Changing It Up A Bit

Today, I tuned into my Google Buzz stream to find this comment on a post by Josh Braun, left by someone who's abandoning Buzz:

To be honest, aside from my obvious social difficulties with Buzz motivating my switch back, I like Twitter better. I think the 140 character limitation forces me to think more creatively when trying to say things, plus I much prefer "yelling into the void" then "yelling into a room full of people who all have their own opinion and want to share it with you".

I know what he means. When Buzz first came out, I was a huge proponent of the new service. It incorporated two of the things I had liked most about Jaiku, the service that Google bought and subsequently killed through neglect: threaded responses and the ability to pull in feeds from other sources. It seemed like the answer to a prayer--a more full-featured service than Twitter, with none of Twitter's connectivity problems (no fail whale!). Integration into Gmail seemed like a stroke of genius, as having one's status updates, email and chat in one place promised a one-stop approach to online communication. And, of course, being an early adopter is kind of exciting, because you get to help define some of the basic etiquette and best practices.

Soon, however, some of the basic weaknesses of the service started to make themselves known. First there were the privacy concerns, which I felt were overblown, but they scared many people away. More irritating, at least to me, were the usability issues. Muted posts didn't stay muted. Posts jumped around in the queue in a seemingly random fashion, rather than staying neatly chronological. The method by which one could add a site to feed into Buzz, which involved editing one's Google profile, was more complicated than it needed to be. Commenting didn't always work, particularly when something was shared from Google Reader. As our British friends sometimes say, it was a bit of a dog's breakfast. And while integration into Gmail seemed like a winning idea, it started to become apparent that there were times when it was inconvenient to have to load Gmail before being able to access your Buzz account.

Then there were the unidentified and unblockable followers, as seen in the (missing) screenshot above. There's a link to block, but they keep coming back. I eventually gave up trying. Although all of us who post online make a conscious choice to be public, there's something more than a little creepy about being followed by anonymous strangers.

So when I read the comment on Josh's post today, it struck a chord. I've mostly withdrawn from active participation in the Buzz community in the last several weeks, as increasing responsibilities at work have cut into the time I can spend on social media (and blogging). I just don't have the time to devote to it lately, particularly with respect to Buzz, which demands a higher level of participation given its conversational nature. And while everyone is going to have a different experience depending upon whom they follow, my stream lately seems to have more and more shares from Google Reader (and posted-from-the-web links, which amount to the same thing) and fewer and fewer original posts. Frankly, there isn't much pulling me in these days.

At the same time, I've started to feel more and more frustration with Buzz's tendency to jump posts around in the stream. I'm no longer certain that I'm seeing everything from the people I follow, nor that my own posts are being seen by those who follow me. There needs to be an option to view in chronological or reverse-chronological order, and Google seems disinclined to provide one. It's a shame, because the current model simply isn't working for me any more.

The upshot of all this is that with all of its problems, Twitter is serving my needs better at this point. Short posts that require some thought to put together are more interesting to me than 3000-word blog posts imported into Buzz and promptly forgotten by the poster, who may never visit Buzz in the first place. It's not perfect, of course; anyone who tried to log into Twitter during the World Cup knows the fail whale all too well. But it's where the crowd is, by and large, and it's where I'll be spending more time in the days and weeks to come, at least when I can get in.

When I can't get in, and when I want to post a status update, I'll be doing it from my single-user site. It federates with and other sites running software, and pushes updates out to Twitter instantaneously. I find that being on Twitter is almost obligatory, but Twitter is not always reliable. This way, I have a backup, and it should also be noted that is in some ways superior to Twitter, for example in the way it handles conversations (click the "in context" link by the timestamp, and you get a threaded conversation view). The community surrounding and also is quite a bit smaller, and in general much, much geekier than Twitter's. This is a good thing. And, when rolls out its premium services, which founder Evan Prodromou has told me will be quite soon, I can map my site to my own domain, which is also a good thing. It's important to me to own my own stuff, even if I put it out under a Creative Commons license, and there's no better way to do that than on a domain that you own.

So, to recap, here's where you can find and follow me from now on, if you're so inclined:

Microblogging: or

Blogging: (fancy-schmancy Blogger site) or (stripped-down Posterous site) -- _Same content on both sites_

Buzz? I'll still poke my head in from time to time, but it won't be my main thing any more. Eventually, if it seems appropriate, I may delete my profile, but for now I'm leaving it alone.

And lastly, a brief word about something different. I've started the preparations to launch separate blog, Twitter, and sites for what I envision will be a very occasional series of posts on a religious theme, something I've shied away from on my main site out of a sense of my own inability to address it properly. However, as I've grown more and more disenchanted with politics and the culture of the world we live in, I find myself compelled to start writing on religious themes--not deep theological treatises, which I leave to those with more knowledge than I have, or triumphalist polemics, which I find generally misguided, but simply what it's like to be an Orthodox convert who's made many stops along the way. It seems appropriate to give those posts their own home. When the time comes to launch, I'll put links in all the relevant places.

Consider yourselves warned. :-)