February 28, 2010

Should It Be Harder to Unfollow Than to Follow?

The more we use social services, the more updates we provide, and typically, the more friend connections we make. For the most part, for most people, the number of connections we have on our active networks are steadily increasing.

With time, the sheer volume can be considered noise, and there comes a time to make a trim. But it can be surprisingly difficult to break a connection, or to break multiple connections, on most of these networks.

I thought I would take a look at some of the major networks I use to show who makes it easy, and wonder as to whether they can make it simpler to sever ties.


On Facebook, you are increasingly seeing "Add as friend" buttons from suggestions, or running into friends of friends making comments on your connections' news feed.

To add a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Click the "Add as a friend" at the top.
3. Click "Send Request".

The request will then be approved or declined.

To unfriend a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and in the bottom left, click the small text: "Remove from Friends"
3. Click the "Remove from Friends" button that pops up.

The number of steps is the same, but unfriending is much less prominent, and "tucked away". As with friending an individual, with the exception of the friends suggestions page, you have to go one by one, profile by profile, and cannot unfriend in bulk.


On FriendFeed, you can see if another user is a connection or not in a few ways. Comments from friends on items have a blue discussion bubble, and those who are not have a gray one. Also, if you mouse over someone who is not a friend, you have a "Subscribe" option. Friends' boxes just show what lists they may be placed on.

To add a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click subscribe.
3. Choose what friend list to put them in and hit "Subscribe".

To unfollow a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click on their ID name and get redirected to their profile.
3. Click unsubscribe.

It is the same number of steps, but you have to be redirected to their profile, meaning you can't unfollow them directly from your feeds, but only on their own page. You also cannot unfollow people in bulk, but you can follow people in bulk by synchronizing with Twitter or other services, such as GMail.

Following In Google Buzz

Google Buzz

To add a connection:

1. Click the user's ID to get redirected to their profile.
2. Click Follow.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click the user's ID to redirect to their profile.
2. Where it says "You are following", click Stop.

Google Buzz doesn't directly show you how to unfollow a group at a time, but if you do find you are following many people...

1. Go to your own profile, such as: http://www.google.com/profiles/me.
2. Click "Your name" is following "The number".
3. This page will have "Unfollow" next to all your connections. Click unfollow for any you need, and you can reduce your connections quickly. It's one of the fastest ways I have ever seen to reduce your total count.

I can unfollow Rick with one click.

Google Reader

To add a connection:

1. Find a person in Google Reader.
2. Click "Follow" that person.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click their name under "People You Follow".
2. Click "Unfollow" that person.


If somebody invites you to connect on LinkedIn, adding is easy. Just click "Accept" to get connected. Otherwise...

To add a connection:

1. Find the person's profile.
2. Click "Add this person to your network".
3. Explain the connection. (Colleague/Classmate/etc)
4. Send invitation.

Surprisingly, there is NO way to unfollow or disconnect from somebody via their profile.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Go to "My Connections" under "Contacts".
2. Click "Remove Connections"
3. Select Who You Want to Unfollow
4. Click Remove Connections
5. Confirm "Yes, Remove them"

The benefit to this process is that it is relatively simple to disconnect from many at once, but you can't preview a connection if you don't recall the relationship. It is surprising that you can't unfollow via profile.


To add a connection:

1. Go to the individual's profile
2. Click "Follow".

To unfollow a connection, there are a few ways.

1. Go to the individual's profile.
2. Select "Unfollow" from the options pull-down.


1. Click the "Following" button on your own profile.
2. Unfollow one or more people listed by clicking the "Actions" button and choosing "Unfollow" for each you want to disconnect.

In most social networks, the ability to follow anyone is relatively easy. Every profile has a button that asks you to connect. Some, like Facebook, are pushing new people to you all the time. But to reduce the connections and unfollow in bulk can be more difficult, leading to links that have since faded in importance, or can be cluttered. Twitter has done a good job to let you unfollow from multiple places, and Google Buzz makes contact management very simple, from your own profile, but there are clearly ways that most sites can improve the connection experience.

A Month In the Cloud Shows Potential

At the end of January, I told you how I had recently picked up a MacBook Air to replace my aging MacBook Pro, and as part of that process, I would try to do as much as I could online instead of through desktop applications, leaving much of my rich media on the old laptop, and choosing the Web over hard disk as often as possible. A month in, it seems there is still much room for the cloud to grow, but despite the general trend for massive data growth, I still haven't used more than 30 percent of my spartan 128 GB solid state hard drive - a back of the hand measurement of how little data I am keeping with me and not leaving in the air.

As I mentioned last month, one of the first decisions I made was to keep iTunes and iPhoto data on the old laptop. I recognized I needed to keep Microsoft Office, for pure sanity purposes, but left Adobe's CS suite on the other machine.

Those applications I have downloaded have been rare, letting me tap into the cloud itself - for example, Skype, for audio phone calls and podcast recording, the Sonos controller to power the home stereo system, and Spotify, to access the on demand music network.

The goals are multiple. First, can I do a test run at being operating system agnostic, maintaining the flexibility to move toward a promised Chrome OS when it ships? Second, can I make the actual hardware insignificant, treating the new Air as a "disposable" machine, making migration to a newer device in the future simple? Third, and most important, can I find major weaknesses that continue to exist with an all cloud strategy?

At the end of February, my 128 GB solid state disk hard drive, much smaller than the 200 GB SATA disk it replaced, has 91.36 GB available, or just more than 71% of total capacity. This includes all system files, the pre-installed iLife applications from Apple, and preferences for many of the pre-installed apps. In fact, the one place I expected to consume a lot of data, with client files and PowerPoints, has proven to not be much at all. The folder for Paladin, with all client folders, is actually less than a single gigabyte.

Are there any headaches to going cloud-only (or close to it)? Sure. For somebody who uses PhotoShop a lot, the lack of PhotoShop has me reaching for it often. In the interim, for images for the blog, I've relied on lots of screen captures, and small editing in Preview. Anything stronger pushes me to the media machine. But the problems have been extremely rare. If I had an Office competitor that made it easy enough to edit all my files and save them remotely, I would be happy to give Microsoft Office the boot. But it's not there yet. And in the meantime, I am using GMail more and my Mac e-mail account less. I have been taking Zoli Erdos' advice and moving my Mac e-mail to the cloud, but that process isn't yet completed. I'll keep you posted on that, promise.

My new-ish MacBook Air isn't just lighter in terms of weight. It's massively lighter in terms of data too. It makes sense that in the future, so long as we have one place to put all our rich media, the rest of us really only need thin clients. We're getting there.

Beware the BCC: Copying Can Make Us All Blind

Assuming E-mail is the original social network, this Web 1.0 tool continues to have a large role in how we communicate and share ideas. With the exception of the clear GMail/Buzz integration or the recent Outlook/LinkedIn tie-up, for the most part, e-mail has not been dramatically revamped to take advantage of today's faster-moving, highly featured social networks. But despite e-mail's longevity, some basic attributes of the form continue to cause trouble between contacts who haven't mastered their core functionality. One of the most troublesome, the infrequently used, but often abused, BCC.

With BCC, the recipient doesn't know all who got the message.

As you no doubt know, BCC stands for "Blind Carbon Copy", providing a way to send e-mails to people without revealing their e-mail addresses. This can be an aid for mass mailings without exposure, but also used to be sure an individual gets a note without the direct recipient's knowledge.

For every blow-up around poorly-trained marketeers who copy their entire customer base, or PR flacks who display all the intended reporters by dumping their contacts database in the TO or CC field, you have quieter mistakes that happen when the intended recipient who thought they were having a private conversation sees a third party jump into the discussion without warning. As the intended public recipient sees the third party elbow their way into the conversation, they may lose trust in the original sender, and wonder what other messages were being shared.

Often, those BCC'd blow the cover of the messages' routing.

Some e-mail clients (such as a BlackBerry) will automatically make it clear to the recipient that they were BCC'd on a conversation, which hints they should not reply all. But not all people are as discerning and recognize their role in the world of BCC to be a silent observer. I know that when I get a BCC message that any reply I provide goes to the originator and not to the others in the thread.

Given my goal to be public about communication, my own use of BCC is extremely infrequent. Due to the potential issues that can arise as trust is perceived to be broken, I tend to follow up a BCC note to the individual saying "You were BCC'd. Make sure not to reply."

If you are someone who tends to BCC individuals as a normal course of business, I have no doubts that you can get caught by this process. Not all recipients watch the To and CC fields closely, and they may expose your willingness to overshare. With so many other ways to have private conversations 1-1, and the ease of which forwarding prior conversations via e-mail can occur, it makes sense to get above board, and preserve the BCC option for simply obscuring mass mailings.

February 26, 2010

Ecademy Chairman Says Limited Networks are "Flawed"

This week, Ecademy chairman Thomas Power and I presented to a roomful of executives in various influential positions in Silicon Valley companies on leveraging social media and taking advantage of new networks or technologies to find information faster and make the right decisions at the right time. (See the presentation on 'connectedness' here)

Before he flew back to the UK, I took some time to ask him about his approach to social networks and what he thinks about connections.

Thomas, connected to more than 30,000 on LinkedIn, and endorsed by more than 700, more than double the world's second-highest profile on the site, believes strongly that any kind of limits online, from Facebook's limit of 5,000 friends (which he hit long ago) or Twitter's limiting you to 1,000 follows a day, is short-sighted and damaging to potential growth of one's network. Thomas' profile on his own network, started in 1998, without many of the limits of other companies, highlights his own connections to more than 56,000.

My own e-mail in box proves Thomas to be an incredible communicator, who tries to maintain relationships well beyond Dunbar's number. You can hear some of his thoughts below, which I recorded via CinchCast.

Disclosure: I spoke to Ecademy last year in a paid engagement and just completed another engagement with Thomas this week. It's quite possible he and I may work on many more opportunities going forward. Simply put, I like the guy.

February 25, 2010

GMail Ads on Buzzed Reader Items Attract Controversy

Given the ease of distribution of content from site to site and network to network, with RSS or any other model, it's no surprise that scrapers galore are stocking away our unique copy and then trying to make a quick buck from ads surrounding it. Even though the copyright is not theirs, they are trying to make an end run around the system. As new aggregators and networks have hit the market, those of us creating the content have had to reevaluate what constitutes good practices, and what constitutes bad behavior - whether well intended or otherwise. Google Buzz, which has gained its unfair share of criticism for perceived security holes in the weeks since its launch, has finally gained a more valid critique, from Jesse Stay, who alertly noted, as I had earlier in the week, that the act of putting Buzz in one's GMail meant that content too can flow through Buzz, with Google pocketing cash on ads around your content, without the content originator getting a dime. It's the latest twist in the evolution of content and copyright in a fast-changing Web.

One Shared Item from Me on February 21st in GMail, With Ads

As you know, I don't try to monetize my content here on the blog. I don't run advertising, and I have long said that I don't mind if my content gets shared here and there for more comments. I want my content to be shared, as information, wherever you are comfortable. But yes, scrapers bug me. They mess up search alerts, and negatively impact the perception of this mirage-like image of a personal brand.

I don't believe for a moment that a new network like Google Buzz is an intended scraper, any more than I thought Shyftr was trying to steal comments from your blog when they offered shared comments on full feeds. But, thanks to Buzz living in your GMail, and many people, like me, pulling Google Reader items through Buzz, you can see how one's full content could feature advertising that benefits Google and not me. To some, this is the definition of a scraper.

Another Shared Reader Item from Me In Buzz in GMail With Ads

As a huge Google Reader advocate, and fan of the nascent network, Buzz, I do not mind in any way that my full content is being distributed. I love RSS. It is fantastic. But when I saw the ads in my GMail against others' content this week, it did strike me as odd, because it violated the unspoken rule that it's something you flat-out don't do.

I recognize that "fixing" this perceived flaw is hard. If I am the Buzz team, the act of removing ads against shared Reader items in Buzz while in GMail is probably non-trivial.

But I also can see their potential response. In theory, they cannot prohibit somebody from forwarding your content in full by e-mail, and GMail is an e-mail system. In theory, Google Reader shares are equivalent to e-mail forwards, and thus, the same as any other content being shared in this way.

Jesse asks, "Google, how is this not evil?", calling it copyright infringement. Unlike the overreactions this month, he's a lot closer in this criticism than others. I still hold that Google is not evil and is not trying to be evil, but it's more in the gray area than we would like. I assume if this holds, then we as content creators are going to need more re-education in terms of what the new rules are, and how we should adapt.

UPDATE: Jesse Stay reports the "scraping" issue will be solved early next week.

How To Enable Comments on Google Reader Shares In Buzz

With the recent launch of Google Buzz, shared items from Google Reader's RSS platform have become more visible and more important than ever. (TechCrunch said growth increased 35%) Those Buzz users with existing shared Reader feeds had these streams automatically connected to Buzz, enabling Buzz viewers to see your shares, and if enabled, to leave comments, once obscured in your own private network, in a public place. But those following you on Buzz don't automatically have the option to comment on your Reader items, and for some, this can be frustrating. Here's how you can help them join the conversation.

Google Reader enabled conversations back in March of 2009. As somebody who has adapted to a distributed multi-locational world of conversations, I have optimized my activity to embrace the conversations in this platform. In the last year, I have been enabling connections to comment on my Reader shares, and as a result, the conversations grew dramatically.

An Active Google Reader Item in Buzz, With Comments

But the integration, to date anyway, has required some effort on my part. As new followers added my feed to their reading list, I have had to give permissions to these followers to comment on my items, by adding them to a folder, which I called "Friends". This work, a few followers a day, has paid off in a big way, as I have enjoyed fantastic conversations in my Reader, and now, this group can participate with me in Buzz.

Many of you are probably seeing more followers from Buzz into your Google Reader world than you ever had before. Now, it is more critical than ever to move these folks into a folder who can comment on your items, or they will be met with errors, locking them out of your conversation.

So here's how you fix it:

1. Log into Google Reader at http://www.google.com/reader

2. On the left side, click "Sharing settings". (Shortcut here)

3. Where it says "Who can see your shared items?", there is an item which says "Who can comment on your shared items?". Those items that have checkboxes are enabled.

My Sharing Settings and Connected "Friends" to Comment on My Items

4. Click "people are following you", and from there, you can add individuals to folders.

Adding a New Individual To a Group for Commenting

5. Repeat until you're done.

Note How All My Contacts Are In Groups for Commenting

As new followers come in, even if you choose not to follow them back, you should add them to a folder that can comment on your items. With Buzz drawing ever more attention to your Reader shares, and Reader shares being a big part of the content there, it makes sense to extend the conversation there. If this seems complicated, note it is due to a policy of having "private" conversations in Reader from the last year, and adapting this policy to a new public place. Until Google Reader enables fully public conversations on all shared feeds, this will be how you can make your feed an active place.

You can find my Reader shares here: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/louisgray. We can get connected on Buzz here: http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray.

Advisory Update: BuzzGain Acquired By Meltwater Group

Just a quick note to mention that BuzzGain, the "do it yourself PR" service started by Mukund Mohan and others, was recently acquired by Meltwater Group, a media monitoring company I have used at multiple companies. PaidContent covered the story yesterday following a press release from Meltwater announcing the acquisition, and that company's reaching $100 million in bookings.

I covered BuzzGain's launch in early 2009, and since March of 2008, regularly met with Mukund to talk about product development, strategy and networking.

Although I wasn't as closely involved with BuzzGain as I have with other advisory roles, such as my interaction with Jesse Stay's SocialToo, I appreciate Mukund reaching out to me, as BuzzGain was my first advisory opportunity, and now, the first exit. It should be interesting to see how Meltwater brings the social media monitoring prowess of BuzzGain to its lengthy client list.

Disclosure: As an advisor to BuzzGain, I held a small equity stake in the company. I will be marking the change in ownership for BuzzGain in my "About" page and LinkedIn profile.

February 24, 2010

Slideshow: Social Networking In The Connected Decade

In the event you noticed things have been a tad quiet of late, I have been preparing for and participating in a two-day social media retreat with Thomas Power of Ecademy and Bob Barker of Alterian in Menlo Park.

Today, as the first part of our workshop, we focused on how businesses and individuals can leverage the best social networks out there - how data is moving quickly from more places than ever with more people and connections in more countries. The hypothesis... the next decade will be about leveraging the full power of your network and all the related tools.

The full deck, admittedly better with demos and in person questions, is below.

You can also see updates on the event at the hashtag #socialmediaretreat.

February 22, 2010

Latest Twitter Hires Pull from Yahoo!, IBM for Search and UI

Today, Todd Kloots (@toddkloots) joined Twitter after more than seven years at Yahoo! as a front-end engineer focused on the Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) library for interactive Web applications, after previous work on the company's massive Yahoo! Mail product, where he worked on the service's front-end and design. Todd's joining Twitter continues the company's growth, pulling like a massive magnet from Silicon Valley's top companies toward the blue-logoed beacon in San Francisco, following hires from Facebook, Google, and other Valley leaders.

Kloots, who is credited with 10 years of web dev experience, joins Twitter a week or so after Michael Busch (@michibusch), who worked at IBM for the last five years as a software engineer and architect, joined the company as a search engineer. His LinkedIn profile says he was focused on "indexing, search and scale-out" for IBM's eDiscovery Analyzer product. As mentioned frequently here, Twitter's mountain of data badly needs some strong attention toward indexing and scale-out, so his hire looks to bode well for making their search tools more relevant.

Jesse Stay and others highlighted Busch's hiring last week. Also noted last week was Twitter's crossing the 140th employee mark, a milestone for the company obsessed with 140 characters. (In the comments, a fellow Twitter employee says Michael was not #140) Jesse also highlights Busch's background with the open source Lucene search project.

You can see Kloots' presentation of the new YUI 3 at Yahoo! from the fall of 2009 at the Yahoo! Developer Network for an idea of his previous work.

February 19, 2010

Google Buzz Reduces Power Users' Bumpage

Being a top Google Buzz user, or even engaging with one, has come with some assumed disadvantages, as one of the product's built-in features has been to highlight activity on a feed by bumping active items to the top. For users with a few dozen followers, this is fantastic and keeps their feed moving. But for those with a few thousand, it can seem like they are "dominating" the discussion, and I've even seen people say they are unfollowing said "popular" folks for this very reason. As of this evening, that problem is being lessened.

Using the Buzz service as their blog, the official Google Buzz Team account said quickly:
"If you're following someone with a ton of followers, you're probably used to seeing their posts at the top of your stream all the time, since we've been bumping them back up with every new comment. Starting a few hours ago, we made some changes to not bump them up as often."
With about 2,200 connections, and some active participants who have been used to acting on my feeds from Google Reader and FriendFeed, I have seen the consequences of this multiple times, and it's been among the major sources of pain for the young service.

So, if you unfollowed me, it just might be safe to come back. If you were scared to make a comment, for fear your in box would be abused, don't hold back. You can get connected here: http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray. It's probably also safe to refollow Pete Cashmore, Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis or Kevin Rose again too, so go nuts.

While not all folks are fans of Buzz, the team has made a lot of visible changes in an action-packed two weeks. To me, that bodes well for their future development, and today's move aids the signal to noise ratio once again.

Blogger and Google Reader Speed Up, Suggestions Improve

Two of the major outlets where I produce content and consume content, both from Google, took steps forward on Thursday, as Blogger announced new improvements to load slow-performing pages more quickly, and Google Reader unofficially made a big move, with the likely addition of Pubsubhubbub support, which makes the service real-time enabled both incoming and outgoing. Meanwhile, in a separate announcement, Reader promised improved recommendations for you to find new sources to follow - including similar sites per feed.

I've been talking up Pubsubhubbub for months now, because it is the engine that is playing an ever-increasing role in pushing my data faster and faster from site to site. Google Reader shares had already been powered by Pubsubhubbub to flow downstream, but it had been widely assumed Google Reader was not using the same kind of lightning speed to get updates as blog posts were added. Starting today, Jesse Stay and others figured out they had flipped the switch.

An Instant Update from Posting to Reader

As others confirmed, and I saw later also, posts that used to take upwards of half an hour to hit Reader, without manual polling, were there practically instantly, showing 0 minutes to 2 minutes of delay. With FeedBurner also Pubsubhubbub enabled, there should be no latency between when I hit the publish button, and the posts hitting FriendFeed, Buzz Twitter and Reader all at once now.

Google has recently been talking a lot now about making page load times a more important element of how they are ranked in the company's search engine. This leads to the next announcement, from Blogger, who says that traditionally slow-loading pages, including label pages and archive pages, are now going to auto paginate these pages to deliver speedier load times in the browser. They are guessing not only will pages load more quickly, but total page views will go up. Always a good thing.

Reader Puts Me In Good Company

Recommendations from Coding Horror

Reader's move to Pubsubhubbub was likely part of a larger code push from the team, which did announce improved recommendations for new feeds. Now, in addition to tailored recommendations for you, you can click any feed and see what they believe are similar sites. For example, I found that Reader finds me most like Lifehacker, ReadWriteWeb, Engadget, GigaOM and Walt Mossberg. All very cool recommendations. I also found out that Reader finds Loic LeMeur's blog to be most similar to TechCrunch, Seth Godin's blog, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble. I doubt Loic is complaining either.

The amazing thing about this new feature? It was my #1 request way back in March of 2007. It took almost three years, but it's finally here, and I'm going to spend some time finding new sources to follow.

February 18, 2010

Quality Music by Cloud, Managed by iPhone, at Home

The new musical centerpiece in our home doesn't have an LCD display to tell me the music playing. It doesn't have preset stations, or an antenna. It doesn't have a slot for one or more CDs, and it doesn't even have a dock to hold my iPhone. It just looks like a fashionable speaker , and the only buttons it has are small and simple. Volume up and down or Mute. Why? Because this new device, the Sonos S5, pulls all of its music from the Web, and is fully controlled by my iPhone or desktop application, without suffering any of the tinny, lower quality audio I've come to accept through computer speakers and other devices. And if I had a bigger house, I could play the same music throughout the house simply by getting another unit. Someday...

The Sonos S5 Unit Has No Face, But Lots of Good Sound

On Saturday, the doorbell rang with a somewhat surprising delivery package. Sonos' PR team, which contacted me late last year, which I hadn't been thinking about, had sent me the stereo, and a hub to connect to my home network to try. Within 15 minutes, I had the hub connected to my Airport network, the stereo sitting in our living room, and was tapping in to my Last.fm account, Sirius Radio account and could even get local radio stations of all sorts.

The stereo's arrival couldn't have come at a better time for two reasons. The first reason is that the Bose soundsystem with iPhone dock I got a little over a year ago recently stopped working, for who knows what reason, and we have had to take it out of commission for repair. Second, the Sonos extends my continued efforts to be less reliant on local media, and more reliant on data stored elsewhere - best exemplified by my purchase of the MacBook Air and recent avoidance of iTunes, iPhoto, PhotoShop and other "heavy apps".

Sonos' iPhone App Controls the Stereo's Music
And Where It Is Played In the House

I am no audiophile, but I do listen to music a ton, and enjoy having good songs on when I am at home - especially as the twins both enjoy dancing to tunes with any kind of rhythm. With the Sonos, I've played with getting one of the kids to be dancing in front of the unit, only to pause it remotely with my iPhone, which stops them in mid-shake, only to look back at me with curiosity and disdain.

Managing the Sonos via iPhone has been a huge plus to a home already covered in a fine layer of remote controls. Instead of yet another remote to chase down when lost, or moved by a toddler, I just use the Sonos Desktop controller or the free iPhone app. From the iPhone app, I can navigate between different music sources, and see which song is currently playing. If I had multiple units, I could see what song is playing on each unit, and possibly even play different songs in different places. The absence of setup is also a solid benefit to the Sonos. The first step was to configure a small hub, to sit atop my Airport Extreme, looking like its younger brother, and the second step was to connect the Sonos to power. It pulls down the music wirelessly from the hub, and no other wires had to be configured - as it should be.

Sonos Shows Local Radio Stations
And Lets Me "Love" Last.fm Tracks

If there is anything to complain about with the Sonos, it's that it doesn't feature Spotify support right away. But considering that Spotify is not truly out in the US yet, I can't make too much of a fuss. If the music is available on a hard drive from your network, Sonos can find it, and Sonos also supports Pandora and Rhapsody in addition to Last.fm and Sirius, which I use.

Cranking Tunes from Sirius and Last.fm
Brings Paul van Dyk to the Home Stereo

If you were curious, and in the interest of full disclosure, as always, yes, the device was initially shipped to me free of cost, but in the interest of being fair, and not seeming biased, I have already contacted the Sonos PR rep to make sure I can purchase the unit. As for that old broken Bose, if we ever do get it fixed, maybe we can let it be handed off to someone else in the family who needs one, because it looks like we have a real replacement.

For another review of the Sonos S5, which is making its way around many tech blogs this month, see Rick Klau's extensive writeup. He has been a loyal customer for three years.

Google Lets Fearmongers and Unbelievers Opt Out of Buzz

Google's expansion and knowledge of the many things you do online collectively has some corners of the Web distrusting every move the Mountain View giant makes - even when they tell you in advance what they are doing, and how it might effect you. The company's moves toward openness and embracing of standards, though lauded by the tech community, haven't converted the confused masses who often at times seem to be blindly following a Pied Piper of fear, making them think the big G is reading your e-mail, sending updates to the NSA, and really cares whether you look at porn sites or not in your Web history. Take this simmering population, sprinkle on an aggressive push toward converting a private network (GMail) to a public one (Buzz), and the overwrought cries of fear and anguish were as predictable as rain. And now, after ten days of being thrown under the bus by head in the sand privacy-shrieking luddites, Google has had to backtrack again, repeatedly apologizing and now, letting you extract Buzz from your GMail like shrapnel from the field of battle.

Practically without exceptions, the hue and cry around Buzz, beyond those of us who embraced the new social network, was made by people who were not impacted by Buzz' move to "auto follow" in the first place. The examples given, from business partners, or potential headhunters, journalists' sources, psychiatrist clients and other possible unwanted revealings, were conjecture based on a complete lack of reality that ignored the fact that the majority of business e-mail is done through Microsoft Exchange, or if on Google's own products, in Apps, which doesn't yet support Buzz. Professionals leveraging free Web e-mail, which Gmail continues to be today, despite being exponentially better than its other free competitors, are getting what they pay for.

You Can Opt Out of Buzz If You Think You'll Get Stung

In comparison, the real potential problems with Buzz's gaining attraction, including assumed noise, and lacking of perfect integration into all networks on Day One, have been outshouted by the same people who squirm every time Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team move more toward public sharing and search discovery, and away from walled gardens. But again, the shrill minority has taken its pound of flesh, as Google's momentum with Buzz has taken body blow after body blow, primarily from an older generation of tech bloggers and business journalists unwilling or undesiring to embrace today's world of active sharing and aggregation.

After mea culpa following mea culpa, the Buzz team has released the option to disable Buzz outright, deleting all your posts, disconnecting your sites and users you are following. You also have the option to hide Buzz from your GMail (which doesn't make it go away, but hides it from you), in the event you suffer from severe distraction and interruption disorder.

You can find the new setting in GMail, where there is a new Buzz tab, letting you also hide those people you are following, either for your own sake, or theirs.

Amidst the din of the pack clustering around the body of Buzz, kicking at it like a group of children at a 6-year-olds' youth soccer match striking at a ball, some folks have seen beyond the tin foil hat nonsense and told people to look forward to something new. Thomas Hawk says to not listen to the naysayers, adding "they're wrong". But as I said Google blinked at the end of 2007, when the Reader team capitulated to the mob, a recalcitrant public is once again getting caught up in a world of old rules and ideals.

Knowing this nonsense would spring up, I asked Google vice president Bradley Horowitz on the option of "public" and automated friending when getting a preview of Buzz the Monday before its launch. His answer is as useful today as it was then:

"One thing that I have learned is that there are people who will always dislike a change you have made, including not making a change," he said. "We don't want to be prescriptive and say everything is public now. Sometimes it is an intimate sharing of an experience with coworkers, family and giving it to the right audience. The world is not going to abandon one form, but we would like people to have the right tools to make decisions for themselves."

Now the decision is truly in your hands. Want out of Buzz? Go to your GMail, click "Settings" and click "Buzz", and you can opt out of what is proving to be a very interesting network. Should you choose to instead embrace innovation, you can find me here: http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray