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 Post subject: Making Google Buzz buzz off
PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:14 pm 
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Want to make Google Buzz buzz off? Here's how to disable Google Buzz, given the user interface as it stands today (17-Feb-2009). Some of these features were added recently by Google in response to irate Gmail users, so the usefulness of these instructions may change without notice. (I mention the date so that you have some idea how stale the information is.) I may or may not decide to write more information at a later date, so watch for posts following this one.

In your Gmail account, click on the Buzz folder to bring up the Buzz folder view. Most of what we do here happens within this special Buzz folder view. What you see in this folder consists primarily of four main sets of data: people you follow ("following"), people that follow you ("followers"), connected sites, and buzz messages. Here's Buzz 101, which Google damn well ought to have explained in the first place before activating this thing on every account.

  • A buzz message is a public-oriented message -- a message from you to the world in general -- viewable by anyone who cares to look. There are two ways to generate a buzz message: either explicitly, through the Buzz interface in Gmail, or implicitly, by updating one of your connected sites.
  • A connected site is a message-oriented website (like a blog or Twitter feed) which you want to trigger buzz messages. Blogs are an easy example: an update to a blog can generate a buzz message. A tweet on Twitter can also generate a buzz message, as can a status change on your Google Talk account. Connected sites generate buzz messages when they update or change.
  • To follow is to subscribe to a person's buzz messages. When you generate a buzz message, it is essentially public, but that doesn't guarantee that anyone is listening. Your "followers" are the people who see your buzz messages when you produce them (either because you typed one directly, or updated one of your connected sites). Conversely, you see buzz messages of people you have chosen to follow -- and your own buzz messages.

The buzz messages you generate not only appear in the Buzz folders of your followers, but also in your public Google Profile if you have one. A Google Profile is a kind of "about me" page you can set up so that people can find you with a search. You may have generated a public Google Profile by fiddling with Buzz: see http://www.google.com/profiles/me for access to your profile. If your Google Profile is public, then Buzz creates certain privacy concerns, so pay close attention. If your Google Profile is empty or not public, then there are no significant privacy concerns, but you can still follow these clean-up instructions if you want to. Note that if you don't want Buzz or a Google Profile at all, then there is now a very quick and easy solution: go to "My Profile", click on "Edit Profile" (top right of page), and then look for the self-explanatory link at the bottom of the page which says "Delete profile and disable Google Buzz completely".

If you want to disable Buzz without deleting your Google Profile, then you'll need to do it piece by piece in the following way.

The first thing you want to do is stop generating buzz messages. It's possible that you are generating such messages without realising it because Google automatically connected some sites when it created your Buzz service. To fix this, look at the top of the Buzz folder for a line which has your name, a thing about "connected sites", and "followers". If the "connected sites" link says anything other than "0 connected sites", you want to disconnect the connected sites. (At the time of writing, there seems to be a bug where this sometimes says "1 connected site" even when there are actually none, so don't get too confused if this happens to you.) To disconnect the sites, click on the "connected sites" link, then click on the "edit" link and "remove site" link for each of the connected sites. When there are no more connected sites, click on the "Save" button at the bottom of the dialog. This dialog also shows a list of sites which you could add, but if your aim is to make Buzz buzz off, then these are of no interest.

Some people suggest clicking on the "followers" link and blocking all the people who are following you, but I don't. "Blocking" a person makes it look like they aren't following you (they no longer appear in your "followers" list), and they don't receive any more buzz messages from you once they are blocked, but you still appear in their list of people they are following. Blocking a person is also not easy to undo -- in fact, research so far suggests that at the moment it's not possible to stop blocking someone once they are blocked, but the "block" feature was only added recently, and the interface is probably still in a state of flux. If you absolutely want to get rid of these pesky followers, you'll have to use the "Delete profile and disable Google Buzz completely" method mentioned earlier. Alternatively, you could just send them a polite email and ask them to stop following you. Send them a link to this article if it helps.

You can't stop people from following you, but you can stop following other people. A little further down the Buzz folder view, next to the word "Buzz" in large bold letters, there is a link which says "following N people" (where N may be a number, or absent). Click on this to bring up a dialog box listing of people Google has automatically set you to follow, based on how frequently you communicate with them. Click on "unfollow" for each of them. You only receive messages from people you follow, so you won't receive any buzz messages once you clear out this list. After that, un-check the box at the bottom of this dialog which says "Show the lists of people I'm following and the people following me on my profile", then press the "Done" button. You've now undone most of the privacy damage wreaked by Buzz, because Google's way of setting things up exposed your list of most-frequently-contacted people to the public. Naughty Google.

Lastly, you may want to delete any buzz messages you've inadvertently created. The buzz messages occupy the lower part of the Buzz folder view, and they are a mix of both outgoing messages (which you created) and incoming messages (created by people you follow). The messages you created may also appear in your public Google Profile, and deleting them here will also delete them there. In the top right corner of each buzz message there is a downward pointing arrow which expands to a menu of options when clicked -- just like ordinary Gmail messages. If the buzz message is one you created, there will be an option to "delete this post". You may also see an option to "mute this post" whether it's a message you created or one you received. As far as I know, this option removes the message from your buzz folder view without deleting it, kind of like the "archive" button for regular email. Buzz messages are also visible in your Inbox (and Sent Mail if you generated the message).

Once you've made the above changes, look at the fine print at the bottom of the Gmail page. On the line that starts with "Gmail view", you will find a link that says "turn off buzz". Clicking on this will remove Buzz from your Gmail interface, restoring it to its former glory. Be sure to do all the disconnecting and un-following mentioned above first, though, because otherwise you may still generate buzz messages without realising it, and expose your list of frequent correspondents in your Google Profile.

To the best of my knowledge, you've now made Buzz buzz off completely. Congratulations.

Of course, now that you understand what Buzz is and how it works, maybe you'll find a use for it someday and turn it back on. There's nothing wrong with Buzz itself: it was just forced down our throats in an unpleasant manner.

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The Famous Brett Watson -- brett.watson@gmail.com


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