Nov 172011
Image of Google Buzz

As you may have noticed by now Google Buzz the useful but disastrously deployed Google social stream tool that used to live within the Googlemail interface (and within Google Profiles) is no more.  This is part of a widespread series of consolidations Google have been making to their social media and collaboration tools (as well as the closure of Google Labs), the most notable of which has been their controversial rebrand of services to a new sharp/Google+ inspired look and feel.

Google Buzz was built on the Friendfeed notion of the value of social activity streams – you could feed your blog, tweets, images etc. in automatically and then like or comment on others’ activity. That concept now tends to go by the name “lifestreaming” as that seems to capture the idea nicely though of course it is only a small portion of “life” that is streamed in such tools.

Image of FriendFeed

FriendFeed profile view

The benefit of Google Buzz, Friendfeed and similar systems is that you can have a profile that automatically updates with key content and can then opt in to further interactivity – discussions with friends and contacts, follow up messages etc. However the downside to these tools is that you are not driven to login regularly, to engage in more discussion (rather than one way narrowcasting or broadcasting of content) and you may not use that site as your primary access to any of your contacts updates. As the social networking wars hot up between Google+ and Facebook that hands off updating is losing appeal to social media site operators – anyone accessing a site through a third party app or automatically updating a site via RSS does not need to login, look at advertising on the site, and may not be as likely to stay on site for a long time. It was interesting that Google+ launched as a site that wants you to post updates directly. Just a short while later Facebook have just dropped one of their longer standing features – the Facebook Notes importer driven, presumably, by similar motivations.

The loss of Facebook Notes importing will be particularly noticable for Page administrators who are used to being able to generate automatically updated content through blog posts or Twitter feeds. Individuals may not login and engage if they can import all their updates automatically but organisations are very different beasts: blogs tend to be updated more frequently, activity tends to be checked in a different and more proactive way than personal comments and the importer is used far more widely because of this. It will be interesting to see how page owners adapt to the change – we’ll certainly be switching tack for a few of our Facebook pages here to accommodate the change although the timing for this is good as Google+ pages have just launched so it is likely that we can apply similar updating process to both spaces at least in the short term.

However the loss of automatic updates  does not mean the lifestream (a term I first came across via the WordPress plugin of the same name) is dead. Mobile social media usage is driving more aggregation – who wants to open 5 apps every time one looks at their phone – with tools like AOL’s Lifestream App, Apples iOS Notifications Centre, and indeed the sorts of social bookmarking-like functionality of Facebook’s own social newspaper reading apps. Blogs too seem likely to hold strong in light of the Facebook Notes changes/wider importing restrictions – some will surely switch to using Notes as a blog (which many users already do), many others will find email subscription a strong alternative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the linkage between Google+ and Google Reader strengthening (dealing with RSS without a simple UI remains a little too techie for many blog readers).

Image of the Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Also in this space Facebook have launched Timeline – a way to add a narrative arc to your shared materials that reflects a more curated lifestream approach – or perhaps a more visual and social version of blogging. It will be interesting to see how that takes off as it is simultaneously quite appealing and clearly an effort to ensure lock-in to Facebook through investment of time, energy and emotional memory. As talk of the “happy cloud” and reputation management online become more foregrounded it will be particularly interesting to see how users edit their “private activity log” and deal with  editing former partners, friends, colleagues etc. in/out of their personal life stories.

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 November 17, 2011  Posted by at 1:38 pm Social Media News & Resources Tagged with: , , ,  Add comments

  8 Responses to “Buzz is dead. Facebook Notes Importing is Dead. Long live the blog/lifestream!”

  1. Great post, Nicola! Personally I’m not someone who would want to make my whole lifestream available to Google – even if, as you say, it’s only ever a portion of life. Agree it’s a very nice phrase though!
    On a related note: don’t you think blogging platforms should get a fundamental overhaul? IMO it’s all too linear right now – and any sense of community is not that strong or visible as a result. E.g. comments “disappear” chronologically beneath a post and sometimes fall off the end. Lots of WordPress and Blogger sites are starting to look and feel quite old-fashioned compared to what else is happening. Is that just me??
    Will be interested to see how blogs start to develop beyond new apps and skins…esp for those of us without nifty CSS skills 😉

  2. Thanks Kathleen!

    Lifestreaming is definitely not for all. It can be a risky exercise in transparency and can have a disruptive impact on notions of professional and personal identity. Many like to keep their identities distinct but lifestreaming, even if you attempt to moderate or curate the items you share, tends to muddle those distinctions. I am reminded of a friend’s experience of an ebook application connected to Facebook that shared what they were reading which worked well until they started to read, well something they would have preferred not to share but which was automatically pushed to the newsfeeds of all their friends. It was a good warning about the risk of total transparency – the only negative impact here was embarrassment all round for a few minutes but one can imagine far more serious consequences such as accidental disclosure of medical conditions, personal circumstance, sensitive location information, etc.

    I think my own relative comfort with lifestreams comes from making so many embarrassing comments online as a (then-rare) net-addicted teenager and then student. Anything that would make me cringe is probably already online and largely already disappeared since the web is far more ephemeral than is usually recognized (data is rarely deleted but often becomes unfindable!). However I do opt to blur personal and professional identities more than many and do therefore think quite carefully about posting some comments/tweets/etc. I’m actually just preparing a presentation on managing academic identities in social media for a talk and hands on session I’m running next week for humanities and social science staff at the University of Edinburgh so the tricky nature of online identities is very much in mind at the moment.

    You do have a good point about blogging. On the one hand it does look quite retro but then how much more old fashioned does most email look – it’s the main way most people now communicate, at least for professional purposes, and it has barely moved on since command line days. It would be good to see email move on but arguably Google Wave came closest to this concept and it was both unfeasibly slow and too alien for most users. Buzz showed the profound discomfort with muddling social media with one’s address book though I think that Facebook continues to lower resistance to that – though their own messages system is remarkably like most blog post commenting systems. There are some social media blogs that have attempted to make very thorough use of social badges and blog plugins to bring conversations together but I haven’t seen anything that is a really convincing alternative as yes. I guess my question would be to ask what you would like to see in terms of layout/interactivity? Current blog commenting tools reflect what we are comfortable using and navigating rather than reflecting what is technologically possible (especially with the shiny stuff made possible with JavaScript, JQuery, AJAX and HTML5 as well as CSS ;).

    We do tend to read in quite linear ways – indeed I am quite disappointed by the current generation of ebook readers because they so closely follow the traditional print model of reading – but there is some really interesting work on transliteracy that considers how much else comes into the equation when we experience and communicate through mixed media. Have a wee look at Sue Thomas et al’ work on:

  3. The transliteracy stuff is really fascinating, thanks for flagging that up. I am reading some great books right now that may be related? Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (by Janet Murray); and Computers as Theatre (by Brenda Laurel). The latter was first published in 1991 but it’s equally relevant now – even if the ‘ultra-modern’ screenshots from games like “The Secret of Monkey Island” are quite amusing in 2011. 😉

    Reading these, and your comments…I start to realise how far ahead theorists/practitioners/philosophers of art and culture are of CS folk in terms of understanding and analysing a lot of what is happening with New Media and Social Media. In terms of identity, play, narrative, fluidity and liminality.

    For example: you talk about a “disruptive impact on notions of professional and personal identity”. Perhaps that is because such distinctions are only ever contingent in the first place? The media we are now using to express personal and professional views make that highly visible. They foreground the illusions. They open up creative spaces for professional discourse which is really quite exciting; though the novelty of that increases aspects of risk and uncertainty?

    I absolutely agree with you about “blur[ring] personal and professional identities”. Keep having to explain this to people about my own blog which very much combines both. In a curated manner naturally.

    Am dying to know what ebook your friend was reading. 😉 Also hope you will make your presentation on Managing Academic Identities available here…

  4. p.s. – in answer to your question: I’m not quite sure what I’d like to see in terms of interactivity and layout but wouldn’t it be fun to sit and draw a few sketches? 😀 So far I visualise objects ‘floating’ around the screen – or at least positioned interestingly so that they are forever detached from that rigid old hierarchy. The comments would combine or merge more with the content that sparked them. Possibly some 3D styling would be nice too. A little like what we see in some of the desktop environments. Hmm.

  5. Very glad you found the transliteracy stuff interesting – thanks for your recommendations which I shall look out for (and I quite like outdated ultra modern screenshots! 🙂

    Absolutely agree re: artificiality of some of our expressed/visible connections vs what may actually exist beyond that. A really interesting and tricky area as we acclimatise to living our lives partly or fully online as it forces us to reflect on how we portray ourselves in other contexts and to select the self to show.

    I will definitely be sharing a link to my Managing Academic Identities prezi/worksheet here somewhere (usually I add all of these things to my Presentations and Publications page).

  6. Hmm.. interesting… I think you should definitely sketch that out (and I think I should doing the same)! It would be interesting to see what’s the same and what’s different from existing spaces.

  7. Cool. Once I start my data gathering/field work I can come see you armed with a big whiteboard and pens! Low tech meets hi tech. Haha.

  8. […] habits for effective PPCHow to Turn Traffic and Trust into Sales By Nick Reese & Chris BroganBuzz is dead. Facebook Notes Importing is Dead. Long live the blog/lifestream! body {font-family:"Lucida Sans", "Lucida Grande", "Lucida Sans Unicode", […]

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