Back in March, I wrote a post entitled Worlds Colliding explaining the failure of Google Buzz as a failure to understand the fundamental structure of complex networks.
Buzz received a large amount of criticism for automatically adding the most contacted people from your inbox to your Buzz follower list. My post explained that because individuals in social network are a member of many social contexts (family, work, friends, etc), nodes from all of these to a single list would cause these contexts to collide (e.g. adding both your wife and your (no longer) secret mistress to your list of followers).
The last couple of days, the following talk (from July 1st) by Paul Adams who is a User Experience Researcher at Google has been very visible on the interwebs.
From the looks of it, the good people at the Googleplex have either been reading my blog and the accompanying scientific paper and are scrambling to keep up (I consider this scenario highly unlikely) or, the User Experience Group at Google was never in touch with the group behind Buzz.
Let me repeat that last part for dramatic effect: the User Experience Group at Google was never in touch with the group behind Buzz. The knowledge about pervasive overlap and overlapping communities was present within Google, but never diffused to their initial social networking attempt. So the failure of Buzz was in some sense due to separate worlds within Google not communicating properly. That strikes me as textbook case of tragic irony.
Update, July 15th
I’ve included YY‘s recent slides from the New Frontiers in Complex Networks conference as a quick intro to our thinking regarding pervasive overlap.
The proper reference is Link communities reveal multiscale complexity in networks. Nature (2010), doi:10.1038/nature09182.
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