Google Buzz Kill: too much, too often

Posted by Emory Kale

Google's Buzz is yet another product that gets thrown out by Google, and takes the Internets by storm only to fall short. Or does it? No one really knows how well Google does outside of search. It ain't no Microsoft or Facebook or Yahoo so, who is it?

The problem with Google is that it has no problems. It dominates in online search and a particularly big slice of the advertising revenue that is derived from that. Other than that, it is hard to see what Google has to worry about. Which means, it can't quite figure out what to do with itself so it tries to dabble in everything.

The WSJ takes the company to task for not knowing what to do to market itself. The company is advertising search in the middle of the Super Bowl on television, and advertising the Nexus One online. It should have been the other way around, right? Search is an online thing, and phones get sold through television ads more than they do through online poromotions.

Now, you've got this thing called Google Buzz, and if you have Gmail, it is pretty easy to be an early adopter. What is the point here? Driving Gmail adoption? With a feature that has nothing to do with managing your mail. Competing with Facebook? For what. You don't have enough users of your services already.

Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, had this to say on Buzz  @TechCrunch:

“I think there is huge potential. Right now if you look on the recommendations, there is some ordering that we do that uses these signals. We’ve been testing this internally, and even there, there’s quite a lot of noise internally, you’d be surprised. But I think that to really get the algorithms large scale we needed to wait for today and we need to have noise, people using this. That’s when the relevance technology is really going to come into play… ” [On the signals Google will be paying attention to] “We’re going to see which articles you like, which ones you comment on, which posts you read, things like that. And I think we’ll be able to try to tailor things to you that you’re likely to be interested in.”

Sounds suspiciously like, Google wants to know what you do and when you do it and then it can figure out how to watch you do more of the same while delivering ad after ad after ad.

The only people who can be enamored of this stuff are the kind of people who feed off of trends and regurgitate them to create meaningless dialogue: tech journalists and media elites, and marketing consultants and ad agencies. This is unlikely to advance the pace of world peace, feed the hungry, or solve any real problems, perceived or real. It just creates noise. Brin even calls it noise. Let's create noise and then extract patterns using our massive processing power. It doesn't make sense other than in a "because-we-can" sort of way.

And that's what Google is today: a because we can company. The old bellweathers of the tech industry, Microsoft and Intel, ran on pure paranoia and ambition. They were laser sharp in their fears and targeting enemies or threats. The new tech giants, Google and Facebook, seem to function as a giant fog of random directives. Sure, they succeed because even a failure is significant in the size of footprint it leaves behind.

But we can't reward this kind of approach without sacrificing something. What is being sacrificed is our ability to exist, at least online, without having to conform to a common denominator, a metric or algorithm that defines the best fit for the most people. This lack of coherence or strategic discipline is creating a sheepleocracy, a system governed by the momentum of conformity. Sounds like crap to me!

Throw off your chains. Get naked. Disconnect. Close down your Twitter account. Don't check Facebook except for maybe once a week. Listen to the mellow sound of K.D. Lang's greatest hits. Just be different.