Control Google Buzz Overload

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Google Buzz has stirred a lot of emotion since it launched just ten days ago; the new social network has already been hit with a class-action lawsuit, a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, and a possible investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Some are so fed up with Google Buzz they're opting out of the service altogether.

Despite all those complaints, however, Buzz is still a fairly popular service, and my guess is it will only grow in popularity as Google refines and enhances its functions. But one thing Google Buzz has't delivered on is a way to control social networking information overload. Those endless e-mail notices and new Buzzes can get in the way of a busy workday. Luckily, there are several tools you can use to take control of your social networking habits without giving up on Buzz altogether. Here are four tools I use to keep my information overload under control:

Nutshell Mail

Want to check your Facebook and Twitter updates on a regular schedule, but you're not sure how to do it? Try Nutshell Mail; a free, personalized digest of all your social media and e-mail activity that you can have sent to your inbox at regular intervals during the day. The service doesn't work with Buzz, but it will bring all your updates from Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter right to you. Nutshell Mail can also be used to check on any of your other Webmail accounts that don't allow e-mail forwarding, such as Yahoo Mail.

By default, Nutshell Mail will send you three digests seven days a week at 8 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. local time. If you w

ant more frequent updates, you can request it be sent every hour -- or just once a day. You can also control which days updates get sent to you, so if you don't want Nutshell Mail updates on the weekend or a specific day of the week, just uncheck that day from your delivery schedule.(Click on the screen shot to get a closer look at your options.)

You can also control the types of information Nutshell Mail sends you. With Facebook, you can choose to get notifications for almost all your network activity or only for specific things like when you're tagged in a photo or when you have an upcoming event. On Twitter, you can find out who your new followers are and who's not following you any more, as well as see only your @replies and direct messages. How much information you want included in the digest is up to you.

Nutshell Mail hooks up to your Twitter and Facebook accounts through each service's authorization services, but for Webmail you will have to hand over your account password directly to Nutshell Mail.

Hide Read Labels

Last week, I showed you how you can use labels, filters and Multiple Inboxes to control how Buzz information lands in your inbox.

The problem with Mutliple Inboxes feature is it radically changes the look of your Gmail inbox page and cramps everything into small sections. Luckily, there's a much more elegant solution you can use.

First, you'll have to set up labels and filters for Buzz notifications coming to your Gmail inbox. You can find out how to do this by reading the "Labels" section in Google Buzz: 5 Tips for Power Users. Once your labels and filters are ready to go, just go to Gmail Labs (that little green beaker in the top right corner), and enable "Hide Read Labels." With this feature turned on, your labels will disappear from the left column of you Gmail inbox, and only reappear when a new message arrives. Check out the included image to see what I'm talking about.

Banish the Buzz Tab

Do you like Buzz, but can't stand that Buzz tab counter that keeps going up and up and up? You can banish it from your site quickly and easily, without shutting down Buzz altogether.

Click on the "Settings" tab in the right hand corner of your Gmail window, and select the "Labels" tab. Find "Buzz" under "System Labels" and click on "hide." (Click on the image for a closer look at the screen.) The Buzz tab should automatically disappear from view, but you can still find it under the "more" drop-down menu in the left column. If you've also activated the "Hide Read Labels" feature, the menu should be right under your Spam tab. Buzz will continue to update so you won't miss out on anything new, but you don't have to deal with that annoying Buzz counter that can make reading new buzzes feel like a chore.

Check Your Follower List Again

Now that you're starting to get a better feel for Buzz, today would be a good time to take a second look at all the people you're following. If you find yourself muting more posts than you read from a particular person, perhaps that's a sign that you're not really interested in what's going on with those Buzzes.

To unfollow people, go to the Buzz tab in Gmail, and click on your name at the top of the Buzz window. This will take you to a list of all your Buzzes, and you can find the list of people you are following from there. Click on that list (for me it says "Ian is following XX people"), and you can unfollow from there. You can also edit your following list right from your Google Profile.

Got any other tools or tips to deal with information overload? Share them in the comments.

Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul) or on Google Buzz.

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