Tweetdeck and Seesmic bring new life to Buzz

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Talk about a fast turn-around. Google announced an API for Buzz on Tuesday, and on Wednesday both Tweetdeck and Seesmic launched new versions of their social networking clients with Buzz support. For Tweetdeck is was the Desktop client, and for Seesmic it was the Web app.

Buzz took a beating over privacy when it launched but seems to slowly be winning over internet super-egos like Louis Gray and Leo Laporte, as well as some regular Joes like yours truly. With Facebook doing its best to drive away customers, and Twitter's inherent limitations, Buzz is nicely positioned for something of a comeback. Having clients supporting it should help it gain traction.

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Google has said the API is still incomplete and potentially buggy. I've been testing both Tweetdeck Desktop and Seesmic's Web clients today (Seesmic Desktop 2 preview also has Buzz support but really isn't ready for prime time yet). Both offer a reasonable first pass at supporting Buzz, and I suspect the limitations we're seeing have as much to do with the API as the client developers.

In Tweetdeck, a Buzz looks pretty much like a Tweet at first glance. Longer, of course. Below the Buzzer's avatar are 2 tiny icons indicating number of comments and number of Likes. Clicking the comment icon opens up the comments and gives an opportunity to leave one of your own. Clicking the icon again hides the comments. Clicking the Like icon lists you as liking that Buzz. Rolling over the Buzzer's avatar gives you familiar Tweetdeck mini-icons, offering a second way to toggle comments or Like a post. The Other menu lets you mute, email, or delete activity (with the latter only being active for your own Buzzes). Attached photos show up as a text link indicating the number of photos attached, e.g. +2 photos. Clicking that link pops up an image browser.

Seesmic Web's implementation is a bit simpler. Again, a basic Buzz looks like a Tweet, but in the bottom right corner is a comments icon with the number of comments showing. Clicking the icon opens the comments and gives you a chance to add your own. Clicking again closes it. Seesmic Web seemed to be having connection problems to Buzz during the day while I was testing, with updates coming in very infrequently or in some cases, not at all. Nor could I prod Seesmic Web into loading more Buzzes once I got to the bottom of the column. Presumably we can write this off to launch day wonkiness and trust that Seesmic devs are hard at work rectifying the issue.

So giving Seesmic the benefit of the doubt for now, we have two social networking clients with Buzz integration, but they both lack some basic Buzz functionality. Both seem to have trouble with links to off-buzz sites, under conditions that I'm still trying to nail down. That's an outright bug. Both also are missing features. On the Buzz website, Buzzes with new activity 'bubble up' to the top of your timeline, helping you to stay on top of active conversations. New comments have subtle color coding to help you keep track of what you've read already. And most importantly, you can edit a Buzz or a comment. None of these features are in either Seesmic or Tweetdeck yet, and all are fairly important. Nor does either offer a way to remove or turn off comments.

Clearly there's more work to be done, but as of now it's not clear if this is a matter of Google building out the API more, or of the client developers building in additional features. Both teams must have had advance knowledge of the API for them to have something out so quickly, but only they know how long they've been working on Buzz integration.

For now, your best bet for a social networking client with Buzz support is Tweetdeck (and you'll still have to hit the Buzz site for some content; consider Tweetdeck a Buzz scanner). The new version rolls out some other nice features too, including Global Filters. Finally an easy way to banish Farmville from all your feeds with one quick filter. These filters are pretty basic: you can filter based on who an update is from, what words it contains, or what service is sending it to you, but these are inclusive. So I wanted to filter out any update that contained the word "Treasure Isle" and came from "Facebook" but doing so filtered out any update from any service that contained "Treasure Isle" as well as all updates from Facebook. (Treasure Isle is a Facebook game that a lot of my friends are playing and the spam from it is getting annoying.) Hopefully Tweetdeck will flesh out this Filter idea in the coming weeks.

It remains to be seen if Buzz can spring back from its tainted launch. I've been on the service since Day 1 and among my friends, usage has been dwindling, but these clients have some folk interested again. Aside from alleged privacy concerns (I'm not opening that can of worms again) the fact that people had to remember to go to the Buzz website seemed to be the biggest obstacle to people using it. It's a shame; my circle and I have had some really good conversations on Buzz; the kinds of conversations that neither Twitter nor Facebook can accommodate. I hope to see the service bounce back.

Thanks to my Buzz friends, particularly Petter MĂĄrtensson and Chris Smith, for help in preparing this post.

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