buzz – Stay N Alive

Loud Noises Be Gone! Mute Posts by Source in Google Buzz

I’ve long said that in good social networks, it’s not how you give, but how you receive that makes the social network powerful.  This is why I like Facebook – I can hide the types of applications I don’t ever want to see, or I can just hide individuals.  I liked FriendFeed even better because they took it a step even further by allowing me to not just hide by source or application or just the user, but they allowed me to hide specific applications for only specific users.  So, for instance, if I wanted to hide all the Twitter posts from Robert Scoble I could click a button, “hide entries like these”, configure it correctly, and now I would never see a Twitter post from Robert Scoble again, even though I might still see Twitter posts from others.  Google just entered the scale of FriendFeed with the same level of granularity in what you want to receive.

In a post on Buzz, Rick Klau, the person over Google Profiles, formerly over Blogger, and originally one of the founders of Feedburner, posted, “Some of us would rather keep up with our friend’s Google Reader shared items in Google Reader or our co-worker’s Twitter posts in Twitter. So, by popular request, you can now mute Google Buzz posts by source for each person you follow.”  So, in typical Google fashion, Google is using the “mute” functionality from Gmail and other areas to allow you to hide specific applications from specific individuals you don’t want to see.

According to Klau, to turn on the functionality:

“You can do this from two places:
1) Click the arrow in the corner of any post
2) Click a person’s name from the Buzz tab

If you ever want to unmute a source, just click the person’s name from the Buzz tab again and “unmute.”

So if you’re on Buzz or you want to try Buzz, you can safely turn on your Twitter feed or whatever feed you chose, and now it’s up to those receiving your feed on how noisy they want to be.  Now MG Siegler doesn’t have to complain about how noisy my Twitter stream is any more. 😉

UPDATE: The post by Rick Klau was actually a re-share of a post by the Google Buzz Team here:

Buzz Opens the Firehose With New API Features

Just a few minutes ago, on his Buzz update stream, Google employee DeWitt Clinton announced that Google had opened up their real-time stream of information for Buzz. Now, any application can access, in real-time, all updates across the entire service as they come through. This incredible stream of information will serve useful to Data warehousing and collection apps such as PeopleBrowsr and others that provide images and statistics surrounding the real time streams of Social Networks.

In his update, Clinton describes that the entire API was built around Pubsub Hubbub (PSHB) by Brett Slakin and John Panzer, and also integrates Atom and ActivityStreams standards as part of the integration.  In addition, new API methods to retrieve all the comments and likes of any user were also added to the Buzz API.

Even more significant is the addition of Share counts for any given URL.  Now you can expect to see services such as TweetMeme provide widgets that show and track the number of times that URL has been shared on Buzz and the ability to click to share even further.

In what seems like a long lull of time since any updates on the Buzz API or service, these changes are refreshing.  I think there’s no doubt the Buzz team is working hard to make this platform special and we’ll continue to see results in the near future.

What other API features would you like to see from Buzz and its API?

Getting Me to Share Your Posts

One of the things I like to do on my Twitter account is to share interesting articles around the web that I think would be interesting to my readers.  Such articles can be techy, geeky, mainstream, pop-culture, or anything I deem interesting.  Based on your retweets, I think you like it.  I had someone ask me the other day why I wasn’t sharing more of their posts.  It’s actually quite easy – I’d like to share how, and I’m pretty sure you can use this same technique on any other blogger that uses Google Reader.

I have a policy on Google Buzz – it’s the same policy I have on Twitter.  I follow everyone on Buzz who follows me.  The thing is that I think it’s even more powerful on Buzz because, just like Twitter, it gives me an opportunity to discover interesting people I may not have known about before.  For the spam, I have SocialToo for that.  However, with Buzz, for everyone I follow, I also see their Google Reader shares.  That means for every one of you that follows me on Buzz, if your content is interesting, I am very likely to discover your content that you share (that can even be your own blog posts!), and if I like it, that content goes straight to Twitter and Buzz.

So the secret is just to follow me on Buzz!  Yes, I hide many people in my Google Reader, so it’s important you share unique, and interesting posts.  Also, if I know you I’m also more likely to not hide your shares, so get involved in the conversation.  Comment on my shares, retweet my posts, reply to me, comment on my blog.  I read every single comment and try to respond where it makes sense.  As we have more discussions I get to know you better and I’m less likely to hide your content.

I hope that helps.  I don’t think the individual who asked me to share his content more is following me in Buzz.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hide his content because I know him and I like his content.  The secret is to follow on Buzz, join the conversation, and I’ll very likely share your interesting shares on Twitter.  I think the same goes with anyone that uses Google Reader.  There’s a great opportunity here – I hope you use it.

You can follow me on Buzz over on my Google Profile.  Can’t wait to start seeing your shares!

Photo courtesy Creative Commons on Flickr.

Google Re-Enables Adsense on RSS Feeds in Buzz

Some time in the last hour or two it appears that the Google Buzz team has re-enabled AdSense ads in RSS Feeds in Google Buzz.  Recently I wrote about this, criticizing the service for stripping out ads a blog author was including and importing into Google Buzz.  This included both RSS feeds directly imported into Google Buzz and those shared via Google Reader.  I argued this was a violation of the authors’ copyrights and their intended method of content distribution.

Google responded quickly, saying they had confirmed the problem, and expected to have it resolved “within the week”.  Apparently they meant a month, but I’m glad it’s fixed.  As both a book author and blogger, I always hate to see my content being modified in ways I had not agreed to.  It is a strict violation of authors’ copyright, and not to mention “evil” in a way.  It’s nice to see Google recognizes that and has fixed the problem.

If all goes well, if you visit my Google Buzz profile, you should see an ad now, right below this text.  Are you seeing the same?

I’ve Been a Little Rough on Google Lately

For having posted just less than 1,000 posts, this blog has gotten a lot of attention in just the last one or two years.  It used to be when I posted something I would get few comments (I still wish I had more), little traffic, and I knew it was only going to perhaps a few hundred eyes at most in an RSS Reader somewhere.  But it took off.  I’m not saying this to gloat, and I accept that I’m nowhere near a TechCrunch or a Mashable in terms of readers or traffic, but I’ve quickly learned that some times when I say things here it seems to have a lot of influence. Some times my articles end up on Techmeme.  Some times people like TechCrunch and Mashable mention what I say.  Some times Google employees talk about them.  Not only that, but it goes out to near 25,000 people on Twitter, thousands on FriendFeed, not to mention the thousands of subscribers that read this in their RSS Reader.  I tend to forget that when I talk here, it has the potential for a lot of people to read what I say. It’s not the old days of when I would just strive to get someone to read my stuff.  For that, I apologize – I’ve been a little negative on Google lately without realizing the implications, and I want to make ammends.

The truth is, I like Google for a lot of stuff.  My main e-mail client is  In fact I also use it as my FriendFeed, Facebook, and Twitter client.  Despite my frustrations, I still use Google Reader as my main RSS Reader, not because it’s Google, but because it’s still by far the best Reader out there.  There have been various Chrome releases that have been by far the fastest and best browser out there.  Google Calendar is my favorite scheduling application – it’s the best of any tool I’ve come across.  I’ve replaced the phone icons on my iPhone with Google’s Google Voice client.

Truth be told, I still love Google.  They’re an amazing company.  They’re a company full of amazing talent and smart people.  Perhaps I hold them to a higher standard, and hence my criticism.

I think it’s obvious that I also have a bit of a Facebook bias.  I’ve written many apps both for myself and others on the Facebook platform, wrote two books about it, and I’m very close with many of their team over there.  Most of my business is to help other businesses integrate Facebook technology into their products – with over 400 million users and still growing, a very accessible API, and a lot of rules that go with that API, my help is often needed, and I’m happy to provide.  I’m just as passionate, if not more about Facebook as I am Google, but I think some of that gets to me at times.

I am also passionate about open standards.  I admit Facebook is not open across the board as others like to define it, but neither is Google.  Ideally, I guess I’d like to see a web that is completely free of the big guys like Facebook and Google – sure, they’ll still have a presence, but the user will be in control, not these companies or even developers.  There is no one perfect solution right now.  This is why I talk about Kynetx a lot.  I don’t think any of the open standards available right now completely tackle this, so I get passionate, perhaps too passionate about it at times.

So, to Google, DeWitt, and any of the team there I may have offended, I apologize.  I’d like to make ammends.   Sure, we may disagree at times, but as my Mom always taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  I’m going to be much more careful with what I say online from now on, especially when I disagree.  I’d like the things you take from here to be positive.  I want to influence, but in a good way.  To start the mending process, I’m re-creating my Google profile and re-opening my Buzz account, which you can find here.

Let’s open the air here – what else can I improve about this blog and what I share online?  Am I making the right choice in backing down in my criticism?

Image courtesy

Did Google Reinvent the Wheel by Adopting the Protocols They Chose?

In a response to my article here, DeWitt Clinton of Google defined what he deemed the definition of “open” to be.  According to DeWitt, “the first is licensing of the protocols themselves, with respect to who can legally implement them and/or who can legally fork them.”  I argue if this were the case, then why didn’t Google clone and standardize what Facebook is doing, where many, many more developers are already integrating and writing code for?  Facebook itself is part of the Open Web Foundation, and applies the same principles as Google to allowing others to clone the APIs they provide to developers.

DeWitt’s second definition of “open” revolves around, according to DeWitt, “the license by which the data itself is made available. (The Terms and Conditions, so to speak.) The formal definitions are less well established here (thus far!), but it ultimately has to do with who owns the data and what proprietary rights over it are asserted.”  Even Facebook makes clear in its terms that you own your data, and they’re even working to build protocols to enable website owners to host and access this data on their own sites.  Why did Google have to write their own Social Graph API or access lesser-used protocols (such as FOAF or OpenID) when they could, in reality, be standardizing what millions (or more?) of other developers are already utilizing with Facebook Connect and the Facebook APIs to access friend data?  Google could easily duplicate the APIs Facebook has authored (even using the open source libraries Facebook provides for it), and have a full-fledged, “open” social network built from these APIs many developers are already building upon.  I would argue there are/were many more developers writing for Facebook than were developing under the open protocols and standards Google chose to adapt.  I’d like to see some stats if that is not the case.  Granted, even Facebook is giving way to Google to adopt some of these other “open” standards so developers have choice in this matter, even if they were one of the few adopting the other standards.

I still think Google is adopting these standards because it benefits Google, not the user or developer.  If Google wanted to benefit the majority of the audience of developers they would have cloned the already “open” Facebook APIs rather than adopt the much lesser-adopted other protocols they have chosen to go by.  This is a matter of competition, being the “hero”, and a brilliant marketing strategy.  Is Google evil for doing this?  Of course not.  Do I hate Google for this?  Only for the reason that I have to now adapt all the apps I write in Facebook to new “open” APIs Google is choosing to adopt.

IMO, if Google wanted to truly benefit the developer they would have chosen to clone the existing “open” APIs developers were already writing for.  This is a marketing play, plain and simple.  It may have started with geeks not wanting to get into the Facebook worlds, but management agreed because in the end, it benefits Google, not their competitors.  If you don’t think so, you should ask Dave Winer why Google is not implementing RSS or rssCloud instead of Atom and PSHB (I’m completely baffled by that one, too).

Image courtesy

The Web is No Longer Open

“So it can benefit everyone.”

That’s what a Google employee said today as he tried to explain Google’s recent push to have websites use the ‘rel=”me”‘ meta HTML tags to identify pages a user owns on the web.  It’s not a bad strategy – index the entire web, know every single website out there, and when they change, and now the web is your network.  The thing is, since the “open” web hasn’t had a natural way of identifying websites owned by users, Google, the current controller of this network, needed a way to do it.  Why not make people identify their websites to Google’s SocialGraph network, and call it “open” so it benefits everyone?  I’m sorry, but the “open” web that we all grew up in is dead now that 2 or 3 entities have indexed it all.  This is now their network.

Let’s contrast that to Facebook, the “Walled Garden”, criticized for being closed due to tight privacy controls and not willing to open up to the outside web.  Of course, all that is a myth – Facebook too has provided ways for website owners to identify themselves to Facebook on the “open” web, making Facebook itself the controller of that social graph data, thereby giving Facebook a new role in who “owns” the “open” web.  Facebook has even made known in its developer roadmap its intention to build an “OpenGraph API”, making every website owner’s site a Facebook Fan Page in the Facebook network.  Don’t kid yourself that Facebook wants a role in this as well.  They’re a major threat to Google, too because of this.

Then there’s Twitter, just starting to realize how to play in this game, now starting to collect user data for search in their own network.  Don’t count them out just yet, as they too will soon be trying to find ways to get you to identify your website on their network.

So we’ll soon have 3 ways of identifying our websites on the “open” web.  I can identify my site through Facebook, as you see by the Facebook Connect login buttons scattered around.  I can identify myself in the Google SocialGraph APIs, which, if you view the source of this site you’ll see a ‘rel=”me”‘ meta tag identifying my site so Google can search it.  Who knows what Twitter will provide to bring my site into its network.  Each network is providing its easiest ways of identifying your site within their own Social Graph, and calling it “open” so other developers can bring their stuff into their networks easily, without rewriting code.

I think it’s time we stop tricking ourselves into thinking the web is open at all.  Google is in control of the web – they have it all indexed.  Now that we are seeing that he who owns the Social Graph has a new way of controlling and indexing the web, which we are seeing by Facebook’s massive growth (400+ million users!), I think Google feels threatened.  They’ll play every “open” term in the book to gain that control back.  Of course the new meta tags are beneficial – is it really beneficial to “everybody” though?  I argue the one entity it benefits most is Google.  Yeah, it benefits developers if we can get everyone to agree on what “open” is, but that will never happen.  I think it’s time we accept that now that the web is controlled and indexed by only a few large corporations, it is far from “open”.  “Open” is nothing more than a marketing term, and I think we can thank Google for that.  No, that’s not a bad thing – it’s just reality.

Do these technologies really “benefit everyone” when no other search startup has a remote chance of competing with owning the “open web” network?

Further note:

How do we solve this?  I truly believe the only solution to giving the user control of the web again is via client-side, truly user-controlled technologies like what Kynetx offers.  Action Cards, Information Cards, Selectors, and browser-side technologies that bring context back in the user’s hands are the only way we’re going to make the web “open” again.  The future will be the battle for the client – I hope the user wins that battle.

Image courtesy Leo Reynolds

UPDATE: DeWitt Clinton of Google, who wrote the quote above this post is in response to, issued his own response here.  The comments there are interesting, albeit a lot of current and former Google employees trying to defend their case.  I still hold that no matter what Google does now, due to the size of their index, any promotion of the “open web” is still to their benefit.  I don’t think Google should be denying that.

UPDATE 2: My response to DeWitt’s response is here – why didn’t Google just clone Facebook’s APIs if their intention was to benefit the developer and end-user?

Is Google Stealing Authors’ Copyright With Buzz?

2 years ago I shared about a blogger and follower/friend of mine, Ali Akbar, who purchased the domain, (he still owns it) in order to create an AppEngine-related blog (since Google apparently forgot to purchase the domain).  Ali received a threatening Cease-and-Desist from Google shortly after asking him to immediately discontinue use of the domain and “Take immediate steps to transfer the Domain Name to Google”.  It would appear that Google needs to take a dose of its own medicine though.  To my surprise, I’ve realized recently that my articles from and other blogs are being shared, in their full text, on Buzz and having my ads stripped from them, without my permission.

For those unaware, there’s a “subscribe” button when you visit this blog that allows anyone to obtain the RSS of this blog and plug it into a Reader.  For those of you reading this in a Reader, thank you, and you’re already aware of this.  One thing I have done with those feeds if you haven’t noticed is at the bottom of each post in the RSS, I’ve added Google Adsense to my feeds so I can at least cover my costs of running this blog and make at least a few cents a day trying to re-coup costs of hosting and time spent writing posts.  If you visit in a browser like Chrome, you can look at the raw feed and see the ads at the bottom of each post.  Or, if you’re reading this post in a traditional feed reader, look down at the bottom of this post and you’ll see the ad.

However, there’s a feature on Buzz that enables anyone reading my shared posts to expand the summarized content and view the entire post, right in Buzz.  For one, I didn’t give Buzz permission to do this on shared posts, and second, Buzz is stripping out my ads, depriving me of that potential revenue rather than either displaying those ads, or redirecting the user back to my site where I can monetize that in some other form.  This is blatant copyright infringement if you ask me!  Now, if you expand my posts, since it’s integrated into Gmail, look over to the right – see those ads?  Yup, I’m not getting a penny of that.

Google is now monetizing my content, and neglecting to ask for my permission in doing so, while removing what I had put in place to monetize my content.  Starting today, I’m removing my blog from my Google Profile, as well as my Google Reader shares so that I don’t help further the copyright infringement on other blogs I share.  The problem that still exists is that anyone who shares my content from Google Reader will also have my content available on Buzz in full format, and my ads stripped.  There’s no way to stop it, and Google is encouraging this wrong practice.

To be clear, I’m fine with them either displaying the ads that I put there (and allowing me to monetize off the other ads that are on the page), or just summarizing the article and encouraging users to click through to my site.  I’m not okay with Google scraping my content, stripping my ads, altering my content, and pushing it out for them to get 100% of the revenues off of something I spent time and money making.

Google, how is this not evil?  Maybe I should use Google’s own Cease and Desist letter to get them to stop this practice.  Or would that itself be copyright infringement?

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment – “The Ant Bully”

UPDATE: The Google Buzz Team did contact me on Buzz (Ironically, considering the content of this post), and they say they’re going to have the ad scraping issue fixed by next week.

Speculation: Expect Something BIG in the Area of Real-Time at F8

I don’t do speculative posts like this too often, except around Facebook’s F8 developer events for the most part.  The last one I predicted was that Facebook would announce a Mobile Platform at F8 – the announcement did occur along with Facebook Connect.  The first F8 was the announcement of the Facebook API, which revolutionized Social Development and has left players like Google scrambling to play catch up since.  Now, 2 years since the last F8, the next F8 has been announced, and we are all wondering what the next big announcement will be.  If it is to be in line with the last 2, and, considering they waited 2 years to have another one, they have to be announcing something game-changing.  I predict it directly involves some of the FriendFeed team and it’s directly related to real-time.

First of all, let me preface this with the fact that I am not receiving this data from any inside contacts at Facebook, nor have I been told anything the rest of the world doesn’t already know.  This is pure speculation – I hope it’s taken as such.  I am also certainly not a psychic.  I think if you look at some of the hints though, you can see the potential for something big, perhaps FriendFeed 3.0-like (remember, FriendFeed 2.0 was the advent of their real-time stream you see now) about to happen at Facebook.  Here are my reasons for thinking such:

What is Paul Buchheit Working on?

Paul Buchheit, one of the founders of FriendFeed, creator of Gmail, and now working at Facebook after FriendFeed was acquired, hasn’t yet made it evident exactly what he’s working on.  We know Bret Taylor, also a founder, is now Director of Product for Facebook, and working heavily with the Facebook APIs and the new Roadmap Facebook has laid out for developers.  We know Kevin Fox, pretty much the man behind all the design of FriendFeed, has been working on the new Games and Apps dashboard that Facebook just launched (that you can see on the left-hand side of Facebook).

But what is Paul Buchheit working on?  He recently commented stating he is definitely not working on Facebook’s new e-mail product that they have been rumored to be working on to replace their current inbox structure.  I’m not sure anyone has specifically stated exactly whether he’s working on the Facebook developer platform now or not.  He seems to be doing something big, and he’s certainly been studying Google Buzz recently if you look over his FriendFeed stream lately.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Then there’s that “Butterfly” post.  Paul Buchheit specifically stated when Robert Scoble, Steve Gillmor, and others were all pressuring Facebook to make a statement on what they were going to do with FriendFeed that “the team is working on a couple of longer-term projects that will help bring FriendFeedy goodness to the larger world.”  He then continued, “Transformation is not the end. Consider this the chrysalis stage — if all goes well, a beautiful butterfly will emerge”.

The mystery in all this is that Facebook has not yet released anything even remotely similar to what Paul described yet.  Paul’s a really smart guy.  He’s not just going to work on something mediocre for Facebook – whatever it is, it has to be game changing.  I really believe that whatever it is will blow our minds away when it happens.  The FriendFeed team doesn’t just innovate.  They revolutionize.  I don’t believe they would still be at Facebook if they didn’t have that opportunity.

Facebook’s Needs

Then there’s the lack of any real-time APIs or architecture at Facebook.  I have to click on the page to have it refresh.  Frankly, I think that fits their current audience of 400 million+ “average Joes” well.  It doesn’t tap into the news-seeking, data-mining, and publishing audiences very well though.  That’s what Twitter does well.  It’s what FriendFeed and Buzz also do well.  All of these come with real-time APIs and real-time searches (or “track”).

Facebook needs a real-time interface for developers still.  It needs search.  It needs search to be real-time.  It needs a public view into all of that, supported by the powerful privacy controls Facebook already has in place.  Facebook has already built out the building blocks to launch this with their recent emphasis on encouraging users to open up their posts more and at the same time enabling them to have granularity in who sees those posts.  The next natural step is to finally open up those public posts to developers, and provide a real-time interface to it all.  With a 400 million user audience, that would be game-changing in the realm of real-time data.  We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

The Lack of any Really Big Known Announcements at F8

Lastly, we know everything else Facebook could announce at F8.  Facebook has already started rolling out credits to developers, so a payment system wouldn’t be much of a “game changer” per se.  I’m sure they’ll talk a lot about it at the conference though.  Facebook has already started rolling out its Ads API to developers.  They’ve already announced the desire to open up websites as virtual 3rd-party “Pages” on the web.  They’ve let us know just about everything in their roadmap, except the fate of FriendFeed.

Doesn’t this seem strange to you that Facebook and the FriendFeed team have been so mute on this in general for almost a year now?  What’s going on behind the scenes?  Even when asking the FriendFeed team about plans to integrate better into Facebook they have remained mute.  How cool would it be if, while everyone is ranting and raving about Google Buzz and calling FriendFeed dead, the FriendFeed team along with the incredible talent that Facebook adds to the mix have all been working on FriendFeed 3.0 behind the scenes?  What if Facebook caught wind Google was working on Buzz and bought FriendFeed in response to that rumor?  Will the “Butterfly” emerge at F8?  The chrysalis stage takes patience – I’m not giving up on FriendFeed yet.

Google Changes the Way You Read My Feeds – You Still Have no Control

Louis Gray just reported a new way Google is trying to control the problem of mine and Louis’s and Robert Scoble and Mashable, and more of the more active feeds and streams on Google Buzz taking over the streams of our followers.  The problem that was occuring is that for those with a lot of followers, their posts would continue to dominate the streams of those following them because every time someone commented or liked the post, it would go right back to the top of your feed.  While I understand the problem, and agree there needs to be a fix, I argue Google is trying to fix this the wrong way.

The way Google decided to fix it is now they decide, based on some sort of algorithm, how often my feeds get thrown up to the top of your stream.  This ensures no active user will ever fully dominate your stream.  However, what if we want to consume this data?  The problem is Google is the one making that choice for you, not giving you the power to make that choice yourself, and I think that’s a very wrong approach.

Rather than Google making that choice for us, they need to focus on lists, the way FriendFeed and Facebook do it, and the way over 400 million people are familiar with.  This is the natural flow – if someone is too noisy, you take them out of one list and put them in another.  Let us choose which list is the default.  Give us an easy way to assign people we follow into different lists.  This isn’t that difficult a solution for someone Google’s size, and gives the users absolute, full control, rather than taking it away from them to make the decision on how active their feeds are.  This needs to be their 100% focus right now to keep my attention.

The way Google is approaching this is wrong.  I really hope they change their focus to lists, open up the flood wall, but give us filters, privacy controls, and put the control back in the users’ hands.  Don’t take our power away from us Google.

Image courtesy