Facebook is the biggest monster in the room, there’s no denying that.
It is huge and regardless of how much of an uproar there might be over the way it decides it wants things done it isn’t going anywhere. We might whine and bitch about Facebook constantly changing the rules of the game in order to suit its own ends but unfortunately there is no other social network capable of challenging it.
But perhaps it doesn’t need to be challenged. Perhaps there are alternatives out there that while not as big or all encompassing as Facebook that are just as good in their own way. After all it isn’t a requirement that we need to join, or participate, Facebook – at least not yet.
I was thinking about that today when I read a post by Louis Gray where he was talking about why Google Buzz was a better alternative for him over Facebook.
The world of social networking is not a zero-sum game. For Buzz to succeed does not mean that either of the other networks have to fail. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that Buzz has to be the biggest network on the planet. But it does mean that it should have the potential to be the best. I need a powerful aggregation tool that watches my activity on Google Reader and native blogs, but also offers the option to share photos and videos in a public way. Buzz does that. I need a powerful tool that lets me find friends’ updates from around the Web and engage with them in a central location. Buzz does that.
Now I’ve written before about my feelings about Buzz and the things that bothered me about the service. In general I kinda like the service but one of my biggest sticking points with it came from being a content producer and how Buzz handled my content when I decided to stream it into their service.
There are times though where as a writer, or content producer, who uses Buzz as an auxiliary notification system I really get pissy with you. Unlike the Friendfeed or Twitter; or even Facebook, practice of either just posting the headline or the headline and an excerpt Buzz takes all our content and posts it .
Now how can I say this nicely: NOT!
Seriously DeWitt, Google doesn’t even do that to newspapers in Google News why would you do that to content producers in Buzz.
I realize that this probably only bothers an extremely small segment of the users, and contributors, to Buzz but sometimes even the smallest problem can sour the experience for us as it did in this case it did for me.
But an interesting thing happened today that showed me the biggest difference between Buzz and Facebook – a difference that has made me re-evaluate my use of Buzz.
It happened in the comments around Louis’ post that as usual was streamed into Buzz. In the comments I re-iterated the reason why I had a problem with Buzz and expected that to be the end of the subject.
No sooner than had I posted my comment and DeWitt Clinton who is one of the Buzz team members jumped into address my problem
However the conversation – or the willingness to take the problem seriously didn’t end with that brief exchange.
And therein lies the biggest difference between these two services. With Facebook the chances of anyone from what is now becoming a big company even taking notice of what someone like me might be saying is literally nil. Yet here on Buzz one of the Buzz team noticed what I had to say and was willing to not only take the time to hash the problem out with me but also see the validity of a solution.
But it’s not just me. I have seen DeWitt do this on an on-going basis. He truly cares about the user’s, and content producers, experience using Buzz and he isn’t alone as I have seen other team members do the same.
So why is this so important?
It’s important because people, and not just the well-known A-Lister’s, want to know that their opinions and thoughts matter. This is why we have things like blogs and social networks. Even the least well-known of us want our voices to be heard. We want to know that the social networks that we continuously contribute to care about what we think and feel.
We like to know that even though we might not have a direct pipeline to the people in charge like Louis Gray, or Robert Scoble, or Anil Dash have we still are heard. That doesn’t happen on Facebook as they have shown the world that it is going to be their way regardless of how many voices say they disagree.
And that is the biggest difference between the two – Buzz listens, Facebook ignores.
And that is why I am willing to invest more of my time into Buzz and leave Facebook off in a corner. It is because people like DeWitt are willing to listen and that makes all the difference in the world.