Google Buzz: A social-media remix

At first, Google Buzz seems like any other status-updating service.

BuzzYou find friends and followers, and you merrily post real-time thoughts and messages to them. You can respond to other notes, as you would using the @reply function in Twitter, and your comments appear in a thread like Facebook. In the mobile version, you can use geolocation like Foursquare.

But integrate it with Google Reader, Picasa, and Gmail, and Google Buzz becomes a formidable social-media remix.

One warning: If you have a Gmail account, Buzz is automatically turned on. There is no opt-in. You have to adjust the setting to turn this feature off. With all of today’s privacy concerns, this invasion seems unconscionable.

Turn off Buzz

To turn it off, scroll to the bottom of your Gmail screen and find the tiny “turn off buzz” link. 

Here are the intriguing parts of Buzz I’ve discovered thus far:

Comment control

Google Buzz adds some of the privacy features that Facebook has included for its status updates. You can choose “Public” if you want the whole world to see your words; “Private” allows you to select which of your followers to include on the message.

Public/Private Choice

The ability to post and see pictures is also built into the status updater. And you can reply to comments, which do not appear to have a length limit, and see the entire commenting thread.

Geolocation

Buzz on the iPhone

I find this feature the most interesting and in some ways, the most disconcerting. When you access Google Buzz via cell phone, you click on the “Nearby” button to see who is around you. You can also see the trail of comments that people have left at that location (as you can in Foursquare).

You, too, can leave comments at the scene for the public to discover.

Have a favorite drink or menu item at a restaurant? Leave a recommendation for others to find. By combining this function.

You can also use the Google Maps function to find others around you, as you would with other geolocation services. Before agreeing to send your location to Google, be aware that everyone will be able to see you.

Easy integration with other services

The link to Gmail makes it easy to find friends quickly, and you can integrate your Twitter and blog streams into your Buzz. It also connects to your other Google services, such as Blogger and Google Reader. Star an article in Google Reader, and you can share it in Buzz.

I prefer keeping my streams separate, updating different items in different places. Yes, it’s less efficient, but I’m a firm believer in active engagement. Updating in several places at once seems akin to the Christmas-card form letter — useful but not very personal.

Buzz appears to have more potential than Google Wave, which offered intriguing conferencing possibilities. However, without a large membership — you had to be invited to try the beta — its utility seemed limited.

Do we need yet another social-media service to master? Some of my friends and colleagues say no.

But I think this remix may make an appearance on the charts.

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