Google+ and the Interest Graph

I’m not sure I’d explain it the way that Chris Messina does here, but I think he’s right to question what’s going on with Google+ these days. I do. 

Here’s Chris’ conclusion: 

Whereas Pinterest helps you express your aspirational self, Google pigeonholes you into what you already are, based on your previous search activity. This is where improving the data that Google has about you — in turn trusting Google as a steward of that data—changes the nature of the conversation by making it less about “privacy” and more about empowerment. While some people will freak out (as they always do), this would be a bold, productive, future-forward direction to take.

I think he’s hitting on something here, but I would describe it as helping people to play a more active role in managing not just their interest graph, but their shared interest graph. 

Let’s face it. Facebook grabbed the social graph that matters – the one that connects us to our existing friends and family. That was a lost battle day-one for Google. Instead, it should have been 1000% focused on helping people to build a rich information network around the things we care most about – our interest graph – and then to use that interest graph to connect us with new people who share those interests with us – our “shared interest graph.”

That strategy would have completely supported the company’s search business and built up on its strengths and its mission to to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

In one of Dave Besbris’ most recent interviews, it seemed as though I was hearing something that mapped more to this kind of focus, but the reality, the harsh reality, is that innovation on Google+ has pretty much crawled to a snail’s pace of late. And that is a real shame. There is so much value here, and so much potential that has yet to be unlocked. 

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207 thoughts on “Google+ and the Interest Graph”

  1. Lots of reasons, Craig Burton​. There is clearly an active core of users here, but for this network to build sustained and more intensive engagement beyond that choir, it needs to build a more compelling and different set of use cases than what Facebook had built. Right now I would say that best bet is around connecting people and ideas or interests. The bulk of that investment today is on communities, and to be frank, there’s a lot to be done there to build rich community in the bigger communities where most new users tend to aggregate. The moderators still need better tools for building and recognizing engagement and contribution.

    The opportunity to connect around the interest graph shouldn’t just be limited to communities, however. A it of the infrastructure is already here (things like hashtags, search, recommendations for new people to follow, etc.), but it’s just not tied together in tight, compelling use cases – in my opinion.

  2. Instead, it should have been 1000% focused on helping people to build a rich information network around the things we care most about – our interest graph – and then to use that interest graph to connect us with new people who share those interests with us – our “shared interest graph.”

    This quote perfectly describes how I have used and benefited from Google+. Maybe I am unusual in that doing this was easy for me. What is missing that makes you say “it should have been”?

  3. Alan Dayley it’s not obvious to the average user how you make those connections.

    What we’re saying is that Google could have used its skills to build something compelling that many would want to use. But instead they just built something “good enough” for us hard core users who get it. But the average person has little incentive to cone here.

  4. Gideon Rosenblatt But i must also say that very often just the people who demand more “engagement” and complain about less innovation on G+ are the ones who are too lazy (or too busy) to deal with the platform’s specific conditions.

    I mean, take Chris Messina’s stream: 130K followers, he follows not even 2K. A few posts since summer, a lot of them posted into his own small community (i mean, hey, they are also other Cocktail Communities on G+, no?).

    Reshares, yes a few, but nothing “special”, a lot of me-too posts. 

    I searched for to see if he’s active on other people’s posts and participates in a few discussions – nada, though i scrolled down to May.

    I really don’t see where he’s (quote) “working on something” here on G+, from my and the algorithm’s POV he is, in fact, a nobody. No #ConnectingTheDots , no “authority”, no attraction …

  5. Yeah, it’s kind of a long story, Alan Dayley. I’m not disagreeing with you. I use it that way too, and it’s largely why I’ve invested here rather than on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Twitter. This race was Google’s to lose really, only now I think Twitter’s shown that it’s able to hold strong in the face of the threat from G+ on this front, and clearly LinkedIn is doing some really smart things when it comes to connecting people around shared interests. 

    At some point, I might invest the time to pull together my recommendation, but after having done that many times in the past, I’ve kind of lost interest, as it feels a bit useless in terms of actually shifting the platform at this point. Here was some thinking I did on this problem from a while back though. Much is still relevant, though some of it’s now out-of-date:

  6. This is key:

    But this was all wrong. By starting off on a defensive footing, Google+ didn’t defiantly stand for something special in the world. Instead it defined itself by what it wasn’t — i.e. Facebook — though it was positioned internally as chasing after their success. And while Facebook executed a bold, ambitious (and uncomfortable) plan to create a “more open and connected world”, Google+ confusingly claimed to be rethinking real-life sharing on the web, with “nuance and richness”, even though we clearly hadn’t figured it out. Indeed, our solution (Circles (read: “lists”) put the onus on the user to manually curate groups of people — a great concept in theory, but too arduous and awkward in practice.

  7. Yeah, Bernd Rubel, I just don’t think you looked back far enough in time. Even go back a year or so and you’ll see he was way more active. I think Richard Harlos’s probably right.  

    You probably know this already, but Chris was one of the original sources behind the G+ vision. He’s not just some random guy complaining…

  8. Chris has expressed eloquently the thing that has pained me about Google+ for a long time now, and I’m only just recently facing up to it and being ready to talk about it: the complete “meh” of what should have been amazing.

    He’s right. It is severely disappointing after three years to realize that Google apparently had no grander vision than building another Facebook. And who needs another Facebook? 

    What Google should have done is what he’s saying: take the bold step of saying “come build your online identity around our profiles and we’ll help you do amazing things with it. We’ll help connect you to people and places and information you could never get otherwise.”

    Instead we just got a Facebook that’s only fun for geeks to play with. 

    It’s why I’m spending more of my energies on LinkedIn these days. LinkedIn still has huge inadequacies, but at least they are trying to innovate, trying to experiment with new ways to use intelligence to help people connect with other people who will matter to them.

  9. Richard Harlos I’m frankly tired of fighting for this platform if its own people won’t fight for it. 

    A couple of weeks ago I spoke at SMX Social Media on “Google+ (Still) Matters.” I did it because my friends at SMX invited me to come, and the topic was assigned. They were trying to have sessions on all the major social networks, and they needed someone to cover G+. It’s getting harder and harder to find anyone who will bother. 

    My heart wasn’t fully in it but I gave it the old college try. I put together my best possible defense of why G+ still matters. 

    Frankly, I’m used to having great reactions to my conference talks. This one got maybe six tweets, and four of those were jokes about Google+. 

    I’ll still be here and active for a long time to come. I still get tremendous value out of this platform. But I’ve got more valuable things to do with my time and career than try to convince people that they should come spend their very limited time here when Google itself isn’t really giving them any compelling reasons.

  10. Mark Traphagen, it is actually very interesting to hear this critique. I actually remember seeing some leak at the very beginning that talked about the initial impetus behind G+ being that “sharing was broken on the web” – and so this note from Chris seems to reinforce some of that. 

    I’ve always thought that sharing was just a much faster form of linking and that Google was really afraid that it would eclipse the linking we do in documents in terms of validating the quality of content. 

  11. Gideon Rosenblatt frankly I’m realizing that the signs were there all along. I remember now how frustrated I was with the early marketing of Google+. All the early ads did was promote things that a) people could already do on Facebook and b) weren’t going to do here because their friends were on Facebook and not here.

    Look at Google+ Events for an example. All its main setup was around friends connecting for things like parties and concerts, and then sharing their photos and experiences about those real life events. Except who ever used it for that? But that’s the way they kept promoting it. It’s like they never got it. This wasn’t going to be Facebook for people.

    I’m wondering if some of the people commenting here actually read Chris’s whole piece, and if they realize like you said that he is someone who was intimately involved with the creation of G+? His disappointment carries real weight. This should have been something different, something extraordinary, but it’s not.

    I remember in the early days we all thought it was just a matter of time before Google started rolling out the features that would help us connect to our interest graph. It just seemed the obvious thing they should do. And nobody was better equipped to do it than Google. But they never did. 

    At least Vic Gundotra used to talk about innovation. Our new leader Dave Besbris doesn’t even talk about Google+ here! He just posts photos. And Chris is right. As I re-read the  ReCode interview, it’s just a giant pile of meh. 

  12. Gideon Rosenblatt No, i didn’t knew that. But … July, June, May, that’s an infinite period of time on a Social Platform. I can delete 2K of my contacts on G+ tomorrow and my stream will change completely, within 5 minutes. In contrast to Chris Messina i don’t see where circle management on G+ is “arduous and awkward in practice” at all, for example, and i can hardly overview the activity in my more than 90 topic related circles.

    On the other hand i strongly agree with Chris’ points about G+ as an internet idenity service. I had several one or two discussions with Yonatan Zunger on this topic and still can’t believe that Google misses the opportunity to establish an optional user verification or internet identity system, based on the data and the connections they already have. A checkmark for everyone, if the virtual and real life identity match.

  13. Bernd Rubel “…still can’t believe that Google misses the opportunity to establish an optional user verification or internet identity system, based on the data and the connections they already have. A checkmark for everyone, if the virtual and real life identity match.”


  14. Bernd Rubel that was my dream for Google+, and I thought Authorship confirmed they were going that direction. But they bungled that by a) making authorship too cumbersome to set up for the average person and b) providing no real compelling reason to build a rich Google+ profile as my primary web identity engine that I’d want to point everything else to.

    Sure a minority of us who got it went ahead and did that anyway, but the vast majority of Interenet users were never given a compelling reason to do so.

    That’s what Chris Messina is arguing for: that Google should have come right out and said: give us your verifiable identity and in return we’ll create awesome connections for you. But instead they hid all that behind “hey look, we built another Facebook for you!”

  15. Mark Traphagen I had the idea that users who are already verified can verify the identity of others, like a snowball system. At least three verifications (plus your URL, your credit card info from the Play Store, your e-mail, etc.) – and whooops you get your checkmark. “Yes, this is my husband/wife, yes this is my colleague/boss, yes this is my friend, …”

    Make it optionally public, this would be a real connection between the virtual and RL layer, something that people still miss here, compared to Facebook. It could also help to prevent bullying, identity theft, etc. etc.

  16. All great thoughts and observations.

    My experience as a Helpout provider is a more stark example of the missed opportunities, now that I read the thoughts here and rethink things.

    The Helpout system could have been and still could be an amazing platform to not just connect people based on interest but to drive commerce. Google’s strategy with it seems to consist of creating the platform and then cheering on the service providers to make it grow. This is not enough. Even people quite active on Google+ and who use Hangout often have never heard of Helpouts. Without Google directly marketing such services it is relegated to be very niche.

    Maybe that is what Google wants from Helpouts and Google+. They don’t need to have all the data from everyone, just a reasonable sample size, in order to understand where search and ads should be going.

  17. Mark Traphagen, yes, that’s a big part of the frustration I’m feeling. It’s like there were two sets of architects building this network. The original set seem to have had some real vision for something that was different, but then as they ramped up the hiring to build things out, that vision was quickly diluted by a next wave of people who probably just found it much easier to simply copy an existing strategy.

    I have no proof of this, of course. It’s just a feeling, but the things Chris says in the article and other little things I’ve picked up over the past few years seem to point that way. Plus, the service just kind of feels that way. The circles thing might have been something very interesting. Search might have been something very interesting. Sparks might have been something very interesting (remember that one?). Comments might have been something very interesting. But then, it’s like some additional layer just got plastered on top, mucking it all up with blue and white Facebook veneer that made no strategic sense. Many of us who used the system heavily could see it. It’s so painfully obvious. We kept at it. We stuck our necks out, in many cases putting our reputations on the line publicly, all in the hope that what was so obvious would eventually be picked up by Google itself. 

    I’m not saying I regret my time here. The “bones” to this place are really pretty solid. Most importantly, at this point, I’ve met amazing people (like you, for instance), and I’ve learned a ton here from those people. I learn way, way more here than any other online place. And that’s part of the frustration. I have great conversations with really smart people. And I just wish I could open it up more to include all the other people who I just know would really enjoy it here if the ramp weren’t so steep and there were greater confidence from people on the outside that the network will still matter in five years from now. I recognize this feeling from having played on a couple losing sports teams. It doesn’t feel good. Last spring, I was already feeling like I might have picked the wrong team, and the announcements that happened then just reinforced that sense for me even though I understood the larger context for the company. As a result, I’ve lost some of my passion for being here. I get it back now and again, but the original fire has definitely diminished.

    As you noted, we all have limited time and we need to be smart about where we invest it. Perhaps that’s what’s so frustrating. I just wish Google could help make it more of a no-brainer to double down here. But lately, it just doesn’t feel that way to me. 

  18. I share my disappointment in the users, especially most of the g+ celebrities, that in my opinion stifle innovation in conversation here. I share Craig Burton​ opinion that the tools are here, but that the conversation surrounding how to best use g+ has had the effect of stagnating the most valuable aspects of g+, or at least piled it under a ton of shit.

  19. Alan Dayley​ I disagree with your Helpouts by Google​ assessment; go into the Analytics developer site and look at the new integration. As that service gets expanded I believe you’ll see a much much bigger interest in Helpouts in the near future.

  20. Alan Dayley​​​ I remember seeing the Helpout ads at the beginning, but I had actually completely forgotten about it till now. I fear that’s a common thing for Google to do. Promote it briefly with a couple of videos and posts, and then let it run its course, even though some products like Sparks and Helpouts could / could’ve benefitted from a prolonged exposure to keep introducing new groups of people to it.

    Features I miss from the early days:

    Sparks. Even though it was implemented in a too cumbersome way (hidden in its own module instead of being able to make it part of a circle or homestream), I liked the idea of following topics instead of people. It sort of set G+ aside from Facebook, by focusing on interests instead of people.

    Stream of people that follow you. It was a handy way to see which of your new followers shared interests with you, which ones were spammers and should be muted/blocked/reported, and which ones were just silent followers. Bring that back with quick ways to mute/hide people that don’t interest you, and report spammers with a single click, and you have an interesting tool to potentially reduce spammers, and increase interaction.

    Photo details such as histograms. While we still have the various embedded IPTC/Exif meta data, I miss the handy/interesting histogram view we used to have. Bring that back, and give us options to search for specific metadata as well, so we can look for other pictures taken with a specific brand of camera, certain kinds of long/short exposure pictures, or photos of the same photographer (when shared by someone else).

    Simple photo editing tools that work on all platforms. While the new editing tools might be powerful, I don’t like not being able to use it on browsers / gpus that lack the support for the hardware rendering.

    A single search for hashtags and keywords. It’s rubbish that searching for a hashtag now opens the explore view instead.

    Saved searches, even though here are browser extensions to replace it.

    Link previews. Well, I should say ‘missed’, because it’s great to see they recently actually brought this back!

    Bernd Rubel​​, you say you don’t find G+ circle management cumbersome. I do…

    – You can’t quickly toggle the ‘volume’ of multiple circles at once.

    – You can’t merge circles.

    – The web interface is slow, and focuses too much on drag’ndrop, while lists with checkboxes and action buttons would’ve been been far quicker

    I try to avoid circle management as much as possible. I tried redoing my circles and especially their volume, a while ago, but had to stop because it was too slow and too timeconsuming. Sure, it works fairly quickly if you just add people and watch individual circke streams, but if you want to do some serious ‘maintenance’, it becomes cumbersome.

    Also, circles don’t quite reflect topics. People will post about different things, and while I might put someone like Debashish Samaddar​​ in my photography circle, it doesn’t mean my photography circle as a result will just contain photography posts, as he, and the others in that circle, obviousky have other interests as well.

    I’d love if people were able to tag their posts with categories, and allow me to put that person’s categories/interests in a circle. Allowing me for instance to follow Google+​​’s posts about new features to Google+, but not have to see the useless crap about ‘celebrities’ holding hangouts or joining some kind of other uninteresting event.

  21. Gideon Rosenblatt I agree with you. The shared interest graph (and a sentiment graph being built around it) is what Google is focusing on with Google+. The problem with the approach, which Chris Messina touches on, lies in that you do not see a lot of things happening. It requires building a bunch of things, integrating them and then waiting to see how people will use them and what the data will show you. This means that we have to wait to see some results (many of which will impact search) and the development of our online identity takes time. In the meanwhile all the other social networks focus on a seeming simplicity for their existence which makes it easier to understand them, though not as easy to understand what they really are trying to do. 

  22. Thanks for sharing my post Gideon Rosenblatt — I’ve really appreciated the conversation here. I really have the sense that you guys understand what I’m talking about — as you’ve been here as long as I have.

    First, Bernd Rubel — I appreciate you looking back at my history here on Google+ to judge whether I know what I’m talking about. Looking back on my stream, no — you won’t see a lot of activity. You’re right: I did give up. I got completely fed up with Google+’s iOS app. It’s unusable. Meanwhile both Twitter and Facebook’s mobile apps (not to mention Instagram’s) continued to improve at a rapid clip (hence the chart in the middle of my post). Nothing from Google+. I got the feeling that the Google+ team had become a ghost town!

    I also tried to like the network, and while I worked on it, I did like it. Google+ is a solid desktop web product. It just never made the leap to mobile, or understanding the mobile paradigm (ironically, considering how much Android has improved in recent years). Google+ also lead the design renaissance at Google — until Android’s Material design eclipsed it. Why is Gmail’s Inbox using Material and Google+ isn’t? What happened to OneGoogle (i.e. the effort to unify all of Google’s design language, a la Apple’s flat design)?

    I have 63 circles. I’ve put all of the people I follow into one or more circle. I follow a similar amount on Twitter and Facebook. But I have had to put in far less work on those latter two networks to get value out. Furthermore, Facebook actually helps me sort my friends, contacts, and brands by suggesting lists to put people in. Google+ forces me to make a decision about which circle to put someone in every time. When I’m on my phone, I just don’t have the attention for that. The payoff just isn’t big enough. I expect to be able to create a connection on a network (follow, add, or invite), and then the network should figure out the nature of my relationship over time based on my interactions. Google+ has never done that — and yet it’s got some of the smartest developers and engineers on earth working on the same problem in search. Why haven’t these efforts been applied to the social/interest graph on Google+? When will that happen?

    The biggest thing that I want to reiterate here is that my complaints and concerns aren’t about features. Features come, and features go. Technology is always changing what’s possible, and what’s necessary. But what shouldn’t change, at least significantly, over time — is unifying vision. That’s what I want from Dave Besbris. I want to know where this network is headed, and what I should expect to be able to do for my 130K followers that I can’t do elsewhere. What are the guiding principles that make Google+ more trustworthy than the competition? Or in what way will Google+ help me build my following in the real world, through integration with real world screens and surfaces?

    It’s all well and good if Google wants to have a successor to Orkut and an excuse for you to articulate your relationships to other people and interests — but that doesn’t really interest me as a user, as an individual, as a technologist, or as a digital libertarian. I want a bold vision for a more connected Google that’s oriented around me. There certainly are building blocks in the existing platform, but staying still is death when it comes to building the future of digital identity systems.

  23. it is the curse of engineers and software developers that they feel compelled to change things that already work. Innovation is fine, but not just for its own sake. IMHO Google+ is working fine; no need to add “features” that ruin it.

  24. I think Chris Messina is right about most of it. The part that baffles me is the premise. Was g+ better under Vic? I oppose that view 100%. G+ had the worst case of NIH syndrome I’ve ever seen. That might have been fun for designers, but it made an incredibly brittle product. Orkut had groups and would suggest groups, and it had worked on a group management UX together with novice and power users. Was that even analyzed by the G+ team building circles? I doubt it. They were worried about the opacity of the drag and drop.

    Vic did a wonderful job of promoting the illusion of a vision. It was so good that even Larry bought it. But it was a second fb, no denying it. A second orkut, really, making the same mistakes we had already made again. There was no vision. It’s a cool product, sure, Google has amazing talent. You can tell there was no vision because Vic wanted to approve every single thing, like he was Steve Jobs. Had there been a vision, we’d just run for it.

    But now the Wizard of Oz has left and the company doesn’t have social okrs all over, so it will be pretty tough to keep up that pace… unless a legitimate vision develops. I do believe they can pull it off, though. I think g+ has a much brighter future ahead, but it will take a while to reassemble.

    Of course, I left g+ a long time ago, and Google a short time ago, so my opinions are just opinions.

  25. David Kutcher blame the users? and the “gurus”? Really? Do you realize you’re one of the latter (at least from the Helpouts side) and your comment shows it?

    I have been too, but the difference is, I’m willing to come clean now and stop pretending that this network is truly revolutionary for the average user.

    The problem here for many of us has been that we can’t take our early-adopter-geek-glasses off. Yes, we DO see the value here. We see the tremendous potential. But we should also be honest about two things:

    1) The average social media user can not be expected (nor should she be) to put in the tremendous amount of hard work that all of us have invested to mine the value from G+.

    2) The disappointment is not with what many of us understand G+ is under the surface (as elucidated by David Amerland above) but with what it could have been for the average user. And for me the greatest “could have been” that was missed was the opportunity to build an amazing automated interest graph:  an engine that intelligently figures out what you’re interested in and connects you with other people you never knew who share those interests.

    You need look no further than the little “people you may know” box that comes up in your stream, which almost always has people barely or not at all active on G+ but who are in your gmail contacts. That’s Google+ still trying to be Facebook 3-1/2 years after it lost that game. Still trying to beg you to get your college buds and Aunt Mary to come here.

    We’re not mourning the features that G+ has, many of which we all enjoy. (I for one disagree with Chris Messina about the G+ iOS app.) It’s the tremendous lost potential, and as Chris says, especially the lack of leadership and vision from the top that we see now:

    “The biggest thing that I want to reiterate here is that my complaints and concerns aren’t about features. Features come, and features go. Technology is always changing what’s possible, and what’s necessary. But what shouldn’t change, at least significantly, over time — is unifying vision. That’s what I want from +Dave Besbris. I want to know where this network is headed, and what I should expect to be able to do for my 130K followers that I can’t do elsewhere. What are the guiding principles that make Google+ more trustworthy than the competition? Or in what way will Google+ help me build my following in the real world, through integration with real world screens and surfaces?”

  26. Failbook is for the boring stuff from acquaintances and family. Google+ is for the cool stuff. If Google+ became mainstream, i.e., if all the Failbook acolytes migrated to Google+, then it would have failed. The identity stuff is baked into Google and Google Now knows me better than Facebook or Siri. I’m happy.

  27. Please don’t mistake my comments to think that I’ve switched over to a Google+ hater. Far from it. This is still my #1 network and where I get the best value. But that doesn’t negate my right to be a critic where I think criticism is warranted.

  28. To be fair, g+ includes some absolute gems. The photo functionality and auto awesome features in particular. But g+ has never felt like a community to me and never felt like it was truly focused on providing real value to it’s users.

  29. Filip H.F. Slagter, yes, yes, and yes. Much of what you are talking about could have been important seedbeds for something truly different here. Sparks might have been a powerful way for us all to share interests and it might have been superior to groups, had it been given a chance to breath and develop – especially had it been connected with hashtags, saved search and even with some of the interesting “curated search” experiments that have long since been buried here:

    But instead, I guess it was easier to simply copy what Facebook was doing with its groups feature. And now, G+ suffers from a stream fragmentation as people largely have to choose where to focus, communities or streams. It’s a social fragmentation that may seem like it’s not a problem for people who’ve joined in the last two years, but for those of us who remember what it was like before, it’s an issue that still hasn’t been solved fully. More background:

    I think there’s a partial fix, by the way, at least for being able to get a consolidated view of all of your communities:

    Also, circle streams are broken simply by the fact that they still seem to apply relevance filtering. If I’ve gone to the trouble of creating a circle and curating the people in it, then I want to see all of the posts from the people in that stream. Don’t filter people out just because I haven’t interacted with them lately. I put them there for a reason, and I know better than the algorithm in this case. For the consolidated stream, the relevance algorithm is great. But not for the circle streams. 

  30. Chris Messina, thanks for weighing in here, and for being the catalyst for expressing some things that I think clearly needed saying. 

    And to echo Mark Traphagen’s comment above, none of this is said out of “hate” for Google or Google+. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s because I care deeply about this network. I really thought it was going to be something different. I’m assuming that’s why you took the time and energy to write up your Medium post too, Chris. 

    I actually was really excited about circles because I’d come out of a CRM background and saw it as a low-end version of relationship management for the masses. But you’re right, Chris, it’s an idea that was just too hard to use…too much overhead. Why is it that Facebook can use the technology to come up with thoughtful suggestions for how to segment your friends, but there’s no real effort towards anything like that here? I personally invested a ton of time into circle management in the beginning and used it in some really interesting ways to help connect people around shared interests. But when communities came out, none of those circles seemed to make sense anymore and I stopped investing all the effort in curating them. Plus, there’s zero connection between circles and communities. All I use circles for now is prioritizing my relationships here into tiers. There could have been a really interesting marriage between Sparks (or just interests) and circles that could have been way better than communities, in my opinion.

    What communities are really good for is creating a sense of community or intimacy in a big, big place like this. John Kellden’s Conversation community is like that and there are others that are using the tool quite effectively for that. But most of the big topic-related communities are big spam bullseyes and could have been implemented much more effectively through another approach that wasn’t just copying FB. 

    And David Amerland, you’re right and thanks for calling out this part of Chris’ post that I didn’t really touch on. There is so much backend information being collected on us that we don’t really know about or understand. Much of it is probably accurate, but I’m guessing much of it is not. I’m guessing it’s not, because I really have no idea what’s been collected. Implemented in a smart and sensitive way, Google’s assumptions about what my interests are could have been really useful – both for users and for the company itself. All this effort is going into quality control for the Knowledge Graph, but hardly any into QA for the interest graph. That’s an area where Facebook is going to kick Google’s ass, if left uncorrected. 

  31. On your last paragraph Gideon Rosenblatt, I think that is why we get the “we’re happy with It” comments for Besbris and other Google brass. It is working from the standpoint of a data collection system. And maybe that’s why they don’t give a flip anymore about true innovation for users.

  32. Mark Traphagen​​​ I blame the users that look at and use g+ as a SEO/content marketing channel. That single use or mentality shapes much of the conversation, or lack of conversation, in this network, stunting it if not perverting it.

    If there weren’t any SEO benefits to using g+ or sharing your links, think about how different the content would be? If doing a large image share didn’t push plus ones to the link in the post text, how different would posts be?

    I’m far from a guru, at most I have subject matter expertise that many people acknowledge. I don’t look to the network to change any more than I believe any other Google product will move at the pace of development that I feel they should (look at Blogger for example). But how we put the blank slate of any Google product to use is on us and what we bring to the table.

    More so than any other network, google+ has done more for my networking, and the most for my new business development. The Allies I’ve made here, as well as friends and clients, are stronger than the one I’ve made on other networks. I don’t expect “miracles” and understand that it’s on me to network within the strengths and limitations of the space.

  33. Great perspective, Eli Fennell. Thanks for sharing that. I agree with your take and think that the challenge will be in managing the tension between the stream of content from the social graphs and the interest graphs as they span Inbox and G+. 

  34. David Kutcher, I’m seeing a really big pushback these days against the whole “SEO Guru” thing, and while I understand where a lot of that is coming from, it seems to me that it’s fairly simple for people to address that by changing who they follow here. Don’t like someone marketing their content here, well, stop following them or put them into a circle with lower relevance. Sure, their stuff may still pop up occasionally on “what’s hot” or just randomly in the stream, but I guess I’m just not getting all this heat that I’m seeing these days on this front. If this network is having perception problems with the public, it’s not at that level of nuance where the general public sees G+ as the social network for SEO consultants. Heck, most people don’t even know what an SEO consultant is

    I think it’s important for people to be able to critique the vision and feature sets here without it upsetting other people who are happy with the service – or the people who work here. Yes, you and I have both built a nice community of people who provide us with great support, insight and friendship. But that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine ways in which this service can’t be better, more meritocratic, better connected through shared interests, etc. Some people are going to naturally drift to these kinds of conversations. For me, I’m fascinated by systems design, especially systems that connect information and people. And yes, these conversations are the ones that tend to generate a lot of conversation among certain sets of people, but I think that’s because: a) we’re naturally interested in this stuff; and b) because we’ve made big investments in this platform and are hoping it was a smart decision. 

    If there’s not enough other types of conversations happening here, I don’t think that’s the fault of the people who are having those conversations, it’s the fault of the people who are not having the other conversations that you’d find more interesting. And really, it’s not their fault at all: the question is – why aren’t they here having those conversations? That’s really what the nut of the question is here. 

  35. Chris Messina I don’t think I’ve every had such a roller coaster of a read. I wanted to punch you… then I wanted to hug you… then I wanted to slap you… then I wanted to kiss you… then I wanted to buy you a coffee and hear more. 

    Maybe it’s mostly because I haven’t had my coffee yet before reading this. 

    But I have plenty of disappointments myself. Many of which Mark Traphagen Eli Fennell and a few others have stated. 

    I feel there’s a lot of things at play. Many layers to the onion. On the one hand, you have the best and brightest engineers in the world and a company with more resources than it could ever use up. But with those great strengths come great weaknesses:

    – Engineers are notorious for not understanding normal people

    – Engineers are notorious for building things that are too complicated for normal people

    – Normal people are notorious for avoiding things that are too complicated

    – Normal people also shy away from things that are “too” innovative (especially when their complicated to understand)

    – Normal people, in order to adopt something completely new, need to see some remnant of what they know/love/understand (ie. Facebook) before adopting otherwise it’s too foreign and scary or takes too much brain power to learn

    – Engineers can adapt, innovate, and build things 100x faster than normal people can keep up

    I think the fundamental problem that underscores Google+ (aside for a lack of laser-focused vision) was Google’s inability to create things that are both innovative and relatable to the average Joe/Jane. 

    I think Vic Gundotra and other members of the team knew this. And I assume that’s why they made as many compromises as they did. As a designer, I have to make these compromises frequently because I know that as much as I want to create something unlike anything anyone has ever seen before– those things don’t “work” for the majority of people. 

    So partner a lack of laser-focused, mile-high vision with the challenge of fusing complex new social tech to normies and you have a recipe for the ultimate underdog. 

  36. Gideon Rosenblatt​​ it’s not just the SEO gurus, I see it in the blogging communities I’m a part of. Rather than come in, discuss, and earn respect and an audience through conversation, this “use Google+ to earn SEO bonus” mentality pervades the Network. And not to pick on Mark Traphagen​​ but even the things that you are looking for, while not necessarily SEO targeted, are SEO related and feed into this mindset.

    Fuck SEO, I’m here for the interesting people I’ve met. I’m here for the conversation, not the quote graphics, inbound links, plus ones or authorrank. I’m here to build authority, not via so techniques and marketing, but through earned respect of peers.

    And in that I believe google+ is a great network. And I hope that as this upheaval continues, that it shifts out the shallow users from the real value players.

  37. Gideon Rosenblatt  – I see another person quoted the same one I just pulled – “Instead, it should have been 1000% focused on helping people to build a rich information network around the things we care most about – our interest graph – and then to use that interest graph to connect us with new people who share those interests with us – our “shared interest graph.”

    I’m pretty sure it was  designed to work that way.  The problem as I’ve always thought, is that people simply didn’t use it correctly.  One of the many possible reasons they didn’t is simple laziness; we are not used to having to invest much thought into our own physical social relationships.  The other big reason was (is) the inevitable comparison to, and copying the use habits  of FB.

    For example, if a person posts such a variety of topics that G+ can’t get a grip on your interests, they cannot show your posts to others with confidence.  Most people were not using hashtags consistently with this in mind. 

    Early on, the user numbers were low enough that G+ was more liberal about showing posts of people you’d circled.  Most users had nearly the same key popular folks in their circles.  While still significant, that is very different a few years later.

    Information bottlenecks & echo chambers have sprang up: the overly-focused on circle sharing/follower gaining, the quick-banning of those who disagree, the SUL Millionares, and the L/R political and religious/anti-theist factions.  All of these are closed gates to what used to be free-flowing information.

    I have never depended solely on G+ to connect me to others.  When I come to G+ to browse, besides narrowing down and viewing my own circles, I always do a few key topic searches (most recent) and read from there.  From a topic oriented perspective, the search browsing is almost always more productive.  You will get new people in these search streams, and you should add them as you go.

    Basically, Google can only take action on information you give them (as is brought out by the ‘privacy’ concerns).  One time is not enough.  It has to be very consistent and thoughtful.  Adding new people is critical to keep up.  Engaging posts about the topics you’ve centered on is too.  Of course, your own posts have to follow this pattern as well.

  38. While I can understand that Google+ staff such as Yonatan Zunger​ likely won’t be able to participate in this discussion, I do hope they actively follow this discussion and convey our sentiment to the rest of the team, and their ‘superiors’.

  39. I don’t think I have a particular axe to grind on this one, David Kutcher (aside from the fact that I do have a blog and occasionally share my articles here), so I guess I’m just curious about a couple things. 

    The first is that it seems to me that many of the supposed SEO benefits of being active here on Google+ have largely gone away, and really how big they were is still somewhat debatable, I think, even in the heyday. 

    The second is that, again, I don’t see the SEO stuff as the major polluters of the streams – at least not the ones I follow. I mean that stuff is there if you want it, but I do think that one of the things that works pretty well here is that you can tune it out if you so desire. 

    Maybe I’m just missing something here. It’s obvious that you feel pretty strongly about it. And you’re not alone. I know there are many pockets here that feel this way and it seems to have gotten a lot stronger of this least six months or so. 

  40. Great perspective, Malthus John. Really. When I was much more active here, that was the way I used the service too. Now, I’ve gotten lazier and don’t go to all that trouble. But I guess that’s the point. What you’re talking about really is some of the most interesting use cases for this network – connecting with ideas and people who care about those ideas. Can you imagine what this place might be if that design principle really were the organizing principle around which the whole thing was designed? There are tons of ways that the scenarios you’re describing could be made much easier and fun to do, so that they automatically pop up and surprise us and delight us with the unexpected. The data is there. Is it hard? Yep. Totally. But is there value, value that is different, I mean really different from what Facebook and Twitter offer? Yep. Totally. 

  41. A lot of great points already made (or repeated, since really many of us have been having these same discussions for about 2 years) all around, and interesting to see that even very pro-G+ people are no longer holding back on voicing their deepening frustrations.

    A few points that I feel haven’t been raised, for brevity’s sake bullet style:

    1) Eli Fennell is correct in that while Google was busy trying to take on the (old) desktop Facebook, Mobile happened in full force, which proves that usually when playing catch-up, one tends to fight the last war… ask MSFT about that…

    2) For anyone who isn’t aware, Chris Messina basically invented the #hashtag and helped build G+, so I’d be a little careful with accusing him of stuff a la “not using the product right” (even though Vic G. unfortunately put that anti-UX meme into circulation early on…).

    I am of the Dave Winer school of thought on this sort of thing: “A poorly designed system makes you feel bad for ‘only’ doing 95%, a well designed system is making you feel good for doing a mere 5%.”

    *Needing “Helpout” helpers, how-to manuals, etc. etc. was clearly always a VERY bad sign in that regard,* and also completely non-scalable. Your product should not depend on endless “tips and tricks” WORK to make it work. Count it as a semi-PR-coup for Google to convince some people that this was ever an OK state of affairs…

    3) I’ve said it to too many times before, but it cannot be underestimated how many times Google/G+ Team shot itself in the foot during the launch phase (BrandGate, Nymwars, etc. etc.) , with what I take to have been a design by committee approach, with Vic a very imperfect final arbiter despite his presumed passion and internal clout.

    One may think that these shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but I’ve always believed that *it set them on a path to playing catch up not just with Facebook (which was largely a mistake, as amply pointed out by various comments further up), but WITH THEIR OWN MISTAKES…*

    4) E.g. the SUL was most likely a reaction to the stalled launch momentum circa Fall 2011, the endless attempts at rejiggering the stream weighting a reaction to the inevitable massive Power Law Effect distortions that the SUL brought (on top of the naturally present effects from the Follow metaphor, all of the same things happened with Twitter before, which is why they are looking at similar 60-70% account abandonment rates…).

    5) Which leads to the semi-desperate, semi-bolt-on in feel Communities feature, which COULD have been a great stand-alone product to revamp Google Groups, IF 1) Google had not first trained all pre-Communities “era” users in using/tuning G+ totally differently, 2) hadn’t semi-shamefully buried C’s in the UI, and 3) had given C’s features beyond a (felt) circa 2009 level. Which is BTW why said Google Groups are still around… because they are still NEEDED, which should be telling you something…

    6) Incidentally, there is STILL no API for getting a stream of Community posts, not even READ (and no new G+ API development since mid 2012 incidentally, that’s 2.5 years, or an eon in Internet time…). You read that right: There is no way, even with elaborate scraping, to get more than 20 posts per Community Category out for further processing to make up for the many sort/filter features they are missing.

    7) To sum up, Google/G+ team again and again has erred on the side of “wow factor” (or engineer-y, world-unaware, OCD-ish) additions that often don’t gel with overarching, well-thought-out mainstream use cases, while leaving so much of the low hanging fruit to wither on the vine.

    One prototypal example already alluded to by Mark Traphagen further up: How hard could it have been to get a “verify account by Credit Card entry” thing going for Google/G+ accounts?! Well understood, completely scalable, never needed to even impinge on people’s privacy rights (vis-a-vis the public), and “real names” never needed to be (wrongly) FORCED, but could have been encouraged.

    Instead, the otherwise clearly uber-smart Yonatan Zunger created a “solution” that relied on algorithms to try and do the super-human feat of determining what was and wasn’t a real name, in the process pissing off and even harming a ton of people, and leading to one of the first negative PR fiascos for the G+ launch.

    All without need for the Interest Graph success of the product, asf. Google finally fully withdrew that feature this year, relatively quietly, almost ashamedly…

    *Meanwhile, most of the world switched to smartphone address book centric messaging services:*

  42. P.S. Two quick links/asides I took back out of the “already getting longer than intended” comment above:

    re: Chris Messina / #hashtags:

    If you want to see something spooky, go to Twitter’s new full backdata search archive, and look at tweets from 2006: No @ mentions, no hashtags, no links…

    re:Mobile, interesting slide deck from a16z’s Ben Evans on “Mobile is eating the world” if you haven’t seen it already:

  43. Here is a quick comment I made on Paul Beard’s reshare of this, where he was questioning the motivation for questioning Google/G+’s “finer points” (and he’s not usually one for not questioning…):

    “… what motivates it is what some of us feel is MASSIVE wasted potential. I don’t think you were here in mid 2011 yet, when G+ first came out so many of us had SUCH high hopes for it truly being something different/better. Kind of like a continuation of, and improvement on Friendfeed say (development stopped in mid 2009 due to FB aqui-hire of their very much top-notch talent including ex-Google’s Paul Bucheit and ex-Google, future FB CTO Bret Taylor…).

    Instead *it [for me all] turned kind of into a resigned sense that Google had fully corporatized,* which is something which I think you understand. Corporatist rationales were guiding the majority of the (largely ill-conceived) early decisions, and all of the political fiefdom/infighting apparently silenced/overrode more intelligent/sensitive internal voices including Chris Messina.”

    BTW, I realize that a good number on here were very positively inclined toward Vic Gundotra, maybe because his early presence and relative responsiveness (for a Big Corp Senior VP…) tickled people in a “we have the ear of important Googlers” sense. Honestly, once I heard that he was ex-MSFT in the first few weeks, my only reaction was “oh no, here we go”…

    Similarly for Bradley Horowitz, of Yahoo provenance incidentally, another Corporate horror show…

  44. Zittrain, Harvard law professor and author of Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, argues that the age of Generative Web, when the urge for flexibility outpowered the need for security, is gone. Maybe that is what complicates the process of capitalization on personal information.

  45. Dustin W. Stout thanks for those comments. I’m glad I inspired such diametrically opposed emotions. I felt the same way writing the piece; I wanted to elicit a response — I’m glad I did! But yeah, let’s try for a coffee rather than fisticuffs. 🙂

    Mohammad Memarian I hadn’t heard that about Jonathan Zittrain. That’s too bad. His thinking about the generative web has been hugely influential on me. If we’re past that era, then we really do have some soul searching to do on how to keep openness and innovation alive — from a collaborative and interoperability perspective.

  46. Hah Dustin W. Stout made a good point (that some Engineers may not understand how people behave). I’ve seen plenty of UI’s that are poorly designed. Makes me wonder if all that advanced math erased the part of the brain where common sense existed. LOL

  47. One of the best posts in a long time, also because of the comments.

    Allow me to add just a few things: The “Google+ Vision” is gone or it’s not communicated (well). Nothing gets done to become outstanding like e.g. being the social network where copyrights are fully respected. Instead more staff must be hired to remove all the infringing content, slowly and hopefully surely. Artists and authors don’t have the feeling that Google+ is on their side. Google+ lets circlejerks completely ruin the circles feature.

    I sometimes feel like we are a quite large group of children who received from Google over time more and more toys to play with. As it is with “new great looking” toys, you lose the interest to play with them quite fast unless there is more than just the toys itself.

  48. Chris Messina

    Thanks to you and Gideon Rosenblatt and all the participants to the discussion, I learnt a lot today 🙂 Just wanted to add a new way to look at things here.

    There is a useful analogy/counterpart in political sciences for what is happening in the online sphere. Not a long time ago, as the world had been relatively stable for a relatively long period of time, there was a surge in street sociologies, founded on anarchic grounds, that questioned the role the State as the sole legitimate source of coercieve power could play in the society. Those strands of sociological contemplations thought that since everything was relatively safe and life was going rather smoothly, we could rely on the self-regulating forces of the society. The advent of large-scale terrorist activities, both state-sponsored and stateless ones, discredited those sociological inclinations. In the online sphere, though subversive/malicious activities have been always present, they have never been organized or based on large-scale business models. Now that their threat is well sensed and experienced, we might need to sacrifice some of the flexibility of the generative web. However, the question of who should play the role of the state is open to discussion.

  49. Cada red social tiene su estilo, en Google + encuentro mucha información internacional , grupos definidos que respetan el título, casi nunca veo “spam”, es una alternativa cuando deseo conocer y aprender.

  50. You know, it’s been interesting reading some of the thoughts here from many people whom I admire a lot on G+: Mark Traphagen Dustin W. Stout David Amerland Bernd Rubel  among others.  I see the points y’all are making……..but…….maybe now you’re swinging too far to the other side of the pendulum?

    As we approach the end of 2014, which was (for me at least), the Year of Google+ as Marketing Tool, in which I spent a great deal of time AND money learning how to leverage G+ for my business Smiles by Payet Family Dentistry , I have spent some time reflecting on “what it all has meant.” 

    Overall?  It’s been incredible.  I’ve learned so much from many of the “gurus” here, and yes, I believe that I can see Google+ benefitting my dental practice.  It’s had a tangible, measurable ROI, although I suspect the intangible ROI has been far greater, but since I can’t measure it, that’s a guess.

    The flip side?  I’ve come to not enjoy spending as much time on G+ as I used to do.  It’s become too much work, not as much fun.  

    And that’s what I am going to change in 2015.  I plan on letting a lot of the “work” part of G+ go, and just get back to enjoying the unique communities of people I’ve met here, like the “deep thinkers,” the scientists, and the photographers.

    All this stuff about innovation?  Google+ missed the mark?  Shoulda/coulda/mighta done something different/better/other?  Want to know my thoughts on that?


    I’m just a regular old user.  Sure, I’m more of a “geek” than your average Joe, which is probably why I fit in here better than any other social media platform.  But so what?  I don’t care about all those other networks.  LinkedIn?  For me as a dentist – completely useless.  Twitter?  Nothing more than a way to get my links out there.  Pinterest?  Nothing more than a way to appeal to the female demographic for my business. Instagram?  Who cares?  Facebook?  As a business marketing tool, it’s dead except for paid ads.  The only thing I get out of FB is connections to my friends and family and colleagues.

    For me, bar none, Google+ is the best social media network out there.  Could it be better?  Duh, of course it could!  But does that detract from what it IS?  Nope, not one single little bit.

    My 2 cents, for whatever it’s worth.

  51. Charles Payet despite my disappointment about Google’s missed opportunities (so far) i sign almost every word you said. On the other hand, our enthusiasm for the platform makes the disappointment even worse :-).

  52. Bernd Rubel but disappointment is an emotion of choice.  I choose to enjoy what it is, rather than worry about what it isn’t.  Especially since I have no control over either.  🙂  And what it is… awesome to me.

  53. Charles Payet I think that most of the people you mentioned – and also me – still have the perception that we can influence the evolvement of G+, more or less. That someone listens, sooner or later.

  54. Well, I guess it’s politics, religion and now critiques of Google+ that are sure to stir interest and controversy. 

    Clearly, breaching this topic can come off as overly geeky, obsessive, detached from most people’s real concerns, and even ungrateful, know-it-all-ish, or arrogant (I heard that implied in shares of this post and this article more broadly). I’ve even seen people attacking Chris personally for this – many with no clue about his key role in building this place in the first place. It’s a shame, really.  

    For my part, I share this kind of stuff occasionally in the hopes that it provides constructive feedback to Google. I have no idea whether anyone’s actually listening these days. But I really do believe, and on a deep, deep level, that this topic does matter. The way we build and operate our social and information networks shapes our economy and our society. 

    This isn’t about building SEO advantage. This is about ensuring that our society has a viable, competitive alternative to Facebook and that we have networks that really meet the needs of people. Right now, in my view, Google+ is still our best bet for achieving that. 

    That’s why I care so much. And I think it’s healthy to have some people continuing to ask questions about how things work here. 

    So, have some patience with me and others who ask tough questions of Google – especially when our investments demonstrate that we’re obviously deeply committed to its success. 🙂

  55. He is so right on in so many ways – it is unfortunate that Google will listen to him as a former employee far more than they will ever listen to us.   A few of the many good points here – that Besbris interview that got widely shared and praised here said nothing – absolutely nothing, and I thought I was the only one who thought so. 

    The second was his estimate that they have 3,000 employees working on Google+  – seriously – what the hell are they doing?   There hasn’t been anything remotely resembling innovation in years here.    Can you imagine the burn rate – consider how much Google employees get paid and their benefits.  This for a system that doesn’t really make any money for Google – I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t starting to look like a rat hole to the executives there.

    If there is a vision here, I sure don’t know what it is. I 

  56. Great conversation guys.

    I have a theory that the lack of communication from Dave Besbris is more along the lines of Matt Cutts extended vacation from the webspam team.

    If you read the post it states that Being Google’s “Lightning Rod” For Unhappy SEOs Might Not Be Productive as a role for Matt. It seemed that Vic had the same position, it was more about Vic and Dave not being Vic than anything else.

    As a publicly traded company I think Google have had bigger issues to deal with to satisfy the most important people to them, the shareholders. Mobile advertising revenue has become an accidental success story for Facebook and Google probably let the opportunity slip through their grasp.

    I agree that the pace of evolution has not been what I would like. But, this is not an innovate or die situation for Google.

    They didn’t buckle to the pressures to open up the API, they didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. I agree with that sentiment, even though I could see a bunch of improvements that users and brands could make by having a writeable API.

    I think Google deferred the promotional activity to the evangelist in our midst, many of whom have posted on this thread. That concerns me more than anything Google has done/not done. If the evangelist defect then we could be in trouble.

  57. I intentionally stepped back from this conversation for the past couple of days as I knew how absorbing it could get for me, and I wanted to be truly present with my family for the holiday.

    Interesting to read how it’s developed now on a Monday morning. A few thoughts of my own from the weekend of mulling over Chris Messina’s posts and the early comments here and elsewhere:

    1) There has been a strong backlash at Chris’s post and at some of us who (largely) agree with it, mostly based in “we like it; it’s good enough; you’re overthinking it.”

    I want to make clear that I’m sure that most of us who are saying Chris has some valid points like it here too. In fact, we love it as much as you do, if not more! But I don’t see where we checked a box promising to never critique the thing we love.

    2) As with Chris in his essay, we do expect more from Google. This is the moon shot company. These are the people who truly revolutionized search, making almost all of the worlds’ information instantly accessible to almost anyone. These are the people who are inventing driverless cars and trying to bring Internet to the remotest regions of the earth. Should we just expect another “me too” social network from them? Did the world need another “me too” social network?

    3) On a larger scale, perhaps our disappointment isn’t just with Google, but with the Internet in general. Yes, the world wide web has been revolutionary and disruptive. Yes, it’s changed the way we do everything…but not as much as some of us would have expected. With some notable and hopeful exceptions, most of the Internet has settled into just being a faster and cheaper way of doing the same things we always did.

    4) So, we think that Google has the capacity–in terms of resources, intellectual power, and inventive spirit–to do something with a social network that no one had seen before. 

    So that’s why, though we love this places and what we’ve found here, and will continue to love it and use it, we can at the same time be sad for what might have been.

  58. BTW I agree with whomever above speculated that the positioning of Besbris at the helm post-Vic has strong analogies to the New Cutts. Some of us observing the Matt Cutts developments think his extended hiatus wasn’t entirely his idea, that he might have been told by higher ups that having an interactive lightning rod for Search turned out to not be benefiting Google all that much. 

    Perhaps Vics accessibility and willingness to at least talk about the platform proved to be equally doing more harm than good.

    So….why is Google+ still around? Why does everyone connected with it still, and the higher-ups at Google who will say anything all insist that it is here to stay and that they are happy with it?

    I don’t think they’re lying. I think Google+ really is “good enough” for Google. For one thing, the idea that it doesn’t make money for Google is false. I’ve had Googlers confirm to me privately that Google+ way more than pays its own way. How? I suspect mostly from how it contributes to better ad targeting through personalization. If Google+ is successful at anything, it is probably as one of the greatest examples of indirect monetization ever devised.

    And that’s what’s sad for those of us who love this platform. If it’s “good enough” as it is, then the incentive isn’t there, neither to kill it nor to innovate it.

  59. “Let’s face it. Facebook grabbed the social graph that matters – the one that connects us to our existing friends and family. That was a lost battle day-one for Google. “

    Absolutely. Google+, for better or worse, has that “elitism” patina that is really hard to shake off. It is like G+ has the attitude that it is only for “smart” people and all the riffraff can just go over to Facebook and leave it alone.  

    Sorry if I’m being harsh, but this is my impression. G+ needs to figure out how to tone this down if it is to attract more users.

  60. Mark Traphagen _ But instead they just built something “good enough” for us hard core users who get it. But the average person has little incentive to cone here. _

    Ding, ding, ding! 

    Google Wave was something that the average person could understand, once they figured out how it all worked.  I loved it and used it a lot.  It is such a shame that missteps doomed this product.

  61. I have no idea whether anyone’s actually listening these days. were we not supposed to have ‘community managers’ around? Gideon Rosenblatt Whatever happened to them/her?

  62. The community managers have a culture of non-transparency like everyone at Google.   On another thread Mesina mentions that Google uses “Darwinism” for its projects.   I wrote a long letter to several Google employees asking if the fate of the large communities was supposed to be Darwinism also – because I had heard comments to that effect – that we would eventually get picked apart by the smaller communities and everything would be fine. 

    Google’s version of Darwinism is different than ours however –  if their project gets cancelled they may even get a bonus and keep their astronomical salaries.   If they cancel or neglect something we have used for building here, we just lose

  63. Yes, Denis Labelle, this part of that post is particularly interesting: 

    Today’s list isn’t yet personalized. At first personalization will be “lite” – users in different regions and languages will get different recommendations. But per above, we intend to allow people to deeply personalize and connect with like-minded people that create great content around almost any topic they care about. Just as Google Search helps connect you to web pages about almost anything, Google+ should help connect you to people who deliver content you’ll find interesting – on any subject. Stay tuned!

    There did seem to be a short period of time when there was something like an SUL-light, some of which may have been automated (I’m still not sure though). I know a number of people who had significant gains in their followership as a result of this, but then it seems to have stopped. I just haven’t followed it all that closely. 

    I think the bigger opportunity, and it’s what I’m getting at w/ regard to the shared interest graph is that that kind of investment really should be a core feature set here. Building network density in ways that are not heavily centralized is really important to the success, to the resilience and to the overall level of engagement that an average user is going to have here. 

    In a world where you bring your own friends to the network, you don’t need to worry about making connections between people. But that opportunity is gone. Facebook got it and two of those kinds of networks just fragments, so it detracts value. But in a world where you are making new connections, based on shared interests, well suddenly, that ability to connect people isn’t just a nicety – it’s an absolute necessity, a core feature. 

    This isn’t about a top-down, hand-picked SUL, and it’s not about a system that picks a few thousand people. I’m talking about a system that connects everyone in the network with people like them, not just the rock stars. Hard to do? You bet! But that…that is where there is immense value – and, from Google’s perspective – quite possibly sustainable competitive advantage in the field of social networks.  

    That’s my sense any way. 

  64. Gideon Rosenblatt Chris Messina Mark Traphagen Eli Fennell +(many others): I hopped on to G+ in July of 2013, so I was definitely a late arrival to the platform.  So I am only 16 to 17 months in, makes me a newbie of sorts (compared to some of you).

    There are some fantastic things on this platform – I still maintain that it’s the best long form discussion platform out there.

    It’s principal problem, in my opinion, is that it fails the differentation test – those are my words to what others of you have said here. There is nothing different enough here to attract average users.  Hence, true scale never happens.

    Yes, supposedly, there are many hundreds of millions of users here, but on THIS platform, “that don’t mean jack” (sorry for the slang) if they are not actively interacting.  That’s what this platform design is all about.  Active interaction.  Bunches of people running around wacking plus one buttons once in a while does not really make it what we’d all like it to be.  We are here for in-depth conversations like this one.

    So as for me, like Mark Traphagen, I am not leaving G+, but my primary focus is going to be split between LinkedIn and Twitter.

  65. Number of real active users? (outside of the ‘hidden communities where Google used to claim all activity) Eric Enge 

    260 million? 100 million? 1 million?  If this was my $64000 question I would go for answer C. You?

  66. Chris Messina if you’re ever near LA/Santa Clarita – coffee is on me man! 

    I can’t stop reading this thread… great points by Mark Traphagen Eric Enge Eli Fennell and Denis Labelle. My eyes are melting though… lol

  67. Moritz Tolxdorff That’s great to hear. I’d love to be part of providing feedback to that (beta test, or whatever), if you’d be open to it. Others here in this thread certainly would be be as well!

  68. Yes, Moritz Tolxdorff, thanks for your note. That’s encouraging to hear, actually. Very. I know it’s hard to incorporate feedback when you’re dealing with this kind of scale, but you have here a pretty good collection of people who are willing to give straightforward, candid feedback, and out of a place of real concern for the future of this network. 

  69. Bernd Rubel With 3000 people working on G+? Every platform could do this with that kind of workforce.

    Do realize that’s 125 per time zone although the reality is that the US and Western Europe are overrepresented by a vast margin.

    The reality is that this thread so far went without response for days by any moderator. I appreciate Moritz Tolxdorff stepping in, but if that’s considered exemplary response you have never been on a good old forum.

  70. Max Huijgen what? Do you really think that all 3000 employees are tasked with monitoring all Google+ posts?

    Do you know anyone who ever got a direct response from a Facebook employee?

    I don’t. But I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times here.

  71. For all we know though, Max Huijgen, there may be a number of staff reading this, but just not feeling comfortable weighing in with public opinions. I totally get that. It’s tricky knowing how best to deal with feedback like this. 

  72. Moritz Tolxdorff you are such a tease at times! We realize that you can’t say what’s ahead (due to working for G), hope it brings about a new spark for those of us who have supported, nay defended this platform all along.

  73. I’m very impressed with the focused engagement here on Google+. Reminds me of the old days. That said, if Google+ excels at one thing, it’s giving people a platform to talk about Google+. * ducks *

    Seriously though, nested comments would be SOOO useful at this point. I’m so lost in this thread I just can’t keep up! Let’s start a Wave.

  74. Gideon Rosenblatt community moderators already have plenty of tools, but don’t use them. Successful communities are perhaps more about, well, community and culture rather than platform and tools.

    I simply refuse to invest my time in communities where moderators don’t mercilessly and promptly delete spam and offtopic posts, and tolerate emoji-only posts, inspirational quotes, or link litter. The community algorithms actually do an excellent job of detecting a lot of offtopic posts, not just spam.

    If I want to sift through low-quality content, emoji, and quotes, I can simply follow any low S/N ratio conversation on any social platform.

    As for the bigger picture of Google+, Google seems back to the time when bureaucracy was slowing down innovation, and many disappointed googlers left for Facebook or other companies more willing to work on something bold.

    Another thought. Google successfully figured design. Will it be able to figure what normal people care to use?

    Finally, in his post pointing to this discussion, Mark Traphagen wrote:

    Closing comments here to keep the discussion on Gideon’s post, where you can see my take (some of which, as Upworthy would say, may shock you!)

    I’m actually not shocked, that’s what I expect and appreciate from you thoughtful discussions.

  75. Paolo Amoroso The community moderation tools are almost worthless, and that is fine that you expect moderators to be at your beck and call, but it can be a thankless job with no real benefit that accrues to the moderator or “owner” of the community. 

    James Salsman The communities API is apparently some kind of placeholder they put there in case they ever want to build a real 

    API – it has no functionality that anyone could use.   Our community data is on complete lock down by Google.  I have tried everything I can think of to draw attention to this issue to no avail.

  76. What Communities API? I don’t see anything here.

    Then there’s the API issues tracker which is a write-only black hole.

    As far as I can tell there is no issues tracker for G+, nor any obvious forum or mailing list to discuss issues, problems and feature requests. The feedback form is another write-only black hole.

    Meanwhile there are features in the various mobile versions that aren’t available in desktop or mobile web  and vice versa. The most obvious being anything to do with location. Remember Latitude? It’s been a while now since that one was killed and the location features in G+ are still minimal. There were good features in Buzz that have never been replicated here even though they are fairly obvious. What’s most amazing for “The Search Company” is how poor search is in G+.

    Frankly, ever since Google Reader and Orkut were killed, Google gets no slack any more. If Google does nothing with G+ then it will turn into the ghost town that the MSM incorrectly described it as. And one day Google really will lose interest and kill it as well. So why should we invest any more time and effort into it?

  77. Gideon Rosenblatt

    It’s like there were two sets of architects building this network. The original set seem to have had some real vision for something that was different, but then as they ramped up the hiring to build things out, that vision was quickly diluted by a next wave of people who probably just found it much easier to simply copy an existing strategy.

    Every single product Google has feels like that. Take the Android system for instance: One day it’s open source all the way, working with the community, rapid developments, then the next day it’s a closed off system designed like Apple OS.

    Google+ starts out as a big way of merging online identities and opening up content based on interest, now it’s Facebook with less polish. Feedback on Apple at least gets you an automated email, occasionally even a response, while on any Google program from Chrome to G+ it’s simply a seeming waste of time.

    Seems the architects and engineers are getting overruled by the MBA paper pushers. Again.

  78. Keith Bloemendaal The power of personalization in Google+ (i.e. it’s impact on SEO) is quite real. That still matters to us.  However, we probably have a lot of that going for us already (keeping in mind we are a B2B business).

    Also, other social networks have a great deal of value too, just not SEO value.

    So neither of us is leaving G+, we will still be quite active here.  So think of it as rebalancing the effort load, not abandonment by any means. I still think  this is the place for actual conversation, and yes, the personalization-SEO benefits of G+ are still important.

  79. So that’s why, though we love this places and what we’ve found here, and will continue to love it and use it, we can at the same time be sad for what might have been.

    Reading this from you, Mark Traphagen, reminds me of when I wrote my very first big College writing assignment and I chose to write it about my coming to terms with the fact that my Dad was not the perfect person I had up on the pedestal all my life – he, too, was imperfect and human… a hard thing to write about because he was passing, and I knew it. It was something I needed to do though – before he passed I needed to examine him as a human with all his flaws because otherwise his death just wasn’t real to me.

    By no means am I trying to say that G+ is dead or dying – just that it’s important to see things for what they are so we can understand their true nature. It was hard to read one of the evangelists expressing what you’ve expressed, but I don’t believe that you’re wrong – I believe you’re right.

    What now?    

  80. Padraig Ó Raghaill um…that’s the stream you just commented in 😉

    Keith Bloemendaal, Eric Enge expressed it well. Neither of us is abandoning Google+ (far from it!) but we’ve been aware for sometime that we need to balance our social efforts, and also pay more attention to where our B2B brand is going to reach the right people (which seems to be LinkedIn and Twitter for us).

    But yes, the Google+ effect on personalized search is still real and powerful, but the trick is you have to build an engaged following for it to be most effective.

  81. Kristin Drysdale it’s actually a process I’ve been going through for months; it was just that this post made me finally “vent” it.

    I’m still frustrated that many marketers don’t get the benefits that are real on Google+, but more and more I can’t blame them. They are indirect and take a lot of extraordinary effort to implement. I’m still very willing to help our clients who do get the value to build effective presences here, but I’m just not as invested in spending hours fighting with every “Google+ is dead” post on the Internet.

  82. Keith Bloemendaal at the risk of derailing the thread….the strategy I’ve advocated is for a brand to create its own incentives for people to follow it on Google+. In other words, the brand should ignore that Google itself failed to bring audience here and do it themselves. 

    They can do that, for example, by posting unique and valuable content on their G+ page that they don’t make available anywhere else, then promoting to their audience elsewhere what they can get by circling them on G+.

    Self-building an audience is necessary because it is those people whose personalized searches you will then show up in.

  83. I need to come back to this thread later when I have time to discuss this matter. Personally I still believe that Google+ is the best social platform available by a wide margin and that it hasn’t seen it’s peak by any stretch. I’ve read several of the comments here and it appears that I am in the minority. 

  84. Ben Anderson actually most of us would agree that it’s the best…

    …but it’s best for us because we’ve been willing to work hard at it and use it to make valuable connections.

    But our point is it shouldn’t be that hard. The average person has no incentive to do what we did.

    Google+ may be “better than the rest” but that’s not enough when you entered the game as late as they did.

  85. So many good posts here. But eventually my ADHD-like brain had to stop.

    My contribution is this (excuse me for my not so advanced English):

    I gave Facebook a year, but from the beginning knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t go social to meet old friends and family. But I felt forced into “friend’ing”. Soon after comes Google+ and does the right thing from the beginning. Circles just worked for me. And still does. I have some permanent ones and some volatile ones. I pick new ones up, take out the people that I like and put them into permanent circles, then throw them away again. That’s brilliant! I didn’t find it hard at all. Then came communities. Great. I follow 20+ communities and they fill my stream with great stuff.

    Some may find changes needed here. I’m not one of them. But I may be just the right kind of dude for G+, as I take lots of photos and like technology news.

    Really I’m just average Joe seeing great posts and intelligent conversations without all the junk of other sites. The big SEO stars might be dissapointed if they expected miracles. For me G+ just hit the right spot. And continues to do, even without major changes.

  86. There are two sets of Google+ users: those who use Google Hangouts, and those who don’t.

    I’ve met wonderful strangers through Hangouts. I’ve joined hangouts about:

    Battle Rap

    Weight Watchers

    Steve Jobs’ death

    Co-watching Giants football


    Co-watching the BET Awards

    …and more.

    Again, all with cool strangers.

    G+ didn’t take off because video chatting with strangers never took off. All of the new Hangout features are for broadcasting, not “hanging out”

    And that’s the sad part of Google+. If they just gave it more time to invent the future we may have had teens keeping their webcams on all night just to stay in a Hangout.

    Do you use video Hangouts in a non-broadcast way, Mark Traphagen?


  87. Mads Thomsen One thing we know is that Google is cautious and sometimes painfully slow with updates… I’m reminded though by the old adage: Good things come to those who wait. =)

  88. Amazingly long conversation! Data point: G+ is, by far, the slowest loading app on my Android phone. It is as slow as a dialup Modem. I stare at its slowness in amazement.

    I have tried plenty of the features here. Events? Nobody responds to them. HOA? Had a couple dozen listeners. Community? a couple dozen signed up. In contrast, on Facebook I can do ten times as well.

    Not much of anybody responds to my posts whether they are about my “business” (in quotes because it is so arcane it will never succeed anywhere ever) or my sharing stuff that interests me. I keep my hand in mostly because of two or three people here that interest me.

  89. Hashim Warren that’s a very interesting observation. I’d say that most people don’t want to be in video hangouts with complete strangers, but WOULD want to be in them with pre-vetted groups of collaborators, etc. I have used hangouts repeatedly in such a manner to decent effect, even though I am overall very text-centric in my thinking.

    The problem is that gplus never had very good tools available for “work group” type posts/process, at least until the arrival of (private) communities, which was really too late to get that use case decisively off the ground.

    A private (pre-communities) post was only ever accessible through Notifications to non-owners, or personal bookmarking, and that was simply too indirect/rigged to work reliably.

  90. And Jane Peppler I don’t have any issues with G+ on any of my Android devices. Try clear cache or un-install/install the app. Unless you have a very old Android phone there should be no reason for it to be slow.

  91. Thank you for all the fascinating analysis in this discussion and thanks to all the Googlers and Xooglers for hopefully never giving up on chasing ideas that others consider impossible.

    Personally I wish Google+ was a wee bit more “googlely” than it is now. Even though there is a lot of googlelyness already when it comes to autoawesome and stuff like that, there is room for more…

    Let me explain: When I first discovered Google Now, it did not seem to do much for me but over time it has been learning a couple of nifty tricks that keep impressing me. It is far from complete, but most people love it. The system is rewarding you for using it!

    Is Google+ surprising and rewarding me the longer I use it? Some times it seems so, some times it does not. I am interested in almost everything except premier league soccer. I come here for knowledge, interesting trends, for meaningful discussions, hopefully for a little wisdom and for the occasional update and photo album from a friend. I also follow YouTube channels more often on Google+ than on YouTube.

    Google+ for me is a library where talking is not only allowed, but hightly encouraged. What if Google+ would become “the amazing endless knowledge discovery engine”? It would always gives you more about the topics you read, about related topics and related people? If Google is truly organizing the worlds information it should be visible on Google+.

    This would be the kind of Googlelyness I am looking for and it would be the real plus for a company who wants to make information and knowledge universally accessable. It would help people to learn, to think and to meet people who help them to do so. If at the end all my friends are here too, it might as well replace Facebook, but that is the end not the start of the story.

  92. Very good to find this conversation. 

    So many ‘coulds’, so much expectation, such desire/need for something truly innovative.

    There was a time when I was thrilled  by G+. The potential, the possibility of making those unexpected and unlikely connections, the sharing and accessibility of knowledge, all you fascinating individuals, all this collective intelligence, right here, in conversation, at last. 

    Communities changed that sense of wonder, freedom and chance for me at a stroke. You had to know that you wanted to know something or someone before you could be exposed to it or them. G+ felt like the breaking down of barriers, I suddenly felt excluded.

    Circles – I’d rather put up with a vapid mediocre stream/stick needles in my eyes than go organise my circles. Really? A core feature that I can’t bring myself to use?? 

    As a result my stream feels like some committee has calculated/guessed what I want to be shown. Please don’t, it’ll never be right, it’s usually wrong. 

    I still come to G+ daily, I narrate the notable, I try stuff out, I plug my wares, I get outstanding, intelligent and thoughtful feedback, I have funny, interesting and important relationships. I’ve hungout with kids in schools in Hawaii and Argentina. I use hangouts to work with my publisher in Brooklyn. I love blogger. I have an incredible visual diary of the last few years. I’ve learnt so much…

    Pretty amazing to have that but it’s so good to hear everyone’s hopes for something even better.

  93. Paul Stickland I learned to dread “organizing circles” also – what a ridiculous and painful way to organize information about our contacts – all they needed was a sikmple tagging system – and Google Contacts Plus integration – don’t get me started – it is a total mess.

  94. I’m really surprised that so many of you “old timers” are complaining that the platform needs to serve the dummies.

    I’m actually thrilled that the dummies are dumbing it down on Facebook. Stay there!

    Is it really that complicated to figure out Google+? No it’s not. Just like in real life – relationships take work, and “normal” people don’t want to work for anything. They want a fake world (FB) in 140 character (Twitter) and as superficial as a resume can be (linkedIn).

    What Google has done here, is bring like minded people together and let us geek out till the cows come home about things that interest us (hence this post and the hundreds of comments on it).

    No longer do we need to be restricted to the people in our town.. no longer do we need to travel to conferences just to be able to feed our passions face to face.

    Google+ has removed geographical boundaries and allowed us the comfort of going through the engagement ladder (+1, comment, share, chat, face to face video chat, HOA), and build long lasting, meaningful relationship that will last us a life time.

    And that’s what it’s about!

    By the end of the day, Gideon Rosenblatt, the time I spent with you in chat and in hangouts is the impact you made in the world.

    How did I “find” you?

    How did I find David Amerland and invite him to his first hangout..?

    What made my stay at Mia Voss’s place a month ago feel so natural and intimate?

    Where the heck does that ever happen online?!?

    When would have the “average” person, that you guys love bringing up here, ever get to sit down with Obama and talk to him face to face? Or with Matthew Mcconaughey? Or with Richard Branson and Alon Musk?!?

    I don’t need Google to spoon feed me. I’m a grown woman and I can make my own decisions on which relationship I have with which person and how to classify that (Circles). Seriously.

    And just as David says – big data takes time, and Google isn’t collecting it only from G+ but from ALL Google’s services: Gmail, YouTube (notice the latest integration between the 2 larges search engines in the world?), Maps, Mobile (GPS anyone?), Wallet, Play, Chat, Hangouts…

    I’ve been saying it for 4 years now and I know you – the first generation of G+ – know better than to continue comparing G+ to a social network.

    It’s not. It’s not Facebook. It’s not Twitter. It’s not LinkedIn. It’s not Pinterest. It’s not.

    You can interact and post to G+ from ANY Google service. You have to log into FB to post there (oh, and pay up if you want your post to be seen. Geez.)

    So no Mark Traphagen. I don’t want G+ to be so simple that these type of conversations never happen because every idiot and his grandma are sharing their lunch pictures here. 

    I have build a lucrative business, as have you Mark, from a relationship you cultivated here, not on LinkedIn.

    I have a wider family now all over the world thanks to Google+, and I have the opportunity to connect and impact millions of lives and make a real difference.

    That’s the vision of Google+ and we are living it.

  95. LOL It’s funny to see so many people in here say what I’ve been saying for years now.

    I’ve been one of the biggest critics here of Google on some of their decisions for this platform. Everything from UI decisions to what they report to us and what they don’t.

    I still remember when a lot of people said Google+ would BURY Facebook, Farcebook, Fakebook, etc, etc. within a year of its introduction.

    Yeah. That never happened. Then it was within the next year. And then in its third. Well… still hasn’t happened.

    Facebook isn’t dying out. No one’s leaving in droves. It’s still gaining people.

    G+ was designed to be a Facebook competitor. I don’t care what Yifat Cohen says. What is its primary function? Connect people. Hey Yifat, I can connect with people I don’t know in real life on Facebook also. I can follow celebrities. I can subscribe to people’s public feed if they choose to turn that feature on. What kills me is that I get a lot of quality interaction on Facebook all the while people over here say it’s useless and G+ should be everyone’s destination. This grass is definitely not greener. I do get interaction here also and I do enjoy my time here also.

    Do you honestly think FB has NO value and only the stupid and dumb exist over there? Have you taken the time to build and organize your following on that platform too or have you just blown off FB because hating on it was the cool G+ thing to do? Out of all your followers on G+ are you truly happy with the percentage of interaction you get on your posts? With over 70,000 followers you’re telling me that you’re perfectly fine getting 10-30 +1s on your content? A couple shares? A dozen comments?

    Those are the numbers I’m seeing. So Google+’s advantage is that you can engage with it on any of Google’s other services? How is that an advantage when you’re getting next to no engagement?

    You bill yourself as “Answering the questions that Google won’t.” Can you tell us what their total accounts are now? The number of daily logins? The amount of time people spend in their stream? Plans for the platform in the long run? Because Google clammed up a while ago about those things and the silence is deafening.

    I’d love to be part of a Hangout with a bunch of you, where we can discuss the finer points of this place. There’s one thing you all haven’t touched one, that I’ve seen happen on EVERY message board, social media site, and even video game. It happens like clockwork and I’m starting to see it happen here too. (Well, I’ve seen it happening for about a year now here)

    I’ll remain silent on what that is and bring it up as a Hangout topic if that ever happens. 🙂

  96. Oh, and also,

    How did I “find” you?

    How did I find +David Amerland and invite him to his first hangout..?

    What made my stay at +Mia Voss’s place a month ago feel so natural and intimate?

    Where the heck does that ever happen online?!?

    Umm… it happens ALL THE TIME ON THE INTERNET.

    I made friendships with people that were forged online on webcomic message boards, Live Journal, and Yahoo games, and tons of other video games that were made LONG before Google+ even reared its digital head. And a lot of those online friendships turned into real life friendships over time.

    Face to face meetings. Work collaborations. Places to crash while on vacation. 

    So, yes, it was and IS possible to do all that without the “magic” of Google+.

  97. You were basically going to virtual conferences Aaron Wood​ – specific places where like minded gather.

    Yes. That’s not new.

    What’s new, is a place that is for every one, nor topic based, and where different people find each other based on passions.

  98. Psst… Yifat Cohen, that’s called… FACEBOOK.

    For everyone? Yes.

    Topic based? Nope.

    Different people find each other based on passions. Yup.

    Interest lists? Groups? Pages? 🙂

  99. Wow 160 comments on how useful Google+ is and if it has a future. This was done to Death here. I truly don’t understand why professionals like all of you need to fight for a platform.

  100. Because everyone likes a good kvetch (complaining festival) Muamer Mujevic.

    My complaint is the way the algorithm chooses what to show me (or hide). I miss things that I would like to see.

    And the suggestions are fouled up too. They are made based on my connections’ interests or activities rather than my own (as far as I can tell). I get suggestions for F1 racing, YouTube communities, and random politicians rather than something based on posts I comment on, posts I plus, or my (admittedly small) notify circle. I tried looking at the circles of people I have circled…but going through them is tedious and quite a few accounts were inactive. 

  101. Agreed, Jodi Kaplan. 

    I wish the world had no spammers. Because then it would be much easier for companies like Google to just be transparent about how the algorithms work. There would be a huge incentive to expose them for direct manipulation, to allow us to more consciously teach them what we like and don’t. 

    I think there’s something important in this point. I might even do an article on this because it’s a really interesting question. Something about the fact that our communities are full of spam that’s hard to control, but that it’s much easier to knock spam out of our individual streams because we can block or simply un-circle people who are misbehaving. 

  102. Gideon Rosenblatt if we put all of our faith in algorithms to bring stuff to us, eventually commercial interests will find ways to exploit those algorithms to push stuff to us that looks like the things we like to the algorithm, but in fact are other things entirely.

    If instead we require more human action/participation/attention to help hone the number of things that are shown to us, then you end up with an order (or several) of magnitude(s) fewer because most people just expect technology to “work”, without their help.

    This is the very real [growth] problem that Twitter is seeking to address by moving to an algorithmic approach to their feed, as well as the one Google+ needed to address in the empty cold-start experience most users had when they got started in Google+. While you and me and many other lead users may be willing to find and add our friends or people of interest one-at-a-time and do the slow growth thing, most people come expecting a TV experience where they’ll just sign up and be entertained with relevant content from the first moment. That this is unrealistic doesn’t register. And so the solutions that are used to address that broad audience ends up eroding the purity of the experience for the rest of us.

  103. Yes, Chris Messina, that’s a good way to explain the tension. And I think the reality is that it doesn’t really pay to create user experiences for the power user, at least in internet scale, consumer facing services. 

  104. That is why I wish the expression of interests here was overt rather than Google thinking it knows what we want – they don’t.   Google is still stuck on the “social graph” – and yes, this design is a copy of Facebook.

    Right after Vic left Larry Page did an interview that Google wants to better understand who we know – but why? – this really won’t improve the user experience all that much as he says.   Plus they are absolutely horrible at recommending who I might what to know here – they think that if they are followed by people I follow that is really important – but it isn’t.

    People like to say say that people on Google+ come together on ‘interests’ – and we do – but the the technology is horrible at it.  Same with “Google+ is good for meeting new people” – again, that is what we the users are doing – the technology is actually inefficient and time consuming.

  105. Yifat Cohen, I’m intrigued by this remark:

    “I don’t need Google to spoon feed me. I’m a grown woman and I can make my own decisions on which relationship I have with which person and how to classify that (Circles). Seriously.”

    Maybe it depends on the kind of spoon? Our experience with Orkut group suggestions was not that people regarded it as spoonfeeding, but as a shorter path to what they already wanted. They felt like power users, adjusting the suggested  groups quickly and rarely going back to the feature afterwards.

    I think G+ has failed to help regular users become power users, which is the holy grail of user experience IMHO (it’s actually Kathy Sierra’s opinion, made my own a while back. Power users become passionate users).

  106. Tiago Silveira That is refreshing coming from a Google employee, and there was far too much in that comment that I disagreed with to comment myself, but to be honest even the “power users’ don’t always know how to use Google+

    One example, if I want to post something about “Crowdfunding” for instance, which of a dozen or so communities should I post it on?  – and should I also post on my own profile?   I could post on all of them –  but that is a ton of work and the community owners hate it – plus it would probably be flagged as spam anyway.

    Google+ is just jam packed with things that are illogical like that, but no one talks about them any more – we adjust to Google, Google doesn’t change for us.

    New users my not be able to articulate these things, but they sense it  – people sometimes say there is no wrong way to use Google= – but there is no right way either.

  107. Eli Fennell I am not ‘over thinking’ at all – I have a 60,000 member business community here and have to deal with this stuff every day.  I was just pointing out how the design here is inherently illogical – even your solution is ridiculous – that people should join and select the top three communities that may even have the same name and then modify for each   (which you call ‘over the top’ but it will end up in the spam folder if you don’t do that).    What you are saying just proves the point being made – that if power users can’t agree on the right way to do things here, how are new users supposed to get it?

  108. Eli Fennell Again, we were taking about the design of Google+ and new users, and your comment reflects the prevalent attitude that whatever Google does is right and good and no matter what we should adjust to them, and if you don’t agree them something must be wrong with you. 

    I would think a new user would assume that if they wanted to make a post about crowdfunding – or any topic, they would just have to make it once – not have to join and learn the culture of a half dozen different communities, and then keep track of the comments on different streams for what should have been a simple transaction.

    I wrote about how Byzantine this has become a while back   and mentioned a friend of mine who has a huge number of Twitter followers who observed that Google always uses a “divide and conquer’ strategy

  109. Eli Fennell re: “And these “new users” are going to spam three dozen Communities with carbon copy posts of their stuff?”

    OK, this is going in circles and that is not even close  to what I said –  and I am not going to argue about a point I did not make.   You are simply reflecting the predominant attitude here that “if there is something you don’t like about Google, there is something wrong with you.”  

    I remember a columnist who wrote an article critical of Google and got ruthlessly attacked here, and he made the point that what he had said was mild compared to what many Google employees say.   You have also backed up one of the points made in the original article with your comments – that Google+ is essentially a copy of Facebook.

  110. Tiago Silveira – Yifat Cohen’s “spoon-feed maxim” (yes, I’m calling it a maxim) intrigued me too. It sparkled. I actually thought that was a brilliant moment and, effectively, it captures the feeling of empowerment that Google gives us. We can choose which relationships we want to strive to cultivate through the engagement ladder

    Re: I think G+ has failed to help regular users become power users… – My question is this:

    Why do we need to count it as a failure that we don’t have the biggest platform as long as we have the best

    Not everyone can rank #1 for Google, and maybe not everyone needs to be here in Google Plus. Conversationalists and leaders emerge.

    I have no problem at all with saying there are issues, as Rob Gordon points out in many places… I just don’t know why all the talk about doing it for “normal,” “average,” or “regular” users is necessary. Aside from being terribly uninspiring ways to describe other people… I say screw them!

    Let’s make it better for us!

    And as we get future opportunities to welcome new people into the fold of Google Plus, we’ll  #LendOneHand , teach them what we know, and have those moments to make the greatest connections of our lives.    

    Let’s do this thing!      

  111. Kristin Drysdale By “normal users” I meant – and I think most people who brought up that point meant was “non social media professionals”.  

    Regardless of our differences, I believe most of us are here for a similar reason “because it is Google”.   As recently as six months ago a popular member here said to me that as “early adapters” we would have huge benefits from being involved with Google.  That is why I have called this – tongue in cheek a “faith based social network”.   If this exact same technology was made by some startup none of us would be here. 

    That is why a post like this can be upsetting to some people – it shakes that faith.  I myself already went through the phases of denial and mourning a while ago when I tried to use Google+ backwards by going to the individual profiles of people I think are cool.  What I learned was that “normal people’ were leaving in droves – or more accurately simply not posting or engaging here anymore. 

    Go ahead and try this.   You can’t tell from the stream because it reflects what is called “surviorship bias” – obviously you only see people who post here.   So yeah, we can choose who to engage with here – to a point, but not if they are not here anymore. 

  112. Yes, Kristin Drysdale, that is where I want to go too. I fear we can’t really make g+ better for us, someone from the inside has to do it, though.

    I never wanted the #1 social network. I want software to do things for me. The less I think about the software, the better. I don’t really feel much empowered by G+. After so long, we still don’t even have rudiomentary support for drafts. So I never write anything big here, and I’m really careful with the Escape key. And that makes me feel like a beginner.

    When you say “let’s make it better”, I also feel powerless to do that. What can I do about the poor UX? Write my drafts on notepad? Google Docs? Google Keep? If they have so many writing platforms, why not use any of them here?

  113. Tiago Silveira I agree with Kristin’s point also that Google should concentrate on empowering us – but I no longer feel empowered here either  – somewhat the opposite in fact

    If you have any influence there, I think Google should start concentrating on the “people” side and not so much on the stream.  Better integration of Google Contacts and Google+ would be a start – it is a mess now.  

    I wrote this blog post about trying to use Google contacts here as a sort of CRM and to interface with Google+  – in theory possible, in practice, not so much, so it is the only blog post I have ever written and disavowed at the same time

  114. Kristin Drysdale G+ just hasn’t gotten all that much better (unless you’re heavily into photos and photo editing) than what we had with Friendfeed circa 2009. And really it had some advantages even as far back as then, which is somewhat shocking if you ask me (for example I could see my “DM”-ish private message style posts all in one place…).

    So NO, I will never agree that G+ for functional and text usage is “good” or even “good enough”. It’s just NOT for those of us who knew anything Interest Graph related since before G+.

  115. Tiago Silveira +100 re:”I want software to do things for me. The less I think about the software, the better.”

    I had a Computer Science professor once come in for a guest lecture on advanced interfaces/programming in an undergrad Cognitive Science course I was taking, and something he said has followed me ever since:

    ~ “When you have to copy/paste [or do any other manual thing that the software could/should easily handle by itself]… the machines win…”

    Software and computers were supposed to be our servants, not the other way around.

    I’ll also gladly repeat what I posted further up in a longer comment:

    I am of the Dave Winer school of thought on this sort of thing: “A poorly designed system makes you feel bad for ‘only’ doing 95%, a well designed system is making you feel good for doing a mere 5%.”

    According to that mantra, G+ is clearly a poorly designed system. “Circle Management” and endless tuning, “G+ helpers”, Helpouts, Vic G’s “maybe you’re using it wrong” — these are all symptoms of the same deeper issue: The UX is simply not very good. Endless amounts of even low hanging fruit potential left on the proverbial table.

    Kristin Drysdale I’ll close with one more:

    ~ “The reasonable wo/man adjusts themselves to the circumstances, while the unreasonable wo/man seeks to change them. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable wo/man.”

  116. Rob Gordon I don’t know if I got this from something I read before, or if it is just my observation… It seems like there are two types of people in Google Plus: those who came here as social media professionals, and those who are now and in-training to be social media professionals. (Lol)

    ~Let us know when you’ve got P2P Social CRM up and running. By all the time and research you put into things you write about, I bet it will be really cool. Thanks for posting the article anyway. I will try a couple of your hacks. =)  

    Tiago Silveira – What can I do about the poor UX? Write my drafts on notepad?… If they have so many writing platforms, why not use any of them here?

    How simple would it be to add an “import from” button for our documents? That’s a really great idea!

    And yes. Yes, you should do whatever it takes to communicate your message if it’s important enough.

    I suppose my perspective is skewed by my past, and so the fact that I have a computer today and I have the ability to actually reach someone and have a conversation at all feels miraculous to me. I have a lot to be grateful for because two years ago I was homeless and had nothing. So people like me might sound a little too forgiving or naive to people like you.

    One of my best friends is an SEO in Nigeria. He’s very forgiving too. He has a generator that he has to crank in order to keep it going and use the Internet. The suggested download time for video is three to four minutes, and so I help screen the SEO-related HOAs for him because it’s a tedious process to get to watch anything of full-length. We joke all the time about #FirstWorldProblems  and #ThirdWorldProblems  because the thing is that we all have them. We do what we must and try to make things better along the way.

    That’s probably just “survivorship bias.”              

  117. But of course, Eli Fennell! Well-phrased as always… There are many “types” of people here. (I detest “typing” people, however, so is the nature of SEO and marketing, right?)

  118. Eli Fennell- Nerd, geek, egghead… yep – all fair and will probably take on a much different connotation as the years progress and we come closer and closer to taking over the world. #EvilLaughter   #Mwahahahahah  

  119. Okay, I wandered into this thread late, and ironically somewhat backward….. Bookmarked Chris Messina’s post shortly after it first appeared, got around to reading it today, saw his link to Gideon Rosenblatt’s post here, and then of course got sucked right into it, in that way that only Google+ can do for me these days 🙂 

    A super-engaging and interesting conversation, but exactly what I’ve come to expect form hanging around here, and the only reason I still do from time to time, despite the disillusionment I share with Mark Traphagen and others here. I too had high hopes for Google+ in the early days, and now feel somewhat disenfranchised and generally lose interest in coming here as regularly as I used to…. I’ll glance at it occasionally, but unless I find something that engages me, I usually close my browser tab and move on to other things, and sadly the number of “engaging” posts has generally gone down over the past several months…..  About the only ones I can count on any more on a regular basis are Eli Fennell’s …. Perhaps I should create a circle with just him in it 🙂 

    Seriously, though, I came to G+ more as a social person (not a “social networking professional”), as I wanted to find like-minded people and get engaged in interesting conversations and dialogs about interesting topics. I’m not here to try and promote myself (even though I somehow inexplicably ended up with an oddly large following, probably thanks to some weird Google SUL algorithm), nor to build any kind of a brand or engage in dropping links. I do run a G+ Page for the site I work for, largely because it seemed like the thing to do, but even that’s more to provide a channel for our readers to access content through whatever their preferred method is than to promote the site itself.

    However, as those who have encountered me before might already know from previous discussions, I’ve been around on the “social Internet” for a very long time. Before most people knew there was an “Internet” in fact…. In those days, the “social network” went by names like Usenet, and FidoNet, and I was on those networks back in those days for the same reasons that I’m on G+ …. to meet new and interesting people. In that sense, I’d call G+ a huge success, as it’s provided ways to do that which few other platforms have. Certainly few other “mainstream” platforms, anyway — there are still niche forums that are great for this purpose, but usually revolve around very narrow topics, rather than providing the “one-stop shopping” platform for discussions that is Google+.

    That said, however, I sometimes worry that G+ is suffering from a diminishing critical mass for this sort of thing. If people are getting less excited to hang out here, they’re going to hang out here less, and ergo it will become less social. A party full of intelligent people is interesting, no matter where it’s being held, however an empty room, or a room where people are just milling about drinking and not talking to each other, is far less interesting.

    I can also sort of understand the feelings out there espoused by some that G+ is a nice, “safe” harbour for the intelligent folks and “geeks” of the world, but that’s a somewhat myopic and elitist view in my opinion. I think there are many intelligent people out there in a great many less technical areas  that would have a lot to offer G+, but the current structure seems to discourage them from coming here. The fear that “the masses” coming to G+ would serve to diminish the community is irrational, particularly on a social network where you have filters and controls….. If you want to look around enough on Google+ you’ll already find tons of people sharing inane cat photos, YouTube music videos, pictures of their families, and preachy and oft-recycled “motivational memes”…. They haven’t brought down the community yet because they’re easily ignored. Adding more people won’t make that worse, but not encouraging new and interesting folks to join will limit the scope of the community and the potential benefit to gain from it. You can always filter out what already here, but you can’t create what’s not.

  120. You can always filter out what already here, but you can’t create what’s not.

    Jesse Hollington – I totally see that.

    Do you have any specific strategies in mind for re – recruiting?

    And – – there are two communities I’d like to suggest since you’ve already put it out there that you enjoy Eli Fennell’s style of epicposts…

    1) Conversation, led by John Kellden) the com/communities/109257599738414342408 &  

    2)And, there are so many opportunities to stll grow and be ready Thought Leadership and Personal Branding

    Really great conversations in both of those. See you soon maybe. ;D

  121. Thanks for those links, Kristin Drysdale …. I’ll definitely check them out.

    That highlights the bigger problem, however, and I think the issue that we’re all sort of ultimately coming at, albeit it from different angles…. Google+ had originally started with this feeling of promise that it would be a great way to meet and interact with like-minded people, and it most definitely is, but there’s a price to be paid for that in terms of effort that’s much higher than it really needs to be.

    The word “Interest Graph” gets bandied around a lot, and to deconstruct what is staring to sound like jargon, what it means to me personally is that it should be much easier to find, filter, and interact with those people who share common interests. I feel this is the “vision” that Google+ promised, whether directly, by implication, or by grassroots enthusiasm, but sadly that’s probably the reason so many of us are sitting here feeling disenfranchised.

    To put it another way, one should not have to spend more time managing their social media feed than reading it. Obviously, some effort needs to be put into the “discovery” stages, but even this seems like too steep a hill for many new users to climb. In short, Google+ is either a blank slate or an intimidating one for many people, and probably both in many cases. 

    For the older hands like me and some of the others in this thread, the pendulum then swings the other way…. Too much curation is required to filter streams down to something useful once they’ve started to get out of control. Suddenly, posts by folks like Eli Fennell are the rare gems in a stream that’s otherwise cluttered with posts that are simply pedestrian or downright dry. Suddenly, the magic of Google+ disappears and people start to feel there’s less point in being around here, because all of “the interesting” has gone. How does one go about filtering and curating those streams when the dust settles without putting in far more effort than should be required to do so.

    I used to manage my circles more carefully, trying to control and filter my content into what I wanted to focus on. However, I gave up on doing that for the same reason I gave up on Twitter lists years ago. Unless you’re somebody who lives and breathes on social media, and has the time to carefully manage your social connections, the whole system fails under its own weight. Some people may enjoy carefully pruning and trimming a Bonsai tree on a daily basis, but there are many more people who want to simply enjoy a garden without having to put that kind of maintenance into it. My Google+ stream has become the same kind of wasteland that my Twitter stream had become, with the only difference that I never really expected much better of Twitter — it wasn’t my place to engage the way that G+ was, so it was easier to view it simply as a stream of consciousness rather than a stream of intelligence. Yes, that’s a problem of my own construction based on what my circles have become, but that’s also because I’ve given up on trying to refine and manage them to keep them relevant. It’s just too much effort for too little benefit, and when I’ve tried to manage them, it’s hard to find the right balance, especially with people having drifted away over time — some of my circles that were previously the most engaging are now virtually empty of thought.

    In the end, with all of the algorithmic power and engineering intelligence that Google brings to the table, one would think they would have cracked this particular nut. In fact, I firmly believe that if anybody is capable of it, it’s Google, which makes it all the more disappointing. Someone trying and failing at something is somehow more forgivable and perhaps even inspiring that somebody who just puts in minimal effort and then moves on. Wasted potential and all that.

    How do we “re-recruit” as you put it and get people back? I have absolutely no idea. That ship may have already sailed over the horizon, but the big start would be finding a way to allow people who don’t have all day to spend on Google+ because social media isn’t our day job a better way to focus on that content that interests, motivates, and excites them. Google+ needs to provide maximum engagement benefit with minimum management effort. For me, that is the key thing that would differentiate it, and put the spark back into it.

  122. Jesse Hollington I am not convinced Google+ will ever capture the “interest graph” – and you are right, people throw that term around without really knowing what it means.  The best way to do that would be through the use of tags on the profiles and the posts, like Pinterest does and they don’t have that architecture here.   Plus if they were going to do that, they should have done it before they made communities and I think they would create a huge mess if they did that now.  

    The “use case” they should have gone for here is “meeting new people” and as I pointed out, it is not designed for that, but people are doing it anyway – and as you pointed out it is horribly time consuming.  In fact, the whole thing is horribly time consuming – and ‘managing circles’ is absurd.   Ever since they switched to the “card format” I have wondered how many of each other’s posts we really see.

    I still have some hope, but not much – I went through my “denial and mourning’ period earlier this year when I did an experiment and tried to interact here by going directly to the profiles of people I like – and learned that most of the ‘normal’ people were leaving or had left. 

    Going back to the original point of the article, if there is a “vision” here, I sure don’t know what it is ad Google has not articulated it.

  123. Well said Gideon Rosenblatt. Also,  what’s very discouraging is when someone send a message that “G+ doesn’t work” to millions (thanks to the SUL) of people  when other “regular” plussers work really hard to help/build/promote the platform.

    (Dave Besbris, Bradley Horowitz) 

  124. Why would that be wrong Denis Labelle? You’re on the SUL and like most on that list will defend G+ / Google at all costs. What’s wrong with one individual with some reach to propose a counter argument? 

  125. Thanks Denis Labelle. My sense though is that we need to be very careful not to over-react to constructive feedback.

    Sure, there are people who are going to tear down anything anyone puts in front of them. The tearer-downer simply drains energy from whatever they come in contact with, and I have little patience for people like that.

    But I think there’s an important difference between that, and people who provide constructive feedback with an eye to helping to make things better. These are the builder-uppers, and what’s hard is that sometimes their critiques can sting a bit. But when you dig deeper into their motivation, it is out of a sincere desire to build up, rather than to tear down.

    When you listen to Chris talk on Yifat Cohen’s Hangout, that’s what really comes across to me: he’s someone who’s trying to make things better – not just G+, but tech more broadly. So, I think we just have to be careful. This role of the constructive critic is important, and it’s dangerous to shut people like that down – because when we do it too much or when we do it too harshly, eventually, they just stop talking. 

  126. I’m muting this – there are occasionally little corners of Google+ where you can express what you really think is gong on but the extreme fanboys have pretty much eradicated those.    

    As many know, if you make even mild criticisms of Google+ here you better have an iron clad case  – but even if you do you are likely to get pretty viciously attacked – but you can throw out any kind of slop about how great Google is and it will be massively reshared – even if it is false information.    If there is a Google employee within a hundred miles of a post forget it – these people will be slobbering all over each other to suck up.

    I thought Google got rid of that SUL crap – that is as corrupt as the day is long – virtually indistinguishable from the Payola scandals of the last century.   They have pretty much chased off the people who see things differently and are turning this place into a Google infomercial.  The primary “use case” for Google+ is now to discuss – or actually praise Google+ and Google, and I don’t want to have to think about it every damn day.

  127. Max Huijgen I agree because telling each other how great everything is and how well things are done and at the same time ignoring people who have a different but constructive opinion is some kind of inbreeding  and I guess we all know what happens if you do that too long.

  128. Max Huijgen , you know me better: I am 100% for constructive opinion/feedback and counter argument. Also, look at my profile: I want to help new users, businesses and entrepreneurs to get the most out of Google. That’s it, that’s all. P.S.: I was on the SUL for a short period of time… however, sharing the “wealth” by promoting other (helpful) users every. single. day.

  129. I know you better Denis Labelle and that’s why I couldn’t place your comment criticizing Chris Messina 

    You have been on the SUL twice and that gifted you with more than 400.000 followers etra compared to what you would have reached without it. In other words an enormous potential reach thanks to Google’s favors.

    Chris Messina has ‘only’ 133.000 followers so why would it be wrong that he writes a critical post?

  130. Max Huijgen: where do I criticize Chris Messina ?? I’ve never mentioned/thought about him in my comments. I’ve participated in Yifat Cohen’s (great) hangout with Chris and truly enjoyed (and learned from) it.   

  131. This comment caused my confusion Denis Labelle _Also,  what’s very discouraging is when someone send a message that “G+ doesn’t work” to millions (thanks to the SUL) of people  when other “regular” plussers work really hard to help/build/promote the platform._

    If you didn’t refer to Chris, who did you have in mind?

  132. Gideon Rosenblatt  sharing was broken on the web

    And … it still is, but it’s more than just sharing.  I see it more as a “how do you integrate / enable cross-publisher commentary online?”  Along with a “tie it to interesting and/or relevant people”.  That whole mechanism has been broken from early on, and 

    (Apologies for the late hit, I only just saw reference to this from another post and, trust me, I hate gushing, but find the candor and discussion sharp and on-topic.  Even decided to un-block Mark Traphagen on the basis that he’s atoned for his previous largely unwavering boosterism.)

  133. Mark Traphagen  I remember now how frustrated I was with the early marketing of Google+. All the early ads did was promote things that a) people could already do on Facebook and b) weren’t going to do here because their friends were on Facebook and not here.

    That’s among the reasons I’ve suggested to the Ello folks that they focus on interests over personal connections.  I’m already seeing a huge drop-off in initial interest (though there are a few quite interesting people there not on G+, so, win).  But my feed’s becoming ever emptier.  I like some of what they’re doing on Notifications (including lessons G+ could learn).  I’ve suggested pre-designated “channels” plus search as high-priority, high-payoff features.

  134. David Amerland  The shared interest graph (and a sentiment graph being built around it) is what Google is focusing on with Google+.

    Do you have any solid info on this?  It seems (and has seemed for years) the obvious direction to take G+, but Google have resisted this steadfastly.

    Far worse — the “What’s Hot” stream (or as I call it “What Snot”), which is an utter insult to my intelligence and integrity.

  135. Malthus John  I’m pretty sure it was  designed to work that way. (re: shared interest graph).

    And I’m all but positive that that was abandoned.

    Somewhere around February / March 2013 I wrote a series of posts to Shimrit (then if not now G+ product manager), copying Vic on a few, highlighting interactions on G+ that I found tremendously useful.

    I also pointed out that it was about that time that with both Search and a sufficient backlog of content G+ was becoming usefully minable for content and leads.  More on that below.

    Not only did I not have a lot of known contacts on G+ but after my initial experience and awareness of Google’s “identity service” plan I had _no interest in overlapping my personal and online activities.  To a large extent I’ve consciously avoided interacting with people I know in real life.  Yeah, color me paranoid.

    But as I started exploring some areas of interest, I found that there were some people (though very few) on G+ with 1) similar interests and 2) not an utter waste of time to talk to.

    Social graph size matters, and there’s a certain critical mass that’s needed to get things off the ground.  How big that is specifically depends on the founding class.  Facebook started with a highly selective seed community (Harvard, Ivy League, and selective admissions universities), and grew from tere.  I’ve been digging into Usenet stats, and from what I can tell, the active userbase there was small, but the selection filter, again, selective universities (mostly technical), government, and a small set of tech firms, made for a pretty good filter.  Even then, the system broke down with a flood of new users (warning for those anticipating a Golden Age as we unleash the untapped MindResource of the developing world).  Perhaps a few tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands.  Not much more than that.

    Slashdot’s heyday was when userIDs were being issued in the 4-5 digit range.

    Back to G+:  Search and Notifications were great (both are amazing indicators of relevance), but the tools were really broken (and still are).   As broken as they are they’re the most compelling features I see for G+.  Which may be why the Notifications changes rolled out in December were reverted so quickly (I’ve never seen a G+ feature killed that fast, including the Calendars fiasco.)  And yes, there are other cool bits, most particularly Hangouts (though it too needs freedom and love).

    One thing I’ve noticed though is that real discussion of topics and keywords of interest is pretty thin.  Once you get out of popular topics, there’s a lot of link-sharing and maybe some brief thoughts, but at least for public posts that I can find, and going unauthenticated to bypass blocks, I find very little discussion that I’m not already looped in on.  The graph is thin.

    Gideon Rosenblatt has posted recently on what ails Communities, and like this post it’s an excellent one.  Google simply keeps getting in the way of powerful discussion.  And it’s frustrating as hell.

    Like many here, though I’m conflicted, I also agree that despite many and very serious warts G+ remains the most useful online conversation platform (and that’s how I view it) that I’m aware of.  And I’d really like to say otherwise.

    reddit has more mass, and far better forums, but poorer mechanics.  Ello and Diaspora are proving some interesting ground but are limping along for now.  If I could find a better spot I’d be there in a minute.

    And yeah, I think that at least one of the foundational ideas behind G+ (I suspect it was one of a number of internal constiuencies) is absolutely valid:  it’s hard to establish connections with groups having similar interests with quality information for productive conversations online.

    I’ve recently started an experiment by creating a private, non-public, invite-only Community on G+ (despite many gripes over Community mechanics here) as “a place for adult conversation”.  One interesting element is that by focusing intelligence and excluding distractions the conversation really takes off.  It shows me how much the dynamic on G+ (and elsewhere) still is getting in the way of productive conversation.  It’s a small group (less than 20) but already conversation is at a level that’s hard to keep pace with.

    I rather like having that problem.

    That points to a much larger class of unaddressed problems.  It also suggests that a level of exclusivity is necessary, or at least a fostering of smaller and focused groups.

  136. Mark Traphagen  Perhaps Vics accessibility and willingness to at least talk about the platform proved to be equally doing more harm than good.

    I’m not a fan of Vic’s, and think his departure from Google was good riddance.  I feared before then, and find largely confirmed, that the problems highlighted within Google while he was employed there went far beyond him.

    While I don’t much agree with George Kozi’s comments above, I do have to agree with him that Vic brought a passion to G+.  It wasn’t the passion that I wanted to see, and it wasn’t a passion for the things I wanted championed, but the guy clearly brought a lot of energy to the project.

    Besbris has absolutely none of that.

    What Vic lacked, and Besbris has further extended, is a lack of candor or sincerity.  As Filip H.F. Slagter notes above, Google pulled out the heaviest weaponry, highest sustained fire rates, and best targeting systems it could, to shoot itself in its own feet to devastating effect.  #nymwars, #WarOnWords, forced G+ accounts, locking people out of their other Google services on account of G+, the G+ – Youtube #Anschluss (I still like Forbes’s description:  It “get[s] a bit 1984 rather fast”).  The fact that the idiocy continues tells me either that the lessons aren’t being learned or they’re being prevented from being learned.  Neither is a good sign.

  137. Edward Morbius don’t get me started on the “What’s Hot” 🙂 It is human moderated so whatever algorithmic input is there gets altered beyond recognition. On the sentiment analysis side Google has not explicitly stated that, but everything they do (along with everything their competitors do) points that way. I wrote about it a way back: – the external links at the bottom of that piece point to some very interesting research going on. What is even more interesting is that just twelve months prior everyone was talking about it but not much was being done by way of research and actionables, so it moved quickly in just a year because (I suspect) there is now real focus on it and research dollars. 

  138. David Amerland I think Google+ is a colossal demonstration of how large a gap there still is between research and application.

    As I’ve said many times, one should never assume that just because Google could do something they have done it or will do it.

  139. Mark Traphagen true, we have very few other guidelines over what is being applied and looked at and what is really happening. Let’s not forget the Knowledge Vault started just as theoretically as everything else. The only way to make sense of the trends is to look at the research, see what the requirements of application are (in this case semantic search) and point to where things should be happening. 🙂 Now, where is that chicken gone? I really do need to read its entrails. 😀 

  140. David Amerland I agree that we certainly don’t see a lot of what is going on under the hood, but that we have at least some examples of attempted application such as the Knowledge Graph.

    My point though is that in Google+, the failures to apply some of the advanced learning that we have been discussing are clear and obvious (and shared in Messina’s OP)

  141. So, this whole issue gets me into a few interrelated concepts.

    ⚫ Privacy

    ⚫ Distributed Web

    ⚫ Content payment, especially syndicated content payment

    ⚫ Disaggregating the present browser model

    By way of context: not being in marketing, I bring a different viewpoint than most here (e.g., David Amerland’s linked post above has my eyes glaze at discussion of branding — last thing I’m interested in).  The Web for me is an information and communications medium.  On which:  the “tech” industry is really a media industry.  I’m not huge on buzzwords, but the more I think about it, the more “new media” actually really did nail it, though I think much of the actual focus and activity’s been misplace.

    I’ve been looking at a few issues, among them establishing a more secure browsing environment (Tor, privoxy, additional filters), some pretty massive frustration at how the Web looks — and address several concerns.  If the entire Web read like a Readability page I’d be exceptionally happy.  There’s the concept of a distributed and/or self-hosted Web.  Tools such as #Diaspora, #Friendica,, #FreedomBox.  Several of these haven’t lived up to early promise or hype, but the problem’s been repeatedly hacked at, and eventually someone’s going to get it right.

    And when that happens, well, we’ll have a few new problems.

    Already, Tor is being used increasingly[1] (though it remains a minuscule fraction of all Internet traffic).  One thing it really messes with (and I see this from both sides) is abuse and attack mitigation.  Several large sites have blocked connections from Tor exit nodes[2], of which Craigslist is one I’m directly aware of.  Dealing with malicious clients is really difficult when you can’t see where they’re coming from, and while it’s at best an imperfect indicator, IP address has been heavily used to fight abuse until now.  Abuse teams are going to be losing that tool.  And the marketing department will lose their location metrics.

    One of the ironies is that Tor is in large part a response to increased national intelligence agency surveillance, and by driving more Internet traffic to onion-routing services, it’s likely that cyberattacks will become more difficult to trace — both through Tor’s origin obfuscation and an increased amount of everyday traffic routed through Tor.

    Another aspect is payment for content.  I’m not opposed to this, though I think existing information content market mechanisms work poorly in numerous ways.  Artists and authors fail to be rewarded.  “Content farms” and weaponized viral clickbait sites (that wouldn’t be anyone here, now would it) cheat and tease viewers and readers for ads revenue.  Ad metrics themselves are highly skewed.  Useful and vital academic research and data are locked behind very expensive paywalls.

    I’m increasingly seeing a need to split the “Web Browser” into what’s likely to become four separate applications and functions:

    1. A reader.  Calibre + Zotero with a Usenet-like capability for commenting, and likely an integrated RSS feed capability.

    2. An app platform.  Where Google’s been pushing Chrome.  Not necessary for all sites, but for a few, a freestanding app (e.g., GMail, Maps) may be appropriate.

    3. Commerce.  Make it its own thing with security, transactions, order management and history, etc., integrated.

    4. Media.  Playing A/V in browsers sucks.  I much prefer an app I can queue multiple performances for play, seek forward/back, speed or slow, pause, stop, etc.  I hate all browser players equally, but some more.

    While there’s going to be connectivity, there’s also going to be a lot of client-side data storage, and control over that data.

    Other factors:  identification (at user discretion), anti-abuse features, encryption.

    Related links:

    A bittorrent-based web distribution concept.  This is one of several out there, Coral Cache provides an alternative distributed content-caching model.

    “Project Maelstrom: The Internet We Build Next”

    Tor & sites blocking Tor access.  Abuse / DDoS management / mitigation.

    Not much by way of links, but searches show both sides battling it out:! (UK)

    “Tabbed browsing: a lousy band-aid over poor browser document and state management”

    “A Modest Proposal: Universal Online Media Payment Syndication”

    “What would be required for an SNML/SNTP federated content system?”



    1. (2013 data)


  142. Further — seems the issue of anonymous whitelisting for abuse prevention may be solved:

    On the abuse detection, I think I’ve found something that would work:

    FAUST: Efficient, TTP-Free Abuse Prevention by Anonymous Whitelisting

    Authors Lofgren, P, Hopper, NJ

    Conference Name WPES’11 – Proceedings of the Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society

    Date Published 10/2011

    Publisher ACM

    Conference Location Chicago, IL, United States

  143. Thanks for the additional points, Edward Morbius. Catching up from being away for a few days…

    One of the reasons I’m interested in what Synereo is focusing on is that they are taking an attention economy approach that sits on top of a very distributed (Bitcoin-like) platform. They are still in planning stage, but their thinking is quite sophisticated. 

  144. I see. Well, sounds pretty familiar to others things that have come in the past. I hope they’re able to make tangible headway soon! 

    This part gave me pause: “To accomplish our goals, we will have to innovate technologically. However, there exists working proof of concepts for all of the tools which will underlie the platform we aim to create, and so we believe that the technological risk involved is small. We also have many fallback plans allowing us to build Synereo using less complex technologies while slowly implementing the full feature set required for the complete realization of this project.”

    Too many idealistic projects haven’t gotten anywhere because they weren’t 100% product and experience focused, and instead got bogged down in technological purity. What’s their take on Diaspora? Why not contribute to something that already exists, or help migrate that project to support the blockchain?

    I don’t want to be cynical too soon, but I have a strong preference for seeing things that have shipped something real.

  145. I’m skeptical about the possible reach they’ll have. It’s hard enough to convince friends that Google Plus is simple once you have the hang of it. Good lord – with language like that, they’re liable to stave off the whole 95% – every dirty, dense one of ’em!   

  146. Eli Fennell, I’m no Bitcoin expert, by any stretch, but I think you may have an outdated view. Companies like Overstock, Dell, Expedia, Microsoft, and Time are all now accepting Bitcoin payment (through partnerships w/ third parties). 

    No question though that there are still issues. I think that any time you are dealing w/ currency, you are going to get issues. And anonymous currencies are even more of a challenge. 

    That said, the real innovation here is not Bitcoin perse, but the blockchain, and a decentralized method for achieving consensus and coordination that no longer relies on one centralized server. This architecture has the potential to be a real game changer. 

  147. Yeah, I hear you on that, Eli Fennell. I think there’s the potential for a fully distributed approach like this as a path to some of the personal data locker and VRM visions that have been floating around, where we retain control of our data – and that there is something interesting there. But to be honest, I don’t think that’s a focus. And the PDL and VRM models also seem to struggle to find a workable business model. 

    Kristin Drysdale, yep, getting uptake will be a critical issue. It’s been interesting watching Tsu and Ello struggle to maintain their early momentum. 

    And Chris Messina, I definitely hear what you’re saying. Working code and incremental pragmatism tend to determine success. I can’t speak for their take on Diaspora. Synereo, any comments? 

  148. I have a few comments:

    1) People have every right to be skeptical about claims made both about the future of social networking and of Bitcoin. Both are fraught with hype and far more expectations than genuine progress. The truth is that we have no idea what’s going to happen in either domain; there are no maps for these territories. The people working in these areas are bushwackers, which is both exhilarating and scary as hell. 

    2) There’s a difference between skepticism and cynicism. The cynic thinks it will never happen. The skeptic just knows how hard it will be. Again, skepticism is important. Honest assessments of our circumstances are always important. Keeping cynicism at bay is part of being honest. It’s hard work. 

    3) I happen to know that Synereo already has a base of working code and an implementation of the core reputation tracking calculations. But talk is cheap; people want to see the working product, now, so that’s where our focus has been. We’re very close to the point where we can demonstrate the technology and talk in detail about how it works. 

    4) I’m excited about Synereo mostly because I don’t know anything else like it. That certainly doesn’t guarantee it’s success; the novelty and power of the network might very well be too much, too soon. But if these are uncharted territories, then there are no “wrong directions” to explore. We don’t know where any of this leads, except that we must push on. 

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