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Giulio Prisco (M, 57)
Budapest, HU
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    Google+: First impressions and thoughts
    I have been one of the lucky few to receive an invitation to Google+ on the first day it went public as a beta field test, and I have been playing with it a lot. I have successfully invited some friends in the first couple of days, but I have not been able to invite all the friends I wanted to invite, and recently they have started to delay processing new invites because they prefer to field-test with a small number of people.

    Google+ is Google's new social network, very similar to Facebook with extra features similar to Twitter and Diaspora. Google+ is already interoperable with other Google services, e.g. Profiles and Picasa. In time, it may be seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Groups, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, Maps, Latitude, Youtube, Apps...) and become something huge.

    This is not the first time Google ventures in the social networking space. The two previous attempts, Wave and Buzz, have been unsuccessful. I never much cared for Buzz but after the launch of Wave I was very impressed, and wrote:

    "Google Wave could be a Big paradigm shift, and change the way we use the Web. Email, chat, discussion groups, wiki, IRC, blogs, microblogs, social network and groupware all in one. Wave may be a Facebook killer and a new Twitter much more integrated with the rest of the Web. Email and IM are obsolete, we will spend our online life in front of a Wave screen. Instead of sending email, IM and tweets, writing blogs and logging on Facebook, we will plug in dynamic and interconnected Waves...

    As a transhumanist, I really look forward to trying Wave. Transhumanism , a sparse and global social movement, required the Web as an essential enabler to bloom, and I wonder how we will use this new powerful communication platform. By enabling us to do things much faster the Web, the new Web 2.0 (is Wave the first example of Web 3.0?) and the mobile Web wake emergent properties of our collective consciousness. We could send snailmail letters hundreds of years ago, but we could not build a new global social movement in a matter of days. Wave may permit doing things even much faster and achieve a critical mass to enable new emergent waves in our developing noosphere.
    "

    Too bad Wave did not KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) a critical mass of Internet users. At the beginning the discussions on Wave were only about the system itself, by and for geeks, and after a while even geeks stopped using it because nobody else was there. I think KISS is why Wave failed, and also because they never managed to integrate it with Docs and Groups. The "critical mass to enable new emergent waves in our developing noosphere" has been almost achieved by... Facebook. A few weeks ago I wrote: "When I am in a Facebook flow, posting updates, IMing friends and participating in many almost real time group discussions at the same time, sometimes I have a very clear feeling of being plugged in the developing collective mind of our species, a feeling much sharper than in the pre-Facebook Internet."

    You never really know, but I think there is a good possibility that Google+ may take off where previous social networking initiatives of Google have failed. Google+ is very easy to use, and users of Facebook and Twitter will get it immediately. And, Google has already so many other Internet services in place, which are already used and loved by hundreds of millions of users, and can be seamlessly integrated with Google+. If Google+ becomes a social layer fully integrated on top of all other Google services, and of course if it is actually used as such, it will be huge.

    A short guide to Google+ for Facebook and Twitter users: On Facebook, you share everything with all your friends, and on Twitter you share everything with all your followers, whom you don't have to follow back. Google+ is built around Circles: a circle is a group of people, and you can share a post with one or more circles. If you add person A to a circle, for example "Best friends", A does not have to add you to any circle, or can even add you to the circle "Idiots and jerks" and you will never know it (you will know that A has added you to a circle, but not to which). You can add the same person to more circles, which permits very flexible sharing.

    You can also share a post with nobody, with one or more individual persons only, with all your circles, or make it public. A public post is like a Tweet (all those who have decided to follow you can see it), and a post shared with all your circles is like a Facebook post. The other options are much more flexible. The two images below, recently shared on Google+, show who can see your posts.





    Circles are the same as Aspects in Diaspora. I hoped (and I still hope) that the free, open source, distributed, decentralized, P2P Diaspora built by-the-people for-the-people could replace the walled gardens of Facebook, but I am afraid Diaspora will be sort of forgotten for a while, leaving Google and Facebook to fight for the pole position in the social networking space. However, even if Google "does no evil" and has a somewhat better privacy and openness record than Facebook, it is still a huge corporation motivated by profit and dangerously close to being a monopoly.

    I hope Diaspora will continue to gain momentum. Open source community projects cannot really compete with corporate projects at the beginning, but once they achieve a critical mass of users and developers they may become unstoppable. So I hope in time Diaspora will become a better alternative to Facebook and Google+. But in the next future Google+ will capture a lot of attention. A Google+ API is coming soon, and I and everybody else have already requested early developer access.

    I think selective sharing is both a strong and weak point. It is strong, because you can share a post with your friends without sharing it with your mother and your boss. It is weak, because sharing with everyone is simpler than categorizing your contacts in circles, and things must be made really very simple in these KISS days. Most of my own posts are shared with all my circles like on Facebook and also public (shared with everyone who chooses to follow me like on Twitter), but I can certainly see the advantages of selective sharing. Especially for young people who can now have different Family, Friends, School and Work circles, but strangely I think most young people may stay on Facebook and ignore Google+, leaving the latter to us grown-ups. Also, perhaps only persons with some degree of computer literacy will use Google+ frequently: if Wave is for computer geeks only, and Facebook is for everyone including your granddaughter and grandfather, Google+ may occupy the mid ground.

    I miss a "Groups" feature: the new Facebook Groups are excellent, and in Google+ you can put a group of friends in a circle but your friends in the group do not necessarily have to put you in the same circle, so shared Groups would be useful. However, I am sure they are busy integrating the existing, excellent Google Groups in Google+.



    The picture above shows a Google+ "Hangout": a group video conference able to accommodate up to 10 people simultaneously, which works surprisingly well (it seems the same thing that was called "Google Meetings" in some Internet rumors circulating last summer, and according to new Internet rumors Facebook may launch something similar very soon). You can start a hangout restricted to selected persons or circles, or you can just hang out and wait for somebody to join you. I am very active in the online educational video conferencing space, and I think Google+ can become a popular entry-level solution, especially when it is fully integrated with Google Apps and Google Docs (imagine a teacher showing a presentation to a class with fully interactive video and Power Point like in Elluminate, plus interactive documents editable by all participants).

    Of course Google+ has an Android app, with a simple group messaging tool optimized for mobile, and I am sure an Iphone app is coming soon. I don't think Google+ will kill Facebook and Twitter, and I hope it will not kill Diaspora, but the social networking world is becoming much more interesting. See also Why Google Plus is about to change the Web as we know it and Google+ is Awesome. Facebook Maimed, Twitter Mortally Wounded.

    The new Web is everywhere, always-on, and huge. [Now quoting from my Diaspora article of a few weeks ago]. We are already always online via our mobile devices, and I wonder how things will continue to develop and where we are going. Someday BCI ( Brain-Computer Interface) technology will link our brains to social networks (read Ebocloud to see how this could begin to happen, and please buy it as a DRM-free ebook on Smashwords - we don't kill trees and support DRM, do we).

    We oldies have used social networks only for a small part of our lives, but billions of digital natives born in the 00s will have deep and detailed records of their lives, thoughts, feelings and personalities, on future social networks. According to the Bainbridge-Rothblatt hypotesis which seems more and more plausible in light of recent scientific advances, sufficiently advanced future technologies may be able to ignite these "mindfiles" and bring them back to life.

    Last year I wrote a post on "Mind uploading via Gmail", ending with "If all assumptions above are correct, I hereby give permission to Google and/or other parties to read all data in my Gmail account and use them together with other available information to reconstruct my mindfile with sufficient accuracy for mind uploading via detailed personality reconstruction, and express my wish that they do so. Signed by Giulio Prisco on September 28, 2010, and witnessed by readers." I did not think of the post as a joke, and I believe things are moving in that direction.

    Wed, Jul 6, 2011  Permanent link

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