Web Technology

Bears, Skittles and Google Buzz

Google Buzz is like a laser gun that turns bears into Skittles.

That’s what I tell people when they ask me about Google Buzz. Much to my surprise, even without any further explanation they’re often less confused than they were to begin with. That alone tells you something about Buzz (it’s purpose is murky at best) and something about me (I’m clearly great with similes). Once you get past that, though, there’s some truth to it (really!).

The basic idea is that you can think of specific instances where it would be really useful (such as: you’re about to get mauled by a bear), but in general it’s completely useless. You can go way out of your way to find a good use case for Buzz, much like you can drive out to a forest inhabited by bears and spend all afternoon tracking one down, but that’s not how I like to spend my afternoons or my time online.

The problem I see with Buzz right now, is that it’s not as powerful as Google Reader, Twitter, or any other social tool, and it doesn’t offer any compelling features to help early adopters attract the masses. I’d simply rather read status updates and find neat links through other web venues. That’s not to say that Google got everything wrong here, and it’s not to say it has no potential — there’s just not a whole lot to like about Buzz right now.

What I would do with Buzz.

I think Buzz should aggregate everything from all my existing web communities, and let me filter it per-person.

If I’m wondering what my friend davefp is up to today, I should be able to pop into Buzz and instantly see any content of his that I can access in any of our mutual online spaces. His Twitter, Tumblr, Google Reader, blog; anything he’s got going on that I could check in each of those tools individually, right in one place. That’s when I would start Buzzing like a bee (again with the similes — sorry).

Obviously, it’s not easy to set up that sort of scenario, and you could argue that this is what Buzz is trying to do and that it’s just a few (light)years away — but the APIs exist for this! It’s just a matter of stitching them together in a way that’s coherent and seamless, and doesn’t take very long to set up, even if I have a lot of contacts on a lot of networks.

So that’s my take on Buzz. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 8 different networks to dip in to, and some Skittles to snack on…

Aside: have you seen lately? You should check it out — we need more designs like this.