Relationships on Shared Knowledge Graphs – and on Google+ in Particular

G+ is on my mind these days, and so I hope you don’t mind me spewing out a bit more riffs on this front over the next few days. Like many of you here, I have a substantial investment in this platform and would like it to succeed.

In short, it’s not enough to enshrine Collections and Communities. Circles matter too.

Relationships in a Knowledge Network

I’ve been stewing on a core idea, which is that Google+ needs to invest more into building back relationships between human beings. I’m not saying this to detract from the important strategic turn this network made in focusing on topics. I’m saying this to support the focus on shared interests.

For there is no shared interest without someone to share them with.

A pure topic network already exists: it’s called Google Search (and the Knowledge Graph behind it). What Google+ really is is a Shared Interest Network, designed to augment its Interest Graph. The Interest Graph is the point of intersection between the Social Graph (which Facebook already dominates with its social network) and the Knowledge Graph (which Google largely controls).

The Interest Graph is what ties me to a network of particular topics. It’s what ties me into the Knowledge Graph.

For what constitutes knowledge is a true matter of perspective. I may want to know about the human soul, about artificial intelligence, and about mission-driven businesses. You may want to know about marketing, biology, and theology. The value that certain knowledge has for me is not the same as what it has for you.

The Mission of Shared Interest

Understanding this relative value that each of us hold for various topics is essential, not just for advertising, but for the bigger project of organizing the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, which is, after all, Google’s mission.

One could argue that Google already has a very good model of this intersection between people and knowledge thanks to the massive amounts of data it collects from our interactions with its Search Engine. But those relationships to knowledge — that search history — is a mixture of our subconscious and conscious minds that we don’t always want exposed to everyone else.

The Shared Interest Graph is a representation of our outward-facing expressions of our interests. It is what we consciously express to one another, what we willingly share with one another.

The primary purpose of a Shared Interest Graph is to express ourselves to one another.

Shared Interest Graph Competition

Interest-sharing networks like Google+ that are built for the express purpose of generating an Interest Graph. The Interest Graph is the new frontline in the battle for commerce.

From a commercial perspective, I’m talking about the detailed understanding of how each individual conducts her or himself when we know our expressions are visible to the public.

If you don’t quite see how important something like this is, I recommend you dig into what Facebook is doing with its Graph API. You see Google is cooperating with search competitors like Microsoft and Yandex on, which suggests to me they are not anticipating a future where any one company has a lock on the knowledge graph and its connections to our various social graphs through things like social networks, email, messaging, and more critically in the future, the Internet of Things.

Facebook, however, does seem to believe that they can own the whole thing. They are betting they will be big enough to control this interface between people and knowledge. They know there’s advertising money there, and know, rightly, that it is this juncture between people and things is where all business-to-consumer commerce originates in the field of marketing and operates in the coming Internet of Things. Facebook is betting its future on owning the interface between people and things.

This, you see, is part of why I invest my time on Google+ and Twitter (and now Mastodon), with only a minimal presence on Facebook.

Relationships Lost on Google+

Google is betting its financial future on this interface too. What Google doesn’t seem to realize is just how important its bet on the Shared Interest Graph — its bet on Google+ — actually is.

The good news is that the Google+ team is really focused on the idea of shared interests. That’s been the fuel behind the resharpened focus on Collections and Communities in the new UI.

The bad news is that other topical navigation solutions such as hashtags and search have been badly degraded in the redesign. These need to be fixed.

The further bad news is that the redesign badly crippled Circles, which is really the heart and soul of human relationships on Google+.

But the squelching of Circles is only one example of the way that relationships have been demoted in importance on Google+ over recent years. Another example is the fact that, without tools like CircleCount and Circloscope, we are unable to know whether or not someone has circled or followed us back. Reciprocality is social networking 101. This omission would almost be funny if it weren’t so damned egregious and telling of the lack of focus on relationships.

Why did the design team take away the simple icon that shows someone else feels that they too are in relationship with you? Was it somehow running out of pixels? No, my gut tells me its because it is now unclear what exactly constitutes that reciprocality. Should it show as reciprocal simply from someone follow one of my Collections or does it have to retain its original meaning, which was that that person had circled you? It’s a good question right? But rather than resolving this, the design team just punted on it, remaining silent to ongoing user questions about the rationale behind its removal.

Or what about the fact that it take a good 30-40 seconds between the time I hit the “Done” button and the time I’ve successfully added someone to a circle using my Android phone? Adding someone to a circle should take no more than a second or two. It’s ridiculous that it takes that long, and more evidence of the lack of focus on relationships in the redesign.

Let’s Go!

If all this sounds a bit harsh, it is only from a place of the tough love that I hope can act as a catalyst for change. Google+ team, we are here to help you, just as much as you are here to help us. People want to be co-creators, not cattle.

We are telling you, in various ways, that there needs to be a renewed focus on relationships. And here’s the good news, it’s not at the expense of the new strategy, but in full support of it. For a Shared Interest Graph is nothing without people with which to share it.


(Please excuse any typos; I don’t consider this my blog, where I edit things more carefully before publishing. If there’s something that just plain doesn’t make sense, let me know in the comments and I may re-edit the post to address it.)

87 thoughts on “Relationships on Shared Knowledge Graphs – and on Google+ in Particular”

  1. Gideon Rosenblatt I get the feeling that Google don’t fully understand why it is useful to have an indication of the other person’s relationship with you.

    There are lots of reasons the information can be helpful. For example the default “who can notify” is affected by relationship. So knowing if a person has a relationship with you affects one’s understanding of whether one is likely to be more (or less) successful with private (no public) communication.

  2. Yes, Robert Wallis. Plus, it’s just basic social understanding. Let’s put it this way: why do both Twitter and Facebook do this? Because it matters to humans to know what we think of one another.

  3. In addition to Robert Wallis’ excellent suggestion, maybe an additional indicator to differentiate “Follows you” (in a circle) and “Follows A Collection” so that you can tell if a non-follower does regularly see your stuff, vs. someone trolling. I’ve seen a lot of people I think “Where did you come from?” because they weren’t in circles but ended up being a follower of a single collection.

  4. I changed my username from a user ID number to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz on Facebook, if that lends any indication of how much I think about it lol since G+ took check-ins away, I now use fb for just that; if they reinstated check-ins, I wouldn’t use fb at all.

  5. Admittedly, I am not reading all of the very long comments on this string of posts, because… well… I am still in rough shape after complications in a January surgery resulted in the loss of a kidney, and majorly massive blood transfusions(currently reading my medical records, I received 49 units of blood products during a 12 hour surgery).

    That said, I have to agree heartily with the concept of G+ being an amazing repository of shared knowledge. I have been following experts in the fields of science and technology since the early days of G+. I have learned so much just from what my circlees post to their streams, be it a new report on science, or a tech article.

    Additionally, there have been many times where I wanted to research some arcane topic, and a Google search hasn’t provided helpful links. Oddly enough, a search within G+ will provide academic, or nearly academic postings on just about any topic I request. G+ has become a valuable library, or repository of data.

    For Google to discourage that activity, or the accessing of that data via algorithmic filtering is a travesty, and I daresay even counter to Google’s charter for itself – bringing data to everyone.

    Furthermore, should Google decide to shut down the platform, due to the amount of scientific and technical information available here, that would be tantamount to Al Qaeda’s attempt to burn down the Timbuktu papers.

    Please, Google, restore G+ to its former intellectual glory.

  6. Rick Dickson it’s true; I posted that exact complaint a few months ago because I thought it was hilarious that I’d have to go all the way home to my desktop to geotag a photo lol wtf G+

  7. Well said, as usual Gideon Rosenblatt​. Unfortunately, it seems like the design team prefers to gut every feature of G+ that actually works and is liked by users. Each redesign makes G+ harder to use and less rewarding. While I would love to know the honest rationale for these decisions, I’m not holding my breath. I’m just curious about who in Google management actually holds responsibility for the direction of G+. I wish I could feel optimistic about the survival of this unique and still-salvageable platform, but Social is not self-driving technology and without anybody at the wheel, a crash seems inevitable.

  8. They seem to also have removed an ability to see who follows (or whom follows) the person you follow. This was the best way, in the past, to expand one’s circle of shared interests. Now it’s a much darker room.

    Seems like google creators try to herd us into those forms of communicating and socializing they deem suitable. A bad move – G+ community is one of the least herd-like, from my experience.

  9. Gideon Rosenblatt I don’t understand why Google+ removed the ability to easily see who is following you. Maybe it is something already on their roadmap but they have to prioritize things? I felt as though there was so much insistence amongst users to include circles in the new Google+, they just added it back to placate us.

    The basic structure is there for Google+ to be a phenomenal place to connect with people around shared interests. The execution and smaller details need improving.

  10. פליקס כץ Many such limitations on visibility grow from concerns over confidentiality.

    I’d rather not indiscriminately advertise either my own followers, or who chooses to follow me. Similarly, I see no real reason for what I do or do not plus-one being public.

    The inability to selectively show/hide my comments to Communities leaves me with the option of revealing no comments to Communities.


    A large part of this problem is in trying to apply an oversimplified world-model to reality. It turns out, to the shock of precisely none, I hope (and know will be disappointed to find I’m wrong), that reality is complicated, and the reality of inter-personal relationships and interactions is more complicated than most.

    Consider, say, you’re an inner-city youth, or live in one of the world’s conflict zones, or hold unpopular thoughts somewhere in Flyover Country within the US, or … whatever.

    And there’s leakage of your thoughts and associations to those around you which could get you fired, shunned, bullied, SWATed, or killed?

    None of which is hypothetical, as there are well-documented cases of any and all of this happening.

  11. Rick Dickson, even though I wasn’t a big user of Events and Hangouts myself, I do know that they were a big part of building and maintaining the social capital and relationships that undergird this network.

    I think that, now that they have been separated into different codes bases, their re-integration could probably happen more at a UI level. Easy to say from the outside though. The devil is always in the details when you’re running really big projects like this.

  12. Gideon Rosenblatt The fact that my participation in a Hangout was published for any and all to see for all time was … a massive turnoff.

    What the actual fuck, Google?

    So, yeah, I did that precisely once.

    And that’s with Hangouts, and in particular the impromptu, small-group, voice+image chat being a spectacularly good concept, well-executed in many ways.

  13. Michael J. Coffey, yes, and your comment reminds me of something else I would have said were this post not have been getting so long.

    The Google+ User Experience needs to build in what for lack of a better term I will call “relationship upgrade paths.” In my last job, I used to think of this as “engagement pyramids” (see link).

    Basically, using this pyramid framework, you think about large scale engagement as being more automated and less personal. Here, Communities and Collections are a very valuable tool for reaching lots and lots of people. Communities, in fact, should be one of the primary ways that people who are new to Google can still start to build a following here.

    But there needs to be more work in helping users to shepherd people into gradually deepening relationships. One simple version of this means moving people up as follows:

    1) I share a community with you due to our shared interest in “X”

    2) Interested in hearing more from me, you subscribe to my Collection about “X”

    3) You start to become aware of other topics that I post about here on G+, and you add me to one of your Circles (see my comment coming after this one).

    4) You engage me in conversation through my posts, and after I get to know you, I circle you back

    This is just an example of some of the most likely paths. The UI should be working throughout to deepen all of these connections. The richer the ties to the Interest Graph, the more useful the network becomes. The deeper the ties in the Social Graph, the more social engagement we do. One of the reasons that Facebook has so much engagement is that there are lots and lots of bilateral exchanges in that social network. In other words, it’s a very dense network, with lots of activity flowing through it. – The Six Levels of the Engagement Pyramid

  14. One more point that I’m taking from my comments on another share of this post:

    Circles are strictly for capturing the social graph (i.e. edges between people). Collections and Communities (along with Search patterns and hashtag usage) are tools for capturing the Interest Graph. It is not at all a theoretical construct. Facebook’s Graph API includes a very concrete implementation of it.

    The problem that many of us had with Circles was that we were trying to use them as a way to represent the Interest Graph and it just didn’t work. I can’t tell you how many topic-oriented circles I was using. It was a lot.

    What Circles are really good for is managing our relationships with people. Circles are, in effect, a low-end Relationship Database, like a stripped down SalesForce. I use Circles to manage the kinds of attention I pay to various people. People in my “Notify” circle are at the top of my attention pyramid. Next comes Tier 1, then Tier 2, etc. And each of these circles got gradually diminishing levels of my attention. And least they did back when I was spending much more time here than I am now.

  15. Rick Dickson It’s interesting to note that there is a very distinct split among people who hung out and those who posted. At the beginning when we could easily put people in circles, I created a couple hangout circles, and lo and behold there was very little overlap among those who hung out and those who posted. Curious, some like face to face and some like text and pics. Anyway, I too would love to see hang outs return, I was using them to learn to be more sociable face to face (i live in a somewhat remote area as well as being somewhat shy anyway).

  16. Gideon Rosenblatt — Yes, yes, yes! When I do small business presentations about G+, I usually use examples of different forms of circle ladders for exactly that reason. A circle ladder for interaction. A circle ladder for “quality” (however you define that), etc.

  17. Yes, Bill Brayman, I think you’re right. There were definitely different people using these. I wonder if it maps to introverts, extroverts and those in the middle using both.

    And yes, Robert Wallis, I think that the integration could be relatively light weight. Perhaps it’s more about organizing Hangouts (with a refurbished Events again?) and then simply handing it off.

    And yes, Edward Morbius, there needs to be really good awareness of when, exactly, I’m willing to publicize my participation in these gatherings. This ties back to my point in the post itself that the “Shared Interest Graph is a representation of our outward-facing expressions of our interests. It is what we consciously express to one another, what we willingly share with one another.”

  18. Lisa Borel, somehow I missed your comment above. Yes! Yes! and triple Yes!!!

    I joke with my wife, or at least I used to, that I was heading off to Google+ School. I mean it was just that rich of a learning experience here.

    As my post from yesterday suggested, this last few days has returned that experience for me here by algorithmically turning comments “back on.”

    Lots of knowledge is exchanged through commenting here on Google+. I don’t think I gave that point enough attention in the post itself. A large number of my articles over on the Vital Edge were the direct result of conversations that started here, through comments and the conversations they enabled.

    What’s more, comments provide a very rich and nuanced set of additional insight into “the outward-facing expressions of our interests.”

  19. Gideon Rosenblatt It’s super great that you’re exploring these ideas with us. One point of possible difference tho, about shared interests.

    I’ve a lot of background in social psych sort of things, but i’m still uncertain what makes a good online community or circle of friends. True, shared interests is a big part of it, but something tells me that’s only part of the story. What makes good social relations also has to do with shared commitments, shared destiny, shared context. That correlates with shared interests, but not the heart of it. I wish i could articulate this idea better.

    For one thing, as Edward Morbius alludes to, when we interact we do so depending a lot on the context. You know, obviously, the difference between family and friends, work or play, private or public and so on. As users we need better control of the context we’re engaging in.

    I know i have too many people circled here, and it makes it difficult for me to know the different sides of many people, most everyone comes across as one dimensional, their particular interest that i’m following. But I really want to know and interact with some others in a more multi-dimensional way. Obviously at least know whether we have a mutual following arrangement, and several other bits of info about the other person and our connection. Again wish i could express that better.

    Then once some of these other basic social dimensions are accounted for, then interest based communities make more sense. I just know that google could figure this out, and i’m astonished they haven’t indicated they are aware of these basic social dimensions.

  20. Bill Brayman Google could do a lot to help people understand that part of the benefit of braking posts up into topics AKA Collections is that it allows people to post what they want instead of centering around what they think people want.

    It allows people to be multi-dimensional.

  21. I used to in fact have a system very similar to Gideon Rosenblatt’s engagement pyramid. It involved several circles, and new people I either discovered and found interesting, or engaged me in my posts, would get promoted up the chain of circles.

    It was clunky, and a general pain in the butt, but it worked well. And now it’s all but impossible. The interface now practically forces new people into Followers, and the old circle management tools are gone.

  22. That’s a great point, Bill Brayman, and I get what you’re talking about, I think. In short, there are lots of associations we make with other people that are necessarily based on topics.

    Examples might be a community of shared values, of shared work projects, or even just friendship. It turns out that there quite a number of these working already on Google+. In fact, it’s these types of organizations of people, these smaller, cultural Communities that tend to be the most high-functioning. To site just one example, the Conversation Community, run by John Kellden, seems to just keep on chugging along.

    Another interesting point is that, with Google+ now within the G Suite organization at Google, there would appear to be lots of opportunity for integrating Communities with things like Drive, Docs, Calendar and Gmail. I think that this is what Spaces was attempting to be, but that didn’t work for a variety of reasons. Communities will likely step in to fill that void. Or, at least they could.

  23. Gideon Rosenblatt The Circles/Content mismatch was a real … blunder.


    I don’t want to discuss all interests with all audiences.

    I don’t want to invite all audiences to all interests.

    If I can select both, well, then we’ve got something.

    Some Giant Organisation Of Glorious Label Elided has spectacularly failed to grasp, or answer, this reality.

  24. Brian Fields I detest the default “Following” circle.

    Most people are completely unaware that it is not included in “Your Circles”.

    I bet there are lots of people who only “Follow” and are perplexed by the total lack of engagement when they share something in a limited fashion to their circles.

  25. Robert Wallis Well, yes posting to topics helps bring out our dimensionality and is helpful, but is only one of the legs of the stool i’m thinking.

    And about hangouts being still here, I’ll have to check it out, i had pretty much given up on them, thanks for pointing that out.

  26. Yes, Edward Morbius. Don’t you think that Collections get us closer though?

    Also, it would be very interesting to think about permission-based Collections. This could function as a kind of subscription service. Who knows, it might even enable some of the really good content creators and curators here to earn some money for the content that they feed into the network.

  27. Oh, right, I forgot, Robert Wallis. I just don’t even use that.

    And the permissions are tied into Circles. One more reason why Circles matter.

    Do you know of anyone who’s using it for subscriptions?

  28. Lisa Borel​ A. Get well. Prioity 1. Spent 3 months in hospital and rehab. Not easy. Thinking of you.

    B. Just Google Scholar is a wonderful tool and I’d have to grieve its loss. I do not believe G+ is headed for distinction. The reaction from the heads of the projects that they are even seriously reading this posts is hope enough for me. The suggested simple UI changes would be code changes. That should be Google’s easiest forte.

    Hope you feel stronger soon. Always for a private conversation if you are feeling the gremlins bite.

  29. Gideon Rosenblatt it’s kind of hard to show you private stuff ?

    And unless you have an audience that “gets” Google+ it’s going to be an uphill climb.

    I do run a private collection for my “Happening London” page where I have recently suggested people subscribe.

    That is less about information distribution though and more about building and strengthening community. – Happening London on Twitter

  30. That makes sense, Robert Wallis. Yeah, today, there’s no way that I would invest the resources to set up a private Collection subscription. But one could imagine an interface for doing something like this, were Google+ to somehow get a bigger injection of development resources.

    Who knows? Perhaps the move to G Suite will surprise us…

  31. Yes, Lisa Borel, I got so excited about your point that I forgot to wish you well as you work through your kidney issues. I’m so sorry to hear about that.

    Thanks for catching that oversight Stuart O’Neill. An excellent example of putting relationships more in focus. 🙂

  32. I find the new Hangouts just difficult unless its a video call. I can’t even see who’s online to try a call. Used to be easy. Of course I’m working from mobile and that always makes a difference.

  33. Gideon Rosenblatt it’s already currently possible to do pretty much everything one might want to with Google+.

    The issue has always been that isn’t communicated.

    It’s not communicated because mostly Google, including even the people building it, don’t use it to the point where they “get” it.

    I still post about 60% privately. I use public and private communities, public and private collections, default following off “just for fun” collections.

    Google+ is my “OutBox” (

    I use it in preference to email and completely without email notifications (

    Anyone in the world can reach me on Google+, because that is my preference. But I understand that others should have all the choices I do. – Post privately to individuals on Google+ using a special Collection

  34. I will stick to G+ – it is my primary “social” tool. It is a tool that has it all, but is way ahead of its time. I would emphasize the importance of a high level of serendipity – driving curiousity. A Knowledge Graph versus a Social Graph – allowing the magic to appear in the intersection – the Interest Graph – it needs serendipity to be interesting. Without that key “random” aspect it becomes pretty boring – a ‘non-interest Graph’ like LinkedIn. Mastodon is boring too – there is no serendipity magic just happening. Innovation and insights comes from cross-fertilizing different areas.

    Wikipedia, Quora and Stumbleupon…

    G+ is unique and the commercial potential ought to be indisputable.

    I do believe that the potential of G+ was clear for all competitors from Day 1. Facebook acted upon it as a deadly threat – correctly. FB used all possible social means to talk it down – succeeding.

    Google protected Youtube as a crown jewel. Youtube has another kind of social power. I have not seen any comments on the strategic move by Vic Gundotra – and the powerful reaction against it later. The integration of G+ and Youtube (with the rather confrontative account approach) was logic – and yet the customers hated it – but did they really?

    Circles are brilliant and should updated btw. Integration with Hangouts on Air ( HOA:s) – I do miss it. – Google+ – Wikipedia

  35. Robert Wallis I guarantee new users don’t even know that Circles exist, since their very existence is buried 3 clicks deep in the interface, and you have to create one before you can even use it.

  36. Brian Fields circles as a concept is (and was) too much for new users to understand, as far as the reasons people came to “try out” Google+ for. So I kind of get what google felt they needed to do, which was dumb down the interface.

    People can come here, only “follow” and get a superior experience in terms of content, than Twitter.

    But Google+ still has a PR problem. Which Google seem unwilling or incapable of doing anything about.

    I do not like to draw parallels, but Facebook has never been “simple”. But what it did have was a level of interest, from being “cool” at the right time, which meant people persevered to a point where they felt comfortable about their “understanding” of what Facebook is and what it provides for them.

    Google+ currently has none of that.

  37. Just got to the bottom of this post’s comments and I still have these mixed feelings about deep thoughts that people like Gideon Rosenblatt​​​​​ put into this networking phenomenon.

    On one hand, I think that Gideon is absolutely right in most/all of the arguments he presents.

    On the other hand I don’t see anywhere a distinction between what I consider “professional” people that make a living from the Internet and that tend to focus mainly on big number of followers (no matter if they say otherwise), and people that, like me, just like to read “interesting” stuff and leave a comment here and there, and, as a consequence, make an effort to follow a manageable amount of people and keeping noise as low as possible (just today I unfollowed CNET precisely because the mix of good stuff and garbage. If only they used collections…).

    This is to say that probably I’m not a common person, on the sense that I’ve always kept myself out of FB because of privacy concerns and, at some point it kind of became a statement. I’m out of a social network and I’m happier that way. I have a “real” life to live out there in the world…

    When Google Photos appeared and became deeply integrated into Google+, along with Events, G+ kind of became my social network. A private one with Family members. It was great, as a matter of fact. We mainly exchanged photo albums from family events and conversation just happened around those).

    Now-a-days, with the recent changes in Google Photos, I see a different new phenomenon where I tend to share photos and comments directly in there with friends who never got into G+.

    Is Google ok with a distributed/fragmented way of interaction directly in each tool (Photos, YouTube, Maps, G+, Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Messenger) where Google itself (not Google+) is the glue that Vic Gundotra​​​​​ envisioned? I just wonder… And while at that, it kind of makes sense to me…

  38. Rick Dickson they “stop” because the managers use third party systems to publish to their social channels and generally those do not support posting to collections.

  39. Francisco Nogueira, I don’t usually try to respond to questions by pointing to articles I’ve written, but in this post, I’m finding myself doing it twice. Oh well…

    The attached link is an article from a while ago and it focuses on Twitter. It goes into the distinction between average users and more advanced, ‘power users’ – which I was calling “information networkers.”

    The net of it is that in an information-sharing network (as opposed to a pure social graph, like what Facebook was, at least originally), curators and creators play a really critical role. And my interest in ensuring G+ supports that kind of ecosystem is largely what is driving some of my comments over the last few days. With that said, without readers, there is no one to share the content with. So some of the comments (like a better way for aggregating Collection posts, for example) are aimed at supporting a better reader experience.

    Both types of users are critical to the health of the network. Right now, G+ is overly slanted to the reader experience, and less to the creators and curators. The point of this piece is, however, that much more focus needs to go into building bridges/relationships between these two groups of users. – The Information Networker: Twitter’s Golden Egg

  40. Gideon Rosenblatt​ no worries at all. Thank you for your well wishes. I am honored to think that I said something relevant enough to get you excited, especially in light of the many very thoughtful comments people have been generous to post on this conversation thread you kicked off.

    Stuart O’Neill​ thank you, as well. I will likely take you up on that offer. I am still coming to terms with just how near to death I was, especially because I never felt that, granted I felt REALLY, REALLY bad. I can’t think of many people who could handle hearing my musings about realizing that I now know what it feels like to be dying.

  41. Gideon Rosenblatt No, glad you picked up on that, but i don’t think hangouters vs poster/readers maps to extrovert vs introvert. Probably more to preferred mode of interaction – speech and conversation vs message-oriented language and visual content. From a cog sci perspective, these are two different types of learned motor skills – talking vs writing and similarly interacting vs messaging.

  42. Agree, Gideon Rosenblatt, about communities being the place where new users to G+ should begin their journey, but how do they know this?

    And, have you seen the Community UI recently?

    When the ‘About’ section was a permanent fixture in the top right of each community, users would at once know (and forever be reminded of) the purpose of the community.

    Daniel Imbellino asked if I’d help moderate the Strategic Social Networking network last week. I jumped at the chance.

    Not having used G+ regularly for 18 months other than to monitor my own small community, I thought moderating a community this size (almost 150k members) a great springboard to get back here on the platform I once adored, but fell out of love with (through desperation and exasperation) in late 2015.

    One burning issue I’ve found is the amount of spam being posted into the community. That never used to happen. Communities were a rich playground for communication, engagement and, as you allude, learning.

    But then I looked a little deeper. It’s no surprise that spam actions are rife.

    Where is the ‘How to’ guide to Google+?

    Where is the community ‘About’ section, its relevant links and its list of categories?

    Invisible, that’s where.

    I even tried to screen capture the zone where new users can explore what a community’s about before they join to show a user ignorant to the fact that his posting strategy was tantamount spamming.

    Those imperative reading sections are almost impossible to see.

    But why does it take community moderators to advise new users that their multi-community posting strategy is tantamount to spam?

    Why aren’t Google+ management on top of spam as soon as the pattern emerges from new users? They should be, as their filter knows when to quarantine posts into the “Likely to be spam” container.

    So, yes. We know that Communities aren’t the be all and end all of the interest intersection. I’m not sure if Google+ does, though.

    Besides communities, my ‘Home’ stream is unrecognisable. Users with whom I’ve had little interaction, topics I couldn’t care less about and shiny, sparkly quotes that seem desperate for engagement.

    Knowing that we need to connect around interests is one thing.

    G+ giving us the means to engage around like topics and expecting new users to work out how to without link-littering? I’m not sure the platform as it stands supports that capability.

  43. Gideon Rosenblatt The reason we’re all so loosely connected these days on the G+ platform is because of an algorithm change that took place back in late 2014. Google used to take a person or brand page’s post and then dump it into the home streams of users with similar interests. Then they had a ranking algorithm that decided who would get the added visibility.

    One of my gaming brands got thousands upon thousands of views for a single public post, and 99% of those who engaged with us were not followers of the brand page at all.

    On the other hand, they all had a shared interest in that they liked video games, and we served the gaming news, published hundreds of games on line, and provided a community for discussion as well.

    The fact is, Google did used to bring people together based on interests, and to a much lesser extent they still do to some degree, but not like they used too. Today Google still puts relevant content out in users home streams, but its done way too sparingly.

    Its as if they’ve regulated us to our own followers, rather than connecting like minded users as they used too, and putting forth content of real relevance.

    Jason Darrell made a good point that better helps explain the point I’m trying to make here, that our home streams are now full of irrelevance! Google used to put +1’d and relevant posts from those we follow first and foremost, followed by posts that are the most relevant to our interests.

    Now we view our home streams and its cat memes, inspirational nonsense, and stuff that hardly interests us. Which brings to mind something else. There’s people I’m friends with here, that while we’re friends for whatever reason, I may not necessarily share all the same interests as they do. Google needs an algorithm fix, plain and simple.

    Rest assured Gideon, I brought up this issue on your original post a few days ago, and so did a few others. We need to give it time, and continue to communicate with these developers, I think they do want to help make things better. We just need to give them a chance.

  44. Daniel Imbellino before the algorithm change I knew exactly what it took to get a post of mine trending. It basically came down to me dedicating the first hour to responding to comments left on the post. There is no longer that incentive (at least that I’ve found) since the algorithm change. I’m not even sure I could even make it work now with the state notifications are in.

    Currently the analytics provided in “Your Influence” shows how many views your posts receives in any stream (Your posts) and the total number of views your post AND reshares receives (Your reach). It’d be interesting if the analytics provided in “Your Influence” would have a break down between views from your followers and views coming from non-followers.

  45. John Chvatal Yep, quality engagement used to mean more visibility from like minded users. The more engagement you got, the higher your post ranked.

    Back in 2013 and 2014 content creators ruled this platform with an iron fist! Which made sense because there’s generally 2 types of users on social media, those who create content, and those who ingest it.

    But there’s other problems affecting this platform and social media as a whole that are also having negative effects, so its not all just algorithms.

    For one, because of economical conditions a lot of users now have spotty internet connections at best. Here where I live in St Louis, the once dominant middle class no longer exists, and there’s millions here in MO who no longer have access to the internet other than from their phones.

    These people can no longer afford a home PC or internet service, many don’t even have cable TV anymore, or even a home phone for that matter.

    People typically spend much less time engaging on the web with any single thing when accessing the internet from mobile devices. This is why people are so ADD on the web today. They access everything from their phone. Send a text, check emails, check out Google+ for a minute, then bounce back to their normal routine.

    Another reason why social engagement is dropping on the web is because there’s no potential for anyone to grow an idea on the web anymore, nor earn from ones ideas.

    People have simply given up I’m afraid, and many now feel alienated as a result.

    When communities first launched here, Strategic had thousands of aspiring bloggers who posted every day. Now they’re all gone. They’ve all given up once they realized their was no ability to earn from their work.

    There’s a lot of talented people out there, but the average person has bills to pay at the end of the day, and cannot afford to spend thousands of hours of their life producing content and growing their passions when they’re getting nothing in return.

    The harsh reality is that, we cannot fix Google+, nor the social web, without fixing our economic crisis as well.

    In America, people are losing access to the web, not gaining it.

  46. Daniel Imbellino despite my Facebook page’s continued growth, engagement has dropped off precipitously. I’m having a tough time distinguishing between whether it is because of Facebook’s tightening the screws on the algorithms or if it is because people have become more passive in their engagement. I suspect it is a combination of both. I’d argue Facebook’s algorithm is more than 50% to blame.

    My question is whether algorithms have sufficiently adapted to the new reality of more passive engagement? I don’t think Facebook has sufficiently. I’m producing the same content on Facebook as I was 3 plus years ago but I’m receiving less engagement.

    This all goes back to my philosophy of Comments are most important to me while +1s and shares take a more distant 2nd and 3rd place. Google+ used to reward us big time for that.

    If Google+ could get really good at predicting what content we might find interesting even though a particular post might not have the most engagement on it, they’d be winning.

  47. John Chvatal I agree that with Facebook its really a 50/50 situation, part algorithms, and part a lack of engagement.

    How to adapt to the increasingly passive engagement among users? I’m sure there’s got to be some positive ways to adapt algorithms given this situation, though I doubt there’s any easy answer.

    Social users appear pretty withdrawn these days. Its almost as if all humanity on social media is stuck in this zombie like state.

    Its likely that the current state of social media more closely reflects the state of our reality. People are stressed, tired, withdrawn, and depressed.

    But algorithms could improve the issues of a lack of engagement to at least some degree I’m sure.

    We need to get Google to re-enact the previous algorithms that focused more on the relevance between users and the content they share.

  48. Thanks for the comment, Carl Widigsson and focusing the conversation on serendipity.

    I see serendipity as the play of life, and even human soul interacting with that play. So yes, when a Knowledge Graph is stripped of that kind of playfulness and unpredictability, the kind when human humor, insight, creativity, inspiration and other elements are allowed to come to fruition, when that is missing so is the spark. And that is why the human element is so very essential to making a community based around shared interests actually work.

    So glad you brought that up.

  49. There’s a very real problem with Communities. Perhaps with Google+ in a larger sense, too.

    Since I’ve been back here, I’ve bobbed between communities in which I either moderate or own, with an occasional (horrified) glance at the stream. Not taken much notice of collections or other communities, if I’m honest.

    I just set out to change that by going alphabetically through the communities in which I’m a member. Didn’t look forward to it, but there really is no better way to manage your communities. As if that’s not telling enough…

    …judging by the volume of unchallenged spam and lack of any sign of leadership in twenty of the first twenty-one communities I revisited, many have been left to rot by their owners.

    We’re not talking piffling little communities, either. Members in the tens of thousands; communities that were once vibrant, educational places…

    …shot to shit, if you’ll pardon my French.

    Some are owned by pretty big names in the social sphere, too, people whose reputations could seriously be at risk if anyone with any clout was taking notice of G+ communities.

    Luckily for those ‘names’, it seems that no one is.

    From the one community that did offer insight and visible signs of leadership, I happened across a writer who’s got genuine talent.

    She doesn’t spam – there’s only one share of each of her blog posts against her profile.

    Not that that’s a measure of talent, but you do start to look out for these things after a few weeks days hours of being a moderator in a 150k-member community.

    Back in the day, a writer possessing as much visible acumen as she, adopting such an honest posting strategy and with so much to offer to others would have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers.

    How many has she got? 7

    And one of those is me. And then only eventually.

    Brian Fields ventured above:

    “I guarantee new users don’t even know that Circles exist, since their very existence is buried 3 clicks deep in the interface.”

    I can’t help but agree with the chap. Trying to put Kelly Duval into my Pro Copywriters circle was a freaking nightmare. I got there in the end, but the process was so unintuitive, no one would ever add someone to a circle as a happy accident.

    So, yes. Circles are a way outside of communities and collections that we can get a better experience out of G+.

    But what hope do we have of building a platform and new relationships around Circles when they’re so inconspicuous to new users and inaccessible to all?

  50. Jason Darrell I’ve noticed that too, a lot of massive communities have been all but deserted. No matter how much things slowed down here, I’ve never allowed my communities to end up in such dire shape.

    Remember how you mentioned earlier that hardly anyone posts? This is because G+ consists of mostly passive users. They’re joining Strategic to read our stories, rather than to share their own.

    A lot of these people are what I call invisible or silent users. Despite their presence, many never make their presence known. They interact with content, but not with people, and some may not even be social at all, they just want to read and nothing more.

    But it looks like a possibility that Google+ could get some new interactive gaming features in the future. G+ has long been missing out in terms of social gaming, a feature that Facebook has long made use of to drive engagement and keep people on their platform.

    The average gamer will spend several hours a day socializing on XBOX Live, PSN, and Steam, but only spend a few minutes a day on social platforms. Integrate social gaming here, drive more engagement as a result.

    I shared some ideas with Leo, and he had some good ones as well. But developing and implementing such ideas would take some serious time to accomplish.

  51. How many of those features survive?

    Circles are all but killed.

    Sparks were gone early.

    Hangouts and Photos are hived off. Not a bad idea, but they’re also virtually entirely inaccessible from G+.

    Pages … sort of kind of exist but nobody knows how to use them or what they’re for.

    Communities … what Jason Darrell just said.

    The impression I get is that this bus had a bunch of people fighting over the steering wheel. And not much caring for where the passengers wanted to go.

  52. Edward Morbius Ironically, when they launched Collections they killed off our communities and put the collections front and center. Whatever happened to putting “Communities front and center.” It was more like they got thrown under the bus. We had to fight to keep my gaming communities alive after collections first launched.

    What really hurt communities was the fact people created too many, and their explosive growth diluted engagement across the entire platform as a result.

    People can’t be everywhere all at once. Now Google only promotes the ones that are the most relevant it seems.

  53. Robert Wallis, just responding to your earlier point about “follow”. I can see Circles being too complicated for some users, but I get the sense that when we “Follow” someone it isn’t the same back-end process as when we “Circle” someone. I can’t prove that, sitting from the outside, but following sure seems to take a lot less time.

    I was just about to test it as I’ve had several dozen new followers over this last week, but I can’t find those new people in the new UI. This is another problem. On Twitter and Facebook, you can always look to see who is following you so that you can easily decide whether you want to follow back. Again, this is just basic social savvy. But it’s gone here now.

    Anyway, if follow isn’t just a default circle, but some other status, that seems like a damn shame – like a move you would make if you were planning on eliminating Circles all together.

  54. Thanks for that walk down memory lane, Edward Morbius – some of those features actually had me pining for the old platform.

    What happened to Ripples, too? Perhaps G+ thought they were a bit flaky. See what I did there?

    Anywho, in the UK, there’s a lower league football team: Crewe Alexandra. In the early 90s, they were whipping boys, finishing 91st and 92nd of the 92 teams who make up the professional football league.

    Then came Dario Gradi, an Italian with an eye for coaching.

    For two decades after his arrival, Crewe developed a unique ability to identify, nurture and give visibility to some of the best homegrown, talented home nations’ footballers and then sell them on. Of course, there were duds, too.

    The club itself has accomplished comparatively little, other than to solidify its place a little further up the footballing food chain.

    But some of the players who made it through the ranks became stars in their own rite: David Platt, Dean Ashton, Rob Jones, Geoff Thomas, Craig Hignett, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon.

    Today, the club is once again in the headlines, but for the wrong reasons following reports of abuse by the one-time youth coach, Barry Bennell.

    But the point I’m trying to make is about their Academy, the way they nurtured and fostered young players who’d go on to become successful domestic and international players and managers.

    Seeing the host of G+ features you pointed out Edward Morbius struck a surprising comparison.

    Many products that Google have dreamed up they’ve tested out here. Hangouts, Photos and lessons in how we interact to help its search engine understand language and context are successes.

    But no doubt Google sees failures, too – commercially ineffective services that lived and died here, or that perhaps Google used in other iterations elsewhere (Google Authorship’s place, albeit in disguise, on the Knowledge Graph, for instance).

    There’ll always be a place for Google+ as long as Google keeps coming up with ideas that increase brand loyalty and drive traffic through its main product, Search.

    We might be left pining for some features. But that they’re no longer in the same cage doesn’t stop us from using them, even if it would be nice to have them still integrated.

    The time we have to worry about Google+ is when Google stops thinking up new ideas or artificial intelligence becomes so advanced in its search algorithms it no longer needs guinea pigs to test out new features.

    So, I’ll leave you with one question, open mic to all:

    if Google asked you to test out a new feature it had conceived with no guarantees that it would ever see light of day, would you?

  55. Jason Darrell Answering your question directly: no.

    Google have burnt my trust far too many times already. Most specifically by taking actions, on my behalf, in direct opposition to what I’ve stated. Most especially by violating my boundaries on privacy and information disclosure.

    Your comments on talent-spotting are well taken, and have application well beyond product grooming. And … a problem in numerous places.

  56. I’ve a feeling your answer will be the same as many others’, Edward Morbius. Might have been different when G+ was in its heyday, though.

    Me, I guess I might still be tempted – depending on the test’s nature and perceived time investment.

  57. To answer your question, Jason Darrell, yes, I would. But that’s because I like experimenting with things.

    Where I am starting to be much more careful about drawing the line is in making substantial investments in any such bets. Take Spaces, for example. I played w/ it a bit. But on smelling the lack of product passion exuding from it, I very quickly deserted it. And good thing too.

  58. Daniel Imbellino and John Chvatal, thanks for that back and forth on the algorithmic changes (sorry for the delayed response – I’ve gotten a bit inundated here and am trying to keep up with my other responsibilities).

    I think that one of the more interesting challenges that we face is the conundrum of algorithmic transparency.

    I did a post the other day (see link) about the experience I’m now having as a result of that first post on losing my patience w/ G+ and all the engagement it got. Suddenly, the caliber of engagement I was experiencing on new posts was much deeper. Though I would add to that post the following: on certain posts I’ve since shared that are part of rather large Collections, I got lots of plusses but also lots of crappy comments. Posts to the collection that this post went into are not attracting lots of plusses and stupid comments, but instead, high quality comments. So, I get the sense that Collections are having a very large impact on what does/doesn’t show up in the stream.

    And this is part of the conundrum of transparency. On the one hand, it would be really nice to be able to better understand what makes these algorithms tick. On the other, when Google (or any other company) does that, it opens the stream to a kind of tragedy of the commons where spammers, trolls and other miscreants jump in and wreck everything.

    One thought is, well, don’t expose the algorithm but allow us to tweak the parameters of how it shapes our stream. That would be frickin’ awesome. But then again, the miscreants would likely use something like this to try to infer the algorithmic contours in a way where they could then abuse it.

    Sigh, sometimes it’s challenging working with this thing we call humanity. 🙂 – Breathing Life into Echoing Halls of Silence My experience of Google+ has ju…

  59. Gideon Rosenblatt Yeah, I noticed Google’s biggest fear is letting the average user into the know all of their social and organic algorithms. The risk of abuse and spam is a huge deterrent to sharing such information publicly.

    It’s the whole reason Google never tells users on the G+ platform when their accounts are flagged for spam, but they do tell communities and their moderators. When a post gets flagged, the user has no clue and are left totally in the dark unless a moderator decides to fill them in.

    On the other hand, Google’s algorithms of both their social platforms and organic search are also intertwined in many ways, and Google often differentiates between the good and bad players on the web through the use of trust metrics.

    The higher your level of trust, the higher you rank. But with g+ the algorithms are now more geared to serving our content to the people who’re connected to us in some way, rather than serving said content to those its more relevant too, as we covered earlier.

    However, you’re still in a good spot for visibility Gideon, as Google seems to be heavily focused on promoting the content within certain collections such as yours, and with certain communities as well.

    In the end, I think much of this discussion boils down to, how can we increase engagement, visibility, and growth of our purpose on the web, or in this case, Google+?

    And there’s a number of likely possibilities for the drops we’ve seen in engagement here, many of which we’ve all collectively outlined.

    Among those factors, we have economical issues (no incentive for people to invest time into the web as there’s no potential ROI, people are depressed, financially stressed, etc), a diluted web (too many places to engage, and too many choices for social platforms), along with bad algorithms that fail to connect people based on relevance (which we greatly need), then we have the rise of social gaming (Facebook, Steam, XBOX Live, and PSN win, everyone else loses).

    We need a lot of things to make Google+ great again, but a few practical changes can go a long ways, mainly in terms of algorithms, and Google’s willingness to bring back social gaming features.

    Social gaming related platforms have the most engaged users, often spending hours a day playing games and socializing with others online. We need these features here, then we can compete for that lost attention we want so badly.

    I did discuss the importance of social gaming features with Leo directly, and I think in time we can manage to come up with a game plan to make it work. They do seem to acknowledge the algorithms need some serious tweaking too.

    In my mind, the whole idea is to get people on Google+ and keep them here!

    If we don’t do it, Facebook or somebody else will.

  60. I haven’t had time to real all the comments, but one thing that has always struck me is how useless the “people” search for followers is here – possibly made to be useless by design. I understand you have already given up your investment on your large business community and that has gone to the weeds, but as I have tried to communicate to Google the member directory there is also useless. So useless, in fact, tht the most perfect business contact for me could join and even if they were in my own neighborhood I would never know it, or even have a way to know it.

  61. Agreed Rob Gordon, searching for people is definitely hit or miss, and this includes plus-mentions of people’s names here. Sometimes it’s super easy and sometimes people I talk to all the time here are very difficult to pull up in the drop down list of people.

    But yeah, search is tough. I can usually find people in a community though.

    And just to clarify, I haven’t given up on the Good Business community. I still tend it. I just don’t invest anything like what I used to there.

  62. Gideon Rosenblatt Rob Gordon

    I’ve learned from experience that communities die quite quickly if they aren’t tended too often. If you aren’t engaged, neither is your audience is the problem.

    I noticed anytime I stop blogging and stop talking, my social networking community slows way down in terms of both engagement and daily growth numbers.

    I started blogging again this past month or so, and we’re gaining about 100 people a day again. So I take it Google has algorithms they use to determine who’s community is the most active, relevant, and worth sending traffic too.

    I stop writing, Google puts the brakes on the traffic as well. So I try and stay active. It seems Google favors fresh content, even over engagement.

    As for searching for people, what a mess! I agree with you both, at times I often create private posts in order to better communicate with those who manage my brands, and quite often I can’t get their names to come up. Or, when I go to actually make the post, it just hangs with a spinning circle and never posts.

    Searching under “People” seems to be very much broken as well. Often names don’t come up there either. Definitely needs some fixing for sure.

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