Okay, say it with me: Comments *are* Actions

So the good news from yesterday is that Google Buzz has opened up a bunch of APIs.  It’s officially a Labs project, so they’re doing it kind of tentatively (having been bitten in the ass by releasing Buzz itself too quickly and broadly), but by and large the new API looks pretty good.

But to my disappointment (although completely *not* surprise), it bakes flat commenting right into the data model.  If I’m reading this right, you can have “activity” objects (like a post), each of which has exactly one Comment Collection associated with it.

Why does this matter?  Because it makes the usual mistake of thinking about an “action” and a “comment” as completely different things.  They’re not, and it’s pretty broken to think about them that way.  In the larger online world, they’re just elements in the larger conversation that we are each having with our friends.

In practical terms, there are lots of implications here.  For example, by structuring things this way, it means that threaded discussions are right out — currently ruled out by the data model, and never likely to work quite right.  On the flip side, it has no concept of the other ways that an Activity can itself be a Comment — for example, a video, or another discussion, or something like that which is spawned off from a previous one.

None of which is new and different, mind.  It’s just a little depressing to see Google (which often does a good job of analyzing problems) making the same mistake that so many other sites have done.  That’s doubly true now, after Wave did a pretty good job on this.  (Although Wave then tried to do *so* much in the UI that it comes out as a little intimidating.  Their mistake was the opposite: trying to expose every conceptual detail to the user too quickly.)

The conclusion is that, while Buzz is decent at light-touch social-grooming sorts of communication (like Facebook), it’s not likely to ever be good at deep conversation (like LiveJournal) unless they wise up and fix this conceptual problem.  That’s a pity: the world needs more social networks that have a clue about how serious conversations really work…

2 Responses to “Okay, say it with me: Comments *are* Actions”

  1. Monica Says:

    Wow, that’s disappointing. I don’t care how many other cool features a conversation platform has; if it doesn’t have threading, I’m not interested [1]. I’m surprised that Google doesn’t get that.

    [1] Technically my primary email fails this test, but folders and low volumes mitigate. It would be more of a pain to switch platforms from the one I’ve been using forever than it is for me to live with this. But for platforms invented in this millennium, I require better.

  2. Chad Says:

    I’m not too surprised. Buzz seems designed to go head to head with twitter (and somewhat with FB’s status updates). Short, chronologically connected, light conversation. It doesn’t make sense as a competitor for LJ. Fundamentally, Google would be better reviving development on Blogger if they wanted to go that route.

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