July 24, 2014

Google+: Trying to Fill a Void I No Longer Have

I’ve had accounts on a lot of social networking sites. Heck, I still have accounts on Tribe.net, Orkut.com (a shout-out to my Brazilian friends!) and have even left my dead body behind in Second Life — somewhere on Information Island I think. Try not to trip over the corpse of Thomas Roy the next time you’re there. Oh — you don’t go there anymore either? No surprise.

So when Google+ (say “Google Plus”) was announced, I ran to go get it on it like the social networking whore I’ve become. Ooh! Ooh! A new toy! But now I’m beginning to have second thoughts.

First, since Google suspended the ability for me to invite my friends, I now have a seriously split community. Some are using Google+, some Facebook, and still others who likely are not gainfully employed such as myself — both. The ability to invite your friends has been gone for days and we don’t know when it will come back.

Second, I’d have to say Facebook — despite it’s real and infuriating annoyances — has generally done a pretty good job. For example, it is Facebook that is putting me back in touch with many of my river guide friends from the late 1970s. Even more importantly, Facebook is in the process of hooking me back up with people I haven’t seen in nearly 40 years. These would largely be old friends I thought I’d never see again, and now I’m looking forward to doing just that at a reunion later this month.

In the scheme of things, then, I’d have to say that Facebook has been doing a pretty good job of hooking me up with the folks I want to hook up with. Why is this? Clearly penetration is key — Facebook rules in terms of sheer numbers of users and that is essential if you want to find someone. Even with the vast audience Facebook has gathered I’m still missing some of my peeps.

Meanwhile, Google+ is still very much in its infancy in terms of gathering participants, and it hasn’t helped that it put the brakes on right out of the gate. In the end, I’ll go where I can find the people I want to hook up with, and so far that’s Facebook.  Am I done messing around with Google+? No, it’s still early and who knows if it will eventually unseat Facebook as the place to be. But am I relying on it for anything in particular? Not so much. At least not yet. And in a nutshell that identifies Google’s challenge — to become an essential solution to a problem that most people no longer have.

Of course, a lot of us thought Alta Vista was a pretty good search engine.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

Comments

  1. I actually like Facebook less for the same reasons you gave :-)

  2. Mike Furlough says:

    But are you still using Flock?

  3. Ed: heh, good point. Remaining anonymous or at least uncontacted from folks you don’t care to re-establish contact with can be important too.

    Mike: I never used it. ;-)

  4. I’m starting to think that Google+ is not for us, it’s just part of the Googleverse, a place for Google to harvest social graph information.

  5. I’m having the same experience of only having 5 friends eligible for Google+. My 87 friends on facebook don’t seem to be rushing for invitations.

  6. Much as Facebook’s privacy policies (and lack thereof) have annoyed me, I find the post-by-post settings in Google too easy to louse up on a given post. I share this with a circle, that with a friend; this with everyone in all my circles, that with the world. It’s too easy to have the wrong focus on follow-up posts outside that conversation. I like the granularity, but don’t like the interface.

  7. I’ll probably give it a whirl once I get an invite, but I sort of feel like Google already has a lot of my data.

  8. I’m starting to get into G+. I like being able to categorize people EASILY into circles and make posts directed to just a subset of people. I can also only look at a stream from selected folks, making it easier to ignore what doesn’t interest me. So far I’m liking it better than Facebook, but it will be difficult to disentangle myself from FB for a while.

  9. It has the potential. I think the circles thing makes controlling what you share a bit easier.

    Then again, I use a lot of Google stuff so I may be a bit biased.

  10. @Roy Tennant – I read a very similar post at the Harvard Business Review:

    http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/07/google_comes_up_short.html

    @Avi Rappoport, I agree, this is about Google’s need to be on top, not about people who have a problem to solve.

  11. Rick Anderson says:

    I got invited to join Google+ a week or so ago, and did so, and haven’t been back to it since. To me, the acid test for a social networking site is the question “What problem does this solve for me?” Facebook has changed my social life, mostly for the better. On the other hand, I keep not coming across any reason to return to Google+. Maybe I’ll find a reason someday. But “maybe I’ll find a reason to use your product someday” is probably not the market reaction that Google was hoping for.

  12. I’m more comfortable on Twitter than on Google+, for reasons that Avi gets at in comment #4. Twitter is a lot less nosy, and more straightforward, about personal information sharing than Google+ or Facebook. (As it happens, I share a fair bit on Twitter, including some of the demographic information that Google badgers me about, but I distrust sites that get pushy about collecting this information.)

  13. Thank you all, especially Avi in comment #4, for expressing my hesitation. I’m reading Eli Pariser’s _The Filter Bubble_ right now, and I understand that those 1800 or however many data points about me already exist and Everyone in Corporateland Knows Everything About Me. But still, I don’t want to ratify it by adding to the places I’ve sold myself into. Twitter and email work for me.

  14. I’m not a betting man, but if I had to make a bet, it would be on Google. Facebook has to struggle against the dual disadvantages of Zuckerbergian arrogance and lack of a comprehensive search platform. Facebook still has an uphill battle to integrate with search. Google doesn’t have to.

  15. … also consider that if your reaction to Google+ is ‘I’d rather use Twitter’, then you’re not the target. The target is people who still search on Google, which is still most people who search.

  16. If you don’t mind having an advertising company serve as middleman for all your online interactions, then Google+ is a great thing.

  17. Google+ seems to be doing a better job of handling pics than fb. For one thing the focus was better.

  18. Everyone is forgetting it is a beta test! Also, the invites are turned on now and going out left and right with no restrictions. If anything will kill Facebook, it is Google+.

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