Google+ tested: more democratic than Facebook with (yet) good connectability but (still) poor sociability
A few weeks after entering into public beta testing, Google+ is providing evidences that confirms my first impressions
. Here are my conclusions. But first, just some stats extracted from my own data:
- I found a total of 309 contacts, with a median of 38 contacts added each day. I reached a 38% of reciprocity (people who has added me in their circles), which is a really nice result taking into account that only 23% of my contacts are people with which I had a personal relationship before. Regarding the remaining part of my circles, the 78% are "weak ties" (people that I only occasionally met before), filling the total with "read-only" (people that I want to follow by finding them interesting and perhaps wanting to contact in the future).
- Among the people who have added me, all but a 2% belong to any of my circles, being weak ties or unknown people the 70% of the cases. From the total, the 98% are individuals (not organizations), having only a 3% of them who have select other avatar than their own face. 76% of them are showing some corporative linkage, mainly an enterprise or an University.
- Regarding the joint stream, I would need to find the way to automate the retrieval for analysis... what means that there was even more activity than I expected. My observation tells that all the most part of the activity came from my weak and unknown ties -and mainly from the tech -specially Open Source- side of the live. A minimal part of my closer people afluence into the Google+ stream.
Before sharing my conclusions: I waited two weeks to be active in Google+ after having tested the (then, still) prototype. Since real people is involved, I wanted to minimize the exposition of my contacts to any possible betatesting crash: just lessons learnt after more than ten years working as systems administrator: the people's feelings comes first.
I can safely say that this is not an usual behavior and it surely represents a qualitative byas, so that is the reason why I'm remarking this point. Now the conclusions:
What those numbers show is a very high connectability potential of the platform: in just a week I managed to found more interesting contacts than after a year in Facebook with really less effort
. Therefore, the architecture of the platform in terms of facilitating networking proves to be based on a solid design.
Another improvement in connectability can be found in the detected behaviour of the people regarding the notice that they have been categorized in another's circle. That is a major behavioral change, and it can be exemplified with the case of the "adversaries"
. People who have been involved in the extremes of a given conflict, tend to have difficulties to maintain further positive relationships; so, the tendency is to stay separated, each one with his own dignity. With Facebook, that avoid to stablish a relationship, because asking the other for a friendship is the same thing as putting oneself in a position of more vulnerability: the other can say no. So adversaries will tend to disconnect from their adversaries. With Google+ the behaviour is the contrary one: when somebody is notified that the adversary has added him/her to one circle, the asnwer will be answering to that challenge with adding the adversary to one circle. Perhaps the "enemies" one?
The clever connectavility design of Google+ can also be positive in social terms, in my opinion, because it tends to equilibrate the power relationships, and therefore, it is a more egalitarian platform. Of course the circles boosts the risk of audience fragmentation
, but the improved connectability could compensate that risk by providing a richer stream (than that of Facebook), capable to bring more unexpected a variegated information. Therefore, the Google+ platform shows a better democratic performance
than others like Facebook.
The transaction costs to change from Facebook (or other similar platforms) to Google+ are too high by the moment, even with the help of promising tools like Start Google+
. My closest and most active friends are still actively sticking to Facebook. Of course there are the network effects, but that could be a matter of time; and there is no other global actor in a best position than Google in order to reach very fast the necessary critical mass.
Among the communities which populates Google+, I observed that the early adopters are mainly sociability profit seekers (like celebrities, or celebrities wanabees) and techy geeky people. Regarding the latter, it is remarkable the visibility of the Open Source community. The reasons can be found in the high potential of compatibility between their beliefs and the Google's corporative culture, as shown in Google's understanding of open
and also the general approach to privacy
principles. There is no doubt that those formulations are closest to their ontologies than Facebook's terms of service. The management of the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, behavioral data, and anonymity are the potential focuses of conflict for the upcomming times. Let's see how the bussiness interests and the governmental dependency of Google deal with those challenges.
Finally, in the field of subjective perceptions, I can report that the emotional behaviour is not working at all in Google+
by now. While Facebook's "Like
" provides a "feeling
", Google's "+1
" provides just a "value
". Of course for those socialized under meritocratic rules and rational choice or positivists understandings -like probably they are the most part of the Google engineering community- that cannot be understood as a problem. But the "reality" of most of the people do not fith the somewaht mythical, naive and primitive social orderings of the software community. Real life is more complex than that, and pretending to manage populations in terms of communities is the same kind of failure like treating privacy outside the contextual integrity
-indeed, the case of Buzz have been widely used to exemply the effects of breaking that rule. A "value
" is much more less than a "feeling
", and a social network without feeling could turn easily in a so sofisticated as useless web API of nothing.
Of course that's a high risk, but they are effective solutions. In order to avoid to turn this clever tool, which Google+ is, in a social networking failure, my suggestion would be to let the engineers continue doing their work, while giving the protagonism to the social scientist and researchers that Google+ might have hired yet for that kind of work.
So, end of the report. This post, as a continuation to my first impressions
, was intended to be a personal and voluntary contribution to the development of Google+. I hope that my contribution could be of interest for the developing team and helps improving the tool. Meanwhile Google is a corporation and the voluntary contribution might be at the balanced in terms of one owns available energy and time. Hence, from now I will focus on the error reporting side of the things through the provided interface, turning my public statements in just one more of their users.
So I will stick to Google+. Therefore: greetings for the development team for the work done, and all the best with the pending work! I'm sure that you will be able to manage the aforementioned suboptimal performances!