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Google Buzz and hybrid blogging

Long form posts and informal conversation find a home in Google Buzz

Google BuzzTim O’Reilly and DeWitt Clinton are both experimenting with Google Buzz as a long form — well, longer form — publishing tool. It’s an interesting adaptation for Buzz, and I think they’re on to something.

Here’s why: Blogs are great for getting people to a site. Twitter is great for tossing around short-form ideas and quips. Facebook is great for talking with a defined community.

But blogs are not inherently social. They try to be, with comments and RSS, but they’re still built in silos. Twitter is unbelievably social, no doubt about that, but it’s also shorthand. It’s very hard to have an engaging conversation in 140 characters. And Facebook is like a ping-pong match: lots of back and forth excitement, but very little substance.

Buzz could be the missing link here. It’s a hybrid option that’s not particularly good at being a blog, or a microblog, or a social network, but it’s a good tool for starting conversations and noodling on topics. (Keith Crawford picked up on this early on.) Tim noted during a recent conversation that Buzz is a throwback to blogging’s early days, when informal posts were the norm.

Buzz in many ways occupies the same domain as Tumblr and Posterous. All of these services let you dip a bucket in the social/content stream and pour the catch into your own trough. But Because Buzz is constructed in a social environment, as opposed to a publishing environment, it’s a bit more natural to share all that conversation and information.

A lot of people just like to get on with it, which is why Twitter and Facebook will always be more popular. And I’m not saying — nor am I even hinting — that blogs are dead. Far from it. You need a hub for all those social media spokes, and blogs make great hubs. DeWitt Clinton, in a Buzz update, actually predicts a time when posts and comments from blogs, Buzz, and other networks will “flow seamlessly back and forth between them, such that the syndication will no longer be in only a single direction, but rather a network of threads woven together.” That functionality is still a ways off (and I hope it arrives sooner rather than later), but in the interim it looks like Buzz has opened yet another content channel; a social space where you can toss an idea into a pool of willing conversationalists and see what happens.

One last thing … because a blog post lauding Buzz for its conversation tools carries a hint of hypocrisy, here’s my own attempt at a related Buzz conversation starter.

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  • John Gerber

    I liked your post, but the Buzz conversation starter returned “The requested URL /buzz/macslocum/MpJ9NLfHyBN/Twitter-Facebook-blogs-how-many-places-can-one was not found on this server.” It is might be a glitch on Google’s end, but I thought I would point the problem out. John

  • Tim O'Reilly

    For me, this use of Buzz is an experiment. There’s a big part of me that wonders if I really need another outlet, or whether I should just be posting more often to this blog.

    But somehow, the blog has evolved to become a bit more formal – to require a bit more thought. I want my blog posts to hang together, it’s nice to add a picture, etc. whereas Buzz still feels very informal.

    No formatting needed is also helpful. I can just throw links in, and have them clickable. Buzz is like writing an email.

    But I think that you’re totally right also that the social context of Buzz is very different. To read a blog requires going to someone else’s space (if even only at a summary level in an RSS reader) where Buzz multiplexes content from many sources into a single stream.

    And it shows. While I still get more comments on a typical blog post I write than I do on a Buzz post, I’m surprised by the level of activity. With only 4000 Buzz followers, I’m getting perhaps 20% as many comments as I do on a blog with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and web visitors.

  • Mac Slocum

    @John: Thanks for the heads-up. It looks like Google is hiccuping on direct Buzz links. I’m going to wait it out for a bit and see if that’s corrected.

  • Tim O'Reilly

    I should also add that I’m consciously weaving twitter into the mix. When I tweet something that I want to say more about, I can also Buzz it, and say a bit more there. Although I’m finding that more often, I prefer to start a Buzz discussion thread, then tweet about that. So that drives a lot more people to the conversation.

    In some ways, Buzz + Twitter is more the hybrid than Buzz + blog. I was always frustrated when I had more to say than would fit in a tweet but didn’t seem enough for a blog post.

    Nat’s four short links here on Radar is one model of how to do this – a great one, I might add. And of course, Dave Winer’s original style of blogging was a stream-of-consciousness equivalent, and that model is still available. But I am finding the twitter + Buzz matchup to be a good one.

    I thought of using Tumblr or Posterous, but I never quite got around to it. And at first I tried gatewaying my tweets to Buzz, and then commenting on them after the fact. But after experimenting with that for a while, I decided it was wrong for two reasons:

    1. Google took too long to surface the tweets in Buzz, so by the time they were available to comment on, it felt like another separate exercise to comment.

    2. I tweet a lot. I don’t always want to expand on the tweet. It started to feel like an obligation to say a bit more. It was often useful, but felt a bit forced.

    The way I’m using Buzz in concert with twitter now feels very natural.

  • Mac Slocum

    I’ve found that tweets can take more than 7 hours to appear in the Buzz stream (more info here: http://oreil.ly/cXfIzV).

    Worse still, tweets show up in bunches. That always bugs me because it looks like an RSS dump. It adds unnecessary noise to the signal I’m trying to create.

  • Jessica Doyle

    I think Buzz is fantastic! And it’s nice to see other agreeing on this to.

    I quickly unfollowed people who were importing their Twitter Feeds into Buzz because of the batch uploading. There are a few people I follow who do import their Tweets but they are not heavy users of Twitter and are engaged on Buzz in conversation.

    Buzz is a visual artists dream. I’ve never received such immediate feedback for new artworks and ideas on Twitter, Facebook, my blog and Flickr combined.

    When buzz appeared in my gmail inbox on February 10th I jumped in and began using it and haven’t looked back since.

    Buzz seems to be populated with many tech oriented folks with whom I do follow and learn from and in return I post original artworks and perhaps brighten their day.

    cheers!

  • AA

    On one hand you’re claiming blogging is not social but then you contradict by saying Buzz is like Tumblr and Posterous. Are Tumblr and Posterous not a blogging platform in the first place? Amplify.com’s blogging platform is lot more social than Tumblr or Posterous combined. If Buzz is competing with such services than it has a while to go. First of all, it lacks comment moderation and spam control. Second, it relies on Twitter’s model of celebrity value, your Google profile is important if you’re important. Where’s the SEO in this? Sorry, but I’ll stay with WordPress while people waste their time on one hype product after another.

  • Tai Hsia

    @macslocum, nice post. mConnected has been working on this exact issue, that is, creating a conversation hub for social media spokes. The idea is to supplement, not replace, current social network timelines and streams by creating conversation branches that can continue ad infinitum by allowing users to time-shift discussions. We will soon be allowing users to create and moderate their own social micro-forums. @timoreilly, please try it and let me know if it helps you bring your (Twitter and Facebook) conversations to one central hub.

    Go to: http://mconnect.me/
    (which, btw, is optimized for mobile browsers).

    Cheers, @taihsia

  • Jeremy Zilar

    We are experimenting with using it as an effective way to talk to a pool of people during a breaking news event. Buzz is performing the function/service that comments on a blog or article should be fulfilling.

    The fact that the presentation is so much more informal on BUZZ (more like e-mail) than a comment field is on a blog, I think, enables more people to contribute to a discussion. It also helps that it is within the GMail shell.

  • Peter Campbell

    I saw the potential for Buzz as a more readily social blog a day or two after it was released, and made the pitch here:

    http://techcafeteria.com/blog/2010/02/21/why-google-buzz-should-be-your-blog/

    My take is that Google could really facilitate this by just adding a little more customization to the profiles. If they get as far as I propose, I’ll do it, and point my domain there.

  • Donna

    While Buzz is certainly is an important technology, it’s interesting to think about how it could be abused – check out this video modeled after the Google Super Bowl ad:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akJgSoQV_as