A few brief thoughts on Google +

As someone who has been on Google Plus for a little less than a week now, I too am a bona fide expert on this new social network– or at least as much of an expert as the people who haven’t really used it for anything yet but speculate on its usefulness.  For example, ProfHacker has a post here about it, and they point to an article in GradHacker here.

It is far FAR too early for anyone (certainly me, as an expert) to speculate too much about what G+ is for (or not); that said, let me speculate a bit on what G+ is for (or not):

  • Everyone seems most excited/interested in talking about hot G+ allows you to set up “circles” that sort out who you connect with and for what purposes.  For example, some of my circles are “comp rhet folk,” “EMU,” “Friends.”  So far, the vast majority of people I’m following are in the “comp rhet folk” circle and are fellow geeky-types who are mostly kicking the G+ tires.  Anyway, this is not that big a selling point over Facebook for me because I’ve been setting up groups for Facebook for a long time now.  I spent one afternoon a year or so ago putting all of my “friends” into lists, and I have a couple of lists (for example, “students”) which I regularly do not post updates to.  If that makes sense.  So while I agree that G+ makes it a lot easier to sort out friends, it is not as if this is completely impossible on Facebook.
  • One thing that is a lot easier with G+ is to “start over” in terms of the whole social networking thing.  If I were to do Facebook all over again, I wouldn’t have friended everyone I have; in fact, I might have even left FB to just the handful of “real friends” I have out there.
  • The most potentially useful part of this is the poorly named “Hangout,” which is group video chat, basically.  I haven’t used this yet and I am kind of dubious as to how well the group chat will work technically, but I can definitely see the point in trying to use this kind of tool for teaching, particularly for online teaching.
  • I’m a big fan of just about all things Google.  I love gmail and google reader– use them every day– and google docs and google sites are go-to places for me for teaching, working with collaborators, etc., etc.  Having said that, I have to wonder what is “in it for them” with G+.  Sure, Facebook is kinda evil, which is why it is useful to try to a) figure out how to set various privacy setting there, and b) remember that whatever you post on Facebook doesn’t just stay on Facebook between you and your friends.  But always remember that Google is primarily a media company, so how will they use this new service to sell ads and/or mine user data? (And BTW, literally as I am writing this, Jeff “Yellow Dog” Rice just posted about this very topic in some interesting ways.  And I also just came across this somewhat alarming discussion of the issues of privacy on ZDNet).
  • Right now, G+ feels a little to me like Ning.  As they describe it on their web site, Ning lets you “create your own social web site.”  This was at one point pretty popular with some of my MA students/colleagues interested in secondary education I think because it gave teachers the chance to “control” a social setting.  So you had some of the advantages of  a social network site but while closing out all the “nasty bits” of the internets and MySpace and such, those “real world” elements that secondary schools are always trying to make sure do not leak into the closed world of classrooms.  Well, the problem with creating your own social network is it isn’t really too “social” (and/or much of a party) if people aren’t showing up.  Which makes me wonder if G+ will go the route of Wave or Ning.  On the other hand….
  • … Who knows?  Before MySpace was “the place” to be, there was Friendster; and before Facebook was it, there was MySpace, which was sold off very recently for what is a relatively measly $35 million.  So who knows where we’ll be in a year?  Right now, G+ is mostly a curiosity and one that makes me think more about my relationship with Facebook more than anything else, but a year or so from now, maybe it’ll be the “go to” social network and Facebook will all but done.  And then my mom will join G+ and the “cool kids” will be on to the next thing.
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4 Responses to A few brief thoughts on Google +

  1. bonnie says:

    Steve, Why so leary of “Hangout”? I can’t seem to get why NO ONE responds to my attempts to nudge us toward video interaction. I’ve been trying!! And, TRUST — I am the least pleased with my visage in screen, but I keep believing that there is something in it that it also (going to be) crushingly helpful in terms of creating new forms of communication, even within genres that have become less rigidly maintained (“professional communication”).

    In “status update,” I tried. I tried in my virtual “CFP’s” leading up to that film. I tried the first day I was in G+ to get someone to hangout. The respones to the film were few (but those that came were GREAT), but NO ONE would hangout.

    Now, I’m willing to see if/that it’s “just me,” but I think there’s something more going on in this rejection of video chat. Maybe something generational; I wonder what the stats are for younger (teen and very young adult) use of video chat.

    Just curious …

    Thanks for thinking this through publicly; you do articulate a lot of what I intuit — the “starting over” thing is WAY refreshing — YET, I do find myself putting strangers into what has become the default “strange space” :)

  2. Troy says:

    Google is an advertising company above all. Google+ eyeballs are captive and targeted. That shit is gold for them and the only reason for them to do it.

    Yeah, maybe G+ will encourage you to try their other products — which just helps them target ads even better.

    On the upside, I’m not really against targeted advertising. If I’m going to see them, I’d prefer them to have some relevance.

  3. Steve Krause says:

    I just think “hangout” is a terrible name. No one who wants to use that space for anything remotely serious (business for sure, but even educational settings or whatever) is that interested in going to a “hangout.” A hangout is for kids, and the kind of kids who hangout at hangouts probably don’t want to refer to them as hangouts. If that makes sense.

    Troy and my mutual friend “Bri Sco” made a good comment on facebook that might prove to be the case with G+: he said that the appeal to him with it is he’s already “there” all the time with Google and Gmail anyway. So he said “If I can get video and chat without logging in to skype and the wee bit of social that I use without logging in to facebook, I am sold.” Interesting point.

    BTW, I left the “hot” typo on purpose– thought it was a good Freudian slurp. ;-)

  4. Angela says:

    Prof. Krause,

    I agree with a lot of what you said. On a different note, I think that Facebook was founded on “coolness,” as mentioned in the movie about Zuckerberg. That “coolness” factor has potential to exist in G+ because it is, after all, Google. Many people are faithful to that brand and I know of a few people who are all over G+ simply because they are loyal to Google and less to Facebook. Google, however lacks that same exclusivity that Facebook had when it became big. It was shared among college kids and being cool to that target audience is a gold mine! Google, I suspect, may have a different audience. Not sure how it will go though.

    Great post! Well said!

    Angela A.

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