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Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Google Buzz to be useful is necessary to segregate social groups and other ideas

 An update of January 5, 2011: Please see my next related post about Buzz.

I. Buzz needs to segregate social groups.
After reading interesting  How Google Plans to Beat Facebook article by Mike Elgan I decided to summarize my and my Buzz friends ideas on improving Google Buzz:

Although Facebook theoretically gives users an ability to segregate social groups, almost no one really knows about it and uses it.
At a current stage, Google Buzz does not provide such ability at all and, which IMO is a major drawback. We discussed this a lot in different Buzz threads. Let me list what we thought is necessary to implement for Buzz to be able to easily segregate social groups:
- Ability to attach labels/tags/categories on poster's end
- Ability to post privately to particular subset of groups (already implemented)
- Ability to broadcast publicly + to either particular subset of groups or to everyone who followed.
- Ability to filter/subscribe on particular labels/tags/categories for posts for each individual poster on reader's end.

Explanation: I would like to see updates on technical topics from one group, and updates on family events from another. I don't want my technical posts to automatically appear on my wife's list, even so she could see them if she wants.
Note: I mentioned labels above. That's because Google already have them implemented beautifully in Gmail; why not to extend their usage to Buzz?

- Ability to categorize a group as either friend group, or group I follow, or... whatever.

Explanation: Friend is not the same thing as a person I follow, it’s a different type of relationship.


II. Better Buzz contacts management.
It would be nice if my contacts acquired from Buzz were automatically added to a special (system) sysBuzz contact group, while contacts acquired from Wave were added to sysWave group, and so forth. This would make contact management easier. True, to some degree you can see source of contacts through Social circle but it's not convenient enough.
Even more, why are groups displayed by Social circle totally separate from my contacts groups? Shouldn't they be merged?


III. Improved Reshare.
CS Wong: After an extended period of using Buzz's Reshare feature, I've come to the conclusion that having a separate thread of comments for each Reshare is not beneficial. Discussion is what makes Buzz comes alive and the current Reshare implementation just splits the discussions into rather unsatisfying clusters here and there. My opinion is that a Reshare should just be a pointer to the original Buzz so that your followers would see whatever you reshared in their streams even if they don't follow the original Buzzer.

Adewale Oshineye: I tend to think we need both forking re-sharing (where you get lots of separate conversations about the same URL) and non-forking re-share (where there is only conversation about the URI.

Gathering all the Buzz users who care about a topic into one thread is likely to lead to flamewars and long but unsatisfactory discussions. Joshua Schacter, of Delicious, once said that there's a good reason for segregating people who talk about 'cinema' from people who talk about 'movies.' The different groups see the same thing but react very differently.

Buzz currently only support forking re-share. However people have discovered that you can simulate non-forking re-share by:
- Re-sharing a post and adding a note saying "Please comment on the original" then disabling comments on your fork of the post.


An update of September 9, 2010:

IV. Allow regular Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare to Buzz Profile Pages.
I found it quite inconvenient, that common Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare are not available on profile pages. For some reason, only 'Report Spam and Abuse', Comment, and Like actions are available. Often I open someone's profile page to read all her last posts or comments, like it but cannot reshare. Why doesn't it use the same interface as Gmail Buzz pages?


V. Improve Buzz discovery mechanism
Lauren Weinstein:
- The actual operational structures of conversations in Buzz are vastly superior to Twitter in virtually every way.
- The "follower" discovery mechanism in Buzz currently... is pretty sad... you need to periodically (without any prodding or reminders from Buzz itself) dig down to the end of your existing followers list and manually plow through the suggested new followers, which entails more clicks to get to their profiles and then working back to the follower list again.
- By comparison, Twitter's new follower suggestion mechanism tells you who else (of significance to you) is already following that person -- a significant help in the decision-making process. Also, when you get a new follow from the suggestion system, it notes the other people following you that were key to the suggestion taking place.

- When making a suggestion, Netflix explains that this movie is suggested because you liked the following similar movies. That's rises a question of how to define similarity between buzz posts? My answer:
     a) Add to Buzz and use labels (categories),
     b) more difficult - analyze a content, included links, etc.

An update of September 10, 2010: 

VI. Adding new participants to a private thread, “forum view” with condensed headings of threads with locked symbol and participant number indicator?
Courtney Pryce:
- [Buzz] requires me to set-up a pre-defined group with the participants and as far as I'm aware you cant add people to that group after the fact so I don't find that overly useful I'd prefer to just send an email and add after if need be.
- Similar to the structure of forums it would be good if you could just see headings of threads and know from a symbol whether those threads are locked and you need to request access them and also a little indicator on how many people are viewing or have been active with replies.

See my comments on difficulties this would introduce (and a subsequent discussion if present).

Actually we discovered that adding new participants to a private thread is not only possible, but probably too easy! See my next post  “How to dynamically add members to a private Buzz group

VII. There should be a little "last edited on xx.xx" mark next to each edited comment

VIII. To fix screen jumping around when a new post is added [above]

Bruce Attridge:
- One of the things that bug me about Buzz, is the way the screen jumps around... it's worst when new posts are added above - sometimes the post I'm reading [V.K.: or a comment I'm writing] disappears off-screen!

My comment:
I was writing it in a public thread and then crazy Buzz suddenly took me out of there and displayed a private thread to which I was invited at that moment, so that I lost all I wrote. It's a bug!


An update of September 13, 2010:

IX. Courtney Pryce:
Is there anyway to get another tab on the profile page that shows the most recent Buzz from all the people that you are following?

What I am suggesting is have another tab next to the "Comments by" and "Likes by" that would show me all 80 of the people that I have chosen to follow, listing [V.K. – in collapsed mode] their names in either alphabetic or chronological order (doesn't matter which) so that I can see what there last post was.

My Comment:
I would consider (based on what you described above):

On a Profile page

1) Adding another Posts by Following tab next to the "Comments by" and "Likes by" that would show a list of all the people I follow, preferably listing their names in alphabetical order. I would display that list either fully condensed by default or, perhaps, displaying a couple of last posts from this person and "See more posts" link.

2) In another post you originated the following idea, "Similar to the structure of forums it would be good if you could just see headings of threads and know from a symbol whether those threads are locked and you need to request access them and also a little indicator on how many people are viewing or have been active with replies." To me it looks like yet another Posts by Topic tab - displaying a condensed by default list of topics. This condensed view could be toggled to display only topics originated by people you follow, or to display all topics, or maybe even topics by people who follow you. (It could be a particular kind of a filter).

Just for a reminder, all Profile Buzz views should be fixed to allow regular Buzz actions like Email, Link, Mute, Reshare (only 'Report Spam and Abuse', Comment, and Like actions are available now).
Since Google Profile is a public page, what I see on my Buzz tabs here could be different from what others see. I would see both public and private posts, while others only posts they are allowed to see (and maybe, as you said - topics names for private topics).

On Buzz stream inside of Gmail

4) In case we still need to see Buzz stream inside of Gmail, why not to display identical Posts by Following and Posts by Topic tabs there as well?

Finally, while a tab content chunk is rendered on a client (using some type dynamic request to a server), when we switched between Posts by Followers and Posts by Topic tabs, client will need to re-fetch a [first] chunk of data, because it is now sorted differently.


An update of September 15, 2010:

X. 'Insert Link' thing below a buzz post disappears after adding a link, allowing to add only one link section per-buzz. Is it intentional?

I've just figure out a way to add more than one link section:

a) Add an URL directly to a text. It'll automatically add a link section on the bottom.
b) Place cursor before added URL, hit Enter to add an empty line above it.
c) Add a second URL above the first one. It'll automatically add a second link section on the bottom below the first one.
And so on. Note, that adding a new URL below an existing one will not trigger adding a new link section.

Will it be possible to manually re-arrange automatically added link sections (drag-and-drop)?


An update of September 20, 2010:

XI. Steve Pirk: [Add] A function where you can indicate what comment you are replying to. The idea is "back reference" links, that when hovered over show the comment with something along the lines of "in reply to". It lists the party/comment your reply was referring to.


An update of September 21, 2010:

XII. Jannik Lindquist
A feature request:
Please make it possible to get notified about someone’s comments. As an option, of course. When following someone there could simply be an option like "Get notifications for comments" which would mean that I would get the threads commented on by that person in my inbox - with an explanation: "This thread was delivered to your inbox because you subscribe to comments by xxx…
I am just trying to make the point that a lot of the gold on Buzz is in the comments. The vast majority of the people I have chosen to follow were chosen because of the quality of their comments. [Bold-Italic by V.K.] Of course, I also want to read their original posts - but most of them don't write a lot of original posts. In my humble opinion, this is huge drawback of Buzz. And I still can't see why my suggestion raises more privacy concerns than what is already present in Buzz. Every comment we make is already delivered to the inboxes of the followers of the authors of the threads containing our comments.".

My comment:
- I would like this feature if it would be possible to subscribe on someone's comments on some particular topics... another call to implement tags (labels) for Buzz posts.
Jannik relied:
- I understand what you are saying, Vladimir, but I'm a huge fan of the simplicity of the current Buzz, so I would prefer to just mute threads, that I'm not interested in.


An update of September 22, 2010:

XIII. Roberto Bayardo (see related topic VIII above):

- Now that Buzz activity seems to be picking up, the Buzz stream jumping all over the place when I'm trying to read it or post comments is becoming a big problem. Google Buzz Team, can you add an option that suppresses updates until I click a "show updates" button or something like that?
Lauren Weinstein:
- Yes, the "jumping" effect is very noticeable here. Mute updates are part of it, but other updates can apparently also cause the effect. Ideally, the current viewable screen area really shouldn't have to "jump" at all -- updates affecting the current view could be indicated on screen but not immediately rendered if they're going to move the current display. The jumps are particularly disconcerting when I'm typing text (e.g. to post a comment) and suddenly the text input box starts moving around, sometimes out of view entirely (which it just did while I was typing this, in fact!)


An update of September 29, 2010:

XIV. Feature request:

- To add Read it Later functionality to Google Buzz

We all are overloaded by information flow. Among other tools to tackle info-guilt (like Firefox Panorama) there is a simple "Read It Later" add-on for both Firefox and Chrome (less functional).

While it's possible to use it to save some interesting Buzz posts for further reading, I've just though, why not to:

Add Read It Later functionality to Google Buzz. This would allow to save links (titles with short descriptions, perhaps) to interesting Buzz posts for further reading.

a) I would display "Add to Read It Later" item to right-top drop-down box of individual Buzz posts. If this post is already saved to read-it-later list, I would display instead "Remove from Read It Later".
b) I would add "Read It Later" tab or menu item to the top of Buzz Stream window and probably to Google Profile as well (visible to me only).

I agree with Jannik Lindquist - it's a must to keep Buzz interface as simple as possible. Courtney Pryce recently suggested to add two other tabs to both Profile Page and Buzz stream interface in Gmail: "Posts by Followers" and "Posts by Topic" (see sections VI and XI above). It seems to be too many Tabs to add, but we can wrap those tabs into a little drop-down box like one displayed on top-right corners of Buzz posts.


An update of October 6, 2010:

XV. Feature request:

- To add Hash Tags functionality to Google Buzz

Hash tags! I think it's a really great functionality to add to Google Buzz. It's the same label concept I'm constantly arguing for, allowing for an efficient search and filtering Buzz posts for particular topic. But it's more. Let me quote what Amplify creator Eric Goldstein said:
"In any microblog post, comment or in your commentary on a clip, just add a # before any word and it will be displayed as a link on The link will point to Amplify search results for that word. In a tap of the hat to Twitter, we think hash tags have been put to great use on Twitter and we wanted to offer the same functionality to users of Amplify...
There are a few things about hash tags that make them valuable in my opinion. First, they serve to visually accentuate a particular word by converting them to a link. Second, they make it very easy for users to find more results on Amplify about a particular term, simply by clicking on it.

Lastly (and most importantly in my opinion), hash tags allow users to intelligently add words that describe a comment/post that may not have otherwise made sense to include. For example, I just posted something about Alex Rodriguez. Even though there was no mention of the word baseball in my post, i added it as a hash tag at the end of the post, because anyone who searches for baseball on amplify should see that post."

Amplify now supports hash tags!


An update of October 7, 2010

XVI. Feature request:

Arrogant Google:

- It would be cool if Buzz would unobtrusively identify those commenters in your buzz stream that you are not already following. This would be much nicer than the "suggested followers" feature, which, to be honest, doesn't really work well at all. (Hint: I don't want to follow people that don't leave any comments and haven't Buzzed in months!)