Sunday, March 14, 2010

From SXSW: Google Buzz and User Empathy

I was having lunch with Dare Obasanjo and Louis Gray yesterday. We were talking about FriendFeed and Google Buzz, and I was saying how I really didn't get either product. And something occurred to me that I think about sometimes, but rarely articulate.

I have been writing code and/or developing products for 30 years. But I am still a little bit dense. I don't like doing hard or annoying things. I am a bit lazy. I need things to be easy. And so that gives me, I think, user empathy, because I think I relate to how regular users think, and yet I still understand the code at a fairly deep level.

Having not gotten either's permission to quote what they said (not that it was controversial) I will not. But suffice it to say, it got me thinking about how easy it is for smart people to develop things that really don't have any relevance to regular people. Because if you are an uber geek, you probably have different problems than regular people.

The challenge of regular user empathy is particularly difficult because uber geeks are still the gateway to regular users. So your solution needs to address them, but to "cross the chasm" you need to be able to address problems that are bigger than just the geeks.

Google Buzz would be a total fail if it were from anyone but Google. Because its Google they have a chance to iterate and fix. But I suspect that, because the numbers look good they have no idea that they are failing. They have no idea that they are not solving any problem that actually needs solving. In fact I am not sure Buzz solves any problem other than how to get Google into the social media game. Of course, for Google, for now, that may be enough, but Google Buzz reflects a product that has absolutely no user empathy.


  1. I have been using various google products since gmail pretty much. I have no idea what buzz is for. Tried it for a few weeks and dropped it like a stone. Same for the wave. Waves kept falling over, even in googlechrome. Stick to search and email, chaps. You do it well!

  2. Agree 100%. on the Google Buzz comment
    The only reason it has a such a large amount of usage is because it is Google. and they can push it down to a large base very quickly,.

  3. dude, i try to explain the EXACT fact to super nerds on a constant basis. Specifically Apple fanboys I know. They don't seem to understand and I thank you for articulating it for me as well.


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