G+ take two

a few weeks ago i was pretty harsh on the rollout of Google+.  i don't feel like i need to take back my "hello, is anybody home" comments, because they were true although, at the time, G+ was only a day or two old.  it was impossible to judge what the service was like at that point.  without users or content it was as un-evaluable as those terrible cell phone shop displays where they put a smartphone on a stick, take out the batteries, and glue a plastic screenshot to the display. what i was wrong about was my assumption that things would stay that way.  and a couple of days after my post, things didn't look good.  reports were that invites had been shut down entirely, the service was slammed, the few people inside the cave could shout across the echoing vastness to each other, not to be joined by anyone else for some time.  but only a few days later, a change of heart: invites for everybody! throw open the doors! G+ is here!

people keep adding me on G+.  some of them i know well, some of them i've never heard of, and that puts me in an odd position.  i don't know what to do with the thing.  i've always kept a pretty sharp division between my two social networks of choice: facebook for real life friends (and properly friends; acquaintances often excluded, sorry guys), and twitter for whoever will listen.  that's an easy distinction to remember.  if i say it on twitter, i say it to the world.  if i don't want to tell the world, i generally don't put it on the internet; rarely do i feel compelled to share something just within the comparative privacy of facebook.  (really private things get shared via the World's Oldest Social Network: in person, over a beer.)

one of G+'s main selling points is the ability to regulate sharing via circles.  but for circles to be such a great boon, Google makes the assumption that i've always had two conflicting needs: the urge to share all sorts of things online but also the desire to micromanage the recipients.  the problem is, i think, that i have neither.  i share plenty online, but i keep it to things that i'm happy to publish universally.  if organizing people into circles gains me nothing, it's at best a minigame (as one friend aptly put it), and at worst a chore.

if the number one feature of G+ is of little use to me, what's left?  G+ does have a couple interesting peripheral features.  the promise of free 10-person group video chat (are you listening, Skype?) in the form of Hangouts will come in handy sooner or later, no doubt.  Sparks are a bit of a dud so far as i can tell…type in a topic and get the equivalent of a thoroughly un-curated RSS feed.  my primary photo service will always be flickr, and while i use Gchat, i do so through Adium, a fantastic multi-protocol desktop app.  none of these things are a major draw to G+ for me.  focusing on the heart of G+, just looking at my feed (Stream, whatever), all i see is long-form twitter.  that's never been something i've wanted.  hell, i said that at the outset of this blog.  and you can bet i'm going to keep posting this sort of content here, where i control it top to bottom and know it won't be lost in a ever-flowing river of social media ephemera.

so my review of G+ has changed.  it's picking up momentum, and i think it will be around for a good long time.  i'm not sure whether or how quickly its users will be able to nail down a strong sense of how the community is supposed to work, something that is pervasive on fb and twitter, at least among those i interact with.  G+ strikes me as a product of fear, not a product of purpose.  maybe Google will get lucky, and throwing enough decent technology at the wall and seeing what sticks will be a viable solution.  maybe the G+ community will blossom into something that didn't exist anywhere else before, and be a real asset to the internet. maybes at best, but maybes are at least worth watching.