Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Why Google will always remain Spock. Never Kirk.

The past few days have witnessed a barrage of non-stop Google Plus nonsense, with marketers vying with one another to carve out their territory on Google+ with the fond hope that it’ll be the next Twitter. In the meanwhile, I’ve not had one meaningful conversation on the platform with nearly 721 followers and I don’t know of any who have.

So, what gives?

Google+ 0 Friends

To get sticky with it: You always start with the community.

Let me share with you a tale of two other social sites that have increasingly become my daily go-to sites: Quora and Tumblr. Those who follow me have probably seen my tweets from either of these sites and the reason is, when I’m there I feel like home. In much the same way as I do on Facebook, which has my real friends and family.

Facebook started with the college community, built that flawlessly across the country, and then finally expanded outside of that circle that they had so masterfully cornered. This was probably what helped them break the monopoly of MySpace, whose ignominious ending we all witnessed this past week.

A tale of two useful social sites: Quora and Tumblr

Likewise, the kinship with my peers on Quora and Tumblr took months to form. On Quora we share a common interest in learning and several common topics that the site is carefully curating over time (like a good librarian who can direct you towards a book that you should read). Tumblr, likewise has a group of artful types who share quotes, pictures and videos (yet again, on topics I dig).

And, on both sites I find good search functionality that lets me pull in updates on these topics I love. Note: I wish both would automatically pull in my Facebook interests since they’re providing a high-quality stream of content on those topics that even Facebook cannot generate. Take that Google+ Sparks.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have published this if I’d not seen this morning’s top post on Techmeme from Paul Allen on Google+ that proclaims:

 Google+ is Growing Like Crazy. Report Coming Monday. Probably More than 4.5 Million Users Already

To which I say: So what? Actually, hang on, Business Insider says it better:

In fact, two days after Buzz went live, Google posted a blog entry bragging that “tens of millions” of people had checked it out, and created more than 9 million posts and comments.

At some point, interest died.

So far Google+ is filled with Googlers, reporters, and tech enthusiasts. They’re posting a lot, enjoying the Hangouts feature, and driving traffic to tech news sites.

But it’s still way too early to know whether Google+ will get any traction with mainstream users — the 750 million people who are on Facebook today.

Personally, despite having hundreds of followers on Google+ nothing of interest has happened on the site in my purview. Yes, I see my good old blogger friends asking questions they used to ask on Twitter, I’ve seen some cool hangouts with random people that Ben and others started, and the curiosity factor over which “interesting stranger” (as BI called it) is on G+ today. 

Summary

Google just doesn’t seem to get social. While the screenshot above (Googlers with 0 Friends) may be a great metaphor, as I’ve argued from the beginning, the Friendfeed cult model (that G+ mimics) just doesn’t work at building sustainable social communities, since it confuses the personal and public spheres. Granted it may scale faster as you’re gonna see soon (millions of users real fast), but will it stick?

Here’s a blog post from George Siemens that suggests why the friend forming algorithm of G+ is messed up:

While power laws (Pareto’s Principle) may exist in many areas of our lives – banking, TV watching habits, book purchases – they are surprisingly absent at a personal level. Yes, I likely respond to a small cluster of blogs and tweets that I encounter. But my personal networks – family and friends – don’t seem to have the power law structure of my public identity. For example, I move fairly fluidly between my personal networks. Facebook gets this. I’ve had very few “way out there” friend suggestions on Facebook.

G+, on the other hand, has been busy trying to make kings of a few: Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Loic Le Muer, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. (Techcrunch addresses this issue as well.) I have precisely zero interest in those people. Nothing in my email history indicates that I would like to connect with them. Google’s algorithm is whacked on how it recommends friends: it is recommending them based on power laws (who is most popular) not on my personal interests. This is a fundamental and significant misunderstanding of social networks. Network properties are different at a personal and social level than they are in public spaces.

Welcome to the Friendfeed conundrum that conflates public and personal spaces. Even, the Pavlovian model of notifications is broken (and frankly useless) in this world, since now the red notification isn’t bringing in the reward that a Facebook notification does and is diminishing its effectiveness.

It’ll be interesting to see how Google+ evolves over time (cos they’ve really invested a ton of resources and are betting their future on it), but in its current avatar I don’t see how it can draw people away from Facebook.

Come back tomorrow for my post on Zuckerberg’s presentation style. This one’s a doozy. Bookmark my blog or subscribe to it.

Related posts you may find useful to form your own opinion:

  1. Follow the Quora topic on Google+
  2. Yishan Wong’s Quora answers (most of the recent ones are on Google+ and social)
  3. Ross Mayfield building on my original post re: different social networking models
  4. George Siemens post on Google+’s fundamental misunderstanding of networks
  5. Rocky Agrawal’s Solving the Scoble problem in Social Networks on TechCrunch (I’d say this is more of a G+ problem)

Sorry, Google+. For similar thoughts, follow me on Twitter.

Filed under: Google+, Quora, Tumblr

3 Responses

  1. sciwiz says:

    “Googlers with 0 Friends”

    Those Googlers chose to not disclose who is in their circles, not that they don’t have any friends. When you visit their profile,you can see that. The SocialStatistics site should parse that as “Not Available” instead of 0 friends.

    Like

  2. Mario Sundar says:

    Good to know. Social Statistics should have clarified that.

    Again, as I’d mentioned, I was using that as a metaphor not to be taken literally.

    Like

  3. […] I beg to differ. In my personal experience, I haven’t seen Google’s expertise at crafting good social recommendations, yet. And, here’s my take. As I’ve said from the get-go, Google+ seems less like an innovative shift or evolution in the social networking construct and I’m still not convinced that they get social or community. […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s