Google+ revisited

Despite the prominent + sign, this picture was actually taken in spring. And not everyone on Google+ is a pervert. Not quite.

Actually, I have visited Google+ every day since first I wrote about it. In fact, I suspect I have visited it way too much. But we’ll get back to that. My world may be revolving around me, but yours is not. So, Google+: Dead or alive?

If you were to believe a widely quoted article by Chitika Insights, Google+ lost 60% of its traffic in just a couple days. Of course, this was right after they had gained 120% in a couple days, namely the days after they opened from invitation to open beta. If you have ever joined the open beta of anything – such as one of the many online games – you will be about as surprised by this as by the bright circular thing that rises from the eastern horizon in the morning.

Chitika has a good reason to try to understate the rapid growth of Google+ (the fastest of any social media so far). It is in the business of advising advertisers. Google does not show ads on the Google+ pages (unlike Facebook, Chitika’s favorite). And when Google shows ads, it has its own system and does not require or appreciate any help from Chitika. So there is definitely a bias here.

That said, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the crowd who rushed into Google+ without an invitation. They did not come into a noisy common room, but rather an almost empty corridor with locked doors on all sides, except for the exit.

Google+ comes with ready-made provisions for limited sharing. It encourages you to sort your contacts into circles the first thing you do, and while the posting default is still “public”, that only lasts until you actually post something to one (or more) of your circles. This then becomes the new default when you post again.

The higher security level has attracted early adopters who are not your average Facebook user. Minorities, activists, perverts and liberals (but I repeat myself) make up the overwhelming majority of the people I see on Google+. Admittedly, this is probably because I am the kind of person these people include in their circles. But it is certainly a difference from Facebook. Actually, some of the people are the same, but the content is still quite different and rather less restrained.

This goes some way to explain why so much of the Google+ traffic is not public.

Of course, those who have nothing to hide (and want to show it) can do so in Google+ as well, posting whatever they want in public. But there is no particular reason for them to move there if they already use Facebook, unless they have the level of self-awareness to suspect that not everyone is interested in every detail of their very normal life.

Of course, if you really want to share everything with the world, you could make your own blog instead. But then you would not have the illusion that all your friends read it…

Once you’re inside, however, Google seems to be much more active than Facebook or Twitter. Part of it is that people can write as long entries as they want, and generally they are quite a bit longer than “status updates”.  While there are no nested comments, you can alert a specific person by placing a + (or alternatively @) right in front of their name. They will then be notified – if their setting allows it – that you have addressed them directly. This seems to encourage some people to write back and forth at great length, adding to the traffic.

Sharing av media, from music to animated pictures and YouTube clips, is done directly in the stream. No clicking on links named and which you have no idea where they go. But all these things also add up. These days there is, unfortunately, a flood of reposts about the various “Occupy [town center]” demonstrations in America. Unfortunately, while Google+ now support clickable #tags, you can’t use them to hide all posts in that category, only to see more of them.

To be honest, Google+ feels kind of crowded and beside the point for me now. I have made a couple small circles with people I really want to read, and go through these more often. The main stream, as it were, is only visited when I don’t feel like I have anything better to do.

One way that Google+ is more like Twitter than Facebook: You can follow people without them following you back. Of course, you are likely to only see their public posts, if any. But it fits me. The people I want to read are not necessarily those who want to read me. I feel a little like the comedian who said he would never join a club that admitted people like him. Well, apart from the comedian part. I probably feel a lot less like a comedian than people would believe…


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