Saturday, 16 July 2011

Thought Picnic: My Google+ Concerns

Google+ the new fad

The new Social Networking craze is Google+ which a lot of people are adopting and lauding as the next big thing in the online propagation of self, interest, interaction and fun.

Whilst it is a new perspective on the social networking landscape, for more practical reasons I have not found how this contributes significantly to my social networking experience yet.

I have read many reviews of the amazingly new things you can do with Google+, the circles, the hangouts, the granularity in sharing and probably it’s Facebook-killer prospects.

Carrying your users with change

My background in Information Technology is about implementing radical change in the enterprise without disrupting the business process by quantifying risk and benefit without leaving the critical business processes and users behind.

For all the amazing IT infrastructure that can be implemented in an organisation it is usually the users that are left behind and the support department left with the escalating costs of helping the users get to grips with the new environments and systems they have been presented with the IT management somewhat satisfied that the backend systems and successfully implemented and literally oblivious of the user complaints until some senior executive walks into the CIO’s office stating that the situation is untenable.

I root for the user and the many users of the organisation that make up the engine-room of the productivity gains the organisation intends to achieve by implementing any ideas or systems and it is not an easy job at all.

Exposure over experience

For instance, I remember the visual interface changes between Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft office 2007, whilst the later version appeared to expose the extensive usability of the product, in the process it left behind the experienced user-base of Microsoft Office products that either had to learn new ways of doing what they always knew or buying additional software that gave them the kinds of menus they were used to in earlier versions.

Eventually, Microsoft realised this that they created a usability website that allowed experienced users to put in their old ways of doing things to learn the new ways of how things are done.

I may have digressed but this is what I realised about Google+, at the moment it does not fit in into the social networking workflow that I have developed in the use of Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and Google Buzz.

Opportunity is not continuity

It does not feed into any of these environments neatly yet, though there are applications ready for that function, it does not channel any of the existing traffic nor does it aggregate any of what I do, it for now looks like a fancy gadget of excitable distraction.

I can understand that Google+ allows for people to develop the influx and categorisations of their social networking contact anew but this is at the expense of leaving behind the audience that has been built up in the various other social networking environments that have been nurtured over the years.

Whilst the connections of Twitter are asynchronous and can be managed with lists certain Twitter applications allow for the traffic to be filtered. On Facebook, fan profiles are asynchronous whilst friend profiles are synchronous, requiring acknowledgements to interact.

Multi-dimensional circles matter

With Google+ Circles linked to the Google+ Streams you can also filter your traffic but Circles are in terms monolithic, it would have been nice to have concentric circles, hierarchical trees or over-lapping circles like Venn diagrams that signify degrees of separation or closeness in terms of who you interact with and share information with because the contacts do not necessarily fall into one circle.

I probably want to put people in different circles as I determine which group of people I want to share information with like someone who is family that I can share the craziest things with that also belongs to my close circle of friends and we have similar interests and probably non-divergent career paths – clicking on that person should immediately show those relationships and hopefully what I have already disseminated.

Hard work or ease?

Another analogy can be found in the acquiring a new mobile phone; over years you build up a contact list on your mobile phone that you might occasionally prune but you would most likely want to electronically export to your new mobile phone without losing your data and its integrity.

There are terms and conditions from the various social networking platforms that might disallow the wholesale transfer of your existing user base to Google+, you find that you are manually recreating your network on Google+ which might be good for some but for others who do not need to exclude any of the existing social networking contact for being better at filtering their user base in the first instance, it becomes a chore that needs to be simplified a lot more in terms of seeing Google+ as a feeder, conduit or aggregator.

Google may not want Google+ to perform any of those functions but just like change can be a difficult process in well-established organisational structures, people might well stick with what they can use and use well retaining their user base that working in multi-various social-networking platforms that have not been usefully integrated for the user.

Hardly where it should be for the users

Google+ might well become the dominant social networking platform over time but the bridge to that seamless integration with existing social networking expression is for now a shaky rope-bridge over a river of very hungry crocodiles a la Indiana Jones.

Google Search might take the context of Google+ as a word rather than an advanced search function that concatenates the next word, I am not convinced it is the best name for this platform as it is or as words, it reminds me of software applications as Act, Clarify, Remedy, AIMS etc which were difficult to search for just because they had more predominant contexts in language than for their use as application names.

I can understand that many may not agree with my views as expressed here but I do not believe this is a concern to be dismissed out of hand, you might well want to leave your old use base behind, but if you a simple thought to your existing social networking contacts; if they are not as geeky as you are, do they want to lose contact with you and really cannot you afford to lose them just because you now have a new toy?

User-driven or developer-driven?

It is incumbent of Google to make Google+ work for you as you adapt it to your purposes with ease, it is time that the user really has a say in what software and applications should deliver rather than what the developer force feeds you just because they think they can read you mind.

Obviously, any new thinking about how to normalise the various data sets on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn and other platforms is useful, maybe a good disruption to our monolithic considerations, it is left to the user to determine how high the price they want to pay for change in cost, time, process and usefulness.

You can join my Google+ network here.

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