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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Why Google Buzz Is Good, Google Wave Isn’t and How It Relates to Product Management

google buzz

A couple of days ago GMail greeted me differently. Instead of good old inbox I saw big shiny add prompting me to try out Google Buzz. Add I instantly hated. I was all: “Give me my damn inbox back. I don’t even want to seek damn ‘skip this’ link. I hate you Google!

Wasn’t I supposed to write why I think Google Buzz is good? Well, thanks for reminding me.

Anyway, I finally checked Buzz and while I can’t say at the moment whether it is good product I can already say it is significantly better than recently released Google Wave when it comes to product management.

Product Communication

I learned there is something like Google Buzz because of this annoying advert I mentioned above but the only thing I was looking for then was ‘go to my inbox’ link. I didn’t even read what the heck the thing is all about. But the next thing I noticed was another link in my GMail navigation panel waiting patiently to be clicked. A kind of passive invitation – click me if you’re curious, click me when you’re ready.

With Wave it was a different story. People started writing how cool or how crappy Wave was. I checked it to avoid being out-of-date. If I wasn’t reading what Google is going to bring up next, and face it: most people don’t, I wouldn’t even know there is such thing as Wave.

What does it teaches us when it comes to product management? Make it easy to learn about your new product. Buzz is there, waiting for you to take a look whenever you feel like it. You see it every time you click on your GMail inbox, which many people do very often. Sooner or later you will check what the new product is. If you’re one of these huge corporations which gets a lot of PR you can also base on your fame and let people talk about your product, but it won’t be anywhere as successful as integration with one of your current applications.

First product is just one click away from you all the time. Another requires much reading, finding out what it is and getting an invitation. The latter is hell lot of work for average user.

Leverage Existing Products

Google has Blogger, Google Talk and Picasa, all producing some kind of feeds: posts, status messages and information about new pictures respectively. This may be automatically pushed to Buzz and magically people use the new app seamlessly. My first thought was: Twitter and Facebook statuses should be next. Well, actually Twitter is already integrated (one-way, but still). It just isn’t enabled by design since you have to point Twitter profile to finish integration.

Wave doesn’t integrate with anything. This is yet another stand-alone application. The only thing you can get is email notifications, but that doesn’t help with feeding Wave with any content.

If you launch new product addressed to mass market make people use it without even being aware of the fact. Sure, there aren’t many companies which can pre-configure everything like Google. Apple, Microsoft, maybe a few others. But even then let people do the configuration part only once and make the rest happen automatically. Even when someone isn’t coming back to the app as far as it goes on auto-pilot you build your user base up.

Make It Simple

Buzz copied Facebook and Twitter GUI, which already works great. One textbox where you write something and post/publish/submit button. OK, there’s configuration too which I don’t even try to learn at the moment. Somehow people I know just pop up and I start following them. When I wear my user hat I don’t even care how it happens. What I care is I can follow plenty of my friends and do it easily.

Wave tried to do too many things. Collaboration, conversations, pictures, videos, documents and all the stuff. Wave does many things but neither of them is done well. And worst of all it doesn’t help to link with your friends which, for social media app, should be the single most important goal.

Trying to get the product right at the first time is doomed. Trying to get every possible feature great with first approach is impossible. It’s much better to choose one or two features, do them good enough and then fix them until they’re great. Until then don’t push more half-assed features than you have to. If you do few key things right you don’t need to have everything on board at the day 1.

Summary

I don’t say Buzz is a good product. I don’t know yet. The thing I know is I will use Buzz because I already set custom status messages at Google Talk which should automatically make their way to Buzz. The same way a bunch of my friends will use it. Plenty of them don’t use Twitter or Facebook so this will be the first virtual place where we meet and that’s where Buzz kicks ass from the day 1.

That’s all thanks to very good product management strategy. Much, much better than it was with Google Wave.

Just a couple of days after launch more of my friends use Buzz than Wave. That was left-handed anyway, since it’s pretty easy to have at least 1 user.

It is possible Wave today is better product than Buzz. I’m almost sure it took way more work to bring Wave where it is today than to launch Buzz. And yet, just because of very wise product management, Wave folks should go ask Buzz team for training.

Even if tomorrow I’m going to learn Buzz sucks, I’ll keep coming back because:

  • I use it anyway (seamlessly)
  • It is at hand all the time
  • It is used (seamlessly) by more and more people I care about

None of these things can be told about Wave.

It appears not only the product itself matters but also how you drive it.

in: software business, software design

4 comments… add one

  • szymon February 17, 2010, 12:39 am

    Naprawdę głupi wpis. Wave to alpha.

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 21, 2010, 10:49 am

    Yes, Wave is at alpha stage, but the same is Buzz. Either way I didn’t try to compare product features etc. What I tried to do was comparing how bot applications have been managed basing on limited knowledge I have.

    I still think Wave product management is/was flawed. I don’t say it won’t be a good product; maybe it will even though I don’t believe in that. And the same I can say about Buzz: I don’t even know if it will be still alive in 3 or 4 years from now.

    However in terms of product management Buzz team chose the way which rises chance of getting enough users to keep momentum. And user base is something which makes or breaks social media application, no matter how ground-breaking the app is (or is planned to be).

  • Tom Leung September 4, 2010, 12:25 am

    Great observations, and prescient too given Wave’s recent demise. To be fair, Buzz hasn’t lit the world on fire but definitely more so than Wave. I recently wrote a piece about learning from the Wave experience. Feel free to check it out.

    http://www.alwaysbeshipping.com/2010/09/lessons-from-google-wave.html

  • Pawel Brodzinski September 4, 2010, 4:33 am

    Tom,

    To be honest, now I believe I was wrong about Buzz. Yes, the infamous privacy issue didn’t help them at all but the most used feature among my friends was “turn the damn thing off.”

    And if my friends stop coming there you won’t see me there either.

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