Thursday, July 07, 2011

Obligatory Post Speculating on Google+

I love product launches. It's the perfect time to speculate with no inconvenient research or history to get in the way.

This goes for everything on this blog, but it's probably worth highlighting in this instance that these opinions are my own. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of Google, the Google+ team, or anyone else who works at Google.

My history of speculating on products tends to be bullish on Google and cynical of social. I thought Android and Wave were going to change the world, and that Twitter was a waste of time.

Twitter with conversations

Despite my initial reservations I'm a big user of Twitter, but I find that most of my interaction there is effectively anonymous - I'm either reading things by interesting people I don't know, or sharing things I think are interesting with people I've never met.

I've found that half my use of Google+ works similarly - by posting publicly and creating a "My Stream" circle full of interesting folks who I don't know personally.

Where I think Google+ adds value is with threaded conversations. By attaching the conversation that emerges from each post, anonymity is reduced and the process of sharing and reading are suddenly more social.

Facebook with sharing controls

I remember quite clearly the moment my use of Facebook went from regular to sporadic. My manager's passing comment on my most recent status update (something along the lines of "I'm so bored I'm considering setting myself on fire just to liven up my day") prompted this blog post.

I've always maintained a policy of only adding people I know and would recognize in person as Facebook friends. Nonetheless, when your extended family, school friends, and current / former work colleagues are all reading the same stream, and seeing the same pictures, the intersection of "appropriate material" rapidly tends towards zero.

Using circles to fragment my audience has been an elegant solution for me.

I've created the obvious circles like "friends", "family", and "Googlers" but I've found smaller adhoc circles particularly useful when socializing


In the paleolithic age we used email to arrange social events and share the photos afterwards, but it never really worked.

Facebook is a good alternative, but it requires adding people you don't necessarily know to your "friends" list.

Being able to create an adhoc circle (or just add individual people to a post) - makes it easy to work out the details for a 4th July BBQ - and then post the photos - all in one place.

I've not spent a lot of time with Huddles or Hangouts yet, but they seem a natural extension. I can see using Huddle instead of SMS to let folks know you're running late, to get parking advice, or confirm the orders for a lunch-run. I've used similar products (most notably Beluga and GroupMe) to coordinate amongst a large group at conferences or events like MWC or Google I/O.

Social photo sharing without wanting to punch your screen

Photos are probably the reason most folks joined Facebook to begin with. It's also the reason many people hate Facebook.

I'll happily rave about the Google+ photo experience which is awesome. It's easy to share photos with just a small group, or post your best amateur photography for the world to critique.

I don't want to be social at work

For all the good uses, let me highlight a couple that I don't see catching on.

I admit to having been a little skeptical of Google+ during the dogfooding stage. With 20/20 hindsight, I think a lot of that had to do with it being effectively a corporate social network. My email inbox is full enough as it is; I really don't need another stream to monitor in order to be involved in work conversations.

This is not a blog

You'll note that I haven't posted this directly on Google+.

I don't want to read your essay in my social stream, just give me an abstract and link to your blog. For added bonus points, make sure your blog links back to your Google+ profile.

In Conclusion

Twitter is entirely public and as a result my interactions there are regular but tend towards the impersonal. Facebook is limited to people I know so the interactions are more personal, but (increasingly) less frequent.

Google+  lets me choose which group of people I'm comfortable sharing something with to a degree that lets me have regular, personal conversations.

As many of you have no doubt noticed - that makes for an addictive combination.


  1. I agree with most of the points, except the bit about blogging. I would be willing to blog and read blogs in the same feed as everything else.

    What would really make Google+ unique though is if one could setup "channels". They would be like "circles" but work the other way round.

    For example, I could create channels for each of my interests: "programming", "astronomy", "music". And people could subscribe to some or all of my channels.

    So, those friends of mine who are not interested in "programming" wouldn't subscribe to that channel, and will not be able to see geeky gibberish from me.

    Currently, with Twitter, Facebook and Google+, they have to listen to everything I say in my public stream.

  2. I agree with most of your observations and I think that Hangout is a wonderful tool and it works great.

    The comment about blog posts is interesting because I feel like if Google+ had something like Facebook notes than i can imagine people using them more like blog posts.

    +HRJ I would love to see the idea of channels, I have been trying to figure out a way to achieve the same result with circles but it just isn't possible, let me know if you post it as a feature request as i would gladly +1 it

  3. Yeah + 1 to channels too, hopefully google is looking into something like this!

  4. @Stoyan and @Neil

    Have posted about the channels idea here:

  5. yeah. I hope Google was into it.