What Google Buzz needs to survive

Google Buzz is fatally annoying. Not fatal to users, but to Buzz. Here are 5 fixes that would save Buzz's butt.

Google Buzz could join Facebook as one of the dominant social services on the Internet -- or it could fail completely. It all depends upon whether Google can continue responding to user feedback. If Buzz is to succeed, Google must take these 5 actions.

1. Add a mute button.

If you follow someone on Buzz who has a gazillion followers and who is good at sparking conversations, their threads will come back into your Buzz list again and again, dominating your Buzz experience. If you commented at any time, it will come back into your Gmail inbox each time someone posts any comment.

Buzz currently has a "Mute this post" item on the right-hand drop-down menu of each post. It works if you haven't commented. If you have commented, the messages keep re-appearing anyway.

As a result of this clunky implementation, the only way to preserve your sanity on Buzz is to stop following people who are often really great people to follow.

What Buzz needs is a "Mute button" -- a one-click way (not buried in a menu) to shut off a thread forever, regardless of whether you've commented or not. With a real "Mute button," you could go ahead and follow people, but also have a "line-item veto" over threads. That would go along way toward giving you control over your Buzz experience.

2. Make "Filters" Buzz-compatible.

Right now, Gmail's "Filters" setting area only partially supports Buzz. You can, for example, control what happens to Buzz posts generally by specifying items labeled as "Buzz." It's not enough.

Buzz is wrecked for some users by a minority of users who simply plug in their Twitter feeds to show up on Buzz. As a result, it's not uncommon to see dozens of serial posts from Twitter. Again, we're faced with the choice between missing out on occasional Buzz-specific posts from some users by not following them anymore, or we can just be annoyed by Twitter spam.

We need to be able to specifically target filters for the sender, the service (Buzz or Gmail) and in the case of Buzz, the outside source, if any. In other words, we need to be able to create a filter that says, for example: 1) when something comes from this user and; 2) it's a Buzz item and; 3) its source is Twitter, then delete.

3. Fix photos from location posts.

On an iPhone, you can post a picture to Buzz, or you can post your location as part of your Buzz post, but not both, as far as I can tell. (My best guess is that you can post a picture from Maps on Android to Buzz, and it works fine.)

It's possible that I'm just not bright enough to figure it out. Regardless, Google needs to simply place a button on the post dialog of the mobile version of Buzz for uploading pictures.

People really want to combine pictures and location in Buzz posts from phones.

4. Allow a chronological view.

Everything is strictly chronological in Twitter. Responses to tweets show up not with the original tweet, but in order of when posted. Facebook, conversely, clusters threaded messages together.

Buzz uses the Facebook approach. Sometimes that's nice. But with very long threads, it's a lot of work to get to the bottom each and every time to see the most recent comment.

Google should add a button that flips Buzz over to chronological view, so you can see posts listed by which ever post or comment was made most recently.

5. Enable "re-tweets."

I've found myself reading useful Buzz posts, and wishing I could easily share it with my followers. But how? Sharing is automatic on Facebook -- anything posted on your wall by anyone is instantly available to your Facebook friends. On Twitter, re-tweeting is super easy, and is the glue that connects otherwise disparate social networks. On Buzz, you can't do it easily.

For starters, it's hard to tell what a user's "Buzz name" is. Several times I've found myself trying to "re-tweet" a post, but do I use the person's Gmail address? I always just give up, dissatisfied.

Google's got to fix this. We need an easy way to share posts by the people we follow with the people who follow us. And we need to know what people's "Buzz names" are.

There are a great many other tweaks Google could make to improve Buzz. But these 5 are the make-or-break features.

If Buzz is annoying, or hard to use, people just won't bother.

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