First thoughts on Google Buzz for mobile (Alex is telling me the web version is a whole new can of worms)
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Okay, so after spending some quality time with Google Buzz, I think I finally get it: Twitter status updates + you can use more than140 chars + optionally tied to place name. The goal seems more about generating content than generating checkins.
A few thoughts:
#1. There’s nothing better than trying to figure out someone else’s new mobile + social product to get you thinking about how bad our (foursquare’s!) UX may be for first time users. After launching Buzz, I had no idea how to tie myself to a place (the Q&A was all about places, but turns out the main "move" is a post, not a checkin). I had no idea how to connect with friends (turns out you have to search for them by name… and these search results are Gmail contacts, but not necessarily people who are even using Buzz?) And these people I’m now following – do they see my posts? My posts & locations? And I still have no idea how some people seem to be pulling in their Twitter or RSS feeds into the "nearby view". It just seems sloppy (and stressed me out about how much of the "teach people how to use it" story we are prob missing throughout foursquare’s New User Experience)
#2. Making a webpage is a pain in the ass. Writing a blog post is much easier. It’s even easier to compose a 140 char tweet. And a checkin is like a poor man’s tweet, but with location. Sometimes all you want to say is "I’m here!" – not for the sake of broadcasting your location to all your friends, but as a poor man’s status update. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of context you can get from a simple "I’m here" button (date / time / location / with whom / event meta data – e.g "I’m at Yankee Stadium w/ 4 others"). The fact that Google Buzz requires you to write something (anything!) in order to log / share your location is such a dealbreaker. Sometimes I have nothing to say! Just let me share my location anyway!
(caveat: I know this is a very checkin/foursquare way of looking at the world, but let’s not fool ourselves here… Google wants the "who’s going where" data so why prevent users from the simplest form of mobile/social sharing – the "I am here" button??)
#3. Is Google Buzz the Facebook / Twitter / foursquare killer? No. Using Buzz requires more thought / more work than Facebook or Twitter and comes with less reward.
I’ve been saying this for a few years now, but dodgeball only worked because Friendster taught people how to use social networks ("it’s like Friendster but for phones!"). foursquare only works because Twitter taught people how to overshare ("it’s like Twitter with location!"). At the very least, Google Buzz introduces the masses to the idea of mobile + social + location sharing which may be what’s needed to finally get mobile + social out of the nerd/tech ghetto and into the hands of the masses ("foursquare: it’s like Google Buzz, but fun!")
I have a lot of friends at Google who worked on this (or parts of it) over the years. I think most of the thinking is right on, but Google execution always seems to be dulled by what’s probably a lot of "design by committee" and the absolute necessity to build something that appeals to Everyone in the World (and it still may be too early to do that in this space). I thought the same about Latitude when it launched (almost exactly) a year ago. To Todd J and the crew, I’m psyched you guys are pushing so hard on Google in this space and I’m really looking forward to seeing how you guys evolve the product over time.
ps: kind-of related, but any TM issues here???