Google Buzz copied FriendFeed's worst features, why?

OK, now I’ve had a bit of time to play with Google Buzz and everywhere I look I see a badly-executed copy of FriendFeed.

With two important exceptions:

1. Google Buzz actually has a lot of users and much better information flowing through its veins. There’s a reason that FriendFeed doesn’t have many users: it has some very anti-user features that retard user adoption (back when I was excited about FriendFeed I kept hoping that FriendFeed was going to fix some of their issues).
2. It has pretty nice location features built in, especially if you use Google Maps on Android.

But, they made some horrid mistakes. Let’s detail them:

1. They are infatuated with real time flow (items flow down my screen) but unlike FriendFeed they didn’t give you an option to turn that off. For users who are following a lot of people, like me, that makes Google Buzz unusable.
2. They love comments, but that leads to the chat room problem I talked about earlier. But Google Buzz actually made comments worse than FriendFeed did. They didn’t give us moderation capabilities. They don’t let you block people right from comments like FriendFeed did.
3. Unlike FriendFeed they don’t let you group your friends into lists. This makes using it with more than small groups very frustrating and pushes me back to Twitter where list support is an important part of my experience now.
4. They didn’t give us any filtering capabilities. FriendFeed got very close to having good filtering with its real time search engine that let you do things like “show me all items with the word ‘Obama’ but only show me items that have four likes or more.” That was very powerful, Google hasn’t even tried yet to do real time search or filtering like this.
5. Adding friends is frustrating, especially for someone who is getting added by hundreds of people a day. Google could really have innovated here, but they didn’t add anything Twitter or FriendFeed doesn’t have.
6. On Google Buzz, as with FriendFeed, A-list users get too much engagement and attention and that keeps putting their posts at the top of the feed. Google copied FriendFeed’s worst feature, that where items that get engagement keep popping to the top. I desperately want a strict reverse-chronological feed so I can just see items once, and not 300 times as they get engaged with.
7. They copied FriendFeed’s like feature, but didn’t do the most important thing: let me see all the likes by a single person. Over on FriendFeed I can see what Mike Arrington has liked, or commented on. I can’t do that in Google Buzz.
8. I turned off bringing Tweets and FriendFeed items into Google Buzz. Why? Because unlike on FriendFeed my readers can’t turn off just my Tweets. That makes Google Buzz very noisy.
9. They copied FriendFeed’s second worst feature: that comments bring people into my view that I don’t know, don’t care about, and Google Buzz gave me even fewer ways to control or moderate that. I wish there were a way to hide all comments until I want to see comments, for instance.
10. They also copied FriendFeed’s lack of curation features. For instance, Google Buzz has no way to bundle their items together into a single URL.
11. They copied the worst part of FriendFeed’s UI: the boring look but didn’t copy FriendFeed’s best part of the UI, the clean and simple feed. I keep getting boxes and other crap in my feed which reduces the number of items on my screen.
12. They copied the photo feature from FriendFeed, but, like FriendFeed, didn’t give me any control over size of images or anything else, either.

As I type this I’m at 37,000 feet and watching CNN. On CNN they showed off that Google Buzz is hard to use. Well, duh. They copied FriendFeed’s worst features and didn’t innovate.

And I won’t even get into all the privacy issues others had with earlier versions of Google Buzz.

So, Google, why did you copy FriendFeed’s worst features? Is there any way we can work together to find a better system? I really find Twitter and Facebook lacking too, and keep hoping someone brings out a dramatically better system but haven’t seen it yet.

The world needs a curation system, for instance. But until you stop copying other systems’ worst features I don’t feel you’ll even understand what users want.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Are you insane? Friendfeed added features over time. Just like Buzz will. You can’t expect everything in release 1.

    1. Why not? This is Google. Don’t they have endless resources? At the very least, they should have done a far better job on the first release considering they has so much practice, and negative feed back already.

  2. “Unlike FriendFeed they don’t let you group your friends into lists. “

    Uh, yeah they do. The same lists you use in Gmail work for private buzzi, too.

  3. Hmm, are they sharable in public? Like Twitter's are? Can I check out your lists? I can't figure them out and if I can't figure them out I doubt many people can.

  4. I grant and agree with most of your points, Robert, but I do think that we give to need Buzz a bit of time in which to iterate. Copying is no substitution for running the service yourself, and seeing what works. Many of the FF features you're talking about (the powerful search, for example, or the real-time flow) weren't present in the first iterations of FF either. I'm kind of liking Buzz, though I agree it needs work. I hope Google does respond to feedback well; they appear to be at least doing it wrt the initial user experience…they've changed that already. I look forward to see where is all goes. The “bones” of Buzz are great, architecture-wise.

  5. Chat rooms ARE time wasters. They increase noise and if you don't have ways to filter that noise out, or control it, it gets rid of the smart users pretty quickly.

  6. Good comments Robert. I liked buzz a lot at first but like you, just found it to be too noisy, ESPECIALLY since posts keep getting pushed the top when a new comment gets added, as you complained about. I follow you on buzz and your posts were ALWAYS at the top. Obviously I want to see your posts but not the same one over and over again as people comment. The number 1 thing they can do to fix buzz for me is just have a reverse chronological order by post date, not comment date.

    I turned off buzz because it was just too much noise. I think with another couple weeks they will fix most of the serious issues, including this one. Then I will try using it again.

  7. I agree with everything said here. I find Google Buzz unusable because it is almost like getting a raw data dump with minimal filters. I am looking forward to somebody using the underlying technologies and making a better Buzz than Buzz.

  8. Your #6 and #9 points are what keeps me away from Buzz. If you follow someone like @Mashable, then all their posts (that receive tons of comments) are all you see. It would be nice if they would at least add a feature allowing you to collapse the post and hide the comments. Then you could at least view the other people you follow easier.

    1. Good point, Matt. I already follow Mashable on Twitter and added them to Buzz. When I later logged into Buzz and had to scroll and scroll and scroll past comment after comment for Mashable posts, I unfollowed them. A collapse for comments would go far for something like this.

    1. True, you can’t expect to hit all points “with release 1″. However, one would think that a power house like Google would at least get some of it right the first go around.

      Google has a dispensable amount of consumer research data. That being said, their product should have been more operable for users.

      I conceed with the fact that integrating one’s social networking platform into real-time Google Maps definitely has a cool factor. That might be fine for most people. But for people in the same predicament as scobleizer, those that use social media in their profession, an operable platform is key!

      If there are two things that do NOT go together, they are: real-time social media and CLUTTER. And frankly, this is what Google Buzz has created.

      Not to mention that Google Buzz lacks what all social media platforms thrive from – many-to-many communication. Why choose this platform with such a limited audience (Gmail subscribers), over one with a broader audience. One that is more capable of giving valuable feedback at that.

      http://www.twitter.com/_AnastasiaC_

  9. Groups are primarily for limiting the “publicness” of a Buzz…it's not the same as a Twitter list. It's for letting you share with a smaller group, not for organizing the feed. That would be a good idea as well…I expect it's coming, as something along the lines of tags in GRreader.

  10. What twitter, friendfeed and buzz are missing is the right combination of explicit and implicit relationship control. Fred Wilson covered the concept well, but he didn't suggest a better tool.

    My thoughts are have explicit following, lists like twitter, likes like friendfeed, and semantic/social gravity for implicit relationships. At all times the user must be in the driver seat of their social and information gathering experience. Balancing the two utilities of information and social is part of what defines our us as users, and we may switch from one mode to the other for work or play.

  11. You can't figure out making groups in your Google contacts list? Considering
    who I'm talking to, I find that hard to believe.

    And no, private lists are not likely to be made public anytime soon, I
    wouldn't think, especially after the mass freakout this week over “exposure”
    of data users hadn't bothered to make private and that did no harm to
    anybody.

    I did argue with you on only one point – Buzz is lacking a lot of features
    you'd expect to see. However, Google's also working pretty quickly on
    changes, and I like the Buzz experience enough that I'm going to hang around
    for a while and see what comes of it.

    I actually like the lack of control, although some moderation abilities
    beyond blocking utterly and muting threads would be nice.

  12. Fail forward, Robert, fail forward! Not everything works…people have ideas, and maybe, just maybe their preferences aren't exactly the same as yours. *grin* You've also got Google Wave, which certainly ISN'T a copy of other apps, and no one can figure out either. Grouping/tagging (Twitter-style lists) would probably definitely help, but the “groups” that they are using for privacy purposes are integrated closely (ie, they're the same) as your Google Contact groups, and so aren't really usable for the same purposes. A group for purposes of privacy and a tag for purposes of organization aren't necessarily the same sort of attribute.

  13. I mostly agree with the points made.

    What is annoying me the most is that every new comment made to a post makes the post appear on top of my feed again, so I have to see the same post over and over.

  14. Wave is an infinite strip that anyone can type on at anyplace. It sucks because it is slow (they are working on scalability problems right now, execs at Google tell me) and because they stuck it in a crappy UI (email, come on!) and because they didn't include some very needed features like permalinks so I can point you to where the value is on one of these strips. Many people are using Wave, though, and many like it even though I don't. I'm seeing a TON of complaints about Google Buzz, though, and it's even gone onto CNN.

  15. Agree with a lot that you said, but there is nothing you noted that can't be fixed. Google has been using the product internally for about a year and the problems you noted just didn't come up, maybe problems aren't visible until the product is released into the wild. Also lets face it you are not the normal user.

  16. That said, I think that we should give Google some time to respond to the feedback. After all, no service can be perfected before being tested in the real user environment.

  17. Dear Robert,
    I think that Google Buzz is at the very beginning and that it will be an ongoing task to fine tune it.
    What about #hashtags?
    Don't you miss the #hashtage? I agree with you about the user lists on twitter, I also miss the community options that #hashtags do offer!
    Have a wonderful and successful time!
    Best
    Lucas

    1. To tell you the truth I hate hashtags. I hope Google Buzz doesn’t copy those. What do we need instead? Real tagging. Why can we tag a photo in Flickr but we can’t tag an infoatom in Google Buzz? Lame.

  18. To tell you the truth I hate hashtags. I hope Google Buzz doesn't copy those. What do we need instead? Real tagging. Why can we tag a photo in Flickr but we can't tag an infoatom in Google Buzz? Lame.

  19. I agree Robert with most of what you said.

    Google, being who they are shouldn't have put Buzz out without engaging the big heard bulls like yourself!

    I mean, really, why add more noise to the Internet.

    I think Google has a limited time to get it right before people turn off Buzz. I understand that the Google corporate culture is to get something working and put it into Beta for a long time, but how effective can that be when you start getting a lot of momentum only to find that most users get tired of the Beta in a week or so and never come back to visit the product when the issues are fixed.

    Or, are we so far on the front of the adoption curve that our expectations are just silly?

  20. For me, there is too much noise on Buzz. When I use Buzz, I use the mobile version which does a much better job of letting you navigate posts. I find the desktop version to be unusable and I'm not following a lot of people yet.

  21. I was initially annoyed with the same issue as you do with #6. But then I found that I can Mute a buzz and that seems to solve my problem. After I read a buzz and the comments at the time, if I'm not interested in reading more comments on it I just mute it and I won't see it bubble up again.

    I wish Google would put a more accessible mute button though instead of burying it in a pull-down menu.

    One thing I like about the non-chronological order in Buzz is that if I'm not on Buzz for a few days, I can catch up on 'good' (most discussed/commented on) buzzes. On Twitter, if I'm not on all the time then I'll miss a lot of good tweets.

  22. you're judging everything to early. i used friendfeed too, and it's crap compared to buzz, so what version of buzz are you using? your own special one that's mentally slow? Because that would be the only way it's worse than friendfeed.

  23. Good points, Robert. I agree with all of them. Unfortunately how good or bad the service is from a technical point of view is not relevant. Just look at Facebook that first now starts to get a bit useable after they copied Friendfeed features (and did it wrong a couple of times before they got it right). It's all about how many users are using the service. That said. Google does show it's listening to its users and has already made some (necessary) improvements based on user feedback.

  24. Also, if you want to send private Buzz, guess what? Your friends are NOT an available list. You have to manually create and maintain that in Contacts.

    And:

    * Public Buzz cannot be turned off on your Google profile.
    * Worse, the Buzz tab is now the default on your Google profile.
    * You can't see who you have blocked; no ability to manage that.

    And let's not talk about the complete inability (and missed opportunity) to attempt to be a universal social client by allowing users to access and manage both inbound and outbound feeds with connected apps.

    I'd also like to be able to filter in or out certain connected app feeds.

    I like the UI, and I like the potential. But it is an incomplete implementation. A lot of false starts, most never seen through to their logical conclusion. Hopefully Google will be responsive and listen to these crits and ideas, and bring the best to the fore.

    Then again, Gmail still doesn't let me sort my mail.

  25. I actually turned Google Buzz back off. I don't like it very much at all. It's kind of annoying to me. I'm sure that I'll turn it back on after a while, but right now I'm not really sure if I like it very much.

  26. Google Buzz also lacks the possibility of adding the (Youtube) account of my own choice. I like the mobile version however, with which you can post location based comments and tips easily.

  27. Your absolutely right about the fact that the worst feature is that post pop to the top as soon as somebody comments. When I followed you, you were basically the only one in my buzz list all the time because you get so many comments.

    Other feature that should be improved is the fact that muting is so slow. Removing the buzz takes 3 to 4 seconds.

  28. In google's contacts groups are more like tags, allowing multiple groups per contact, correct? My wife can be family, friend, coworker, etc all at the same time. Adding a “public” tag , a “private” tag, or whatever I want to manipulate from within buzz seems easy enough. Though I haven't tried it yet…I may not know what I'm talking about.

  29. I hear what you're saying, Robert, and I think are points are actually fairly close together. I like Buzz, but I see a lot of issues, and it surprises me that some weren't caught earlier if Google has been using it internally. But I'm guessing a lot of that is due to the fact that it integrates so closely into their other systems like contacts, etc., so the discontinuities that jump out for others weren't as visible to them.

    As for comparisons to Wave, I grok it's uses and differences, but again, we're comparing a tool that “regular folks” have been able to use for months vs. something less than a week ago. There were plenty of people wondering how to use Wave those first few weeks, and honestly, still are. I know people that use it too, but I also know lots of people who have completely abandoned it. We'll have to see! I hope they open up the APIs and advanced features (like Salmon, Activity Streams, etc.) soon…that'll be really interesting!

  30. Totally agree with 6. Buzz looks like the same page forever to me.

    That and the fact that I can't make out the difference between posts showing up through auto refresh, the post count in Buzz items, and items that are in my inbox (though filtered to a label I called buzzes).

    Needs work.

  31. Robert, I made this exact comment yesterday in my Buzz stream. You hit it right on the head! Some posters (who I like as people, but don't care for as posters) will post something trivial, like “let's see what happens when I post this meaningless comment” and because of their celebrity status, will get 200+ equally useless comments. And of course, as you eloquently pointed out, this just elevates their feedback to the top of my list, adding to the noise and reducing signal. While I agree that some of the worst of FF seems to have been copied over to Buzz, I am still hopeful that things will continue to improve and new feature will be added. I just hope that the smaller but equally important voices are not drowned out in the volume generated by some of the posters I am now seeing with little to say and a lot of bandwidth used to say it.

  32. You know why Robert. The friendfeed startup team was like a pack of psycho coding ninja's that just happened to be brilliant. It's a tough act to follow, even if you're the big Goog.

  33. Excellent points about Buzz. Most people don't see that its almost an exact copy of Friendfeed without Groups and other FF features you mentioned. Whats more shocking is that this is from Google where we expect innovation not seen anywhere else. The last few products have had major hype but really did not live up to expectations. On the other hand, Microsoft has come up with some solid products without any hype or even serious media coverage. I am talking about Bing maps and today's announcement of new Windows Mobile.
    Another thing is the release of Goog Buzz seems to coincide with the new data out that Bing has gained some market share while both Google and Yahoo went down slightly. So that news was all lost in the buzz.

  34. I agree with your post 100%

    You, Leo, Jason, and Mashable are flooding my Buzz since everyone is commenting on your posts. This means I never see something important to me, my fiance's first post for example!

    Also, I can't skim through the posts like I can do on twitter, since the comments are expanded by default.

  35. I must admit I jumped on the bandwagon when Buzz first came out. But after a weekend of playing around on it, it is too “busy” for me in it's current form. There have been some good discussions I have ran into (even some not involving Buzz), but with the way the time line is handled, and as noted, no way to collapse or delete comments, it is too time consuming for me to keep up with.

  36. What's interesting is that I'm sure some data is being tagged behind the scenes – for example, when you share something in Google Reader (which ends up on Buzz) you're invited to tag the content.

  37. FYI – you can mute a Buzz thread the same way you’d mute an e-mail thread – just click on the Buzz and hit “m”, and it will never pop up again.

  38. Robert, I agree that Friendfeed is more complete than Buzz.

    However, one should not forget that most of the users on Friendfeed are early adopters.
    I'm quite upbeat about how Buzz can bring similar technology to a very broad, mainstream audience.

  39. Thank goodness it isn't just me that thinks Google Buzz is just a poor imitation of FriendFeed. I happened to log into a gmail account I rarely even look at and declined the Google Buzz invitation and they stuck it in the account anyway.

    Does anyone else find it curious that Facebook bought FriendFeed, didn't integrate it (as far as I've heard) and now something very similar shows up as Google Buzz?

    Robert is there any chance you could get someone to design the perfect independent Social Networking site that incorporates your input and targeted advertising that would benefit both businesses and consumers?

  40. Thank goodness it isn't just me that thinks Google Buzz is just a poor imitation of FriendFeed. I happened to log into a gmail account I rarely even look at and declined the Google Buzz invitation and they stuck it in the account anyway.

    Does anyone else find it curious that Facebook bought FriendFeed, didn't integrate it (as far as I've heard) and now something very similar shows up as Google Buzz?

    Robert is there any chance you could get someone to design the perfect independent Social Networking site that incorporates your input and targeted advertising that would benefit both businesses and consumers?

  41. Turn on keyboard shortcuts in gmail, and hit 'm' on the current Buzz post to mute. Now if only it would hide the post faster, rather than doing that cutesy three second fade…

  42. Good point about block mgmt. Then again, NONE of the major social services have grasped this issue. Neither have they grasped the speed/only-1-click on important actions issue. Twitter has at least gotten a bit better about the latter in recent revisions.

  43. This may just be me needing time to adjust but I hate seeing unread items in my gmail and buzz sits there needing me to look at it due to a comment from someone I don't even know.

    With Twitter and Facebook I am able to log in when I want but I need my email pretty much all of the time.

  44. This is like ADHD tech. Within 24 hours it was declared as WAYYYYY better than Friendfeed and now it’s a piece of junk.

    I sincerely hope Google aren’t making real-time changes based on Robert’s inability to evaluate something properly.

  45. I think Google did a brilliant move. They understood that they are behind on the real-time game & they better get moving before the train leaves the station, so what do you do?
    Start running in the same direction everyone else is running (copy), after a while they’ll learn the tricks & start improving.
    For now they are collecting data & learning real-time web.
    Microsoft should do the same, but I think they have a more basic problem, they still haven’t figured this whole web thing…

  46. Perhaps they did. Most of the problems you mention only become problems once you have a bunch of friends. I would bet in their testing, none of the googlers testing it out had as many friends as you currently do; they goofed, and instead of fixing *your* user experience, they probably focused on the user experience that they could test for and created an awesome information flow and location based features.

  47. IMO, Buzz is going to have a hard time getting lots of users if I can’t follow people who don’t have Gmail accounts. There needs to be a stand alone app. I may have lots of friends, but very few are Gmail users and there is little chance I will be able to convince any or all of them to start using Gmail, just for the social networking. I already tried that when I started using Google Talk.

  48. I somehow think Buzz is more about teaching people to take up Wave rather than competing with Twitter/Facebook/Friendfeed. Any thoughts on that? Buzz seems to work well if i use it for a closed group, say my team. Adding Buzz to Google Apps would be awesome for so many of us. Stuff like Salesforce Chatter go for a toss.

  49. I totally agree. They could have come out with something innovative and a game changer. Although personally I love Buzz because I'm Gmail a lot and I find it easy to interact with.

    My problem with it is that they didn't think it through. Yes, it's Release 1, but they as Robert talked about here, they had a roadmap of what TO DO and what NOT TO DO. They chose the later. Case in point, the privacy issues. You would have thought they saw the problems FaceBook had.

    Ultimately I think it will get better, but it could have been Great right out the door.

  50. Google Buzz is way better than FriendFeed for one reason: it has users. Remember, Twitter didn't have the most features, but it won. Why? Because the users stuck with it instead of moving to Jaiku or Pownce.

  51. One of the things that concerns me about Buzz is —> where do those comments go? So here we have this blog post. We are all discussing this blog post and this is where the comments should stay so they are with the original material. If you then Buzz this post and then have another lord knows how many comments, that all get lost because ultimately where does the Buzz go? Do you search for the Buzz to find it? How does one know it was Buzzed? It could be Buzzed by tons of people with comments flying around everywhere. Not to mention, why should Google own all this data as comments when it belongs on the blog really. Robert what do you think of this as a blogger? (oh and fantastic post btw :) )

  52. My feeling is that, unlike FriendFeed, Google will address these issues. I have no proof of this, but GMail and Google Maps have improved over time and listened to user ideas. It hasn't been perfect, but hopefully the open side of Google will push Buzz into an area of innovation.

    FriendFeed has a much smaller development team and a much smaller active user base (this feeling based on projected growth as well). With the amount of user force behind Buzz, and the developer expertise and availability (not to mention media pressure from good people like you, Scoble), Buzz will listen to the advice of the users.

    That being said, yeah… they didn't do a good job with their first release. It's far below what I expected from them. Was this rushed for a particular reason?

  53. I think Google buzz is a bit late on the whole social networking site scene but it might have a chance if they add new and not-so-so apps that can help give buzz to Google Buzz.

  54. Robert,
    wondering if you have heard of a user losing most of their followers. I followed about 50 on day 1 of buzz, you being one. You followed back, and you are one of about 6 who stayed in my list of people following me. I don't know what happened to the other 40 or so. I emailed a few friends who I knew had been following, and they Refollowed. But I would like to find out what connection was lost. Any suggestions on who to ask?

  55. After using Buzz for I while I think it is a mess. There are too few features to help me sort out what I am seeing and how to go about it. Comments should be considered so important to make a buzz pop up on the top. It doesn't help me communicate any better.

  56. I agree with cashwilliams. I've missed quite a few important buzzes because of the noise. Even people that sent me private buzzes got lost in the mix. Does anyone know how to have private buzzes stand out from the crowd?

  57. Having similar experience. Google, give us a way to:
    1. organize buzz with labels. I don't want to miss important private buzzes.
    2. collapse buzzes without muting

  58. Not judgemental at all are we lol…

    I like Apple (OSX and iPods specifically), but my next phone will be an Android. I am not loyal to Apple, I am only loyal to the company that provides the best product. If Microsoft created something truly incredible I would favour them. I really like Google as they have created some great products (Google maps and google search). You are a bigoted buffoon.

  59. Not judgemental at all are we lol…

    I like Apple (OSX and iPods specifically), but my next phone will be an Android. I am not loyal to Apple, I am only loyal to the company that provides the best product. If Microsoft created something truly incredible I would favour them. I really like Google as they have created some great products (Google maps and google search). You are a bigoted buffoon.