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Google Buzz: Takes on Twitter as a ‘Wave’ with Training Wheels

A few months ago, I documented my first trip to ride Google’s new Wave.  In full disclosure, since that time, I’ve been back only a handful of times.  Through exchanges with students, friends, and co-workers, I’ve found this to be the case for a majority of “Wave” users… or potential Wave users.  My own hypothesis: Google attempted to re-invent the wheel.  A wheel that they already possessed and improved.  A clear example is listed just below:

To the left is a “Google Wave” contact list.  When I first joined, there were only a few people who were on my contact list.  Though I frequently chatted with friends using GMail‘s “Gtalk” (commonly referred to as “gchat” by many)  feature already, I (and the rest of my friends) joined Google Wave hoping to find something different.

What we found though, was not only something that we had used seamlessly in our day-to-day electronically mediated interactivity, but also something that didn’t include everyone we were used to interacting with.  It was a cheap imitation and lacked the social component that drives electronically mediated interactivity in today’s culture and society.

To the right is a screen shot of my own gtalk contact list located within my Gmail window.  Immediately, the anatomy gtalk’s contact list reveals more people, a video chat option, and (most important of all) more users!  The third of these three characteristics was the most damning of Google’s Wave from the start.  Google, hoping to spark electronic phylogenic progress with Google Wave, remained stagnant if not receding due to the lack of users.

Judging by Google’s introduction of “Google Buzz” as an application on it’s gtalk, the company realized this was a major flaw in the makeup of Wave.  The nonverbal omission of failure resulted in yesterday’s worldwide introduction of Buzz and  today’s worldwide unveiling on many Gmail/gtalk users’ windows.

Instantly, users liken Google Buzz to Twitter.  It’s hard not to.  From the ability to “link” (or sync) to your Twitter account to the terms “follow” and “follower,” Buzz reeks of Twitter.  Below is a visual example of this:

Just above was my last “tweet” before going to bed…

Today, when I activated my “Buzz,” this was the result of “linking” (or “syncing”) my “tweets” into Google Buzz.

Google Buzz’s central separation from Twitter is something that my Communication and Media Studies recitation group and I discussed yesterday during class.  The lack of opportunities for “public feedback” on Twitter requires users to take extra steps to “see” what other people are commenting about any given “tweet.”  An example of this is displayed just below:

Paul Levinson‘s initial tweet about last night’s Lost episode appeared on my Twitter feed without any alert as to other people who’ve commented or responded to his initial commentary.The very same tweet (“linked” or “synced” from Paul’s Twitter account right into Google Buzz) makes public commentary or feedback a possibility.  Further, private feedback via chat (both textual and video) is also an option for users.

If Google Buzz can wrangle users in a way that the company was unable to do with Wave, this addition to GMail will be a wild success.  The pressure and attention now moves to Twitter.  The social networking, micro-blogging site must now take steps to making public feedback more visible to users.  Failure to do so, may result in a decrease in activity and more web hours being spend micro-blogging on Google Buzz.

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Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?

Over the past few months, Wikipedia‘s push for public funding has evolved from spokespeople (in the form of both celebrities and “everyday” people) to a “voice of reason” via Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder).  Upon logging on to the site, the user is greeted with a banner the following banner, requesting you take a moment from your browsing to consider what Wikipedia is… and what Wikipedia could be:

Once the user takes a moment to read Wales’ appeal, they’re brought to a page with a personal note, the bulk of which is displayed below (click picture for full note):

It’s easy to see where Wales is coming from.  If  a company like Microsoft or Google pruchased a percentage of Wikipedia (much like Microsoft did with Facebook), it would certainly make it easier for the “non-profit” to stay afloat… but would it affect the information provided?

I submit, and I trust you will agree, that it certainly would.  Imagine you, a Wikipedia user, are interested in researching Professional Wrestling storylines (a personal favorite procrastination search of my own).  As you find yourself reading about a feud between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan during Wrestlemania VI, you discover a link for “Mr. Perfect,” one of your personal favorites wrestlers.  When you click on the link, however, it’s not “Mr. Perfect’s” Wikipedia page that opens, it’s his “Bing” or “Google” search results (depending, of course, on the partner).

Here in lays the problem.  As Wales points out, “We Need to Protect Wikipedia.”  If Wikipedia is publicly funded, as Wales hopes, the above scenario will not come to fruition.  Instead, a site where “every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge” will be possible.  As Paul Levinson notes in New New Media (Penguin, 2009):

Wikipedia is the most thorough-going, consistantly user-driven system on the Internet.  It is the pick of the new new media litter, at least insofar as its primary, revolutionary charactersitic of allowing consumers to become producers (p. 90)

Tonight, while watching Monday Night Football (MNF) with my girlfriend’s family, I was asked what the lineage of announcers since the start of MNF was.  Logically, I searched Wikipedia and came to an answer within seconds (if not sooner).  Some of the article, I’m sure, was written/edited by ABC (long-time broadcaster of MNF).  Other components, likewise, were indubitably composed by ESPN (who has held the rights to MNF since 2006 — yes, I got that bit from Wikipedia).  Furthermore, there are the multitudes of NFL fans and MNF traditionalists who have added and edited their factual components of “all-things” MNF.

In a microcosm, this is what makes Wikipedia “revolutionary.”  As the title reads, I wonder if Wikipedia can, one day, become this all encompassing “good’ that Wales depicts in this open-letter to Wikipedia users?  My best guess is that it will.  There are millions of people in the world who can’t stand not knowing “who sings that song,” “what other shows is s/he in,” or “what’s the meaning of life?”  Wikipedia does, for these questioners and more, represent a haven for knowledge.  And it is a haven that Jimmy Wales hopes will remain safe from taint in the near future.

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“Facehoo!” and the eVolution of RSS News Feeds

Every morning, I have the same routine: make coffee, shower, have breakfast, read tweets.  At times, checking e-mail leapfrogs twitter (especially during midterms and finals when my inbox is flooded with student e-mails), but for the most part– that’s the routine.  To say the least, a vast change from a black-and-white memory I have of my father sitting back in his worn-in easy-chair, coffee on coaster to his right, and newspaper in hand.  Within the multitude of reasons for this, I submit they key lays in “active passivity.”

In 1997, Paul Levinson‘s The Soft Edge noted that “speed is […] the essence in delivery of news, [therefore] we might expect the online newspaper to easily exceed the sometimes soggy mess of print delivered to our doorstep only in the morning” (183).  As I write this post, my living room’s bay window offers a picture of a particularly grey, windy, rainy front yard and driveway.  The very driveway where a morning paper would be delivered.  While the physical elements do play a roll in my lack of enthusiasm toward retreiving a paper amid raindrops and wind, Levinson’s note of “speed” plays much more of a vital factor in my decision to not pay for news delivery (the monetary cost also playing a bit of a role).

Having covered the ‘passivity’ in “active passivity,” here’s where the footwork comes in: harvesting news sources.

Just months ago, I found most of my news from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds.  Most blogs and news websites offer an RSS Feed somewhere within or surrounding the text of an article/post.  If a website or web log does not offer a ‘clickable’ RSS link, secondary sites like Feedburner.com would provide writers with a unique RSS Feed URL.  Plugging that URL into a Feed Reader (much like those you see in the picture to the right) provides instantaneous updates to one’s blog or homepage.  The screen-shot provided comes from my iGoogle homepage.  Fully-customizable, iGoogle delivers immediate article/posts/news from websites/blogs I’ve visited and harvested for content.  In fact, popular sites like The Drudge Report and Huffington Post both represent “aggregators,” or sites that conjure a majority of content from outside sources (Drudge is more exemplary of this characteristic).

Recently, my aforementioned iGoogle homepage has collected a serious layer of dust.  Truthfully, multiple layers.  The central reason: Facebook‘s Newsfeed and my customized Twitter-Feed.  Both tools represent vehicles for news information and, better, a lack of initial RSS/website harvesting.

Now, because I share tastes in news stories with my “friends” (Facebook) and “followers” (Twitter), I read about news that they find interesting.  Which brings me to the premise of this post: “Facehoo!”

As you can see, the following post from a former classmate came to my attention three days ago.  The link Samia shared with her friends delivered me to the original article at MediaPost.  The most interesting component of the article comes here:

Yahoo users will see friends’ Facebook activities in “Yahoo Updates,” a tab found on key properties within the Web portal such as Yahoo Sports, News and Finance. (Mark Walsh)

This post arrived just days (if even that) before Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg‘s open-letter to the Facebook community, when he revealed the network had exceeded 350 million users (side note: notice the RSS Feed icon in the upper-left corner of the screen shot).  Further down, Zuckerberg acknowledges the same changes shared in the link provided above.  The partnership between Yahoo! and Facebook will undoubtedly result in an increase in Facebook users.

Think to those people who Mark Penn refers to as New Luddites, people who “don’t use [technology] because of age” among other characteristics (Microtrends, 257).  Though this group may have ignored the initial surge toward Facebook (and social networking as a whole), e-mail (specifically Yahoo! e-mail) and Yahoo! are two elements of the Web they all know.  Once they initially notice “comments,” “status updates,” and “sharing” links, this group will be lured to Facebook from their Yahoo! homepage.

This initial introduction to, what Howard Rheingold refers to as “reputation management” or “social filtering,” trail-blazes a way for more “active passivity” news sources.  Rheingold cites examples such as:

“Epinions [who] pays contributers of the most popular online reviews of books, movies, appliances, restaurants, and thousands of other items. […] Slashdot and other self-organized online forums [that] enable participants to rate the postings of other participants in discussions, causing the best writing to rise in prominence and most objectionable postings to sink” (Smartmobs, 114-115).

All of the above, plus popular cites like Digg, all play into this individual news collecting trend of “active passivity;” a definite eVolution to take note of during the initial stages of this “Facehoo!” partnership.

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