Strategy, Technology, Web

The ‘Buzz’ about Product launches & the tradeoffs therein

On Feb 10, Google launched a new social networking product – Google Buzz, right inside Gmail. After that there have been scores of blog-posts regarding the privacy flaws in Google buzz. Clearly the transition from something as personal as Mail to another thing as public as buzz wasn’t going to be simple. The latest update on this issue is that Google has admitted that testing of Buzz was insufficient.

To quote the article,

The BBC understands that Buzz was only tested internally and bypassed more extensive trials with external testers – used for many other Google services. Google said that it was now working “extremely hard” to fix the problems.

PrivacyThis brings us to the controversial question – How much testing is good enough? The last week is indeed an ideal case study about Product launches in the internet world. The swiftness with which the firm has responded to the privacy concern of users is nothing short of legendary, I must say. They created a war room, changes were made live in days across all users and lots of privacy concerns have been addressed already. But could all this have been avoided in the first place?

A brief background about the case in point- The pressure to get this product live must have been immense, given the strategic nature of this product. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network recently got its 400 millionth user signed up. Orkut or friend connect on the other hand weren’t growing as fast. Also, there was a bit of a thinking shift here as well – something that is above routine testing -A friend on Google talk is a two-directional relation ( You have to give specific permission to another contact who wishes to chat with you) while a follower on Google Buzz is a one-way relation. This leads to complications, particularly in the email ecosystem. Hence, there must have been a trade-off between (a) time to go live (b) Testing (c) Philosophical shift from a friend to a follower.

This is just one of the many cases though. A startup can afford to correct such mistakes over time, since they start from ‘zero’ users. However, an established firm cannot afford that kind of luxury. The TTgL (time to go LIVE) v/s adequate testing tradeoff will always exist. How to get it just right is the question in my opinion – Put in your insights in the comments section …

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5 thoughts on “The ‘Buzz’ about Product launches & the tradeoffs therein

  1. >>Philosophical shift from a friend to a follower.
    There is nothing new in this criteria. If you know all the google products, then you should know about google-reader which already had ‘follower’ concept years before.
    Google as such hasn’t added a new technology in its domain, but it’s just a tweak to get another facebook/twitter like service.

    There isn’t a question of trade-off here. Google isn’t creating new customer-base in this case, the service has been added to already existing customer-base who use reader, gmail and orkut. The important point here is security of personal data and privacy of already existing base. ‘Adequate testing’ wins any day in this case.

  2. @sukesh – thanks for the comment. Thing is, Adequate testing is an ideal scenario . In an industry where people are moving so quickly, its very tough to do this adequate testing. Perhaps I have not put the problem clearly enough above. Essentially in a place where social media adoption happens at a huge pace, time to react is very small, thats where testing gets compromised.

  3. nice article..sid!!myself being a tester would like to add certain insights…
    How thorough the testing should be depends predominantly on:
    1)Criticality of the project
    2)Timelines
    More critical the project,the more testing is required..The problem arises when the project is critical and timelines are tight(this happens in most of the cases)..
    Then in this case experience helps..an experienced tester will be able to identify the areas most likely to get affected and ensure that they get tested thoroughly..
    Also as malclom gladwell puts it “Modern systems, Perrow argues, are made up of thousands of parts, all of which interrelate in ways that are impossible to anticipate. Given that complexity, he says, it is almost inevitable that some combinations of minor failures will eventually amount to something catastrophic.”
    http://www.gladwell.com/1996/1996_01_22_a_blowup.htm
    Also,however thorough the testing ,there is always a probability of failure..Thorough testing just reduces failure probability but not to 0%..

  4. Shantan says:

    Excellent article!
    But i am surprised Google had to rush in with Buzz. I am sure they had the muscle to withstand a few more months of Facebook domination before unveiling Buzz. Frankly, the negativity and controversy surrounding what was regarded last week as a Facebook killer…has actually helped Facebook stay ahead!!

    But there is another problem.
    Yesterday Microsoft announced Facebook plugins for its email client MS Outlook software.
    I think embedding social networks in your email is a wrong precedent. It definitely takes away your privacy, and to a great extent is a distraction.

    I thought Orkut had it good, when it allows you to chat within Orkut with those friends who are given permission on GTalk. But they are still kept separate. I think that kind of integration works.

    Not sure, if these latest moves by Google and Microsoft will geopardize the elegance of social networking!!

  5. Nice article. Quite surprised about the launch of Buzz by Google. It seems a more of a desperate move rather than strategic, well thought out move. But I guess can talk more about it in an article rather than this.

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