I use and enjoy Google Buzz. But here's the funny thing: because of it, I've begun using Facebook more.
Buzz backfired for me for one simple reason. I wanted a mechanism for social networking with my personal contacts, but Facebook is where those ties are active.
Although I have plenty of close contacts in my Gmail address book, not all of them use Gmail and therefore Buzz. Buzz has a good framework but the wrong faces.
Of course, Google infamously pre-populated Buzz with everybody's follower lists. Leaving the privacy repercussions aside, that move did serve to jump-start Buzz so trying it wasn't like talking to yourself in an empty room, as with Wave.
But for whatever reasons relating to contact lists, algorithms, and activity, Google filled my Buzz follower and followee lists chiefly with professional contacts.
That was step one in nudging me toward Facebook when it was time for personal chatter. Step two, in another perverse twist, was Twitter.
With Buzz, I quickly grew to dislike it when people hooked up their Twitter output to be their Buzz input. Technically, it's not spam, but it felt that way, as one wag put it. That's partly because some people like to tweet a lot, and partly they seemed to be one-way communications that fit awkwardly in Buzz. But it's also that I prefer Buzz for its conversational attributes--comments that provoke discussion, questions that lead to answers--and tweets imported into Buzz didn't seem to be partaking.
What's this have to do with Facebook? Well, it turns out I'm one of those verbose twitterers, and I'd been piping my tweets into Facebook. The very behavior I disliked on Buzz was what I'd been inflicting on my Facebook pals.
At the same time this realization dawned on me, I also was concluding that I've been neglecting the personal side of social networking. Having just moved to the U.K., I'm much farther away from many friends I used to see in person. Skype, instant messaging, and e-mail are great as far as they go, but they lack the group chit-chat milieu of Facebook.
So this week, I closed the Twitter spigot that flowed into Facebook and started posting commentary for my actual friends. No more deluge of nerdy information about Acid3 conformance, Gecko 1.9.3, and eSATA's marginalization.
In theory I could have put my personal chatter on Google Buzz. There are aspects I like better about it than Facebook--Buzz's roomier layout, a less obscure interface, and the ability to send updates to specific groups of people I've set up, not just "friends" or "friends of friends" or "everybody."
For a lot of people, social networking is about personal lives. Google sees professional utility in Buzz, so perhaps I picked my haunts well.
"Most of the testing of Buzz was inside Google (for better or worse) and it's shown to be a great tool for sharing info within tight affinity groups (i.e. businesses, schools etc.). That's why we're excited for Buzz to become part of Google Apps, which will happen within a few months," said Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise business--in a Buzz comment.
Regardless of Buzz's merits, Facebook is where my friends hang out online now, and that trumps just about any good feature.
This whole situation gets to a deeper issue I have with social networking and the Internet in general: the difficulties of separating one's personal and professional personas. My work and non-work lives intermingle, but I don't want them to be indistinguishable.
My online life would be a lot easier in some ways if all I had were ordinary friends on the Net. A tweet here, a Facebook update there, and the only people who care would be those in my close social circle.
Instead, I have a very public job finding and disseminating information. On social networks, I pose and answer questions. I get pitched by PR people. I write, in effect, 140-character news stories. I promote my own work to my legions of adoring fans. I find news worth covering on my own or forwarding to colleagues. I could spend all day every day immersed in the cacophony.
My big complaint isn't standing up to the stream of comments pouring in through TweetDeck. It's that every social network I join gets co-opted for work. The voices of the thousands of people talking about tech issues overwhelm my few dozen friends.
But it's time to take a stand. My Buzz and Twitter accounts get the professional treatment. Facebook is primarily for my personal ties, and henceforth, I vow to give it real content, not just secondhand tweets.