Buzz users now have more granular control over what social interactions with content trigger an email sent to their email inboxes and explicit explanations for why each piece of content was sent by email to them. These changes are a good start but ought to extended into the body of Buzz as well.
Just like most Facebook users can't explain the difference between the new algorithmically filtered News Feed and the raw bulk flow of the Live Feed, Buzz too could benefit from explaining the mystery behind the magic. As social networking analyst danah boyd said at the opening talk of SXSW today, privacy online is grounded in user control.
Buzz violated the basic understanding of email as private when it surprised users by layering the new social network on top of their private Gmail. By granting users more control over information, today's changes are a small move in a better direction.
Why Not Give Users The Tools to Drive Their Own Experience?
Might social activity stream participation become more mainstream if users had clear and more complete control over what they see, what they expose and to whom? Many people believe that users are incapable of dealing with too many settings and need these decisions made for them. Perhaps it's just a user experience challenge, though. Nobody said creating the ultimate interface for mainstream users to drive their online activity was going to be easy.
Google's move with Buzz today looks like a nice first start. Hopefully it will be extended beyond the Buzz and Gmail relationship.