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Google Buzz needs better people skills

Google BuzzGoogle's millionaire genius-nerds need to learn what real people expect from technology and how to deliver it. The company's inability to deal with user concerns surrounding Google Buzz makes it look technically sophisticated but socially inept.

Forget for a moment that Google Buzz meets no obvious need, and consider just the human factors.

There are both privacy and functionality issues with Buzz. The social network, as introduced, was a privacy nightmare - and a hard one to use at that. Given the option, Google's choice for default settings were what benefited Google the most, not what best protected its consumers.

This is what happens when a company is too engineering-driven and strives to make only fact-based decisions.

Creepy default settings

It's hard to complain about the Buzz technology itself, as creating followers automatically from mail contacts is a neat trick. So it follows that making those automatic connections public allows more connections to be made, right?

It does, but...

Goggle missed the fact that making automatically-generated contacts visible to the entire world - by default - might creep some people out and even endanger the safety of others.

That's not something they teach in engineering school.

To its credit, the Google was fairly quick to make changes, but these could go farther. Google needs to adopt a mindset of defaulting to the most restrictive privacy settings and then explaining to users the pros and cons of being less restrictive.

Google needs to be asking itself, "How did this happen?" Another episode could earn the company a reputation for privacy cluelessness.

Nexus One support: another case in point

And Google Buzz isn't the only example of Google's lack of people skills. Consider the Google Nexus One smartphone: it never seems to have occurred to Google that its customers might demand support, especially personal support, or that setting Early Termination Fees well above the industry norm might be considered abusive.

The good news here, too, is that Google has tried to make amends. The better news is that handsets are not a core business for Google so these problems aren't likely to continue indefinitely.

Privacy, however, affects everything Google does. That the company could get Buzz privacy so terribly wrong is reason for serious concern.

Google needs to learn when to put people first and technology second.

See also:

Google Buzz review

Concerns over Google Buzz privacy policy

Google tweaks Buzz privacy settings

Google Nexus One review

Visit: PCAdvisor.co.uk/smartphone-focus

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