Posts Tagged ‘Google+’

A link: online and offline social networks

There was plenty of discussion in response to my previous post about Google+. James Bell linked  to this set of slides from Paul Adams, a chap who used to work at Google and is now with Facebook. The slides are a thoroughly sensible deck about how social networks ‘work’ online and offline, the fact that we are not uniformly ‘friends’ with everyone we meet (i.e. here is the case for the Circles of Google+), and implications for design.
View more documents from Paul Adams
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First impressions of Google Plus

What follows are some very early impressions of Google Plus, the latest of Google’s socially-oriented tools. After Orkut, Buzz and Wave, there have inevitably been a few “Here we go again” type comments, but Google+ does feel different.

Firstly, the interface isn’t the confusing wasteland of WTFness that was Wave. Secondly, people are talking about it and signing up, which is more than can be said of Buzz, or of Orkut outside Brazil and, I believe, India.

Just as we needed to learn a new vocabulary with Facebook (the wall, liking etc), so we have new terms here. There are some interesting new features: ‘sparks’ (subscribing to updates about key words you specify); ‘hangout’ (group video chat); and ‘circles’.

I find myself especally interested by ‘circles’, a way to let you classify your contacts by groups such as Family, Friends, Acquaintances and Following. Of course, human relationships are layered in multiplicity to say the least, and cannot simply be dropped into buckets. Nonetheless, this is a hell of an advance on Facebook’s naive attempt. After all, on Facebook I am ‘friends’ with my husband and ‘friends’ with people I met once at a conference — c’mon, people. Really?

(More nuanced comments, particularly on the circles facet, are here.)

Also, the timing ain’t bad. Concerns about Facebook, privacy and the transparency of FB privacy settings have never been higher. I find their privacy settings incomprehensible (and if I can’t deal with it, with a PhD in Computer Science, then there must be something wrong)… and of course it is oft-cited that the FB privacy policy is now longer than the US Constitution. (XKCD perhaps does the best job of capturing this feeling.)

I’m not saying I trust Google 100%, but I trust ’em more than Facebook.

Inevitably I’ve focused on my own priorities in this post — I have for a long time had mixed feelings about Facebook’s failure to address types of relationship, and about the privacy issues. (Also about the lack of access to my own data. I was delighted to see that G+ offer ‘data liberation’: if I choose to leave, I can take my images and other materials with me. Good!)

There’s plenty of stuff out there about the functionality and first impressions, but as an aside here’s an alternative take on whether Google are taking the right tack in the first place. The point made is that it’s the questions we ask, not ourselves as people, that are central to Google: that perhaps they should help us search the plethora of user-generated content online rather than focusing their energies on G+. A fair comment, but I’d be astounded if both of those items aren’t reasonably high up the Google priorities right now.

I’ve only been on there for a little over a day as yet, but so far, so interesting. Whatever’s happening with Diaspora?