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If this column were a Microsoft TV commercial, I'd say that Google Buzz was my idea. Way back in April, I wrote a column in this space called Inside Google's 'Facebook Killer'. In that column, I proposed that Google should acquire Twitter, and build it into Google Profiles. If they did so, I wrote, Google would have "a social network that does everything Facebook does, minus all the things everybody hates about Facebook." Well, they didn't acquire Twitter. But they did build Twitter-like messaging into Profiles. And, yes, the result is a social network better than Facebook.
Nielsen reported today that the time people are spending on social networks is up 82% worldwide (and probably 200% in my house). People are experiencing social overload, and Buzz certainly doesn't seem to help.
Everybody's first reaction to Buzz was: How do I turn this off? Most people sit on the brink of information overload, and Buzz seemed to push us all over the edge.
But the more I use Buzz, the more I like it. The discoverability of new people to follow is better than on any other service. People actually have conversations, rather than one-off posts followed by sporadic heckling. There's no sophomoric "poking," Mafia wars or invitations to inane "causes" to wade through every day. You can fine-tune the signal-to-noise ratio on Buzz very easily.
Then it hit me. Rather than controlling, containing or eliminating Buzz, why not open the Buzz floodgates and do a scorched-earth on everything else?
I've been tinkering for a week, and have figured out how to use Google buzz not in addition to but instead of Facebook, Twitter Friendfeed and the rest.
Google Buzz can be the One Social Service to Rule Them All, with a little help from Gmail. Here's how.
Use Facebook via Gmail
Facebook has for years offered notifications by e-mail. For example, if someone writes on your wall, sends you a Facebook message or requests to be your "Friend," Facebook can send this to your e-mail address.
Recently, however, Facebook enabled replies via that same message. This in effect turns Facebook into something you can interact with almost entirely by e-mail.
Best of all, you have user controls on both ends. On the Facebook end, you control what's sent. Choose "Account Settings" from the "Account" menu in the upper right corner of Facebook. Click the "Notifications" tab choose what does or does not come to your e-mail address. Click "Save changes" when you're done.
On the Gmail end, you can set up filters to refine exactly what you see in your inbox. Click "Settings" in the upper right corner, then choose the "Filters" tab. Click "Create a new filter" and fill in the boxes that will determine what happens with your Facebook notifications.
Now you can use Facebook without going to Facebook.com and wading through all the noise.
Use Twitter via Buzz
A new tool called Buzz Can Tweet sends out anything you post publicly on Buzz to your Twitter followers. If your Buzz post fits within Twitter's 140-character limit, the service posts any link you posted with it (so followers can go directly to the page), plus a link to your public Buzz post. You can also choose the option on the Buzz Can Tweet to add "No link on short messages," which your Twitter followers will probably appreciate.
If your post exceeds Twitter's limit, then only a link to the Buzz post is shared on Twitter, including photos and links.
I haven't figured out a way to get all the tweets sent by the people you follow on Twitter into Buzz. If you try to use Twitter's RSS feature to import the feed into Google Reader, or e-mail delivery services like Feed My Inbox, the RSS address is rejected.
You can't (yet) import your Twitter feed. But you can import your Twitter friends -- at least the ones also using Google Buzz. A service called tw2buzz will slog through your Twitter account, and check the people you follow against the people using Buzz, and display matches, a handful at a time. It's a time-consuming process, but you can bring over all those people on Twitter who want to join you on Buzz.
What About FriendFeed, MySpace and the rest?
Forget it. It's over. These social networks are dying anyway. If you want to consolidate, you'll want to announce to your followers on these services that you're moving to Buzz, and just leave.
Build a Buzz Machine
(Apologies to Jeff Jarvis, who named his wonderful blog "Buzz Machine" when the people who created Google Buzz were still in middle school.)
Now that you've consolidated all your social stuff into Buzz, you've got a real firehose on your hands. I recommend that you do what I've done, which is to devote an entire PC to Buzz -- or at least an extra display. The ideal setup would be a large-screen display in portrait mode. You could also use your old laptop, netbook or whatever.
Now, as you're working all day, watching TV at night or whatever you're doing while at home, you can check in on your Buzz community (and Facebook and Twitter) with a glance. (I realize this isn't possible for everyone, but if you can manage it, using a Buzz Machine is the way to go.)
Why all this Is a Great Idea
What is Buzz? Buzz is Facebook for smart people who have no patience for canned frivolity. Buzz is Twitter for people with long attention spans. Buzz is the future of intelligent social networking.
Most important, Google's aggressive entry into social networking is going to work. The service is going mainstream, and millions will use it.
It's also important to note that the quality of Buzz always goes up -- if you use it right. When people you follow are annoying, repetitive, boring, lame, offensive or just aren't meeting whatever your criteria are, it's super easy to stop following them.
And you can see the comments on the posts of people you follow. If you see an interesting comment, just click on the user name to see what else that person is posting. If you like what you see, you can follow them very easily.
Every day, the quality of conversation on Buzz goes up, because you're always un-following the worst users, and discovering the best ones. With Buzz, you're constantly cutting morons and adding geniuses. Over time, it begins to read like a Mensa meeting.
Buzz added a huge new social burden on top of all the other social services we're trying to keep up with. One solution is to ignore Buzz. It's certainly not for everyone. But if you like Buzz, why not use it to reduce or even eliminate the other social services in your life?
If you want to join me in exploring what's possible with Buzz, follow me here.