Google Buzz – The Good and The Bad

google-buzz-logoGoogle Buzz is barely out of the digital delivery room, so it may be a bit premature to start a meaningful review of the web’s newest baby.  But I’ll do it anyway.  Well, “meaningful” may be a bit of a stretch.  How about “cursory” or “preliminary?”

In case you are an under-rock dweller, here are the basics: Google announced a new web application called Google Buzz, which integrates with Google’s Gmail service.  There is also a Google Buzz mobile device application, which is accessible by pointing your mobile browser to www.buzz.google.com.  Here are some shots of how it looks on the iPhone:

iphone-buzz-2 iphone-buzz-3 iphone-buzz-1

Buzz is being rolled out over time, so if you don’t have it yet, don’t panic.  Be patient.

It’s impossible to resist a comparison to Twitter.  But, Buzz is more than just a Twitter clone.  It’s sort of a Frankenstein’s Monster of  web applications: part Twitter, part instant messenger, part email, part discussion forum, part social media aggregator, part rich media delivery tool, and part location-based social network.  Too much to cover here.

If you really want to understand it, your best bet is to watch this brief video:

You can also read this good article about it from the New York Times.

A few notes on the good and bad of Google Buzz…

The Good:

  • Google Buzz is integrated into it’s popular (176 million users strong) Gmail email service.  This means more of a centralized hub for this new pastiche of communication.  It also means that it won’t be ignored (like Google Wave? and Google Latitude?) because the Buzz link appears right under Gmail’s inbox link.
  • Integration with Twitter.  If you connect your Twitter account (also Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader) with Buzz, your tweets flow to your Buzz stream. Double your pleasure.
  • Integration with Google Reader.  Increasingly, Reader is becoming the filter from which I find interesting content on the web.  With Buzz, I can use the Reader “share” feature to send items right into my Buzz stream so others can enjoy the good content, as well.  You can follow me on Google Reader here.
  • Mobile access & LBSN features.  Google’s first swing at Buzz for mobile is impressive.  It shows a list view and a decent map view of nearby Tweets Buzzes (see pics above).  This will help Google overcome their failed attempt at LBSN (i.e., location-based social networking (see Google Latitude).  Lookout FourSquare?
  • The @ factor.  Like Twitter, you can direct a Buzz to a user by using the “at” symbol as a prefix to an email address.  So, to send someone  a Buzz, type @email_address@gmail.com in the Buzz box.

The Bad:

  • Direct messaging? As noted, there is an @ function, but it is not readily apparent whether there is a direct (private) message shortcut function (the equivalent of using the “d” in Twitter).  You can send a private message to “a small group of your closest friends,” (see the video) but doing so is just a tad cumbersome.  Shortcut, please.
  • Searching email also searches Buzz items.  Gmail’s ability to quickly search your email items is one of it’s best features.  As of this morning, search results included Buzz results.  Not good.  Google should be able to fix this (and there may already be a filter for it).  But the default search should exclude Buzz results, or Google should simply include a button to select the content to search.
  • Buzz to email.  Some users have already complained of being  inundated with email because Buzzes are going right into their inboxes (rather than into the separate Buzz location).  This is designed to happen when someone comments on your Buzz or sends you an “@ message” – so that you don’t miss it.  There should be an option to disable this feature.
  • Speaking of comments… everything in moderation, please.  This is not Twitter: people can comment on your Buzzes.  Sounds great, unless you follow someone like Robert Scoble or Pete Cashmore (of Mashable), then it’s WAY too much information.  A recent Buzz by Scoble elicited 100 “likes” and 145 comments.  Scrolling down through all those comments to the next Buzz took a while.  And I hate to say it, but a lot of those comments were meaningless blather.  Buzz needs a “show/hide” comments link (default view to hide) to avoid this.
  • Long posts: Again, this is not Twitter.  There is no 140 character limit on what you can Buzz about.  Scoble said he likes this, but I disagree.  Twitter has gotten us used to short messages.  140 characters may be too short, but I don’t want to read War and Peace in someone’s Buzz post.  Maybe there is a limit, but I couldn’t find it.
  • A butterfly?  (See the video) I get it, I get it: social butterfly.  But shouldn’t Google have used a bee or a hornet as the mascot?

As a preemptive strike, I’ll just say that the Google Buzz integration with Gmail had better not mess up my Gmail contacts!!!  There’s already enough frustration with that as it is.

That’s it – quick and dirty.  If you’re using Google Buzz, then let’s connect.  Find my Buzz information on my Google Profile.  I’ve also created a LinkedIn Group called Google Buzz where people can discuss it (in a less buzzy, old-school discussion- forum-type of way), so join that too.

So, what are your thoughts about Google Buzz?  Please comment below.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Location, Location, Location Based Social Networking

The take away: Location-based social networking is about “assisted serendipity” – using technology to turn an otherwise chance encounter into a real business opportunity.

Location-based social networking (LBSN) applications are becoming quite popular.  They are not entirely new, however.  Here’s a nice list of LBSN sites – some of which have been discontinued, including the Google-owned Dodgeball (replaced by Google Latitude).  The most hyped LBSN app is Foursquare.  If you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend, then you know that I’ve been experimenting with Foursquare for several weeks now.

location-locationWhat is a LBSN?

We’ve barely wrapped our heads around Twitter, and now we’re expected to adopt yet another new-fangled social media phenomenon.  To help explain why you might want to do this, I’ll use Foursquare as an example. Here’s how it works:

Much like any social network, Foursquare members start by creating profiles and adding friends or contacts.  But unlike most SN sites, Foursquare is meant to be used on the go – from a mobile device (I use Foursquare’s iPhone App, but there are apps for BlackBerry and Android too).  Using a mobile device’s GPS or cell tower triangulation technology, Foursquare suggests nearby locations — perhaps a bar or museum or sporting event venue — where a user can “check-in.”

Users can view details about nearby places, including tips left by previous Foursquare users (e.g., “Try the bacon cheeseburger…”).  Users can also see who else has checked-in recently.  Local businesses take advantage of location-based data to help lure customers with special offers.

tasti-dFor example, on a recent trip to The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York, the nearby Tasti D-Lite shop “noticed” I was there and offered a discount on an ice cream cone if I stopped by.

There is also a “game” aspect to Foursquare.  Users collect “badges” and points for various activities like checking in to ten or more locations in a week, or for checking in to different types on places.  My favorite is the “Jobs” badge (awarded for checking in to three or more Apple Stores), which entitles you to a free “iHoverboard” if you show the badge to an Apple Genius at the store.

Foursquare also lists the times and locations where your friends check in.  If you’re really in to it, you can get an alert every time someone checks in to any location (I don’t recommend this because it will drive you crazy – especially if your Foursquare friends are active users).

Finally, you can opt link your Foursquare account with your other social networks so that your Foursquare updates appear on your Facebook wall or in your Twitter stream.  Fair warning: this might irritate your Twitter followers and Facebook friends – especially if you’re an active user – because they will be inundated with messages like “Patrick just checked in at the Apple Store…” all day long.  Rather than setting Foursquare to automatically update your other networks, set it to prompt you to choose whether to do so on a case-by-case basis.

OK….so why would I want do that?

This is the same question that we asked about LinkedIn, then Facebook, then Twitter before millions of people signed up.  There are lots of theories about why we do this social networking stuff.  But do we need yet another social network; one that lets everyone know where we are – all the time?  Well, this may fall under the Steve Jobs category of “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Do you want to let everyone know where you are all the time?  Probably not.  But that’s not the question.  The question is: Would you like a unique opportunity to connect with your contacts — in real life?

Location-based social networking is not about restaurant recommendations, or discounted ice cream, or badges.  It’s about “assisted serendipity.”  Never before have we been able to help along a chance encounter, or to take advantage of an opportunity that we didn’t even know existed.

For example, let’s say you’re traveling and have some time to kill while you wait for your flight at the airport.  Little did you know, one of your contacts–a business prospect–is there too.  You might happen to run into your contact, but given the conditions (the size of the airport, the number of people, etc.) the chances are slim.  More than a mere catalyst that simply hastens an inevitable chemical reaction, a LBSN, like Foursquare can create an opportunity — turning a potential chance meeting into a sure thing.

So, will you use a LBSN application, or is it just too much too soon?

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

“Location” Photo Credit: http://www.vegsource.com/talk/humor/messages/99895680.html

Jukebox Hero: Why We Love Twitter

There are many reasons to love Twitter.  One reason is that we love to share, and we love to help others.  And we love to get credit for sharing and helping. After all, there are no “anonymous donors” on Twitter.

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Finding that great article, YouTube video, or funny picture is exciting enough, but when you get credit for sharing it and starting the viral spread of such amazing stuff in the Twitterverse, well it just feels good.

It’s the Jukebox Hero Theory of Social Media: I didn’t write the song that I just selected on the jukebox, but I’m damn proud when it comes on and people are singing along and thinking “Oh! I love that song!”

Well Twitter People, that song was my selection.  Of all the other songs I could have played, I chose that one. It’s awesome. I found it.  And I shared it with you.  You’re welcome.

By the way, there is no such thing as the Jukebox Hero Theory of Social Media – I just made it up.  But as it turns out, there is some research behind the concept of how helping people makes you feel good.  According to Allan Luks and Peggy Payne it’s called the Helper’s High, “a feeling of exhilaration and a burst of energy similar to that experienced after intense exercise, followed by a period of calmness and serenity.”  They discuss it in their book, The Healing Power of Doing Good.

So, why else do you Tweet?

You can buy that really cool t-shirt on Zazzle.  It’s not mine and I have no financial interest in it.  I just think it’s cool.  Plus I wanted to get credit for letting you all know about it.  Because it makes me feel good.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

New Jersey Courts Embrace Web 2.0 / Social Media

New Jersey State courts have announced the adoption of several Web 2.o technologies to better serve the legal community.   These include RSS feeds, a Twitter page, a YouTube channel, and a Facebook page.  The text of the press release is below (and here’s a link to it).

Judiciary Uses Social Media to Keep Court Users Informed

SMS text messages.  RSS feeds.  Facebook.  YouTube.

The Judiciary is taking advantage of the latest media developments to keep the public informed of the latest court developments.  Now, lawyers, litigants, law enforcement, state agencies, reporters and others can obtain up-to-the-minute court news and information on their cell phones as well as online.

“Our court users rely heavily on social media to stay informed and connected.  We are responding to their expectations for timely information that maximizes the convenience of the Internet and of cell phones and other devices,” said Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts.

Court users can sign up for breaking news alerts via short message service (SMS) text alerts on their cell phones.  Users sign up for the service through a link on the Judiciary home page, njcourts.com.  The text messages will announce unscheduled court closings and other high priority information so that users who are not in the office or at home in front of their computers will receive the information in real time on their cell phones.  The Judiciary also has begun using Twitter to send short “tweets” about breaking court news.  To sign up for either of these options, users can click on the SMS or Twitter links on the Judiciary home page.  Those links will take them to the appropriate Web sites to sign up for those services.

Users also can add one of three Judiciary RSS feeds to their home pages.  Users can choose to receive the news release feed, notices to the bar, or Supreme and Appellate Court opinions, or all three options, by clicking on the RSS icon on the Judiciary home page.  The site will link directly to a sign-up page that will allow users to have the feeds sent to their personal start page on Google, Yahoo or another Web-based personal site.   As soon as a new item is posted to the Judiciary Web site in one of those categories, the information will be available immediately on the personal start page.

Facebook users can join the group “New Jersey Courts” to see press releases, court information and photos of court events. The Judiciary’s Facebook page is updated daily and the links can be shared with others who are not currently members of the group.

Finally, the Judiciary has begun posting videos on YouTube for court users to learn more about the courts.  Topics covered by the videos include the Judiciary’s mortgage foreclosure mediation program and the Veteran’s Assistance Project.  Future videos will address help available for self-represented litigants and volunteer opportunities.  To find video clips about the New Jersey courts, go to youtube.com/njcourts.

For more information on how to sign up for any of the new services, call 609-292-9580.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms