The Google+ Experiment (Part 2)

In my last post, The Google+ Experiment (Part 1), I shared my history and thoughts around Google+ that led me to go back and re-evaluate Google’s social networking platform. In this post, I’ll try to capture my thoughts on the experiment itself. I do not consider this a “new user” view because I’ve been on G+, built some circles and have already played with the platform. This experiment is in the context of a re-visit, enabling me to focus on what’s changed both from a platform and personal perspective that might make G+ a worthwhile candidate for my time and attention.

Differentiating between Facebook & Twitter

The first thing that I wanted to answer was how did G+ differentiate itself from Facebook and Twitter. This was hard at first because many of the contributions to my stream were people who thought sharing links endlessly was the best way to leverage Google+. That made G+ very noisy and difficult to follow.  As I started to evaluate who those users were, I started un-circling the broadcasters (people who share a lot of links, but don’t provide any commentary or context). I will say that this instantly made the content in my stream more interesting. I was left with 3 types of contributions:

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The Google+ Experiment (Part 1)

Background

Ever since Google started with social networks, I’ve been skeptical.  But Google+ seems to have more staying power than any of the previous attempts (e.g. dodgeball, wave, buzz). By taking an agile development approach, it allowed Google to release a product that was far from complete, but had enough functionality to make the product usable. This approach is called Minimum Viable Product. The challenge with this approach is that people came, saw, evaluated and left. Many of these people never looked back. I think Alan Lepofsky captured it well when he tweeted:

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Why Google+ is a -1 for me

It’s always fun to see when a new social channel is released. There is plenty of excitement and wonderment as people try to figure out what a new tool is, where it fits and how it’s better/worse than existing tools. If there’s one thing Google is exceptional at, it’s creating a buzz around a new release. Google+ isn’t the first, as a matter of fact, it’s the 3rd (perhaps 4th) attempt at doing ‘social’. And while I think this is by far the most interesting attempt to date, I’ve now walked away. But, the reason I walked away is not because the tool isn’t interesting, it’s something much more fundamental. It’s about authentication and the really horrible user experience around it.

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Google: To Serve Man?

We consciously and unconsciously give up more and more of our information and private data to Google, all under the premise that “We shall do no evil”. Recently I watched the CNBC Special Inside the Mind of Google by Maria Bartiromo. This really makes me think of the old Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man.

While we make the decision with every search we make, every e-mail we send to give up a little bit of privacy, all feeling perfectly safe and often times wanting to give them more. We share things with Google that we wouldn’t share with our shrink or our significant other, all thinking that it’s private.

It is obvious to me that we are possibly not realizing the potential consequences of our actions and when we do finally realize, it will be too late. I have always said, “We are one bad earnings report away from Google misusing my personal data”. While this may seem extreme, the question is who is Google’s loyalty to, its users or its shareholders? What do you think?