Tim 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.
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.