Education and Google Buzz…A Match?

It seems, Google has thrown down the gauntlet…Google Buzz is a incredibly powerful attempt to take a piece of Facebook’s market share in social networking. Google Buzz is powerful because if you have a Gmail account you are already a member. Within minutes of logging in to my Gmail account I had followers and I was following a number of people. This is how “friending” and “following” on Google Buzz works. Google has filtered users’ Gmail inboxes and Google Talk IM contacts and used algorithms to determine the users that they communicate with most frequently. Users can then share Buzz posts with the world (and Google search), or they can share privately through their existing Gmail groups or custom-made groups in Buzz. Here are a few a videos that explain the tool in more detail:

When I logged in for the first time with buzz activated, I could not believe my father was instantly among the people I was following. I liked that, no more sending him links… he is not a “first adopter” like me, and if Google can get him to interact with the social stream I am impressed. I’m not sure liked the asymmetric follower/friend model, though, because there were a few people that appeared on my list that I did not want knowing my business… or my whereabouts, so this feature made me a bit uncomfortable.

One of the most innovative components in this tool is it’s ability to geo-locate people that are using Buzz in your area. Google has instantly become the largest “location-based social network” in the world and I’m sure it has competitors like Foursquare taking note. I believe this can provide a whole new way of meeting friends with similar interests. Ultimately, I think it’s biggest boon will be when it, no doubt, is integrated into Google’s Augmented Reality development. It has pulled together all of Google’s social applications onto a central backbone for public, private and grouped sharing. I think this makes Google’s ‘Chat’, ‘Sites’, ‘Docs‘, ‘Translate’, and Google ‘Talk‘ much more effective and useful for real-time collaboration. Instant integration into other Google Apps could be the key to the success of this tool. If a user can seamlessly and easily integrate threaded realtime discussions into other Google Apps like ‘Sites’ and ‘Knols” or vice-versa, it could revitalize these unpopular tools.

To play the devils advocate, though, this tool could also become geo-stalker central. I have friends who have been terrorized because their Gmail accounts have been hijacked. So create a strong password and be careful who you allow to follow you. I also have a great deal of interest in how Google has protected minors and filtered them from the system. I’m sure they have… but a question I have is, did they merely filter out children under 13 for COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) compliance, or did they filter at a higher age? And are they open to liability for children who have lied about their age? I applaud Google for testing this murky social network development water… better their deep pockets than mine.

All said, I think this tool can be an extremely useful educational tool for students. Just think, students can now collaborate on a document and exchange notes in Google Docs while chatting or otherwise communicate via Google ‘Talk’ and then link up for a face-to-face study group via Google Maps. It’s already mobile and it’s integration into other Google apps will no doubt, become seamless as they iterate the development and it has social network developers like myself paying close attention.

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