much is yet to come.  Perhaps a little less geeky and a lot more user friendly.  Two geekier than need be releases in a row?  Strange, no doubt.  That's a two strike count on Google.  But it seems rather unlikely that there would be a third strike to blow the bubble out for good.  

Pop! goes the bubble . . .<br>

Unimpressive though Google Buzz may be at this early moment, it doesn't diminish the anticipation or hope for more innovative ideas, products, or apps from the mother ship.