Why the hell does Google Buzz think I am Chris Messina?

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Google is weird. I mean seriously weird. Or maybe it’s just Google Buzz.

With all the Facebook privacy issues going on right now I thought I’d go and check out Google Buzz. I’d heard a rumour you couldn’t delete your profile. On the face of it, it would appear you can. At the bottom of the Edit Profile page, there is a link to deleting your Buzz profile which says “This will disable Google Buzz integration in Gmail and delete your Google profile and Buzz posts. It will also disconnect any connected sites and unfollow you from anyone you are following.”

Fine, that’s good enough for me. It may well be that Google retains data whether I know it or not. I pretty much assume Google keeps everything. That’s not what caught my eye.

What got my attention were the other profiles Google was “suggesting” I add to mine. About 90% of them turned out to be about links to “Factory Joe”, the old user handle used by Chris Messina, Semantic Web advocate and now at Google.

This seems pretty hilarious. I have met Chris once or twice but I rarely blog about him or his work as I mainly write about tech companies in Europe. So the fact that Google Buzz has this association is very, very odd.

On the left you can see all of Buzz’s suggestions and on the right you can see my actual profiles.

Update: Chris responds as to why this is.

  • http://livz.org Steven Livingstone

    Strange – i tried it out and it did find sites (such as @valebrity ) that i had never associated with my account (even found some i had forgotten about).

    Not sure how they look up the details (looking in an old FOAF file or something..)

    • kel

      I can see why Buzz tried to infer the social network because it’s just easier to gain traction that way but I think it comes at a real cost. At least with FB, your network has been vetted by you. I don’t think Google gets that. Sometimes algorithms work’s sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you need humans to make decisions. Reasons to use google buzz?

  • Sam Kumar Sethi

    Mike I had a similar problem when I first used Buzz with someone called Atomless.

    The items on the left actually don’t add to your Buzz links. Try this Google Tool https://sgapi-recrawl.appspot.com/ to see what they are crawling on your acct and it might help you find why you are being linked to Chris Messina.

    My issue was I had used a template from Atomless on a test tumblr site and after that I was being suggested all of his twitter and blog sites as possible sites for my own links. After recrawling my links the issue went away.

  • Caio Iglesias

    That must the Social Graph API acting up: http://code.google.com/apis/socialgraph/

  • Raj

    Big brother is watching you..may be they know you met him.. and wanted you to add him to your profile..

  • http://www.pcartisan.com David1984

    Why can’t i delete a profile? it means that if i am bugged by my friends on the networking and i want to quit the network, i cant? and i have bear with them for the rest of my life?

  • Adam Edwards

    You can’t really turn off Google Social Search, either: http://www.adamedwards.us/post/561898344/disable-or-turn-off-google-social-search

  • tom

    Maybe it’s the eye glasses.

  • http://blog.khmohsin.com mohsin

    Google Buzz, had serious privacy issues when the product was first launched. At that moment I blogged about the reasons to quit Google Buzz, but Google changed their policy quickly.
    Now this incident again reminds of that moment when everyone’s privacy was at stake because of Google Buzz Team’s ignorance.
    I had been a huge fan of Google, but in recent months Google seems to be forgetting their mantra of “don’t be evil.” :(


    • Michael

      Hey blogspammer. I love people who put accidental lack of privacy (launch of Google Buzz) and intentional ones (Facebook) in the same basket. Yes, Google is so evil to now test Buzz software updates to a small group of people before releasing it to the public.

      “Not sure how they look up the details (looking in an old FOAF file or something..)”

  • Josey

    Apparently, Buzz won’t just confuse who you are… it’ll confuse where you are. For the past three days, the location finder has been under the impression that I’m in Cancun, Mexico. And I haven’t been anywhere near Cancun.

  • somethingmoreimportant

    I just want to know that when I am searching for the porn star replica dong and slumming that none of the social sites or search engines are gonna out me to anyone who could remotely know me. In any way. Answer that and then that will pretty much cover everything. rofl

  • Synthmob

    I deleted my buzz profile about a week ago – maybe that’s when all this mess started! I still use the same gmail acct I was using long before my buzz profile was created.

  • http://factoryjoe.com Chris Messina

    Hey Mike, you’ve stumbled upon an interesting “benefit” of the distributed nature of microformats. In 2006, Sam Sethi wrote a story that linked to my microformats icons:


    He apparently included the HTML from that page and linked to MY homepage using rel-me.

    YOU then added http://eu.techcrunch.com to your list of links, and when you did, the Social Graph API kicked in and looked for all the rel-me links that had ever come from eu.techcrunch.com.

    Because of Sam’s post in 2006, it appeared that eu.techcrunch.com was claiming that factoryjoe.com/blog was another one of its profiles. And since I’ve got all kinds of rel-me links coming out of my blog, the transitive property of the Social Graph API presumed that all those rel-me links were also your profile pages.

    The lesson here? Make sure that you don’t add rel-me to your blog, blog posts, websites that aren’t yours!

    The solution is to remove the rel-me link on that blog post (and also fix the graphics and link to the project, which is now here: http://factoryjoe.com/projects/microformats-icons/) and then use the SG Graph Recrawl tool (https://sgapi-recrawl.appspot.com/) to update the graph — though it may take some time to update the index.

    Please note that all of my links were not added to your profile — they were simply offered as suggestions that you could add to your Google Profile if you wanted to. It wasn’t that Google Buzz thinks that you’re me — it’s that a URL that you added to your profile at one time claimed that factoryjoe.com/blog was another one of its profiles!

    • Sam Sethi

      Knew it would be my fault ;-) I guess a cut and paste of code would have included a rel=me statement by mistake.

  • http://somethingtocareabout.blogspot.com/ Karthik

    Google is good at couple of things.

    #1. Search
    #2. Acquiring other companies

    So, It is better for google to buy some social network instead of developing one.

  • Peter Watson

    Can anyone explain me why botter with social media.
    What will it add to your life?

    Stay in touch with the internet addicts you have met and exchanged profiles with?

    Social networks are for teenagers.

    There is no real business in it.

    Unless you think ringrones, farmville etc is something an adult should spend his day with.

    • http://maxniederhofer.com Max Niederhofer

      Social media drives more traffic than any other online activity except search. Traffic is money. Money is something adults seem to like.

      There’s your explanation.

  • http://www.isotoma.com Doug Winter

    Look Mike, you have to take into account that it’s GOOGLE who think this. Although they may occasionally make an error they have a hella lot of computers, and they’re damn smart.

    You have to consider the possibility that you really are Chris Messina.

    Have you really been seen in the same place at the same time? You claim to have met him, but this could just be a psychological defence mechanism.

    Face the facts Mike, you have to snap out of this denial and accept that you are Chris Messina.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      The horror! [joke]

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