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What Google Learned from Wave and Buzz (smarterware.org)
152 points by cjoh on June 29, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

In one paragraph, the author lauds the fact that Google+ will send email to people who aren't on it, effectively spam for your friends: G+'s email notification handling is particularly elegant. It gives you the choice—on by default—to let your friends who aren't on yet know there's something going on.

In another paragraph, the author lauds how Google+ doesn't clutter your mail inbox: Don't mess with the Gmail inbox. When Buzz invaded my Gmail inbox with a flood of social-networky conversations, my first instinct was "Turn it off!"

I guess the message is that if you sign up, Google+ won't annoy you, but it will give you the tools to annoy your friends so their product can be "viral."

Gmail also allows you to send email to people who aren't Gmail users. I don't see how it's necessarily worse when Google+ does it. It doesn't sound like it's talking about Farmville here — more like what Apple does with iMessage, where it sends an iMessage to other users of Apple's service and a text to others.

(I'm not on Google+, so I don't speak from experience. That's just how it sounds to me.)

To be perfectly candid, I am not sure if I have an issue with Google+, with my friends who think I want to throw a custard pie at them, or with the author who both praises and lambastes products that send you unsolicited email. Perhaops I should have simply said, "Hmmm, that's odd..."

His criticism of Buzz didn't have anything to do with unsolicited email, but rather with the fact that Google integrated it into its gmail UI.

Correct, although the author is a her.

It's got nothing to do with being viral. Viral is when it asks you to enter your email address + password and invite your friends from a list.

If something happens to you in a social network, you get an email about it. It's a must for any successful social network of any kind. If you don't have this feature, your social product is most likely going to fail. As a developer, you cannot be afraid to send these types of emails.

As long as you give the option to turn off email notifications from your friends or opt out of the service altogether by deleting the account, then all is well.

It's not about being viral, it's about user re-engagement. Facebook knows this, and that's why you get an email notification when any little action happens to you. This is what allows them to have 200m+ users logging in EVERY SINGLE DAY. I find it completely acceptable.

If you want to launch a social product without this feature, good luck not tanking.

I think the message is that you can a have group electronic communication with a select social circle, without each person having to already be a member of the service to receive it.

It would be you spamming those people, not google or its service. You added them to the "distribution list" as it were.

Nothing different from what LinkedIn (annoyingly) does, really, or Facebook, or any service that offers to slurp in your contacts from Gmail. But in this case it's one less step between the spammer and the address book; Google is both.

That's exactly right. That's how I got invited to G+ and how I invited my friends.

Google+ is Facebook on steroids.

You mean pimply and with a bad attitude :)

If they don't give people invites soon Google+ will be DOA. People will stop caring before anyone gets a chance to use it.

People will stop caring before anyone gets a chance to use it.

This point is brought up often, but I thought it worth reiterating here. One of the biggest differences between GMail and Wave was that even though GMail ended up being released (very) slowly to the public, you could interact with other email users without them needing to get on to GMail.

Unfortunately the same is not true with their current offering of Google+. I wonder if there is anyway for them to balance "extensive testing, and careful releases" with "getting a quorum so that the early adopters find it useful". Perhaps allowing them to interact with Facebook so that they can still interact with their friends from Google+ without needing everyone on it (along the lines of GMail).

I wonder if there is anyway for them to balance "extensive testing, and careful releases" with "getting a quorum so that the early adopters find it useful".

There is a way, but they need to do more groundwork. Facebook started University by University. Even if it's only people at my University that can use Facebook, that's OK, because I have something in common with those people. I don't need everyone else in my life to be able to use it in order for it to be of value to me.

They need to find groups of people who have something in common.

This could be University's, companies, sporting associations, etc. Anything where there is a group of people who have a reason to communicate with each other and where it can reach a critical mass of usefulness relatively quickly.

Of course, it will require a little more hand holding, but it will give the product a greater chance of success.

Use Buzz and Wave as examples.

I have absolutely no interest in interacting with my friends and family using those services. None. My Mum wouldn't even know where to start with them. They require too much effort. Besides she's got Facebook and everyone else she knows does too.

However, I would have happily given Buzz and Wave a go through my companies Google Apps account with the rest of the guys at my company. We try new services as a team all the time to see if we can find something that will help us in some way. BUT, these services were not available to me through my Google Apps account. Only through my Gmail account. Which is a bit of a PITA since -- at the time -- you could not be logged into both Google Apps and Gmail at the same time. So it was a non-starter.

My point? Facebook started small with University's. Students who had something in common. Google should probably start with businesses. Work colleagues who have something in common. Roll it out to one Google Apps account at a time. Hold their hand. Gain traction -- then with a solid base, spread your wings and jump.

One suggestion posted, somewhere, was to cross reference the GMail contact list with people who requested an invite. Then send invites to people on both lists earlier in the process.

It may not be the best approach but it would help bring people into the system with something in common.

Alternatively, rank the people on the "keep me posted" list by their network centrality within their group of contacts, invite the ones of more centrality first, and give them a limited number of invites to give away themselves.

(That is: select evangelists from the "keep me posted" list, invite them first, and let 'em do their work.)

If they aren't already doing this, then they should really start soon.


I think it's much better for new users to come in slowly and find an already active service than for everyone to join at once, use it for a day and then leave.

> Perhaps allowing them to interact with Facebook

There's no way facebook would play along with that.

I think they need to strike a balance between releasing invites very slowly, and releasing too many at once, making them pointless. But I'm also dying to get one and I can't even from Google employees because they don't have any invites to give right now. So hopefully they'll give the first batch some invites so they can invite everyone else who is eager to join.

But they should have at least one more level of private-mode before they go public. They need to make sure the early adopter community is tight first, kind of like Quora did. Imagine what would've happened if Quora went public from like day one. It would've basically killed the product. Or what if everyone knew about HN from day one? Facebook, too, was once only for college students. The early community needs to be very strong before it gets diluted by the masses.

The early adopters help shape the product before the "unwashed masses" join it, and I think they should give enough time to early adopters to get used to it, get to love it and have enough time to tell everyone how cool it is and how much they love it before they can actually invite everyone else and make it public.

I think Google are really dropping the ball here.

You get one shot where each user will try your product, and decide to stick with it a while, or write it off.

If I get a Google+ account, if my friends aren't on it after a few days, then I think its crap because its got no content, and I go back to facebook. When my friend of now tries Google+, I'm not there to talk to; and the launch fails.

Its great to seed your product launch with influential early adopters. But these early adopters don't form a sufficiently dense social network to make the product worthwhile, on their own.

The adoption of a social product spreads like an epidemic. The frontier is either pushing out through the network, or its dying out.

I believe they should have stayed completely silent with Google+ until they were ready to throw it open to everyone.

A small company like Facebook was can launch a product in niche areas, and grow it out, building hype slowly.

Google cannot do that, because everyone knows who they are, and cares about what they do next - I think, for them, launching a network effect product (e.g. not gmail, as while e-mail depends on network effects, g-mail doesnt) has to be all or nothing.

They need to open it ASAP, to capitalise on the coverage they are now getting, and get dense enough social graphs for the service to persist.

I've been thinking about this recently, and I'm not sure if the initial gold-rush of users wouldn't be just as bad. The risk there as I see it is everyone joining en-masse, kicking the tyres, and leaving again -- accompanied by a slew of articles saying "users leaving droves".

I'm honestly not sure how you do successfully gain traction in something with this much level of (unavoidable) publicity. One thought I had was that something like video chat might attract people just to use that, and then perhaps organically discover other features that make them spend more time there.

I'm in there -- Google Employees are playing a good ground game answering people's questions and such and from what I've heard, invitations are imminent.

Can you elaborate on where you heard this?

I've seen it implied that no invites are planned until after the "field test", and who knows how long that period might be.

I can send invites now. Floods of people joining. I think 6 hours counts as imminent.

Indeed it does. I never called you wrong, just asked where you got your info. I'm in now, so I guess it doesn't matter any more.

I can send invites now, and I only got my invitation a couple of hours ago

Just tried to sign up, and got a "Server Temporarily Unavailable" error screen. That was unexpected :P

If this would be the case then why does every startup ask for an email address to let people know when the product is ready? It's really no different. If you are genuinely interested in something you will chomp at the bit to access it. I for one will try it out no matter when I get access. The only thing that really matters is if I can use it right out the gate or not.

Another problem is that they aren't allowing people below 18 (who, I am guessing, will be a rather large segment of social networking site users) to register.

Isn't it already well past its DOA phase! I think DOA is too big a word to be used for a product which has already kept the entire tech community waiting for months - http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_to_launch_major_...

"Wave was released in "limited preview:" too few real users not soon enough. Google+ is in "field testing" right now. The language here is important. "Field test" implies that a significant number of real users outside of the plex's walls are putting Google+ through its paces, and will find confusing UI around sensitive items like privacy before the product gets released to the public."

Using the right buzzword doesn't mean anything. And 'field testing' doesn't imply more users than 'limited preview'. In fact, I would have said it meant less, by my gut feeling. It probably doesn't have any relation at all in their minds.

For the rest of it, I think I can summarize with:

Keep it simple, while still implementing all the features necessary for social networks, especially Notifications and mobile access.

The only non-obvious thing is the feedback mechanism, which is apparently pretty rich.

I still say that it doesn't matter how nice a social network is if my friends aren't also on it. And if you let me in but make me wait too long for my friends, you'll lose us all 1 at a time, which is the same result as never having us in the first place.

It will be insanely foolish if ALL the first invites don't also get about 30 invites themselves, and for those we invite, allow us to send them whatever "share" of our invites we want them to have.

So, I can invite a popular friend and give him 10 invites, and I can invite my other friend and give him 1 invite.

I think that would be a good compromise, but I'd rather see everyone start with 1 or 2 invites, and let things expand organically for a while, then add more invites to everyone when the capacity is there.

Even giving everyone 1 invite every day would be better.

> I'd rather see everyone start with 1 or 2 invites, and let things expand organically for a while, then add more invites to everyone when the capacity is there.

No, no, no. This is the problem I have with Diaspora. They gave me 5 invites. I used my first since I got mine as part of an invite chain. I have no clue how to best utilise the other four so as to maximise the usefulness of Diaspora (i.e. grow my own social network maximally). End result, I haven't used any of my other 4 invites due to analysis paralysis and my social network is basically dead.

Google+ seems to be off to a pretty good start so far. I'm not exactly sure how the invite structure works, but somehow a significant portion of my social network seems to already be involved. I'm assuming this just means I know a lot of connected people (most of my network is from college and we all know people who do or have worked at Google), but it means that, even within the first 24 hours, activity has been pretty decent.

An invite a day...that's an interesting proposition. It would make me want to find a new friend that I could convince to join Google+ everyday :)

Judging from the previews and looking over a co-worker's shoulder this finally looks like a social, singular interface for many of Google's products.

Iv'e been hoping they would stop thinking of themselves as many different products and start viewing themselves as users do: just one Google. Each product is really just a feature. Facebook does this right and I hope Google does too.

Google Profiles is not available for your organization. nuff said

The lack of Profiles for Google Apps (for organizations) is a big annoyance. If I try sharing RSS fiends with friends in Google Reader, everyone shows up as "Anonymous". Many people complained about these problems on the Google Reader support forums last year, but Google still hasn't responded or fixed anything.. :(

It's surprising when people find it difficult to understand the importance of email/some kind of notification for the activity on your social profile, but the this cannot be the only reason to be credited with the failure of Wave. I still feel that Wave is a great product and it could not catch up just because it was ahead of its time. And the few admirers could not use it because others were not ready to use it. A lot of new age collaboration tools do the same what Wave did long time ago.

I think they didn't learn from Wave exactly what is frustrating me now. Don't limit my ability to use a communication tool amongst my friends. With Wave, I thought "Hey cool, let me try this out with..." nobody, because it wasn't open to all. I had the same experience going to +1: "hey this is cool let me add my friends..." oh wait...

1. Does Google have a "broadcast mode"? Because I think it's vital. The problem with Facebook is that it only had a broadcast mode and not a "circles" mode. But does Google+ have only the Circles mode and not a broadcast one as well? All social networks need a broadcast mode (AND a circles mode).

2. Does it have a real time communication tool, such as Gtalk, or maybe another chat program that works across the entire network like Facebook chat. I think IM features are important for a social network, too. If it does, how does it work? Does a different chat appear in each Circle? Or do I see all at once? I'm not sure I'd like to see all at once. It's acceptable in the beginning, but what if you have 10 groups of ~20 people each? I think I'd prefer to just go into each Circle when I want to talk to that group, rather than see them all at once, and having them all see me when I'm online.

1 - Yes. You can share to specific circles, specific people, OR "Public" to everyone.

2 - Sort of. Through the "Huddle" functionality on the mobile client, you can do real-time group chats. But that might not be what you're referring to.

Sorry, answer to 2 is "YES". There's a chat bar, and you can select an entire Circle to chat with.

To add to this, there is also a "your circles" option, which generates a post that is not fully public, but does post to ALL of your circles. So, it's some where in between the two options mentioned in point one.

... but they still force you to make your profile public http://j.mp/jQJ0LE ... its like they learned nothing after all

The actual link that the above "minified" link goes to:


You can currently set your Google profile to not be publicly indexed by search engines under "search visibility" on the edit page, but don't know if it will carry over once + goes public.

"The Google+ Android app is very well done, and it's made a few of my dual-using iOS/Android friends go all-out Android."

I didn't see it this way - I have more than one gmail address and after downloading the app it prompted me to associate Google+ with the account that didn't have Google+! There is no option to associate it with any other email address so it's completely unusable to me.

I just got an invite tonight - a very slick system. Does anyone know if it is a GWT app?

I still miss Wave. I was not 100% enthusiastic about Wave's UI, but writing robots for Wave was fun and I was looking at it as being a good platform to write for.

Google+ does not look like a platform for 3rd party developers.

  I will love Google+ when and if all my friends show up and 
  stick around.
Isn't the phrase usually "if and when"? I wonder if this was switched on purpose.

Yeah, i thought the same thing too. I did if the phrase was switched. Not sure why you got down-voted on this, its a fair point.

It was probably downvoted because it seems like, if you'll excuse the bluntness of the term, pointless pedantry. The reversed word order doesn't make any obvious major difference to the phrase's meaning, so whether it was done intentionally or by accident comes across as pretty academic.

(I hope this doesn't come across as overly hostile. I don't mean it as an attack. I'm just explaining my guess since I hate mystery downvotes.)

Slightly off topic from the article, I'm curious when they're going to integrate their gaming platform into this, or any 3rd party development for that matter.

You know what would be great? A new social network NOT created by Google. The company is the Wal-Mart of tech; the modern day Microsoft of the internet. Let's join something created by entrepreneurs, not conglomerates.


If someone produces a good product, and they have generally pleasant business practices (and don't have glaringly bad ones, too), why does it matter if it is a large company or a small one?

Exactly, Google doesn't have generally pleasant business practices. Maybe the Google of 1998, but the Google of today is a much different beast.

To my knowledge, Google has never offensively used a patent. A large percentage of their products are open source. They develop a lot of open technologies in an attempt to make the web better/faster for everyone (which, in theory, will be good for their business in the long run). Their privacy practices are going to be audited by a third party for the next 20 or so years.

Where exactly is the walmart/microsoft likeness?

The parallel between Google and Wal-Mart is how they both appeal to the lowest common denominator. And how their customers are oblivious (or knowingly apathetic) to the negative impact these conglomerates are perpetuating.

As for Microsoft, they were the dominant conglomerate of yesteryear. Today it's Google. Both companies wield different powers, and both have been abusing them in different ways.

What powers do you think Google is abusing?

Your hyperbole can be deflated with a single argument.

Google embraces "free" while both Microsoft and Wal*Mart do not.

I’m not disagreeing with your assessment of the grandparent’s comment but the argument you are making isn’t much of an argument.

What does embracing “free” mean? Does it mean anything? It sounds like meaningless drivel.

1) Free as in open source: they have had a couple high profile open source projects including Chrome (Chromium), Wave, I think Google Code is free for any open source project, they are the majority funding source of Mozilla and therefore Firefox. Practically every month there is some announcement like this about how they are supporting free software:


2) Free as in liberated data; they make a big deal that it is trivial to import or export your data out of any of their services. If you are looking at your contacts in GMail it's as simple as More Actions > Export Contacts. Compare that with exporting contacts from Facebook. They have a whole "data liberation" API that they have been pushing for that is far more open than any other major player in the tech industry.

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