The First Rule of Google+ Club…

Is apparently to talk constantly about Google+ Club.

Which strikes me as odd because most of what I have seen so far has not been all that exciting.

Yes, I am there on Google+.

You can find Wilhelm Arcturus in the Google+ milieu.

[Whoops, no you cannot, not any more. Pseudonyms are not allowed and somebody apparently complained about mine and I was asked to leave.]

There were several dreadful minutes when I had nearly a dozen invites to join Google+, but they were limiting the number of users allowed in this early release period.  And then somebody at Google changed their mind and the population of Google+ has since swollen to the point of rivaling the population of  New York and closing in on that of Texas.

But once there, it didn’t really change my world.

Google+, in my view, is trying to meld the ideas of Facebook and Twitter into a single package.  Not a bad idea.  It has merit.

As with Facebook have your wall, which I guess is your stream in Google+ parlance.  And stream is a good term, since already I’ve run into people who post like they are letting go after a few beers.

Anyway, you’re not limited to streaming out a mere 140 characters, you can embed pictures or video, and you can even decide which of your groups you can stream all over.  Plus, if your friends respond, they can respond directly to your post.

Meanwhile, Google+ has aspects of Twitter in its structure.  For a start, you have no friends.

For some of you, this won’t be news.

On Facebook, friends are a one-to-one, mutually consensual relationship.  You gotta ask and somebody has to accept before you are connected.

In Google+, as with Twitter, you can follow people.  You pick the people who interest you, drop them in a group, called circles, and can follow what they post.  It has the one-to-many aspect of Twitter, along with the lists functionality, without the restrictions on character count or the difficulty of following a conversation between other people.  Circles can be like having many individual feeds.

So in Google+ you have no friends but merely run in circles.

For example, I clicked on Guy Kawasaki and put him in my acquaintances circle, which is one of the pre-set circles.  I’ve met him a few times.  He won’t remember me, but we have friends in common that I know he would remember (Yuji!), so if I was stuck in an elevator with him, I could establish a common link with him beyond, “Hey, you signed my copy of The Macintosh Way at the Palo Alto ComputerWare back in 1991.”

Then a day later I removed him from that circle because I forgot that he posts pretty much constantly and that was why I had to stop following him on Twitter as well.  I am just not that interested in what he has to say and his output makes Scoble seem like a piker some days. (If I am going to drop names, I should also point out I went to junior high school with Bob Scoble where we shared a 7th grade algebra class taught by Mr. Sousa who, in hindsight, could have been the inspiration for Severus Snape… only louder… and occasionally in German.  I have forgotten most of 7th grade at this point, but not that class.)

Just like on Twitter, I am sure that Guy got a notification that I was following him, but when I stopped he heard nothing.

So on Google+, as with Twitter, there will be a lot of asymmetrical relationships.

I created my own circle called MMO Blognati, where I stuck people like Tobold and Darren, which ended up being mostly symmetrical, Facebook like relationships of mutual subscription.  I also created one called MMO Devs which, aside from Brian Green, is pretty much me subscribing to their feeds.

I also have a circle called “No F’ing Idea” for people who follow me but whom I cannot place in any context, yet I feel I must know from somewhere.

Fortunately, other people cannot see your circles, only that you have placed them in one.  So they may think you’ve put them in the Friends circle (okay, I guess you can have friends of a sort) but really you’ve put them in the raging ass-hat circle.

Which is all a reasonable system.  I like the mix.  But once you get past that there really isn’t much else to talk about.  Which is where a bit of the confusion comes in for me.

There is a whole bunch of people who are, “OMG! This is the best thing EVAR!  Facebook is dead! How can you still be using Facebook? Facebook is now MySpace!”

And I have to wonder what some of these people are smoking.

Because, to start off, I already have Facebook and Twitter and a whole bunch of connections therein, not all of which have moved off.  Some of the people who are saying this are MMO players and have claimed to understand the stickiness of social connections in such games.  This is part of the reasons that MMOs keep players for so long.

So Facebook isn’t dead.  It is still the central online social loci for many millions of people and will remain so until there is a “killer app” for Google+ that nobody can live without.

Which leads me to the second point of confusion, that there is no real “killer app” for Google+ yet.

Not that I can see.

There isn’t anything that you can say about Google+ that you cannot get elsewhere.  The only real compelling reason to go to Google+ that I can see is that it is not Facebook.  So now all of us elitist geek swine can feel superior because Facebook is something that non-techies use.  All the cool kids use Google+, which is an actual quote, even if I assume it was meant with some sense of irony.

And this lack of killer app makes me boggle.

Because here is Google, which owns my email (gmail), my RSS feed reader (Google Reader), the RSS feed from my blogs (Feed Burner), my search history (just plain old Google), searching in general (i.e. for more than just people), my instant messaging (GoogleTalk… okay, I don’t use that… but I could!), my news sources (plug-ins in iGoogle), and a pile of other stuff like Google Maps, YouTube, Google Books, Google Translate, and so on, none of which appears to be connected in any unique way to Google+.

If that doesn’t say something about Google, I don’t know what does.

So while Facebook has a pile of third party apps that will integrate directly and effectively with all sorts of data sources, like my blog for example, Google+ seems pretty lacking.

And you cannot even play the “but it’s brand new!” card, because that won’t wash.

Google has had a social networking site since 2004.  It is called Orkut.  I had a friend who worked on it at one point and used to check in on it now and again, until the official language became Portuguese and people began complaining about people using English on “their” service.

But surely in the last 6+ years, they learned something from Orkut?  They built integration points for that, they must have brought them forward, right?


So the real message about Google I take from this is one that I have already heard before many time here in the valley, often from people in a position to know, which is that Google never recycles anything and that each little project group works in its own little bubble and feels it has to create the world from scratch every time.

Which is ironic considering that they have been known to push a green message now and again.  I suppose code seems like an unlimited resource when you are young.

Of course, there is one group within Google that I am sure will integrate with Google+ soon.  That will be the ad group.  They will snicker “Don’t Be Evil” and inject ads into the whole thing.  That will be the initial revenue model.

But as of today, Google+ is clean, with a pristine white background, no ads, a couple of interesting ideas, and a bunch of self-satisfied geeks using it.

Where do you think it is heading?

Will any eventual “killer app” also end up being evil?

I am sure if I am missing something about the service, somebody will let me know.


A while after I posted this, Cringely posted something about the projected decline and fall of Facebook.  Google+ doesn’t figure into that in his picture.

Facebook is a huge success. You can’t argue with 750 million users and growing. And I don’t see Google+ making a big dent in that.

Rather, the next big thing will cause the social media category to fade.

14 thoughts on “The First Rule of Google+ Club…

  1. SynCaine

    “Rather, the next big thing will cause the social media category to fade.”

    One can only hope.

    I got a Twitter account just to follow some Aventurine people, but on a very, very slow day (ie: at work and having read every blog, AND every message board) I take a peek at the ‘worldwide trending’ thing, and my god is it a cesspool. Just one “look at me” leech after another posting total trash just to get tagged (or whatever its called) by other leeches. Literally zero value of any sort.


  2. Gina Cirelli

    I recently joined Facebook after years and years of saying “never”. I did it for my business, actually.

    But yes, I do see some of the holes there, and I like the whole idea of bigger “circles” like what you say about Google+. How does one get into this beta thing anyway? I’ve signed up to get notices, but I haven’t even gotten any of those so far.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – There are some gems on Twitter, but like many gems part of their value is derived from how difficult it is to find them amongst the chaff.

    Gems in chaff? I really wasn’t watching my metaphors there, was I?

    My new favorite is @petermolydeux, though @drunkenpredator has a good run now and again. Plus CCP posts all their dev blog updates there, though I also get them through RSS, so I am not sure why I bother.

    And you can get all of the self-righteous Wolfshead whining and moaning you crave, but cut down into 140 character bites.

    @Gina – Google+ is currently a giant multi-level marketing scheme where you have to get a sponsor to get in. Or is that AA? Anyway, unless you lied about your email address (for which I would not blame you) there is an invite on its way to you.

    One more Google point for me.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Tobold – Maybe I am Bob Scoble! After all, I know who his 7th grade algebra teacher was, and that there is some pretty obscure information, though it is tough to verify. Plus I pretty much dress like him as far as I can tell from various pictures… not that that stands out a all in Silicon Valley.

    Anyway, thanks! I fixed it. I was in a flurry of copying and pasting links this morning. Now I’ll have to check the other links, because if I put that link there, did anything else go astray.


  5. Genda

    So, when I said that Facebook was now MySpace I was totally joking! I’m not smoking anything! :D

    I am however about to enjoy “Cheesecake Wednesday” here at the office. This will certainly alter my consciousness and could produce another post with such a high level of hyperbole.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Genda – If it were just you and Darren on the Google+ horse, I’d probably let it pass. But I have seen a lot of it, including the MySpace comparison, from other people. So I figured I must be missing something… but I just cannot find it.

    Meanwhile, Google cannot prove to me that Mr. Sousa ever existed. He might just be a figment of my nightmarish imagination.


  7. Aufero

    I’ve been rather desperately avoiding Facebook for years – it’s just too demandingly social for me. (Yes, I realize that’s the point.) I need a social network that doesn’t ask me to socialize with people. Maybe Google+ is what I have(n’t) been looking for?


  8. P@tsh@t

    Aufero has a point. I live in a town because I like the benefits of living in a collaborative social environment. I also lock my doors and draw the blinds. I want neighbors, not roommates. I have friends and family as well. I don’t live with them which is probably how we manage to maintain a constructive, generally positive and supportive relationship.

    Google+ has the potential to give digital meaning to the phrase “good fences make good neighbors”. Emphasis on potential.

    Of course if I can’t integrate my other social media apps with one or two clicks, I’m headed back to the BBS.


  9. Keb

    The hang out is the best part I have so far found in google+. Its a nice feature and one step up on the skype integration that facebook now has.

    Other than that its more of an iteration and refinement of facebook. What will be interesting will be first wave of development after the invite only phase.


  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I got a note from Google saying that somebody complained that I was using a pseudonym. Which, of course, I was. And so Wilhelm Arcturus is no longer on Google+.

    Thank you to whoever I suppose, as that certainly made up my mind on Google+.


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