I woke up this morning to discover that Google Buzz really wanted my attention. As always happens early with The New Hottness, everybody's hammering it, trying to figure out what (or if) they'll use it for. Buzz then assumes, incorrectly, that I want to know about all this. It's in my inbox. It's below my inbox in a special Buzzbox. I'm getting notifications about comments people I don't know left in places I don't care about. All of them where my email lives. Or, as Cameron Walters put it:
I only have a handful of reciprocal relationships on Google Buzz. 69 791, to be exact. But that's on a product that's been live less than 24 hours and that very few people even have access to yet. Looking at all those Buzz alerts in my Gmail, my initial reaction was a long, drawn out, "fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck." Because, while very few people have access to Buzz so far, if Google can successfully convert (or force) even a minor subset of Gmail users into Buzz users, it's going to have a huge user base. All of those updates show up right below my inbox. (Or in some puzzling cases, in my inbox.)
More to the point: I worry it's going to nag the shit out of me.
I was thinking about that this morning as I fired up AIM. I'm more restrictive of my AIM contacts than I am any other type of social connection. I give my phone number away more liberally than I give up my AIM handle. Not that I hide it, I just don't really broadcast it. I further restrict it by only allowing people in my Buddy List (tm!) to contact me. And that's because AIM has a huge potential to bother me, or distract me.
Naturally, the more a service has an ability to interrupt me, or keep me from information that I want, the more I restrict it. I wanted to try to visualize this, so I whipped up a quick chart so I could see my "major" social network connections--the stuff I tend to check in on every day, or at least most days--compared to Buzz.
This is pretty self explanatory. But the above chart shows that the less demands something makes of me, the more I am willing to make connections on it. It's why, for example, I follow so many fewer people than follow me on Twitter. Similarly, because Twitter updates are short, to the point, and easily skipped over, I follow many more people there than I do on Tumblr. If I followed as many people on Tumblr as I did Twitter, I'd never check in on Tumblr again because I'd have serious infoglut, or it would take too much time out of my day dealing with the distraction of keeping up with it. I tend to keep Facebook relatively wide-open. If you know me; I'll friend you. But I've also turned off all email alerts from Facebook so I can check it at my leisure, and furthermore, I've got friend lists set up inside of it, so I don't see everyone's update. Without the ability to make those restrictions, it would be unmanageable. I have a lot of Flickr contacts, but not so many that I typically can't view new photos from everyone I follow every day on a single page. Thumbnails make that possible. Were Flickr to show me full-size images on my friends page, it too would be unwieldy. Foursquare sends me push notifications, it also lets people know where I am. In other words, it has the ability to distract both online and in person. So I tend to be highly selective with this group.
LinkedIn? Kind of a weird exception.
But look at my Gmail contacts. These are, essentially, just people I've corresponded with since way back when. Email is a huge distraction. But, precisely because unlike Twitter, or Facebook, or Flickr, or any of those other domains I've got blacklisted in SelfControl.app, I can't turn email off and continue working. I have to have email access. I rely on it utterly.
And so when I imagine Buzz pestering me every time I want to hit up Gmail, sending me updates from hundreds of people most of whom I don't care that much about (sorry!), well: Holy fuck. Talk about distractions and demands. This could be the mother lode. Or, as Ben Brown put it:
It will only be a matter of time now before my mother calls me to ask why I keep emailing her to tell her all about my late night bowel movements/software releases. ”I’m not emailing you, mom! Google decided it was a good thing to crap everything I say into your email inbox so that you won’t miss out on the exciting world of social media.”
We are all fucking broadcasting now. We've all become a bunch of petite Viacoms. I've been bitching about this for five years, but in that time it's just gotten much, much worse. And the one place I don't need these distractions is in my email.
I wish there was I an easy way to really filter my social graph across every network and input I have, but there's not. I want to be able to restrict every photo, blog post, status update, song list, and more based on a universal list that's in my control. I want to be able to apply that list across every service that I use, using filters that looks something like this:
1. I always want to know everything this person broadcasts immediately - push it all to me live
2. I always want to know everything this person broadcasts at my leisure - push it all to me x times daily
3. I want to know some of the things this person broadcasts - push me the popular stuff x times daily
4. I want to occasionally know the things this person broadcasts - deliver it to me on demand
Moreover, I want to be able to selectively turn networks on and off. I assume we all do. I can't do that with Google Buzz unless I want to not use Gmail. It's all or nothing. Worse it treats everyone as if they are number one in the example above. I don't think Buzz is a Twitter killer. But if this bullshit continues to accelerate it may damn well be a Gmail killer for me.
Right now--and admittedly it's early--Google Buzz is letting me know way too much, about too many people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Or, as Dom Sagolla put it:
1. Buzz auto-added 10 more contacts while I was writing the above. Sigh.