Google Buzz: 10 changes I'd like to see

Here are some tweaks Google could make to its social networking service to make it a better experience for everyone

Google Buzz has generated a lot of controversy since its launch last week. Privacy concerns continue to dog the new social networking experiment, spammers are starting to move in on Buzz, and Google has rushed out several Buzz revisions in reaction to privacy concerns. Google is also considering other tweaks to make the site more usable, according to The Wall Street Journal. With that in mind, here are ten things Google could do to make Buzz a better experience for everyone:

Stop Repeat Follower Notifications

I've asked around, and many users are having the same problem as me: Google Buzz alerts you about the same new followers multiple times. I've opened my Buzz tab with an alert on several occasions to see a Buzz notification telling me I have new followers. But some of them are the same new followers I saw yesterday. We only need to see new users once Google, if I wanted to follow them back right away, I would've done so.

Vanity URLs = Privacy URLs

Right now, you have two choices for the URL in your Google profile (you need a profile to use Buzz): a vanity URL with your Google account name or a string of numbers over 20 characters long. For many people, using their vanity URL means disclosing their Gmail account name, which is not a fair choice for those who prefer to keep their e-mail private. For that reason, Google should let Buzz users choose their own URLs for their Google profile. Besides, something like Google.com/profiles/IanPaul625 would be much easier to remember and share than this monstrosity: 101660957219445655484.

Picasa, Google's photo sharing site, lets you pick any URL you want for your public gallery, and the same should be true for your public Google profile.

Information overload

Great, somebody I don't know has just added a comment to a conversation I don't care about, and now this thread is at the top of my Buzz stream. I didn't care the first time this Buzz came around, so what makes Google think I care about it now that random Buzz user number 237 has added his two cents?

Many Buzz users have complained that Buzz's habit of surfacing conversation over and over again is annoying. In fact, those who want to follow large amounts of people, like blogger Robert Scoble, say their Buzz stream is unusable because of the frequent updating.

The conversation aspect of Buzz is great, but I don't want, or need, to participate in every conversation that comes across my feed. Why not surface only those conversations I initiate or participate in, and let everything else hit my feed once?

Bookmarks

On the other hand, sometimes that resurfacing can be handy. If I see something I want to read, but don't have time to read it right now, I can just let it go: it'll be back again and again and again. But I'd much rather see a bookmarking feature, where I can set aside a Buzz to read later. Right now the only solution is to wait for the conversation to resurface or e-mail the conversation's permalink to your inbox.

Better alert system

All those e-mail updates you get from Google Buzz are nice, but there is no easy way to control them. By now, most of you have probably discovered how you can use Gmail filters to banish Buzz updates from your inbox. And I have to say that using Multiple Inboxes along with filters is a fantastic way to keep things out of your inbox, while still receiving the updates you want to see. But there has to be a better way, like a separate tab for alerts within the Buzz interface.

Banish the Buzz counter

I really hate that Buzz counter, and I wish I could turn it off. I don't care how many new buzzes are in there, I really don't. I have my inbox set up with multiple inboxes so I know when people are responding to something I'm interested in, and everything else can wait. That counter makes Buzz feel more pressing than it actually is, and if I'm trying to focus on real work I don't want to see that unread Buzz count going up and up and up. Give me the option to turn that counter off; I'll still use Buzz, I swear.

Push It Real Good

I am still astonished that you can't push a Buzz out to other social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. For all its talk of openness, Google has effectively started with a social networking silo where you can pull things in, but you can't easily push things out. I know all the arguments about how Google doesn't want to use Twitter's proprietary API, but quite frankly I don't care; fact is, there's no easy way to push information out of Buzz. Right now, if you want to push to Twitter and Buzz at the same time you can use Ping.fm or Twitterfeed. But the best option is for Google to build this as a native feature in Buzz.

Bring it in faster

Google Buzz does a terrible job of pulling in updates, photos, and other information from third-party social networks. Sometimes Buzz is great and things get pulled in really quickly, other times it can take as long 6 hours before Buzz pulls in your tweets. Friendfeed can pull stuff into your feed in just seconds every time; Buzz should be able to do the same.

Profile Control

Having Google Buzz connected to your public Google profile is a great idea, but I would like to see more granular control. Right now, for example, if you link to your Twitter account on your Google profile then your tweets will come in to Buzz (albeit slowly). It would be better to have a choice, so that if I wanted to I could leave my Twitter link on my profile, but not have those updates pulled into Buzz.

Just Go For It and Rip Off Friendfeed Already

Nobody who's used Friendfeed before can miss the similarities between Google Buzz and Friendfeed. Paul Buchheit, one of FF's founders even commented on the similarities. So why not just go for it Google? Give us things like Friendfeed's Best of day/week/month, the My Discussions tab and, the best feature of all, Imaginary Friends.

Those are my 10 things I'd like to see. What about you? What's driving you nuts about Buzz? What changes would you like to see?

Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul) or on Google Buzz.

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Ian Paul

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