What’s the buzz

If you have a Gmail account, you might have been presented with a screen offering you to opt into the newest Google application, Buzz. Before you say yes, read on. (Alas, this review comes too late for those who already took the plunge.)

The idea behind Buzz is a noble one: to expand Gmail and make it easier to share information, photos, videos, links and more with your friends. Plus (allegedly) to kill Twitter and Facebook: after all, social arena is one of the few places where Google doesn’t dominate the Web today, and it wants to.

The initial goal achieved, Buzz (allegedly) plans to send Microsoft’s SharePoint to oblivion. In several months, Buzz will be enriched with applications for businesses and schools. Tie that with Gmail and Google Docs, and you have a frontal attack on MS Exchange, Outlook and Office, with the focus on the technology that can tie it all, SharePoint (a way to share documents, calendars, announcements and postings on intranet portals).

The second leg of the (alleged) stratagem is a thing of the future. Let us examine what Buzz offers to private individuals who choose to opt into it here and now.

Some who tried it simply love it. They call Buzz well-designed, useful, amazing, cool.

Others (and they seem to be in majority) call it intrusive and privacy-challenged.

The most prevailing complaint is that, once you’re in, you can’t hide from Buzz while trying to put in some work. It is always in your face, every time to take a peek at your Gmail, wreaking havoc to your productivity, says one reviewer.  Another was so taken with his shiny new toy that, on top of buzzing everyone in his address book (something Gmail does for you automatically), he started following (or buzzing) everyone who buzzed him, like one would on Twitter “only to discover, to his horror, that his buzz-circle included the followers of the people he followed among whom there happened to be a couple of names with large following. Thing got so bad for this reviewer he had to stifle his Buzz.

Here are a few helpful hints for those who get overwhelmed by Buzz:

  • Stay away from fellow-Buzzers who are popular and likely to have a large following.
  • If a particular thread gets too chatty and annoying, silence it: choose Mute from More Actions menu in Gmail. To mute a post from within Buzz, choose Mute this post from Comment drop-down menu.
  • To kill Buzz altogether, go to the bottom of your Gmail account and look for turn off buzz link. Click it to opt out of Buzz updates and hide the Buzz link permanently.

Most importantly, take time to change the default setting of Buzz “or you run the risk of exposing all of your contacts to all of your followers. You should be able to change your Buzz profile settings by clicking on your name from inside the application. Then click on Google profile, on Edit profile and un-check the box next to the line “Display the list of people I’m following and people following me”. The list will not be public any longer “ but that defeats the purpose of Buzz to some extent.