Google Buzz + Reader + Twitter + Facebook = Noise

I’m having a hard time deciding whom to follow on which network with duplicate shares everywhere. The problem is compounded further by folks who auto-share from one network to another. There is no value in following people who share the same thing on Reader, Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Duplication simply amplifies noise and reduces signal.

This is a real problem with social media today. Everyone wants maximum likes, shares, retweets on each and every thing they share. Their hope, understandably, is that each morsel they throw into social media becomes a feast on which everyone will drool.

Well, count me out. If someone is auto-feeding the same thing on all networks, it doesn’t add any value to me to follow them on all networks. Especially if they are not engaging in conversation where their content is landing.

I have written before about why I do not use auto-tweeting tools like Reader2Twitter, because I take as much effort as possible to attribute my sources. If you are using such tools, it makes sense to auto-tweet to a different Twitter account, like some folks do. This gives your followers the choice whether to follow you on Reader or Twitter.

Enter Buzz and FriendFeed and Facebook. Each of these is capable of pulling items from multiple sources for each person. FriendFeed can further be imported into Facebook and Buzz. This is not just aggregation, it is super-aggregation or aggregation-squared. This amplifies signals to such enormous proportions that all this noise is deafening.

Each of my shares on Twitter, Reader, and Facebook are hand-picked and manual. It takes extra effort but I believe it adds value to those who follow me. I am happy not being a social media superstar with thousands of followers if even a single person likes a single share of mine in a day. My value is not in the number of retweets, number of likes, etc., but in the feedback I get from even a single @reply or comment.

Neither of the companies behind each of these social networks are working with each other to design better filters for all of us. Each simply wants us to use them exclusively. There lies the problem. We hop on to each new social network bandwagon, immediately discover tools that allow us to auto-share and auto-propagate our shared content down stream, up stream, cross stream, life stream, etc., ultimately drowning our followers in the flood.

I am skeptic this problem will go away soon. As a curator, this is a challenge. The only way I see to successfully filter the signal out of this noise is to be brutal in curating sources. Auto-sharers, auto-tweeters, auto-feeders, or whatever these tools are called, will be the first on my radar as likely candidates to be unfollowed.

As a follower, I am a human. When you auto-share, you’re not a human on that network, you turn into a bot. Bots are what we call spam.

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  • http://starnes.com kurtstarnes

    Very well said, Mahendra. Maybe there will be a trend towards hand-feeding content.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thanks, Kurt. I've no intention of starting a trend, simply stating my concerns. :) Appreciate your feedback!

  • http://www.louisgray.com/live/ Louis Gray

    This is a hard problem to solve. If you participate in one place, those in another wonder why you don't. If you port data from one service to another, it could be expected by one group and despised by another. I try hard not to duplicate shares, and also to participate in all these places.

    Note my use of Reader2Twitter is done off my main account, for this very reason.

    It's time for me to update and publish my social media data flow.

  • sue_anne

    I absolutely agree with you. I made a decision several months ago to keep my Facebook and my Twitter networks very separate. My Facebook is friends, family, former high school and college classmates and others I've met. The only time I auto-share is when its a personal tweet that would be relevant to my friends on Facebook.

  • http://www.nouhailler.com Patrick Nouhailler

    Completly agree , hand-picked and manual share are the best , value is not in the number of retweets but in the feedback of fews comments.
    Ask social media superstar , with thousands of followers. if they are able to read all the comments they receive each time they post something, they can't and they don't.

  • ghensel

    Exactly what I think. Thanks for the article.

  • http://regulargeek.com/ robdiana

    What if I auto-share a carefully curated subset of my Reader shares? Does that make me less of a bot :)

    In all seriousness, I generally do agree with your point as people are trying to get as much visibility as they can. I like sharing a handful of posts per day on Twitter because it is only a few per day, and not the full 40 shares per day.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Yes, it is a hard problem. I guess each will adopt whatever suits him or her.

    I appreciate your willingness to participate, as well as to ameliorate the problem, which is why I've linked to your shared stream Twitter account as an example. :)

    I haven't updated my social data flow since FriendFeed was bought by Facebook, and yes, it's a good time to think and plan it again. Thanks, Louis.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thank you, Sue_Anne! When I wrote this post in a hurry, I didn't know if it would make sense to anyone. It felt like I was a lone voice, but your comments are heartening as they tell me I'm not alone. :)

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Patrick, thank you. See my response to Sue_Anne above! :)

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thank you for reading and for your comment!

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Rob, the fact that you curate a subset makes you a human, even if you use a automation tool. :)

    Appreciate your shares, as always, and thanks for the comment.

  • http://mohanarun.com/feb-11-2010/ @marun2 on twitter

    Exactly my thoughts too. I share very little, and that too only on Twiter at present even though I am on friendfeed also. I simply dont see a point sharing across several social networks at once, its all duplicates for the people following me on several networks. What we need is some universally standard protocol whereby you could follow a [person] once and not via a [social network]. I thought Google Webfinger had that promise, but sadly there seems to be no word of it yet. I think Google Buzz has such promise because of its large user base/installed base. You could simply follow Google UserIDs dropped here and there just like how @UserID is universally understood as a Twitter UserID and get updates to your Google Buzz. I wrote about this yesterday in a blog entry which is linked to from my name here.

  • http://www.jdamico.net JDamico

    Mahendra, you raise two important characteristics about the social sphere. One is that we’re talking with “people.” As such, the concept of auto feeds posting the same content in a variety of places runs contrary to the intent of most social media, which is to connect and collaborate with people–colleagues, friends and clients–in ways that add value and cultivate relationships. This brings up the second point you make—adding value takes time.

    The more I’m involved in social media, the more I find that there is no tool that can speed the process of building meaningful relationships. The tools can help you connect en masse, but building the relationship involves a time commitment and doing some of the things you suggest, such as attributing content.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Joan, you said it better than I did. It is obvious from your comment that you are a quality writer, and I appreciate you taking the time to read and paraphrase my message succinctly and eloquently.

    Thank you.

  • manielse

    This fragmentation and duplication is indeed an issue. The reason why I have chosen to still share my links to Google Buzz is because it's potentially a new audience though I also agree that we all tend to 'friend' many of the same people in all of these services. I also took into account that some may move completely from Twitter or Friendfeed over to Google Buzz.

    Friendfeed fixed a lot of this because you could either follow all or hide certain feeds of the people you follow. I think this is truly the best approach because it gives the reader more control of which tools they want to see from the 'author' (using this term lightly). The reader control element is very critical to eliminate duplicates from the same author. The content should be able to be read by whatever tool the reader feels is best for them, that's why I feel that cutting the content out of that chosen river for the reader is not the best choice. Ideally, all comments/discussions around those shares should be seen by all social tools as well for tighter engagement but that element hasn't truly been solved to date. It's a lack of a feature issue, not a content issue.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Mark, thank you for your comments.

    Fred Wilson's thoughts about buzz seem to mirror some of the concerns I've voiced:
    http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/02/thoughts-on-buz

  • http://eevee.livejournal.com/ Eevee

    I just don't participate in the sharing circlejerk at all. I'll paste links to an IRC channel full of people I know, and that's about it. Even there, people get hounded if they link something that was already linked in the last two hours. It's great.

    I really wish we could have some real interoperability on the Web, instead of these thousands of walled gardens that require everyone to effectively copy/paste everything in huge sweeping waves of duplication across every site they've ever touched. Even looking at just blogs, we have slashdot reporting on a blog post that just briefly summarizes a blog post which links to another blog post mentioning but not linking to an actual news story.

    We had RSS, and that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, nobody seems to really use it, instead opting to make an iPhone app so they can have a cool icon on people's iWhatevers, and a Facebook app so they can show up on walls, and a Twitter account (which then has its own RSS feed!) so people don't have to bother with a feed reader I guess.

    What a mess.

    I see there are checkboxes beneath this textbox, offering to share.. something.. on Twitter and Facebook.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Eevee, so your social circle has created its own pocket network on IRC to avoid duplicate sharing! That's incredible and points to the enormity of the problem.

    I'm just so happy that I am not the only one facing this problem. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://eevee.livejournal.com/ Eevee

    Well, our pocket network (or some incarnation of it) predates the explosion of social networking, so it might not be so much a symptom. But we certainly haven't been inclined to emigrate, no.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Appreciate your perspective on this Mahendra. I'm working on tools that will help users filter the stream, but there is certainly an overload of info (and repetitive shares) going through the pipes at the moment.

    I can either cut off friendfeed as an aggregator or buzz. I'm inclined to disconnect from friendfeed because it's future is tied to Facebook, a tool I can't seem to like no matter how much I try.

  • Nigel Stolting

    Perfectly written, I'm sure many more people are facing the vary same issue(s) that you've highlighted above, even if they don't all want to admit it.

  • http://coryobrien.com/ CoryOBrien

    I removed my Shared Items in Google Reader from my Google Buzz feed for this very reason. When I share something on Twitter, it's because I think it's especially relevant to my followers, and I like to add some background context to the link as well so I'm not just blindly leading people to a link that they might not like. On Google Buzz however, everything just gets posted with equal weight and without any sort of context, so it's up to my Buzz followers to try and figure out what's relevant and what is not.

    I think we'll see a lot more cries of 'too much noise' in the future as people decide that they're no longer willing to put in the time it takes to follow everything that everyone posts on every channel. Instead, we'll see a convergence into a select few of the most popular aggregators, and the rest will die off. Unfortunately, we're just stuck in the time when all of the aggregators are fighting to become the most popular, so there's a waiting period while all of the early adopters let them fight it out, and then try and jump on any signs that a winner is emerging.

  • http://www.dominicdesbiens.com/ Dominic Desbiens

    Great Post. I have just disabled Tweets to Gbuzz.

    Thanks

  • http://www.worh.org/ruraltech/ John Eich

    Good point Mahendra, and the over-sharing has suddenly hit critical mass with sudden and massive landing of Buzz.

    However, I see this as Google's key niche in the social world – if they find a way to do lists/groups/filters better while they aggregate more, then they've found the holy grail of social media. They have the engineers, and the reach, to make it work if anyone does.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Nigel: That's an interesting thing to consider: why has web culture become a place where sharing this is “admitting” something, as if it were a confession?

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    John: Facebook might well say, “Google Buzz is a better aggregator than Facebook? Let us show them who bought FriendFeed!”.

    The aggregation war will continue. I don't see a clear winner emerging anytime soon.

  • http://www.perryboy.com/ Kelley Perry

    yeah, just imagine if you have all these in turn auto post to your blog. I was forever weeding out dupes.

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  • http://www.ferreemoney.com/blog Social Media

    Ari,

    Loaded the Twitter gadget just fine. Wanting to load the Facebook gadget, but this article and the one I found on Mashable doesn't have the URL listed? Perhaps you can publish this one in the short term?

    Thanks,

    Neil

  • http://www.layeredbyte.com/ Holden Page

    Agreed on so many notes.

    The noise is crazy, and I thought I could keep the noise limited in Reader (I consider that my safe place) turns out Buzz ruined that for me, bummer.

    Very well said.

  • http://www.gutierrez.pro.br/ suzana

    Hi
    The solution is something like this “Share This” thing in your post. All the networks can have this 'share thing' to turn share a decision.

    best,

    Suzana

  • http://islandinthenet.com/ Khurt

    Mahendra,
    The problem for me was that my Google profile existed and contained links to me social site way before Buzz was laucnhed. Because of that + auto follow, my Buzz is flooded with my social feeds and duplicate feeds from others etc.

    From the Mac OS X dictionary:
    buzz – noun

    a low, continuous humming or murmuring sound, made by or similar to that made by an

  • http://blog.khurt.com/ Khürt

    Mahendra,
    One thing to consider is that for some people, their social stream is like a journal of everything they do online. So for some, cross-posting is a form of backup. I remember how lost I felt when ma.gnolia.com went off-line due to a major data center failure. They never recovered and 2 years worth of links and contacts went bye-bye. Having a way to sync to delicious would have been nice.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Suzana, yes, that makes each share to every network a conscious decision, unlike carte blanche automation.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Khurt, using social networks as a backup is another example of how they're being misused and their followers being abused. There are aggregators like Friendfeed and specialized services like Backupify that do the job.

  • http://blog.khurt.com/ Khürt

    Mahendra, as I mentioned I lost my entire collection of bookmarks when ma.gnolia.com suffered unrecoverable failure. I can certainly understand why some people might want to use another service “just-in-case”. How many people know about backupify. (terrible name)? This is the first I have heard about it.

    The reason I have accounts on many social network is that not everyone I know is on the network I choose. I know people who use Orkut and not Facebook. So I have accounts there. I know people who prefer twitter over friendfeed or identi.ca. Some content WILL be duplicated.

    The duplication of content is similar to what occured on IM networks. We all have friends who use AOL or Yahoo only while we prefer Google Talk or MSN. That's why things like Pidgin and Trillian etc exits.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Khürt,

    I perfectly understand. I am not pointing fingers at people, but the social media mess we've all landed in. And yes, for some of the reasons you mention, like not everyone is on the same network, we have this problem. There doesn't seem to be an easy way out.

  • http://writingtoexhale.com/ jangeronimo

    Not everybody uses filters like lists in Facebook and even in Twitter. My activity in FriendFeed flows down to Facebook as updates/shares. I'm worried it's might swamp the stream of my FB friends. I'm seriously considering posting updates which are only native to Facebook.

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  • http://friendfeed.com/meryn Meryn Stol

    Just wanted to say that I love your approach to social media.
    I'm not fundamentally opposed to the idea of “aggregation” of different streams, because I think there's value in being able “the whole” of someone's activity. Seeing someone's tweets, flickr images, blog posts, etc all in one timeline can provide a richer picture than having to explicitly visit different websites or open different clients for that.
    But I think aggregation at the “publisher level” (i.e. users choosing what to feed in) only makes sense if the aggregator offers filtering options to subscribers as well. The only service that does this well is FriendFeed. I think offering aggregation without offering filtering options is a mistake.
    That said, I can imagine the concept of “publisher-side” aggregation dying out, making place for “subscriber-side” aggregation. I'd love to see a multi-service social media client which would let me select a person, than select (opt-in) any streams/feeds of him/her I want to follow.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thank you, Meryn. I am not opposed to the principle of aggregation either – what you describe can also be termed 'lifestreaming', which is a category of posts on my blog. :)

    What I am opposed to is 'super-aggregation' – duplicating content across networks and then aggregating them – which creates the noise.

    What you describe as 'subscriber-side' aggregation sounds like a very interesting idea. I wonder if the Activity Streams standard will help realize that concept.

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  • marfi

    I feel the same way, but since I work on favit I manage to control things and what I see/do not see better, check our approach and see if it will help you, I will be glad to hear what you have to say: http://blog.favit.com/en/favit-information-over

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  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/social-media-application/ social media application

    This is really fantastic advice, thank you so much

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