Privacy group files FTC complaint on Google Buzz – Boston.com

From the Boston Globe — As if we need more buzz on Buzz. Rumors were that a watchdog group was prepared to file an FTC complaint against Google’s new Buzz platform. Read more here from the Boston Globe;

Privacy group files FTC complaint on Google Buzz – Boston.com.

Google’s Social Envy Leads To The Worst Kind of Buzz

Google is getting too Microsoftish in its behavior and choices lately. I want to believe it is still an innovator; both hip and cool. But clearly Google has been suffering from social envy on a variety of fronts.

My previous two blog posts focused the power of social searching and the rise of Twitter as a specialized search tool (In Twitter Search I Trust).  I offered speculation on Google’s next move and commented on their envy of the social network.  So folks, I feel obligated to post a little something that acknowledges Google’s Buzz debacle. This is just my personal two cents of the past week that you can roll in to the millions of other Buzz reactions out there.  I’ve embedded links to resources on privacy settings and tips for your reference. Please comment, respond, etc.  I am sure the buzz on Buzz is far from over.

First: Don’t Ignore the Privacy Buzz
If you’ve ignored the Tweets and headlines about Google’s privacy gaffe with Buzz, please familiarize yourself with the basic issues. What happened this week with Buzz  impacts everyone, whether you use Gmail or not. For my educator friends, and really anyone working in a profession where privacy is critical, brush up on some of the Buzz issues.  Read up on the privacy concerns and changes to learn how to best manage your profile and identity. Most of the heat on Google has been focused on publicly viewable contact information. Users were unaware that their personal contact information, and the contact info of others in their address books, might be unintentionally exposed without setting up their Google profiles properly.

Lesson learned: Do not assume social networks should be based on a user’s email habits
Google initially set Buzz’s default to opt-in for all of its Gmail users.  Let that wash over you for a minute.  If you have a Gmail account, you were automatically up and running on Buzz when it was released this week (hence the privacy panic). Personally, I think this is a bold assumption that:

  1. I have room for more social networking
  2. The hub of activity should be within my personal email
  3. The  people I email the most are the same people I want to socialize with online.

I have many lovely email exchanges with my kids’ teachers, but this doesn’t mean we should become instant online pals. The same goes for my relationship with my own students. Aggregated data on my email habits usually does not reflect my true social network. In fact, the people I socially network with I tend not to email as much.  I mean, hasn’t Google heard that people really don’t use email as a social network tool, or at the very minimum email is an “old” technology? Of course they have and this has resulted in Buzz and Google’s acquisition of social search tool aardvark this past week.

So What’s Next?
Personally,  I am exhausted from all the buzzing about Buzz.  It is a stretch to find positive praise about the tool.  And Buzz users reactions range from lukewarm to outrage. Before Buzz, Google had clumsy attempts at social networking, including its acquisition of Orkut. If Buzz is an improvement on past efforts, and a true competitor to Facebook and Twitter, any shred of interesting potential with Buzz is overshadowed (justifiably) by Google’s amazingly poor judgement about privacy. It made me wonder just what does “social” mean to the folks that work at Google?  It also showed me that Google should stick to doing what it does best, and social just isn’t its expertise.

Since Tuesday, Google engineers are scrambling to put new privacy options in place (Read Google’s spin and updates on their blog).  And even though I found the fine print at the bottom my gmail to turn off buzz, that was not good enough as I had to hunt down my Google profile settings and manually manipulate the options located there to lock down my information. (See Lifehacker Blog for detailed tips).

I haven’t written Buzz off completely. I am waiting for Google to treat Buzz less like the global beta-release experiment that it is.  When I push aside all of the privacy press, and really look at Buzz the tool, I am underwhelmed.  The UI is less than fresh to me and is too linear. Frankly, when thinking about people new to social networking, I think Buzz is less than user friendly for them. I will wait on reporting more on this aspect once I take the full Buzz plunge, assuming this privacy buzz gets figured out.

Twitter Search v. Google: A Superbowl Postscript

So a couple of days ago I penned a little ditty called “In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less).” Since then it seems like my radar is tuned into articles and comments that I should have mentioned in my earlier post.  So folks, I offer a quick postscript inspired by the following;

  • The NY Times talks about the potential of social search engines in  “A Search Engine That Relies on Humans” from Feb. 5th.  Aardvark and Mahalo are mentioned as emerging examples of the new social search trend. To use either site you can create an account with them or authenticate to their sites via your Facebook login and with Mahalo you can use also use Twitter.  I haven’t been sold on either of these services, and welcome comments from anyone that has some insight and experience here.
  • Also from the Times blog roll is an article from January 27th  on Google’s plan to add more social searching. In my earlier post I mentioned Google’s inclusion of Twitter feeds, and this Times article gives you an overview of more things to come (and a link to the Google blog).

Unscientifically, I’d like to think that Google’s Superbowl ad is the icing on the cake that supports my original blog post on shifting search habits.  As the Google ad aired, Superbowl tweeters gave a collective  “huh?” and “what?” One Tweeter asked the simple question “Since when does Google need to advertise?” And Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch tweeted his blog headline: “Hell Freezes Over As Google Runs Its First Super Bowl Ad.”   (By the way, did anyone notice that the style of  Google Superbowl Ad is eerily similar to Kansas State University Professor  Mike Wesch’s famous  The Machine is Using Us/Web 2.0 YouTube video from 2007?) As I watched, and monitored the tweet traffic, I considered  it Google’s  attempt to remind us that they remain the best search game in town?   But if you are the best, do you need a Superbowl ad to remind me?

This is all a to be continued story with all signs pointed to Google playing catch-up in the social network sphere.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will announce a new social feature as part of its Gmail suite on Tuesday, Feb. 9th. For more coverage also check out TechCrunch‘s articles.  So stay tuned folks…

In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less)

When Twitter first launched I did what any entrepreneurial educational technologist did and registered for an account.  It was the infancy of Twitter, when tweets read more like a public collection of Facebook updates. The media coverage was full of speculation, curiosity, and of course humor (see the famous “Twouble with Twitters” video). I only had a couple of colleagues trying it out, so I really didn’t have any lively banter or collaboration going on.  And it seemed most people interested in following me were spammers.

Somehow this didn’t dissuade me from checking regularly on Twitter’s evolution and progress.  I searched for keywords and lurked with interest on a few regular hashtag conversations, especially  #edtech, #eLearn and the more recent  #edchat .  Folks whom I’ve never met, but with similar professional interests, were sharing resources, tips,  ideas and articles that provided just-in-time relevancy to my field.  And then somehow, without really noticing, my web searching habits began to shift. I was soon doing searches on topics  first via Twitter, and  then Google, but only if needed.  This completely surprised me because back in March of 2009 I read  “Twitter Destined to Replace Google Search” on twitip and thought “whatever!”

So what changed? Well for one, my Twitter searching seems to follow a pattern. Generally, I am trying to do one of the following things;  answer a question, solve a problem quickly, or get recommendations for resources.  Doing Google searches is somewhat effective –but not exacting. As the twitip article describes, Twitter is positioned to give a better search experience because people are directly powering the content, which provides context to the search.  A search engine can not find context, or even relevance within the content.

Twitter provides me two ways to carry out my searches; I can ask my question to my twitter community, while also performing a key word search through Twitter, or using  a Twitter search engine like Topsy. Generally, I get good leads from each approach, and often these leads will help me refine a more effective and efficient  search of data via Google.  The icing on the cake is that my Twitter community is only a touch screen away via a mobile device. There is no shortage of mobile apps for smartphones or the iTouch.  I can truly have one information hub no matter what device I am connecting with, bringing continuity to the search process.

I am not alone in appreciating the differences and unique benefits of a Twitter search.  I found a piece from Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research describing  Twitter search “your own personal groundswell.”  Which brings me to the social aspect of the search process and the immediate ability to receive validation on a topic or a new direction and theory. I compare the social search aspect of Twitter like attending a social event at a conference or seminar. I am able to engage as much or as little in the conversation as I want, and I am bound to pick  a good tip or resource just from listening in. Obviously the folks at Google seem to think there is something unique about this since they have started including Twitter feeds as a part of the Google searching experience.

I haven’t thrown Google out the window but I continued to be surprised and delighted at the number of professional communities on Twitter.  In my case, my work in ed tech spans k12, higher education and eLearning communities. I no longer need to wait 8-12 months to read about a new innovative teaching method in a  journal because we are able to report and share our experiences immediately.  In the case of education, I argue this allows us to innovate more rapidly since we are able to accelerate the publication process and avoid long peer-review processes, that while important, can take away from the timeliness that is essential.  I am pretty confident other professional fields are experiencing the same thing. But I am digressing and should pick up on this riff for a future posting.

So friends, fret not if you are Google fan, or even  if you are Google.  There is a something for everyone and Browsy brings us the ability to Twoogle (but of course!). So now can have the best of your aggregated data and social searching worlds in one web interface.  Thank goodness.

Updated– Twitter v. Google Search: A Superbowl Postscript