Updated: Earlier today I detailed Google's rendering of its confirmation page for existing users of the Google Buzz social service.
I also alluded to a nifty change that should cut down on the confusion and clutter in Buzz, where threads present as mountains of data piled atop valleys of data. Google actually calls the posts that receive many comments in a short period of time "skyscrapers." Fitting.
First, the confirmation page, which is now live, according to Google.
When users who began using Buzz before Google Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson and his team switched the service from auto-follow to auto-suggest Feb. 13 click the Buzz tab later today, they will see a setup page that looks like this:
What can you do here? Pretty much have total control over who you follow in Buzz, as well as those following you. Jackson wrote in a blog post:
"You can view and edit the people you're following and the people following you, elect whether you want those lists appearing on your public Google profile, and modify any of the sites you have connected to Google Buzz, like Picasa, Google Reader, or Twitter. If everything looks good, you can confirm your Buzz set-up with a single click. And remember, you can always change who you're following by clicking "Following XX people" from the Buzz tab or modify your preferences from the Buzz section of Gmail Settings."
This is how Google Buzz should have been from the start. Better late than never? Perhaps, but Google may still have some explaining to do to the Federal Trade Commission this year if politicians and privacy watchdogs hold the sway we think they do.
The other change, which Google announced quietly April 1 when people were scrambling to get out the office door for Easter weekend, was to collapse its comments. Google User Experience Designer Sean McBride noted:
"In the past, old comments were sometimes collapsed, but new comments (posted since your last visit to the Buzz tab) were always expanded. Now, if there are enough of them, new comments may be collapsed as well."
Specifically, Buzz posts with three or more previous or new comments will now be collapsed into a group. Here is a screen of how this looks and the other changes:
The idea, Google explained, is to limit how much space any one post can take up in the Buzz tab and prevent popular posts users are not interested in from dominating the stream.
These features are super handy for my user experience on Buzz, which is spectacularly noisy. I like the people I follow, or at least like reading their comments, but I don't always like or care about what they're commenting about. If the Buzz stream gets too loud and long it's really obnoxious, and it's not like I can turn it off unless I unfollow the folks involved.
Unlike the confirmation, checkbox and other features, which were added after the fact in bouts of miscalculation over users' privacy, collapsing features for comments are a result of rampant use of the product.
That's a good thing for Google because, if people aren't using Buzz, why bother adding collapse features?
Though I suppose Google could have anticipated that Buzz would be well used because it's Google (it reportedly still has millions of users) and that Google should have provided such features from the start.
Still, this social conversation stuff is uncharted territory for Google, which tends to build stuff, release it and iterate on it on the fly.
What we're learning now is that Google is exceptionally responsive to users' needs and can iterate really fast when it needs to. With Google Buzz, Google needed to move fast because the application was so rough.