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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Google Buzz to successfully evolve

It’s a logical continuation of For Google Buzz to be useful post.
Please use corresponding Buzz thread to comment.

I switched to new Google Groups UI some time ago and really like it. Recently, however, I read a discussion initiated by Chris Lang and went again to Groups for a more closer look. Today I read an interesting threads initiated by Ryo ★ and then by Tracy Crawford (it somehow slipped off my attention before.) I started to answer on particular comments, suddenly it was glued together with Google Group considerations and below is a resulting blog post. I see it as a second part of my old "For Google Buzz to be useful is necessary to" post (which is only partially obsolete.)

Ryo ★ said,
"I mentioned before that there is a very active core-group of people on Buzz. And some of them are screwing it up, trying to install their own view of how Buzz should be... Google Buzz is on the edge of becoming a small user-group. And that's sad….
Linda, well this was my opinion, not Leo's. Leo just said literally Buzz is dead. I don't agree on that, but in my opinion, Buzz is on the wrong way.
Like I said, I know that from many sites with social interaction. Any platform who can not get over those small core groups are going to be out of control and interesting only for a very limited amount of people."

As it was indicated by Lauren Weinstein (Section V of “For Google Buzz to be useful” and corresponding Buzz threadBuzz suffers from a poor discoverability of people. Twitter does it much better by suggesting reasonable people based on common interests and followers.

Buzz is on the hand about following by shared interests. So, what I see as even more important shortcoming is a lack of Forum View or Posts by Topics.
Cortney Pryce  first introduced this idea (Sections VI and IX of “For Google Buzz to be useful” and corresponding Buzz threads).

Such a Forum View would display condensed threads of a particular theme.
It might be a result of Search operation (Google - that's what you always should do!);  it might be a Front Wall with subset of a most popular and recent topics (like in Facebook).
I believe that Chris Lang often says that lack of a Front Page really hurts Buzz popularity. Now I realize how right he is!

What is critical for Forum View to succeed and to complement current Buzz is that it should by default display topic threads originated by everybody, not only by people you already follow. Sure, you may configure it to include only certain type of topics (using hash tags / labels attached to topics, or using applied Google search). But by default it should include all threads, not only threads originated by people you follow. This would break those small isolated/isolationists Buzz groups Ryo ★ was complaining about after Leo Laporte.

By including Front/Forum View we'll get a great place to discover new themes and contacts and to argue with people with different opinions.
As Rob Gordon said in Stacy Crawford’s thread, "Even if you don't care for the opinions of certain other people here, and they don't care for yours, you are still going to come in contact on other people's threads. This is what has made Buzz interesting - it is what has made it a single community rather then a bunch of independent microblogs, but it has also made us all part of a "social experiment" on the part of Google"

A good albeit specific example of Forum view is Quora.  But you know what? Google recently reformatted one its old and dusty tool into almost prefect example of Forum View. It already feels like a missing part of Buzz. I'm talking about new Google Groups. You click on "Browse All"  and then you could discover a lot of new stuff and people.
You click on "My Groups" - and that's what I call Forum View. Look at "Google Shared Spaces" group  (note the word "Forum" in URL!). Look at "Why do I need a public profile? Why access to Buzz?" topic. It feels like a Buzz thread.

New Google Groups not only could provide missing "Front Wall" and "Forum View" to Buzz, they are also "groups" – i.e. they allow to post conveniently either publicly or privately to a group.

I really expect further integration of Google Groups and Buzz. And I'd be happy to hear your opinion on what I said about Google Groups / Buzz integration. Hello, Google Buzz Team :)



Jordi Soler said, “Well, I have to agree with the post, especially on the problems with the Google Profile page. A long time ago I thought my profile page could become my main blog if it allowed some kind of customization and a nice template. Several months later, I've already given up and moved to Tumblr, where my blog suits my content.

Jordi, I don't think Buzz is a blogging tool. It is a Discussion tool, a Forum, like Amplify and like Google Groups are becoming now. For blogs let's use Wordpress, Blogger, etc. But Buzz may serve as a nice comment engine for those tools, provided that Google allows for comment syncing between them and Buzz. Bud Gibson perfectly stated it in a comment:
"Actually, I'd like to see buzz turn into better glue between some of Google's really great islands like Picasa and Blogger. I want buzz likes and comments to show up in Picasa and Blogger. I want two way."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To converge Chrome Bookmarks with Google Bookmarks?

There is a tool called Google Bookmarks. I use it to display a list of the often used sites on my iGoogle home page (using a gadget). But why do we need two sets of bookmarks? Every browser on the market has bookmarking functionality, although some tries to appear more original and call them Favorites.
So, wouldn’t it be great to converge to sets of bookmarks into one?

All browsers display bookmarks as a tree structure. Some of browsers have pretty good bookmarks UI. In my opinion, latest Firefox is a champion in this field. Firefox remembers a position of  previously added bookmark (IE does not) and only expands that branch in a bookmarks tree by default. It allows to add tags to bookmarks and to put separator lines between bookmarks.
In my older post I proposed a way of much easier addition of a new bookmark to some folder of your bookmark tree – to right-click on a folder and to choose “Bookmark current page here”. I submitted it to Chromium Issues site too, but would better to submit it to Google Product Ideas? (I’m a bit lost in Google’s web land.)

But there are several advanced features Google Bookmarks already implemented (not in a best-UI way, perhaps),  but browsers’ bookmarks have not.

First of all, Google Bookmarks support labels. Labels are synonymous  to tags or categories. They allow to assign multiple characteristics to each node and to search/filter by a characteristic. Firefox actually started to implement similar in-browser functionality called tags. It’s here, but it’s not a convenient thing to use. Neither Chrome nor IE support it.

An excellent example of labels implementation is Gmail. (Buzz cries for implementing labels too.)   Gmail recently allowed for nested labels (an experimental labs feature.)   It’s a tree structure,  but since you can easily assign multiple labels to each email item and easily filter, finding a particular node is easy.

My browser’s bookmarks tree (I sync them using Xmarks) is enormous. Thousands of valuable links (mostly on programming), so many of them it’s often easier to Google for a page than to find it in bookmarks. But maybe smaller more shallow bookmark tree combined with labels and ability to search within it in a Google-way – a system converged from browser’s bookmarks and Google bookmarks will be more convenient?

Google is in a unique position: it owns both Google Bookmarks technology and Chrome browser. Nothing should stop it from displaying that converged bookmark system in a Chrome menu – replacing current Chrome bookmarks. This way individual user’s bookmarks still could be synchronized with bookmarks in Firefox or any other browser. This other browser wouldn’t know these are Google bookmarks and would perhaps support only part of functionality.

Please discuss this post on Google Buzz.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to dynamically add members to a private Buzz group

Here's an extremely interesting Buzz feature Andriy discovered!
1) Create an empty group in my contacts
2) Write a privet Buzz post aimed to that empty group
3) Mention ( @ ) someone in a Buzz post body or in comments.
Note, that not only a thread originator, but anybody already added (i.e. @-mentioned by anyone in a post body or in a comment) can invite new people to that private thread.
What if a thread originator only invited Friend_A and Girlfriend_B and was going to keep it secret from Wife_C. Then Friend_A (is it really a friend?) @-invited Wife_C to a thread
Oh, yes, I know Friend_A could just pick a phone and call her, but...
I'm positive there should be a stricter protection degree added to Buzz posts.
Why not to
a) Rename current private post level to Protected
b) Add stricter Private level, for which no one [except thread originator maybe?] can @-invite new participants in?

(See this post and a discussion on Buzz)

Adewale Oshineye (Google) - Oh I see. We had this exact discussion internally a while ago.

Think of it this way. If A has a private email discussion with B then there's nothing to stop B from forwarding the entire thread to {C,D,E,F}. Essentially you have to trust the people you speak to not to just publish your private conversations.

Personally I don't believe this is a problem that should be solved by technology. If the people you talk to don't respect your trust then they always have the option of cutting and pasting your message into a text file and sending it out. If you disable cut and paste then they can always take a screenshot and send that around.

Society already has a solution for dealing with people who forward private communications: we stop speaking to those people.

The editable email stuff seems to be a variation on this: