Wednesday, February 10, 2010

140 Characters or Less? Not Anymore...

With today's launch of Google Buzz there is a lot of talk about the product design and interface, the competitive landscape, pulling and pushing content in and out of Buzz and a whole host of other thoughts and opinions either loving or hating it. Since so much of that conversation is already going on I want to explore a different bent on Buzz.

Based on my past 6 months using Buzz internally at Google, I think Buzz could possibly change the depth and type of conversations that occur around our second by second socially shared content.

One of the initial complaints about Buzz is that it does not push out to Twitter, meaning you can't update Buzz and have that update push out and update your Twitter stream (It does work the other way around where your Tweets can push to Buzz). The issue here is Buzz has no character limits. Some of the content you create on Buzz wont be handled properly by Twitter and its 140 character limit.

As Twitter exploded in growth the 140 character limit gained fame for its ease of use and simple sharing. I applaud and love the simplicity that Twitter brings to the message. You have to be smart and concise with your thoughts and characters. But when I have a conversation via twitter replies I find it might be a reply or two back and forth, not much more and rarely involving more than 2-3 people, instant but not thorough.

Facebook does not have a character limit and I certainly see long threads based on status updates, but they have a different feel. More likes and quick responses vs. conversation and continued dialog. You also have the friend (Facebook) vs. Follower (Buzz and Twitter) difference. Here I find Followers more likely to participate in conversations.

As Sergey mentioned during the launch, he Buzzed an article he would be publishing on his recent trip to Haiti to ask for feedback and comments. What followed was a deep thread with thoughts on the Haiti article expressing various opinions, ideas and edits from other Googlers.

As I started following some folks yesterday I saw these deeper conversations firsthand with users (@Pete Cashmore and @Kevin Rose are good examples) who were new to the product. A lot of these Buzzes had to do with questions about Buzz and its functions or lack thereof. What happened from here was that groups formed around the initial Buzz. These groups were formed by commenting on the post and then being notified when someone responds back or joins the group with a new comment. I found that reading some of the threads was just as informative as comments at the end of a good article or blog post. I also found I was participating much more in the conversation (and multiple times) as opposed to pushing out messages, thoughts or links on Twitter. 

From initial observation Buzz starts to feel more like a conversational platform. Additionally, being able to see how many people have commented on a Buzz gives credibility to the topic, and in my mind makes the user more like to participate or read through the Buzz and its comments.

I understand the above paragraph reads somewhat like FriendFeed, but love or hate Buzz it is brilliantly integrated into Gmail leading to greater visibility, participation and frequency of use.

The unlimited character feature of Buzz could be really powerful and I think being able to share longer form content is a great differentiator for the product.

Can Buzz can change the way conversations and debates play out in the social space? You can certainly treat it like Twitter with short blasts and shortened url's, but to get the most out of Buzz I believe you need to think about how you share content and expect to have more of a conversation around that content than what we currently trained to do.

I am very interested to see Google's plans with Buzz as the year moves forward and users provide feedback. For educational, enterprise and collaborative purposes I think Buzz is already a very very powerful tool you should start using immediately. For the general user the core behavior and learnings will be beyond insightful and certainly help shape the product moving forward. I hope that tools are created to encourage more sharing/editing/deabte around this longer form sharing in Buzz.

What do you think? Does sharing a lot of longer form content in a Buzz prevent it from integrating well with other social media and sharing sites? Do 5 sentences or more seem to much to cull through in terms of how you want to interact and use Buzz?

Gonna go Tweet this now...

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