Google+ Tip for the day: Stop treating Google+ like Facebook.
When I got my Google+ invitation, I was already itching to shed my Facebook profile. I still feel that way, but I’m starting to realize something really surprising (at least for me): I don’t think Google is my Facebook stand-in. I think Google is far more than a measly “social network,” and that’s why some of my Facebook friends who are migrating over right now seem to be, as they say on the Internet, “doing it wrong.”
I've been a devoted Googlephile for many years, so if Google wanted me to use G+ instead of Facebook, it was gonna happen -- unless they really goofed it up, of course (I'm still not entirely over my breakup with Wave, Google -- but at least I've stopped leaving those creepy voicemails, right?). The push and pull factors were there. They were obvious: Facebook is for “moms” and spam robots -- Google was going to be my new social network.
But something didn't feel quite right about treating my Google+ profile like my Facebook profile, nor treating my Circles like the Facebook social groups I wished I'd always had. There was content everywhere, written by people I’d heard of -- and many I hadn’t. Something about this space was very different than anything Facebook has ever allowed me to experience. It felt like something else, something... bigger, maybe more important. Something collaborative, perhaps. How very Google!
My friends, however, don’t seem to be having the same Google+ experience I am. My tendency so far has been to add as many people with as many interesting views as possible to my Circles, and then to read voraciously and respond all over the place. Meanwhile, my real-life friends are complaining that there’s not enough content to appease them, and I’m the only one dominating their Streams. Why is this happening for them? I think it comes from a fundamental set of expectations about moving from Facebook to Google+. People are treating their Google+ accounts just like Facebook accounts. And I think that’s a doomed approach.
Here is how I think Google+ can be most fully enjoyed and utilized, at this early stage:
Think about what you use Facebook for. If it’s for keeping up with old friends and for keeping up with current, local friends, great. You can use Google+ for that, and it’s definitely got a leg up on Facebook for filtering content.
Interact with content created by users you don’t know personally. If you don’t follow people you don’t already know, you’re going to get bored, and not just because your friends aren’t all here yet. You’ll get bored even after they’ve all arrived. Why do you think Facebook started implementing games and applications? Well, to make money, obviously, but what was the draw for the userbase? I’m willing to bet Facebook figured out that simply reading your friends’ thoughts all day long gets old, and let’s be honest: very few of us have enough friends with enough interesting posts to keep us engaged.
If you like the social games on Facebook, well...you’re not really my target audience. Sorry. For the rest of you -- if you don’t like how Facebook allowed third party junk to start bombarding you with game requests and access to your information, embrace its absence here so far!
I realize that at some point, developers may come up with cool ways to implement games on Google+, but I expect that Google will have learned from the clunky, disorganized, and downright invasive way developers approached this in Facebook. And the best way to keep Google+ rich in content and devoid of lame, invasive apps is to let go of your old ideas about what it means to be on a social network.
If anything should ever get a spot on What's Hot, it's this video. It made me laugh and cry at the same time. It made me think of the teachers I know who have to pay $45 per year to use the microwave and another $45 to use the fridge. It made me think of my past teachers and the way they shaped my values, my work ethic, my passions, and my sense of empathy. It made me think, too, that this is an election year and it was my teachers who made me understand why voting is more than a privilege, it is a responsibility.
Say thank you to a teacher today. Share this video with 'em, too.
Microsoft, you're a bunch of jerks. Have you seen Microsoft's newest anti-Google campaign? Check it out here: http://www.scroogled.com/
I can't help but respond. Microsoft, you're totally on my bad side. Here's why:
Scanning is scanning. You talk like scanning email is only a privacy violation if that data is used to target ads, but scanning is scanning. Direct quote from the Scroogled site: "Outlook.com only scans the contents of your email to help protect you and display, categorize, and sort your mail appropriately."
If scanning my email is wrong, why scan it at all? Oh, right -- because it's necessary to scan emails to protect users from spam -- and it's just an algorithm, not human beings. Just like Gmail.
You advertise and scrape keywords, too. Bing personalizes search, and Outlook has ads. Are you seriously trying to claim that you're not interested in your users' data for any purpose except to filter out spam and phishing emails? Please.
Negative campaigns make me kinda hate you. Just like in politics, negative campaigns leave a bad taste in almost everyone's mouth. Speaking of politics, isn't your mastermind on this Mark Penn? You know, the same guy who ran Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign into the ground? Oh.
You are mischaracterizing the privacy issue by playing into people's fears -- and you're doing it disingenuously. As consumers, it's important for us to understand what happens to our data once we send it into the universe of the Internet -- whether it's through email services like Gmail, social media sites, blogs, or comments we make on online news articles with our real names. That said, it is also important that we understand the trade we're making and that we consider the risk versus the reward. If I didn't want any of my private information to be shared with the world, I'd have an incredibly irrelevant experience online. Taking it further, I also doubt I'd be willing to enjoy the luxury of using credit cards at point of sale systems!
There is always a trade. Gmail is free. Whenever a product is free, your data is the product that company is leveraging in order to keep the price at $0. If you're not okay with that, don't use the service. It doesn't just apply to Gmail, it applies to Bing search, Facebook, Twitter, Disqus…well, hell. I could keep adding services to the list, but you get the point.
Why producing and sharing good content will please Google -- and you One story floating around today has been about the idea that Google is viewing social networking as an “engineering problem.” I’ve seen a few people say this is counter-intuitive, that Google can’t expect to apply engineering to human social behavior in order to profit from it (or, as they put it, to “improve the algorithm”). But this is where we, as users -- as content generators (where content is king) -- can step in and help influence how the community forms and evolves over time.
Just for some perspective, I think it’s worth mentioning that all of my posts are being written between answering phone calls at my job. I work at a travel agency as a receptionist, answering calls from anxious clients who usually call me horrible names. I put up with this because I’m trying to save up enough money to go to law school. But I secretly want to be a writer, which is why I started posting my thoughts on my Google+ profile a couple of days ago.
This evening, I have over 1500 people following my posts, which blows my mind. Isn’t it kind of bizarre how Google+ has given someone like me a voice? Here’s why I think that’s happening: original content on the Internet is like a commodity. It’s rare, and it’s valuable. Just by engaging with the community and by sharing my experience, I’ve created content. Every time you guys respond to a post I make (or that anyone makes), and we start exchanging ideas, we create more content, and this pleases our Google Overlords. For those of you who are more tech savvy, or at least for those of you who have been exposed to some SEO techniques, none of this comes as any kind of surprise. But for many social network users, even the ones who are relatively savvy, this isn’t a concept that necessarily clicks intuitively.
I’m not formally educated in web use analysis, but I used to run a fairly large forum (100k+ users) with a pretty active community of posters during the mid-00s, and what I learned was that content production is really hard to force. Most of what we did to the structure of our site was to cater to those who brought us revenue in the form of content. We changed the rules of moderation for them, we changed the site layout for them, we rolled out our electronic red carpets and poured the e-champagne when they fostered meaningful conversations in public areas of the site.
So far, I am seeing Google+’s community as three basic groups: content producers, content sharers, and content consumers. The content producers include people like +Mike Elgan, +Ryan Estrada, and +Danny Sullivan. They’re either posting new ideas, new art, or they’re trying to analyze trends in a meaningful way. The content re-sharers are sometimes non-person entities like +GPlus Tips, but it seems like most often, they’re people whose opinions we respect for reasons other than Google+ content generation. People like +Tom Anderson and +Chris Brogan produce some content, but seem to share more than they produce, and that is still very valuable, because they’re already famous (read: vetted) enough to have an influential opinion. Famous re-sharers also seem to have a good eye for what people might like to engage with in terms of content. Content consumers are the folks who simply lurk, absorb content, and perhaps occasionally comment. Still a valuable group, because if no one is digesting the content, it’s useless -- to Google as well as to the community.
What is my point? It’s the same one I keep making: engage with the community, because content generation and usage is going to shape what Google chooses to do with this product. Whatever your philosophical feelings are regarding the idea of treating public content like a commodity, that’s what it is on the Internet. It doesn’t mean you have to be disingenuous, it means you have to make sure you have something to say (or a song to share that you wrote, or a painting you made, etc.) if you’re going to share it with the public. I keep making sweeping, overly-optimistic statements about Google+ having the power to change the way we interact socially, to let us move forward as human beings. I say these things because I really think it’s possible.
Google has the power to pluck anyone out of obscurity (hello, I’ve gone from 1500 to 1600 followers while typing up this post). What makes Google great is that it seems chiefly interested in rewarding original content production (which is judged to be good by re-sharers and consumers), and even if that’s primarily because it will create a better revenue stream, I think it's great. Wouldn’t you rather see a company succeed because it’s rewarding good sharing and good content production, rather than see a company reward spam and “cheating” at content production? Google is going to try to capitalize on our social interactions. No one is trying to argue otherwise. I’m just saying that I think we, as a community, can help make sure Google keeps rewarding us for the things we value. And that’s a pretty big deal, at least in my estimation.
Bottom line: participate! It will make your experience better, and it will make Google+ better.
I've gotten a few e-mails this week asking me what I'd tell new Plussers to keep in mind while exploring the network. So, new Plussers, here is what I think you should do (but always remember that this is your network and you should do what you want on it):
Fill out your profile! (I added this right up at the top after some very clever commenters pointed out that I missed this one. I love being able to edit my posts on G+, by the way. Probably my favorite technical feature. Really.)
Who are you? Share as much or as little on your profile as you're comfortable sharing (the privacy controls are excellent), but please don't leave it blank! We want to know what you're about. Telling us what you like to post about is a good start, but you're free to make your profile into anything you want it to be. Tell us your favorite books or tell us your occupation. Whatever you want to share. Just share something!
Set up your Circles for reading and for sharing. You know how Google starts you off with Acquaintances and Following and Friends and Family, etc? All of those are Streams just as much as they are Circles to share with. When you post things to the Family Circle, only the people in that Circle see the post. Great! Makes sense. But did you know that when you click "Family" in your Stream list, only posts from people in your Family Circle show up? Circles = Streams. Lightbulb!
This will make more sense as you get more familiar with the platform, but if you start thinking of your Circles as reading tools and not just sharing tools from the beginning, you will have a much easier time managing the flow of content you read. Make big and little Circles for reading if you want to try to categorize them. I have a free-for-all Main Stream and then lots of categories for more focused reading. Yes, it's work, but it's worth it.
Find awesome people and interact with their posts. Add +Natalie Villalobos and +Tom Anderson to your Circles. Put them in your Main Stream. These two Plussers are truly interested in the community on the network, but it's not just the content they contribute that makes them great. It's about the conversations happening on their posts and their level of personal engagement with those conversations.
G+ isn't just about broadcasting or just about private networking. It's about interactivity and engagement, whether that's done in public or in private Circles. Public conversations here are amazing, and private sharing is kept relevant by the use of Circles.
There are a lot of amazing people to follow on G+, but Natalie and Tom are great hubs from which you can explore anything in the community that interests you, whether you're into geeky stuff (Tom's G+ posts led me to +Mike Elgan, who is one of my favorite tech writers now) or whether you're a foodie like +Alida Brandenburg, who I found through Natalie.
Use comment threads to direct your exploratory efforts! The Google Plus Search feature is amazing for new users and I think a lot of us wish we'd had that about 90 days or so ago, but it's not your only source for finding interesting people. Comment threads on highly active profiles like the ones I mentioned above are a fantastic source for great new people to follow.
When you go to a Tom Anderson post looking to get in on the discussion, you might want to tear out your eyes because within minutes there are hundreds of notes from hundreds of people. But stick with it anyway. Skim. See a funny comment or something really thoughtful that catches your attention? Why don't you add that person to a "Potentially Interesting" Circle? When you're bored and looking for new content, that Circle will be unpredictable and ... well, you know. Potentially interesting. When you read something you like in there, add that person to your Main Stream. When you read enough stuff you think is lame from one person, take 'em out of your Circles. It's your show. Tailor it to your own interests!
If people you don't know Circle you, don't freak out! Consider this a new source of "Potentially Interesting" people. You don't have to Circle anyone back, and you can read all of the posts they share with you in your Incoming Stream. Same principle as before: if they entertain or interest you, add 'em! If not, Google has ignore and block features.
If nobody Circles you, don't freak out! And don't start spam-sharing your posts with people to beg for attention, either. It's kind of obnoxious.
When people Circle you, it means they are either interested in what you are saying publicly on your own Stream, or they are interested in what you might have to say in the future based on a comment you made or something in your profile. You are not obligated to entertain anyone on G+, but if you want followers for some reason, work for their attention in an authentic way. Interact with others, give your time to others, and others will want to return that sentiment to you. If you don't ever broadcast a single thing via your Stream but you comment thoughtfully on other people's posts, you are still the backbone of this community and your "Follower count" is irrelevant. I promise.
You don't have to post publicly, but if you do, try not to feed any trolls. Don't waste your time with people who drive you nuts -- there are tons of awesome people waiting to interact with you elsewhere. Your public posts are your territory and you're free to set your own rules for how people behave in your comment threads. Don't tolerate anything you don't want to tolerate.
If G+ starts feeling like too much work, go outside. We often get out what we put in, don't we? If managing your Circles seems too hard, consider simplifying them. If reading your Streams starts to feel like it's frying your brain, go get some Vitamin D in the great outdoors (but please wear sunscreen). When you come back, you might suddenly have a super awesome idea for a great public post (Tom Anderson once came back from floating in the ocean to tell us all about an epiphany he had...while floating in the ocean). Or you might have something particularly insightful to add to someone else's post. Or you might realize your Circles are set up in a way that's totally ridiculous and you'll find a system you like and everything will be epic from now on. Who knows? Taking a break and unplugging is really important, whether you feel legitimately overwhelmed or just a little frazzled from information overload.
Own your experience. This is your network. Google made the tools, but you are the driving force behind the site. How you use this platform is up to you. Experiment! Play. Be social. Be creative. Enjoy yourself. Don't take anybody's crap, and always remember that words on a screen can't hurt you unless you let them. Inspire someone. Help someone who knows less than you, especially if you don't usually like doing that. See how much appreciation and interaction you get back for it. People are fundamentally good -- I don't care if you disagree -- and so far, this network has only proven that to me over and over. I hope it does for you, too.
Google+ & Reciprocityor "Why Aren't You Following Me Back, JERK?"
Some super smart commenters in one of my previous posts (I'm looking at you, +Miami Tom and +Andrij Harasewych) brought up the issue of increasingly popular "Follow Lists" showing up on G+ and offsite (e.g. http://www.recommendedusers.com/bloggers/ - which, apart from suggesting people like Mark Zuckerberg who do not post any content, is a fairly decent resource so far). The debate seems to be about reciprocity. Miami Tom asked why he should bother following people who won't follow him back. I thought it might be helpful for you guys if I could explain my own methodology for following people.
At first, I added everybody I saw make a good comment or post. This is a good method for a new user because it will help plump up that lonely looking Stream. If you keep adding people you don't know who seem clever or interesting, you'll soon have more going on in your Stream than you can hope to keep up with.
Then, I started making Circles for reading instead of just for sharing. My Circles list looks something like this: read: tech news read: google employees read: photographers read: comedy ... share: irl friends share: houston (public) share: australian friends ... etc, etc.
I started organizing people into appropriate Circles, and removing people who don't post. If, while organizing people, I found that there were no posts (or no posts I was interested in), I went ahead and removed them. Why would I follow you if you don't have anything for me to read? It doesn't make much sense.
The above is a really basic explanation of how I approach following, but it's basic because it doesn't have to be something you overthink. I get more new followers in a day than I can hope to keep up with, so how do I decide who to follow back?
I still use your comments as a primary filter. When someone makes a comment on one of my posts that I find clever or interesting, I click on the person's name and glance at their posts. If they've never made one, I don't add them to a Circle. Why would I? I mean, it doesn't mean I don't find that person interesting. It means that person doesn't make any posts.
Remember that this isn't Twitter! You have to share something on Google+ to be worth following. Twitter is not something I ever personally got into, but after talking a bit with +Ryan Crowe about this reciprocity issue on G+, I started to understand what seemed to be upsetting Miami Tom.
Most of you know Ryan Crowe as +GPlusTips. He has been following the evolution of G+ for as long as I have. We're not the first generation of G+ users (that title is reserved for the likes of Tom Anderson and Google employees), but we're probably in the first generation of regular people using G+, so I consider him a great source (and so should you). He said something really striking to me today -- that "a compulsory followback mentality is what made the numbers on Twitter...sort of deluded."
Following does not automatically generate a sense of "I should follow you back!" on Google+, but it did on Twitter. This place is not Twitter -- if you enjoy what someone is saying here but have not said anything yourself, why would you expect to be put into that person's Stream?
Share stuff! Duh! I'll be totally into following you if you post ideas, stories, art, music, or advice. If you post about your pet turtle or your breakfast, or if you don't post anything at all...well. I mean. Don't make me say it.
Why I Think Google+ Can Change The World I read a few articles recently about the problems my generation has inherited from the Baby Boomers (a rather serious topic, since it had been a while and my brain needed some intellectual stimulation, admittedly). I’m not writing a political piece here, but I will say this: I think the authors of the articles I read got one basic idea right, and that’s the idea that our generation has a lot of cleaning up to do. I don’t think it really matters what caused the mess. There is merit, of course, in trying to work out how our problems arrived at our door so that we can take care not to repeat history, but I posit that we have to focus on what is left to be done, not on blaming our parents. And boy, do we have a lot of work to do.
To do work, we need tools. Google has given us many kinds of tools over time. First, it was search. Not so long ago, Google gave us better e-mail. Google Documents gave us a way to save our work in cyberspace so we wouldn't lose the data in a computer crash. Google Talk gave us chat with video and voice, so we could interact in real time with our contacts. Google doesn't always build the tools, but the company seems to have a history of being interested in making our interaction with information more enriched and more relevant.
A lot of people have a lot of opinions about Google's motives and how much power the company has acquired through this slow but steady pursuit of information. We let Google see a lot of what is private to us, and we hope that Google remains responsible with our trust. I think it would make very little business sense for Google not to remain vigilant about our privacy. Google wants to keep us happy and using their services and consequently providing them with a lot of data about ourselves and the way we function as social creatures on the Internet. So betraying us is a bad move, because presumably, we'd all leave. There are tons of other companies who can (and do) make collaboration tools, after all.
Google is widely known to be driven by its software engineers. There has been a lot of speculation that Google is trying to solve the unsolvable, that it is approaching social networking as an engineering problem (a problem which is incoherent and impossible). Well, okay. Maybe that's true. The point I keep getting back to when I think about Google+ is that Google doesn't have to be motivated by wanting to solve the world's problems. We have to be motivated by that, and Google has given us a set of tools to do it...if that's what we choose to do with them, anyway.
So what is our goal? A more refined network. What happens when you connect a receptionist to a CEO? Well, not much if the receptionist doesn't have anything of value to offer beyond making excellent copies of paper documents. But what about a receptionist with good ideas about how a company should work? In what universe does a CEO ever listen to the young girl or boy sitting at the front desk who greets customers? Google+ can flatten the playing field and return us to a system where inherent value of ideas is more important than labels received from fancy schools with high tuitions that many people cannot afford. What works better than affirmative action? Truly original content that is valued for being truly original content. If I have a great idea, it shouldn't matter if I went to Harvard, if I'm a woman, if I'm African American, or if I'm handicapped. Google+ can give us a place to interact without those issues being part of the conversation. A company doesn't want to hire more women to hire more women. A company wants to hire the best person for a job, and if Google+ can give women a place to showcase their talent and ideas, then that's something truly exciting...especially if the userbase on Google+ has truly done its job and created an environment that rewards innovation and ideas.
So, don't worry so much about whether Google is choosing to push Google+ onto Hollywood celebrities. Don't worry about whether Google is going to topple Facebook or Twitter. Worry about building an environment here that nurtures higher thinking, learning, and networking. Unite thinkers with people who can implement ideas. We only stand to benefit from trying to foster our own growth -- then we can get to work on solving the problems our parents may or may not be responsible for.
Google+ Tip for the day: Noise Management hashtags: #circles #noisecontrol
With Shared Circles, the level of noise has increased significantly for many users. We're all following more people (I'm getting close to 4,000) than we probably thought we would, and keeping our Circles managed is getting more difficult.
I have two suggestions that have drastically improved my experience with noise control. Many of you already do your own version of this, so I would love to hear how everyone organizes their Circles to keep the noise down in the comments!
Make a Probation Circle
Mine is called "potentially interesting people," but you could make it way more ominous and call it "The Octagon" or something. It doesn't really matter since no one can see what you name your Circles.
Let your Probation Circle get as large and disorganized as you want -- the point of the Circle is to go into the Stream it creates and evaluate the people you're reading for content you want and content you don't want. As +Mike Elgan puts it, be promiscuous with your adding and removing. Put anyone interesting in your Probation Circle based on whatever criteria is the most open you'll tolerate (for me it's sometimes as simple as "I like that userpicture"). When you see someone post something you don't want to read in your Probation Stream, remove that person from your Circles. Or give her more time -- that part's up to you.
If you like to categorize the people you follow, having a Probation Circle is a great way to make sure people are categorized based on your categories rather than the ones other people attribute to them (e.g., +Robert Scoble might share an awesome Circle of "artsy people," but you might want to categorize those folks as painters, actors, photographers, and so on). See someone posting a lot of photos you like? Great, now they can live in your Photography Circle instead of the Probation one.
Make a Main Stream
Drag it to the very top of your list so it's the easiest Stream to click on your main Google+ page. From inside your Circles management screen, drag all of the contacts from Circles you want to read all the time into the "Main Stream." Mine has all the journalists and scientists I follow, plus random smaller Circles like comedians and historians. It doesn't include my Photographers Circle (it's too noisy), nor does it include my Social Media People Circle (also too noisy).
My Main Stream is really easy to read at a normal pace, yet it's active enough to keep me engaged. When I want particular types of information, I go to my more specialized Streams. Which is why my Main Stream doesn't include my "real life friends" Circle, either -- because I don't want my real friends' posts getting lost.
Remember, you can read your Streams one by one or all at once. For those of us who follow tons of people, the latter option is just not viable.
What's your strategy? Do you only add people you can categorize immediately or do you have a way to evaluate them over time? Do you categorize the people you follow at all?
Thank you, Google+, for helping me get an awesome job! Warning: Warm fuzzies and kittens group-hugging ahead!
For the past few weeks, I have alluded to the fact that I've accepted a new job in #Austin, TX. If you've been wondering why my presence on this network has been scarce lately, the answer is that I've been moving, training, and gearing up to help a wonderful company with its marketing goals for 2012 and beyond. Now that I've had time to settle in and get comfortable, I'm happy to announce that I'm working for +Jason's Deli.
I have you all to thank. Seriously. This network and the following you helped me build is what caught the attention of my current employer and gave me the opportunity to refine my skills and define my desired career path for the next chapter of my life. Because of you guys, I'm now working for a brand I sincerely believe in and living in a city with some of the most exciting start-up communities I've had the pleasure of joining. When you think about it, that makes my relationship with you all much more intimate than any of us probably realized. I couldn't have done any of this without you. Thank you.
How did this happen? A lot of you have been with me since July, but for those who don't know my story, I'm happy to share it in the hopes that you, too, will understand just how powerful this network can be if you choose to embrace it fully.
I've always been an early adopter. It's part of my personality -- the combination of being raised around computers and having a strong adventurous streak, I guess. When I joined in early July via a +Lifehacker workaround (invitations were still technically "closed"), it was pretty quiet and none of my real-life friends were on board, so I was forced to disconnect out of boredom or push forward into the unknown. I chose the latter. +Tom Anderson was the first person I followed, and he led me to follow other Silicon Valley folks. The playing field was pretty level -- everyone was speculating about what this new network would become. I started posting about my own ideas for the network publicly -- with no expectations. At most, I was hoping to have a Stream worth reading to convince my Facebook friends to join Google+.
Without warning, some of my earliest tips were reposted by such tech stars as +Mike Elgan and +Chris Pirillo, as well as fellow tips addicts like +Ryan Crowe (then known as "GPlus Tips"). +The Huffington Post senior editor +Craig Kanalley added one of my posts to a list of tips for new Google+ users. Those boosts gave me a lot of completely unexpected exposure, and for a while I was even co-hosting a Google+ themed radio/Internet show with +Dan McDermott (he still broadcasts "Google Plus Week" every Friday and I highly recommend it -- the discussions often get very lively!).
As you might imagine, I had no idea what to do with all of these new people circling me. I was a regular person without any formal training in having a public persona. I simply knew that I felt a responsibility to continue doing my part in evangelizing about the potential future of social media, but I also felt the desire to build relationships with many of the folks who commented on my posts. I still get excited every time I see new people adding their two cents to a question I've asked. I'm convinced everyone here can provide something useful or interesting to others, if they are so inclined. And if they aren't, that's okay too. We're muddling through it all and learning together, celebrities and regular folks alike. That's part of the power of social media.
My story isn't as uncommon as you might initially believe, either. If you think my story is just a fluke, take a look at the stories of other Plussers who used their genuine ideas and sincere enthusiasm to build followings and achieve success. +Louis Gray was a fairly well known blogger before Google+, but now he's actually working for Google! +Daria Musk is a musician who joined, used an innovative spirit and a truly humbling sense of dedication to build her following on Google+, and now she's giving TED Talks and signing deals to make more wonderful music! These stories are real and they're inspiring.
So, what does this mean for you guys? Anything can happen. If you know you have great ideas, great art, or great anything to show the world, do it! Do it here, and you're tapping into a network of truly brilliant people who will lift up and support those who earn it. Be real, be excited, and be an evangelist -- you really never know who's taking notice. I didn't know any of the people on this network who have helped me the most before I signed up. Now I know a lot of people I wouldn't have otherwise known who really enrich my life. That's you!
I think Google's initial Circles setup is a little misleading. I came to this conclusion while sitting down with several friends yesterday evening and trying to show them how I divide my Circles into what I call "Viewing Circles" and "Sharing Circles." My first bit of advice? Get rid of the default Circles, they sit at the top no matter what you do and it makes no sense. And, let's be honest, they sort of encourage people to treat Circles like their Facebook groups. I understand the usefulness of that approach, but I also think it makes the relationship between Circles and Streams a little murky for a new user.
How could it be arranged to make more sense to a new user? We can safely assume that most people who sign up for G+ are Facebook users. One huge feature in G+ is how rewarding it is to explore, but finding new people to follow is also not immediately intuitive to a new user. I have had several friends ask me how I found anyone worth reading who isn't in my already established social network. The answer, at least for now, is that you should be totally reckless and just click everything you see. Make a "potentially interesting people" Circle. Add everyone you think is witty to it. Surf comments. Participate in comment threads. Engage with strangers. Add the people who make good points to your Circle. It all snowballs very quickly once you have a few noisy participants in your "potentially interesting people" Stream. There, you'll find a treasure trove of new comments, new posts, new ideas, and new people. Some of them are famous, some of them are -- like me -- totally plucked from obscurity and presented to you because they were being adventurous.
Need a place to start? +Tom Anderson re-shares a ton of content, has a ridiculous following based solely on his reputation and list of past achievements, and his G+ post comments are absolutely crawling with witty, thoughtful, engaging folks.
+Mike Elgan invented the "Google+ Diet," which I am on and loving, and his posts are similarly teeming with content-generating users.
There are also some non-person entities whose posts encourage interesting comments. A great example is +GPlus Tips.
The bottom line here is that Google+ is going to be very rewarding for you if you branch out and explore. We are all very lucky to have gotten on this bandwagon while it's still mostly free of marketing ploys and fake accounts designed to pull traffic to some external site. You can click thoughtlessly through this rapidly expanding network and safely expect to find genuinely interesting people to follow.
**Welcome to the discussion, +Natalie Villalobos. Everyone, please read her comments below and respond to them if you'd like a CM to hear your thoughts.**
Dear Google, What Is A Community Manager? a respectful response to Robert Scoble's "Elitism" post, found here - http://goo.gl/xvY39
Before I get started, I would like to make it very clear that I am not in any way "calling out" current Google+ Community Managers. I have no idea what their responsibilities are to their employer, nor what their responsibilities are to us (the users/consumers/Plussers/G+niuses). And I think that's a problem! If anyone is being questioned on this topic, it's Google+ decision-makers. And the community.
Also, this is not a rebuttal to what Scoble has said. I enjoyed his thoughts in the linked post and didn't disagree with most of them -- the problem I'm having is that I think the tech-junkies and the Googlers are perhaps trying too hard to make this place "just another social network" that operates by the same rules as every other social network, and in my humble opinion (and humble it is -- I'm certainly no Vic), that is a recipe for monetary gain and not too much else. So what if Google+ is better at letting you get news and stories just like Twitter -- but enhanced? That's not new, it's just improved. But the idea of bridging gaps between online communities? That's new. Let's focus some more on that.
I think we have to acknowledge that Google has never been that great at getting people right. They're great at math, statistics, analysis of data, and engineering...but trying to simultaneously treat people as commodities and as consumers is not an easy job, and it's not ever going to be done well by mathematicians alone.
Social networking is about people, not just about statistics and numbers. The engineering and the math and the data analyses are important, sure, but they aren't the sum of the issue. Scoble's point about the average reader consuming the content of the top 5% of users on Twitter/Facebook/etc. is based on a thorough understanding of how social networks operate. That much is true.
But in a world of cloud collaboration, we have tools to participate in idea-sharing, real-time discussion, refinement of concepts, building of companies and communities, learning, growing, synthesizing and debating -- and I'm sorry, but there's more to understanding how people use products that do that than merely analyzing what they click and when. Google builds a lot of tools to assist us in participating in these activities, but it doesn't often seem to know how to interact with its product -- us. The "real name" policy on Google+ has been a great example of that.
A real community has to be treated with care and respect. It is a living thing.
For years, I helped run a very large online forum. It wasn't a 25 million member forum, but it was populated with enough people to demand a lot of attention from its staff. It was a for-profit business, where "content was king" (to borrow a Scobleism). It was also a community. A real one, not just a content factory. Content factories are not something people like to interact with, anyway. Most of us know what a link farm looks like. Gross, right?
That business relied on people within the community to interact sincerely with each other because that sincere interaction created rich, unique content. And Scoble is correct -- it's usually the top 5% who set the bar for the rest of the population in any online community. That was true on that forum, too.
But on Google+, who's in the top 5%?
Are they celebrities who rarely post, or are they people like Scoble? He posts rich content constantly and creates a lot of discussion and conversation. He is a top producer, and his content is definitely valuable to any network he chooses to participate in.
But what about curators of quality, interest-based content? Are they lumped in with those who produce original work more often than they re-share others'? Probably. But that role is so important!
I think Google+ Community Managers should have an expanded role.
Here's what I think of, when I think of a "Community Manager":
- Finds and builds relationships with people who are not in the elusive Google+ Top 5% but who are doing unique and exciting things with the platform. - Encourages those people (let's call them the Second 5%), using Google resources, to contribute more content. - Leads discussions and debates about community issues -- NOT technical features, unless they relate directly to community issues.
In other words, I want to see a community manager who really digs in and curates, who finds and elevates non-Google employees who are helping to build the community. +Natalie Villalobos does a fantastic job of this, but I don't see a team of G+ CMs constantly participating in these activities. This would have to be a real team effort with a lot of focus. It is entirely possible that "Community Manager" isn't even the right term! Maybe "Community Leader" or "Community Helper" or something that indicates a focus on the people on the platform and what they are doing (and is correctly labeled as such). What do you guys think would make the most sense? Am I on the wrong track? Should we let non-Googlers do this stuff? My concern is that if no one with a "Google" occupation tag is directly involved somehow, we're going to end up with more static lists instead of true interaction with our (affectionately named) Overlords.
On forums, the job of a moderator is usually a volunteer job, but it's also a badge of respect that the forum owner gives to a person who has contributed a lot to the community. To a person trying to profit from the content on a forum, it's vital to make sure that people are feeling catered to and also to make sure that your catering doesn't upset others. I've been on both sides of this. You can encourage people to produce more in ways that don't cause unrest. That's why we never made static lists of people to pay more attention to. I realize Google+ is not a forum, but some principles are universal. Everyone in the Second 5% who cares (and of course, not everyone does) is unsure if their absence on "The List" is due to any number of reasons. Does Google not like what I'm saying? Who voted for this? What did I say that upset someone? Should I stop posting here? Those are the kinds of questions you're putting in the brains of everyone you don't include, and that's the flaw. Some have made the observation that anyone on the list is fine with it and anyone not on the list is upset, and that's a great point.
Google can certainly benefit from having made the list. It's not a bad idea to introduce new users to people who will populate their Streams with interesting stuff.
But I think there's a better way. Have a list of Community Managers who are really active, engaged, and who have broad and varied interests. New users should be getting flooded with the content that makes G+ unique, not just enhanced Twitter content.
I'm giving you ALL my phone number today! or "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?"
I can't tell you how many times people have said something like this to me over the last couple of years. I got my Google Voice invitation around May or June of 2009, and I was instantly in love with the level of customization possible. I converted immediately. I gave every family member, every friend, and every business my Google Voice number, certain my new level of control would make managing my contacts a breeze -- and safe.
So far, I've been right. I sing the praises of Voice whenever it comes up in conversation. I've given my Google Voice number to strangers in bars, I've penciled it in on surveys that would normally give me pause, I've given it to bill collectors, crazy ex-boyfriends, and extended relatives I didn't actually want calling me. The spam and block controls make this easy.
I tell people, when trying to convert them, that I'd be comfortable putting my Google Voice number on a billboard. This is something I say all the time, without really considering it much -- after all, I don't have the money to buy a billboard ad and even if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd be buying more important things, like razors (seriously, twelve dollars for three cartridges? What kind of society is this?!).
Last night, I got called out on my evangelism. Google Voice came up in conversation with someone who complains constantly about wanting to block certain numbers on his phone (he upsets girls frequently, but that's none of our business, G+). The billboard comment flew right out of my mouth, but this time it was met with, "Oh yeah? Aren't you, like, followed by ten thousand people on Google?"
It was clear what had to be done.
I'm going to prove to my friend (and to everyone else I've said this to) that I'm comfortable enough with Google Voice to put my number on a "billboard."
There it is. I'm going to add it to my About Me section, too.
You can share my number with as many people as you like.
If you call, I'll answer if I can. If I can't, you can leave me a message. I can't promise to call you back, but I can promise to post about you if you leave a message that's interesting enough.
If anyone abuses this and spams my phone or acts like a psycho, I'll just block you.
This is an experiment, so you can be sure I'll be updating about how this goes.
If you're trying to convert your friends or family to Google Voice, hopefully my experiment here will help you make a good case! After all, if you can confidently give your phone number to 10,000 people on the Internet (knowing they can share it with anyone), then you know the controls are good enough for everyday, normal use.
Worst case scenario? I pay $10 and change my #GoogleVoice number.
Several weeks ago, I asked any "adventurous artists" to contact me about a Google+ experiment (original post: http://goo.gl/fQ4H4). As you can imagine, my inbox rather quickly filled with responses...sometimes with hilarious subject lines ("Adventurous Artist looking for long walks on the beach" comes to mind). I had 30+ artists volunteering before 30 minutes had passed, and because this really was an experiment, I just made a Circle, threw the first 30 in, and started explaining what my idea was:
"The gist of my experiment is that I want to get a bunch of awesome artists together who are interested in G+ and furthering the spirit of content-sharing and creativity on this platform ... I want to demonstrate that it's possible for people who have never heard of each other to come here and use Google's tools to make something awesome."
That was it. I had no grand plan, no scheme beyond that. I just wanted to know what would happen if 30 strangers who liked to make art got together to...make some art. Would Google's collaboration tools help or hinder? Would anything happen at all? I had no idea.
The video attached to this post is the result of many hours of hard work from artists around the world. The theme everyone chose was Circles -- rather fitting. Everything you see in the video is 100% original. Writers contributed their poetry, painters took pictures of their canvases, musicians composed and produced...and every collaborative effort was made through Google+ or Google products.
So, was the experiment a success? I asked the artists who participated to tell me how they felt Google+ worked for them in terms of making art collaboratively. Here are some of the responses:
“The G+ platform was used to the limits of its design, and other Google products nicely filled in on tasks where Plus came up short. Art can definitely be showcased here; art can even be made here.” +John Phillips
“Google+, from everything I've heard or experienced, is wonderful for artists. It gives an easily accessible gallery of photos that are open to immediate discussion, and most importantly, they are convenient. You see a picture in the flash of your rapidly cascading stream, and its impression is immediate. One can be bothered to look at it and appreciate it.” +Pete Davis
“We might have been able to do this on Facebook, but only if we'd met each-other some other way.” +Drew Nicholson
We found weaknesses too:
“While we can all use hangouts and do a +Daria Musk live show or some kind of turntable.fm-style audio showcase, it's still cumbersome to post music here. The simplest solution would probably be an embedded music player, like the Soundcloud and Bandcamp functionality in Facebook posts.” +Pete Davis
“My only beef throughout the project...was the lack of a ‘group’ page/function. We REALLY needed to be able to consolidate communications to one place. Yes, there's the ‘notify all’ option if one wants to post something to the group, but it's really easy to forget to do it.” +Cayenne Linke
The conclusion -- at least for me -- is that Google products really make collaboration possible. But let’s remember our part in making tools better. Pushing limits, experimenting, playing with the platforms actively makes our feedback more useful. And we get things we need when we know how to ask for them. Just look at how Google has responded to user feedback on G+ so far.
I think the experiment was a success. Is the video a masterpiece? Not really. It’s a series of small masterpieces pieced together to prove a point: Google+ is a new place to do things you never thought you would. Like make an art project with a group of strangers on the Internet. These artists have just created their own unique network of fellow artists who can help them become more refined artists. That’s not something you can do very easily anywhere else, at least not as far as I’m aware.
Thank you to everyone who participated, but a very special thank you indeed to +Drew Nicholson, who managed this project with more grace and enthusiasm than I could have possibly hoped for.
And thanks to all of you who make Google+ an amazing community to play in. Without you, it’d just be a Facebook clone with a bigger character limit.
Don't let your profile be cooler than you are. All social networking sites from Friendster to Facebook have had profiles. It's how people identify themselves so that others know they're the right Jane Doe. It’s also how people can condense themselves into a few boxes of text, some movie/book/music titles, and maybe an inspiring or funny quotation. A profile lets you pretend to be way more interesting than you are because you can use a refined set of sentences as a definition for who you are. You’re the guy who likes Star Wars and cat pictures, or you’re the artist who reads a lot of obscure books, or you’re the X who Ys all the time. Whatever the story is, it isn't enough to mean anything because your profile doesn’t change much. You just set it and forget it.
As primates, we are fundamentally social creatures and we need to reach out to each other. People like connecting, and they like to be rewarded for producing good ideas. That much is pretty simple and basically universal. It makes sense that we would want to let strangers think we're extra clever. But even a good profile is not really very interesting for very long. I mean, who cares if you can quote Cicero when all of your updates are about taking a shower and then watching some It's Always Sunny?
Producing content consistently is what's cool. That's what Google+'s public sphere (bolded for emphasis; people are certainly going to use G+ like a regular, 1.0 social networking site, but that kind of sharing should really be kept within Circles and not out in the open) should be about when these meta discussions about Google+ itself are no longer very relevant. It's already what the community rewards us for the most...and the best way to maintain this good, creative vibe is to keep demanding better content from anyone able to create it. Don't get lazy!
Go beyond the Profile on Google+ and prove that yours is as cool as you are. If you’re a photographer, show us! If you normally use your profile to indicate that you’re a witty and very deep thinker, prove it. Post your thoughts and see what the world thinks. Use this network to refine yourself, to refine your art or your prose or your ideas, instead of using a static profile to look like maybe you’re pretty cool if only someone would just get you know you well enough. That’s, like, so Friendster.
Please don’t make every post public. Your next boss might be watching. Your mom always told you to think before you speak. Google just gave you a way to think before you speak to specific groups of people in your life, and also to the world at large. Don't waste the opportunity.
The Circles idea by Google really is revolutionary (crap, is that a pun? It’s not on purpose...okay, it is) for so many reasons. Categorization of friends that mirrors real life relationships. No more embarrassing photos tagged of you partying last night -- well, unless you shared them publicly.
Circles work if you use them. You can use them responsibly to avoid social tension, and you can use them intelligently to make your public content better simply by filtering it actively. Why does that work? Think of it like a “brain hack” (thank you, Lifehacker, for that addition to my vocabulary): the more you think about who’s going to read you, the more you are going to have to judge yourself before hitting “Share.” Are you sure you’re sharing something you want everyone to read?
Ask yourself these questions before sharing your post to the public: - Is this something that will enrich/entertain/help someone you don’t know? - Is this something you’d want a potential employer to read? Google+ is very likely going to be the next generation of networking, which means you never know -- you could get a cool job if you post your cool ideas in public and a smart, savvy businessman wants to hire you for them. - Mom and Dad may not be on G+, but your public posts are Googleable. Does Mom need to know what you just posted? Would she tell you to think before you speak, you knucklehead? - Is this something that you need the advice of the whole Internet on, or would it make more sense to ask your close friends what to eat for dinner tonight? Wait, does it make sense to ask anybody that?
I was driving along in the damp Houston morning heat, rocking out to some sweet tunes (which still won’t scrobble from Google Music on my G2x. Hello, Last.fm. Can you please fix scrobbling?), when I came to a red light right before entering the freeway. I hate this light because there is a guy who always tries to wash my windshield and it makes me feel awkward. I know. First world problems. But stay with me.
This morning wasn’t any different. Windshield guy was armed and ready to assault my glass -- which was, actually, pretty bug-riddled from my Austin road trip -- and I cringed in anticipation as he approached my vehicle. Before long, my vision was clouded with suds.
Then, something really weird happened. I found myself appreciating that he was washing my windshield without my consent any actual expectation of money in return. This guy was drenched in sweat and it was already almost 100 degrees outside. I reached into my wallet, pulled out a five, and handed it to the guy. I smiled, I told him to stay cool, and I meant it. (This is, like, totally unheard of behavior for me. I don’t roll my window down for anything except a cop. Houston gets pretty dangerous.)
Here’s where the panic started: as I drove away, feeling very proud of myself, it struck me that I’ve been in this “sharing mood” ever since I started getting really active with the Google+ community. And that’s legitimately nuts, that a website -- a social network -- could be re-framing my outlook on life, making me want to connect with everyone around me. What if Google is changing how I behave offline, too?
Once the Starbucks jitters wore off and I had a while to think more clearly, I realized I was just a little high on the thrill of starting a new job, and my windshield really did need to be cleaned, and I don’t like accepting services without compensating for them, even if they’re unwelcome at first. But the connection I’d made at first is going to bug me all day if I don’t act on it (albeit, a bit impulsively). I’ve said before that I think Google+ can change the world, but I’m not actually a raving lunatic, okay? This isn’t about Google, really. It’s about us.
I keep saying that Google isn’t trying to make the world a better place with Google+. But I want to make the world a better place, and I think we should start really thinking about ways to do that with this new tool. It’s obvious already that things spread like wildfire on this network.
So...in that spirit, please comment with an idea for how we can try to do good through Google+.
I’ll go first.
I don’t ever donate to charity because I’m never sure how my money reaches the person or people I want to help, or if it even does. If charities use the future business profiles here to really explain their own merit and detail precisely where and how their donations are being used, I’ll be a lot more inclined to give. I’m talking about a charity profile that would post rich media to demonstrate the reach of its cash by posting videos, photos, and personal stories. Are there ways Google could make this easier? Could there be “charity” profiles in addition to business and personal profiles? Is that a stupid idea? This is just the beginning of a brainstorm. I really look forward to seeing what else you guys come up with.
I also +1 comments in threads that make me laugh, think, or stump me completely but seem pretty smart. ;)
Reshared text: +1
- +1 can mean more than like; +1 can mean other than like - +1 means I'm glad this item was posted, and glad that I had the opportunity to read it. - +1 is about gratitude - something for which many of us (myself included) could always use a bit more practice - +1 is about inclusion - add one more - add me to the group of people who appreciated this posting - +1 is about participation - I read this, thought about it, and concluded that it was valuable to me in some way - +1 is about openness - I find this posting challenging, or aggravating, or frightening, or embarrassing, and I want to remind myself that things that I don't initially like may still push me in a direction that I need to go <gulp>
Google+ Tip for the day: Make a Circle for your city so that you can network with people locally!
edit:+Chad W Darroch reshared this and listed his own city so he could get started on building his Circle. That's a pretty smart idea, you can do that too! :)
Feel weird about checking in publicly to places becaue you don't want to spam all of your followers, but you want to show up on the "people nearby" for your city? Try making a specific Circle for this. I have two Circles for my city: Houston (real friends) and Houston (Public). I can check in to my friends' places and only share that information with Houston residents I know in real life, or I can check into an awesome restaurant and share that with my real life friends and everyone I'm following on G+ who also lives in Houston!
This also works for any events you want to tell other people about, or local issues you want to discuss. It can really be anything you want it to be!
By the way, let me know if you live in Houston and would like to be in my "Houston (Public)" Circle.
Do you miss having a "Wall" for your friends to post on? A few minutes ago, one user alerted me to a question that one of her new G+ friends asked (isn't it neat how +name mentions are like a little summoning spell?!) -- it was about not being able to post on each other's "Walls" here.
My first instinct was to ask the new user why she was so attached to the Wall concept in the first place. After all, even though Facebook coined the phrase, "post it on my Wall, I'll check it out later," MySpace had a wall feature, too. It's about having access to post something publicly on another person's profile.
My question is -- why are we into that? I don't miss it at all. Usually, it was just an annoyance for me to have to make sure no one was posting stuff on my Wall that I'd need to hide from other people who could see my Wall. I had a few friends who even disabled others' ability to post on their Wall entirely.
Do we need that here? What is the purpose of it? Would you leave it disabled if it was a feature you could choose to turn on?
Maybe you should probably not treat G+ just like you treated Twitter because it may or may not make the experience not as awesome for you but maybe it will be, who knows? (previously titled "Stop treating G+ like Twitter," which I realize probably offends people, although I don't understand why entirely)
I completely understand the need to compare this platform to the ones that came before it. It's how humans interact with new things. We have to compare them to things we've seen before, or the connections just don't stick. I get it. That said, we're going to miss things if we don't stop treating Google+ the same way we treat Twitter. I'm talking about following and reciprocity (again).
I've already made my points about why a regular person (meaning, someone who interacts with less than a kazillion people per day -- probably the bulk of the G+ userbase) shouldn't feel obligated to "follow back" everyone who adds her. There should be worthwhile content shared in order to justify her leftover, Twittery sense of obligation.
But what about the media? I know The Huffington Post and Mashable News are great sources of news -- their reputations precede their Google+ presence. I also know there is a great opportunity here, within the platform of Google+, to find good stories and leads about Google+ itself. Later, presumably, there will be great leads for all kinds of other things. Breaking stories are everywhere. So what happens if a business profile, especially a news profile, follows everyone who follows it first? It worked on Twitter, right?
I posit that there would be far too much data to possibly make sense of the Google+ community. Information overload is inevitable unless you are painstakingly setting up Circles to behave as Streams. This isn't hard to do on a small scale, but when you're following thousands of people, you're inundating yourself with far too much content to manage. Period.
Following back just to follow back made sense on Twitter. I guess. I mean, I understand the concept. I also think +Ryan Crowe's observation about Twitter's "deluded numbers" is a direct result of that concept. If we want to create a more refined network, then we have to be more discerning about who we follow and why. That includes businesses, when they officially join us here.
Please note that I'm really not talking about your regular, real-life friends. Those people should be in your Circles -- if you want to keep up with them the way you did on Facebook. Or, if you aren't too saturated with social media networks, you can interact with those people on Facebook itself. No problem. No judgment. No one here is saying that social media has to be used in any specific way -- Google+ is a free and open frontier, ripe with possibility and potential. I think Google+ has a great deal of potential for a "regular Facebooker," meaning the kind of person who simply logs in to see what her high school friends are up to. The privacy controls are enough to convince me -- and I'm pretty sure they'll be enough to convince a lot of folks later on, when Google+ is officially out of beta.
But for those of you who are tired of endless streams of Twitter updates (which are considerably easier to skim through at 140 characters than a Google+ Stream of rich content), I would suggest that you not use Google+ the same way you use(d) Twitter. Don't follow everyone who follows you just to be polite. It's an incoherent sense of duty that is based almost entirely in another social media network's culture and it simply doesn't apply here. Follow someone if she is creating content you are actually interested in. If you're the one being mass-followed, don't feel like you have to add everyone back just for following you! It would be misguided, I feel, for anyone to take it personally when someone you follow isn't following you back. That's an artificial relationship and I think it's largely meaningless. Yes, I realize that on Twitter there are SEO reasons for inflating follower numbers, but can we please find a better way to judge the value of content? Maybe this platform is our opportunity to do just that.
My Google+ Pledge I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to get out of Google+ today. It’s mostly because I’ve been swamped with work and unable to actually browse Google+, but we can discuss addiction and its symptoms later! The point is...I’ve been considering how this platform can really be anything to anyone, depending on the way he or she behaves within the community.
Since I want to participate in quality discussion and witness great ideas taking shape real-time, and because I want my Google+ experience to be about collaboration and sharing, I’ve decided that I’m going to make myself some rules for how I spend my time here.
Please keep in mind that everyone is free to use Google+ in his or her own way. This isn’t a mandate on anyone else’s behavior, but rather a way for me to broadcast my intentions and find others who feel similarly. If you agree with my Pledge below, say so! If you want to make a different Pledge altogether, go for it! I may add mine to my profile, but I feel like it needs more work. Maybe you guys can help me think of more “rules.”
My Google+ Pledge:
I will comment throughout the community more often than I post, because discussion is where change starts.
I will do my best to respond to +mentions that ask for my help.
I will only comment on an in depth discussion when I feel I have something to add.
I will try to keep an open mind when discussing issues on someone else’s post.
I will be respectful, especially if I am criticizing someone else’s thoughts.
I will do my best to publicly re-share content by users who have something awesome to show the world.
I will only make a public post if I have something to say.
+Anthony Fox recently created and shared a Circle of 100 Google+ users who are considered to be engagers. This sparked quite a bit of controversy, which you can read about on the post itself (http://bit.ly/AkyqB2). The most common argument seems to be about folks chasing follower counts. It got me thinking about why we're here and what we want to accomplish, where "we" means everyone interested in a thriving Google+ community, independent of follower counts, Klout scores, or personal branding ambitions.
I'm here because I want to actively participate in the evolution of social media, and I have believed from day one that Google+ can be a platform upon which we can grow and learn together as human beings. Before you flip out and tell me that Google+ is just a service and not a provider of philosophical imperatives, consider that it's not about the tools -- it's about what we do with them. It's about us. What do we want to do here? I think the Google+ early adopter community wants something better and different than Facebook and Twitter. And I think we need to work together to achieve that.
Google+ is NOT a ghost town, dang it! There are truly vibrant communities all across the Google+ network. If you don't believe me, search for something you're into and see how many conversations are going on right now, in real time, in a search Stream powered by (gasp) your interests -- not powered by your friends. The early adopters, plenty of "regular folks," and real tech-journalists like +Mike Elgan know this already (sorry, WSJ). The mainstream media doesn't seem to get it, which means the general public is going to be at a disadvantage when choosing where to spend time online. I wrote that we shouldn't treat Google+ like Facebook back in July (http://bit.ly/wo3SEh), but we're still seeing these comparisons in the media. It doesn't do justice to what we want to achieve, here.
What can we do to support a community that celebrates better, more meaningful social networking? Google created a Suggested User List. Many of us have objections to the implementation, but the idea behind it is good. It needs work. That's arguably a problem the regular userbase can't fix -- we can (and should) send feedback, write lengthy arguments and recommendations, but that's about it.
So how does the Google+ early adopter community sustain itself while continuing to push our ideas about evolving social media use? +Anthony Fox shared a Circle of engagers. Others have created brand pages chock-full of tips, tricks, and advice. Others promote hand-holding newbies through their first few days or weeks on the platform. Folks like +Robert Scoble push ideas about what it really means to connect and engage, leveraging a huge audience to do so. It all helps, but let's not stop there!
What about a Welcome Wagon? Would you participate? I don't know if it can scale. In fact, I don't know if it can work at all, but I'd love to explore the idea of creating a network of Welcome Wagon Veteran Plussers who are willing to coach/guide/engage with new users. I don't know how we'd connect new users to the Welcome Wagon, either, but I'm sure we can think of something if we put our heads together!
Would you want to get involved in something like this? What would have helped you the most when you were just starting out? Is this totally ridiculous? Sound off in the comments! Let's see if we can get a good conversation going.
--- edit: Mike Elgan made a comment in the thread below about petitioning Google to add a Welcome Wagon Circle to the SUL. I can see one way this might work -- any input? ---
If we wanted to write and sign a petition to Google about adding a Welcome Wagon to the SUL, how would we want that to work? Is that something that could work? It would certainly be a huge opportunity.
Here's one way we could do it:
1. Start a Welcome Wagon G+ Page with multiple volunteer managers who would be willing to do the following:
-Curate content geared towards new members of the Google+ network.
-Run or curate others' intiatives like Adopt-A-Newbie, #CircleSunday , G+ themed AMAs with veteran members, #FeelGoodFriday , Hangout lessons, etc.
-Truly interact with new folks who want to understand the network with patience and inclusiveness.
2. Ask Google to add this Page and other relevant Pages to a Welcome Wagon area on the SUL.
Most of the early adopters with a sizable following do these kinds of things already -- pooling the effort and speaking to the community with a unified voice would make interacting with the Page less daunting and confusing for new Google+ members.
That's just off the top of my head. But there are lots of questions we'd have to answer so that we could make a solid pitch to Google. Who would those volunteers be? Would we commit to being ethical in our pursuit of building a community here? I would want to stand for more than self-promotion or marketing. I believe that we want to promote the idea that regular people are using Google+ every day to engage, learn, grow, and discover. Maybe this would be one way to try doing that. And maybe we could help Google in the process -- after all, most of us already evangelize about this network, even if we don't evangelize about every Google product or even the company itself. Maybe our goals can align!
G+ Tip: Make a Circle just for people you want to collaborate with, but don't know in real life. Read the Stream for a while and get a feel for how those people tick. Then, share an idea to the Circle. See what happens!
Comment Etiquette this applies to my posts and not necessarily to anyone else's
Are you always nitpicking? Do you hate when someone seems excited about something? Do you really enjoy tearing people down with simple, single sentences?
Stay out of my comments.
Everyone should always feel free to disagree with my ideas in my comments. That's always okay with me, provided you're being constructive rather than blatantly negative. I am not always right and often it can really help me crystallize my ideas when people point out flaws in them. I don't expect everyone to agree with me.
What I do expect is basic respect. If you show up and listen to someone speak on a topic, do you think it's appropriate to raise your hand, be called upon to comment, and then to say something rude and totally unhelpful? If so, don't click "comment."
P.S. If you think this post is directed at you, it probably is. But it's not about one specific incident. This has been a growing trend on posts I've seen elsewhere, too. I don't think most of you are trolls. I think you're just contrary for its own sake, or you think you're too right for explanation. Both of those stances just don't work for me, sorry! Disagree if you must, but explain yourself. Suggest a way to make something better, or get outta here! :)
Why My Google Voice # is Public If you go to the "About" section on my Google+ profile, you'll find my Google Voice phone number. I put it there over a year ago as an experiment (you can read that story here: http://bit.ly/RkhXqK). Several folks have asked me lately how it went. Well, in a word -- awesome.
Yes, it really forwards to my phone. Yes, I really use it for just about everything -- it's on my business cards, it's on my Facebook page, it's in my email signature for work and for personal correspondence, and it's the best thing I ever did.
Why? Here is a short list:
1) Consistency. I don't ever have to worry about changing carriers, because my Google Voice number always stays the same. 2) Opportunity. Living in public on the Internet means that I want to be open to new opportunities -- by being able to safely list my phone number anywhere online, I have been able to generate consulting leads and build relationships with the media. 3) Customization options galore. Google Contact Groups make using Google Voice far more powerful than I ever initially imagined. I have different voicemail greetings for different groups, I can toggle Google Voice on and off per group with Android (see how here: http://bit.ly/V7TEu4), and I can choose which groups' calls go to my phone. 4) Free calls/texts to Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends! This helps us avoid hefty international fees from our carriers. 5) Easy block features. Surprisingly, after posting my number on Google+, I only ever had to use this once. Regardless, the process was smooth, simple, and effective. You can even choose which block message the caller hears (I like the one that pretends your number was disconnected/is no longer in service).
In a nutshell, I never worry about my Google Voice number "falling into the wrong hands" or being known by too many people. I control the volume of incoming calls at all times -- I can even record them if I want to.
Do you use Google Voice? Would you feel comfortable plastering it on a billboard?
+Mike Elgan is a fantastic writer and a great Google+ resource. This bit in particular made me just want to repeatedly high five him:
"...you can tell Facebook to notify you when someone posts something you may be interested in...
In the future, when you see an item from Facebook in your inbox you'd like to reply or respond to, make that response on Google+, not Facebook. Your friends who are not on Google+ will get the response as e-mail, with a link to the item and an invitation to join Google+."
The Meta Conversation might be driving you crazy, but it’s really important. Yeah, okay. I get it. Everyone is still freaking out about the shiny new social media platform. But you’re over it. You don’t think it’s so new, now, and the conversation is getting stale.
But please try not to suppress the discussion just because you think you’ve mastered the current controls and concepts in Google+. This is still a shiny, new toy. And … well, you already know I think it’s a lot more than a toy if you’ve read any of my previous posts.
If we want to make this place into something sustainable, we have to allow for the meta conversation about what Google+ is, how it operates, how it should operate, and what we expect from each other (not just from Google) as content providers and networking allies.
You can still be discerning about this, of course. If you think someone is posting way too much about G+ features or Google’s intentions for feature changes, take them out of your Circles! But don’t fall into the classic Internet hipster trap where being able to say, “I was there first and it was way cooler back then” is more important than making collective decisions about how we want to treat our newfound online society. You’ll end up being the irrelevant one.
Should We Be Afraid of Google? (Disclaimer - this one is pretty long, but this is also a pretty big question. As always, I greatly value your input and hope to see a lively discussion sparked by this. If you think I'm wrong, please tell me why! I am always open to different views.)
I got into a heated discussion with a friend of mine a few nights back, and our conversation has been rattling around in my brain ever since. He hates Google+. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say he can’t find a use for it. Facebook serves his private, real-life socal networking needs just fine, and he sees no reason to participate in the public communities throughout Google+. For him, doing so is just another way to give Google more of his information, which he considers a potentially disastrous thing to do.
Using Google products -- including G+ -- is a personal choice, first and foremost. I believe that the relationship we sign up for with Google is a very important one, and that while we must be watchful and mindful about what we choose to share with Google, the risk is ultimately justified by the benefit we receive now, as well as the benefit we are investing in receiving later. But we have to understand Google better to decide whether we have something to fear, or something to gain -- or both.
Google uses our information to advertise to us. Google is an advertising company. That is what Google does, and it is what Google has always done. What motivates a company to create better ways to search? Why would an advertising company want to make the best algorithms for aggregating data? This may not be an immediately obvious relationship for most people, but if you give it a bit of thought, it really makes perfect sense. Google wants to know you well enough to serve you ads that you actually might want to see.
A lot of us react very poorly to the feeling that we are being advertised to. Most companies who have something to sell are not interested in who we are or what we want (that is a very recent evolution in advertising) -- they are only interested in getting our attention (often brashly) and then telling us to buy their product. Google understands that this is an incongruous relationship, and that we don’t like feeling marketed to. But advertisements aren’t going away. Companies with products to sell need to be able to advertise, that much we can agree on, but how can they do it without offending us? Google’s numerous and impressive algorithms seem to be an attempt to answer that question.
Google ads are text-based, so they’re generally inoffensive. They don’t flash at us, they don’t make sounds, and they don’t open pop-ups in front of what we’re trying to view online. That alone is enough to make them preferable to flashy ads, but Google wants to go further. Google wants to show us ads we actually might benefit from. This makes sense! If we want a camera, and Google shows us a great deal on a camera, everybody wins -- all three of us: consumer, advertiser, and Google.
Should this make us nervous? Maybe. The way for Google to give you ads you want is to pry into your personal life, so it’s very important to remember what Google’s role is.
I know that when I first started using Gmail back in 2003, I was in heaven. Everything seemed so clean, tidy, and ad-free. Gone were the crazy banner ads of Yahoo or Hotmail -- and oh, by the way, I suddenly had an entire gigabyte of e-mail storage. Back then, that was astronomical storage to receive for free.
But it wasn’t to remain entirely free. Eventually, Gmail began displaying text ads around my inbox. I can’t remember the order of implementation, I just remember that ads eventually made their way into my individual e-mails, too. Not inside of them, of course, just off to the side or above the message.
I’ll be honest. It freaked me out the first time I saw an ad for a camera show up inside of an e-mail message about using cameras. (“Is someone reading my $%^#ing e-mail?! Get out of my e-mail, Google!”) But I quickly realized that wouldn’t make any sense -- how could Google possibly have time to read my e-mails? This is why Google focuses on algorithms. It’s code written by software engineers who know how to teach spider-robots to figure out what you like. Those robots could theoretically tell your friends and family all about your most private communications. That’s pretty staggering when you think about it. Google’s spiders know everything there is to know about you, as long as the data is on the Internet.
Why the risk is probably not something to worry too much about One, Google’s algorithms are worthless without our input. If we don’t tell Google what we like, Google can’t tell us what we might like to buy. That means, no matter how it’s spun, we are ultimately in control of whether Google can get our information from us. That’s really important to remember. On a social network, especially, we must be mindful about what information we might not like anyone else to ever know. (Remember when your mom would tell you not to write down anything you wouldn’t want her to be able to see one day? The same rule applies online, except it’s bigger than that. Don’t put anything on the Internet that you’re not comfortable sharing with the entire world. Even private communication relies on trust -- the other person can at any time copy and paste or screenshot what you’ve sent to them.)
Two, Google has no reason to tell on us even when we do share really private stuff. Their spiders don’t have feelings and cannot make judgments about our communications or our interests. The spiders just want to properly label our information so that the ads we see will be relevant to us.
Three, Google has to keep us happy. Google makes money by serving ads to us on behalf of companies who need to advertise. If Google were to suddenly betray our trust, they’d lose us fairly quickly.
Why the reward is worth the risk we do take Google as a company builds tools ultimately to see how we use them, which feeds right back into their core goal, which is to serve us more and more relevant ads. But Google software engineers want to build great tools to build great tools, and that’s important to remember, too. We stand to benefit greatly by using those tools, because we create a market for those engineers to develop within, and because we are participating in the creation of more refined tools. Like collaborative documents, e-mail, and now a potentially world-changing social community within G+.
This is all connected within Google. The tools we use can benefit us greatly, which is a true opportunity for us (and for Google). If the cloud is the next frontier, Google is doing its best to make a place there, and it's a task they seem up to facing. But Google isn't alone in the cloud. There are other products, other companies, other tools. Google needs us to want to settle on their real estate. To keep us, Google has to respect our privacy -- and so far, at least with G+, I think Google has done a reasonable job of convincing us that it understands our obsession with being able to control who sees our data.
And because it’s all free, we can expect to see Google ads peppering the network. But as long as we only share what we feel comfortable sharing, there isn't much to be scared of.
You want to re-share a post? That's cool. You want it to mean something? Add your thoughts. My friend told me a story the other night that got me thinking about sharing online -- and offline, too. He's 28, on his way to becoming an engineer, and he recently moved back in with his parents. The economy hasn't been easy on most of us, especially those with families to feed, but the lack of opportunity affects us all in one way or another -- for people around my age (I'm 25), moving back in to our parents' place is sometimes the only option left. And sometimes, it happens more than once.
Anyway, my friend's story started out with a declaration about how passive-aggressive his father is. We'll call my friend A for clarity's sake -- A's father left a clipped out newspaper article on the kitchen counter. It was just an article, there was no note written on it -- no real context, no explanation. The article was about the "Boomerang Generation" (read about it on Wikipedia: http://bit.ly/sXVEoY), which is a term coined for children who return home to live with their parents after trying their hand at independence.
My friend felt like his dad was passing judgment by leaving the article on the kitchen counter; as a member of an immigrant family where such a dynamic would not be surprising, it seemed perfectly obvious to A that his father was quietly, passively judging him for ending up back in the nest. After a bit of brooding, A decided to confront his dad. Shocked by A's reaction, he quickly explained that he meant only to show his son that he was not alone. "Everyone is going through this, you are not a failure." That was the real message behind the article clipping.
If A's dad had just written that on the piece of paper, there would have been no confusion!
This got me thinking about how we share content on platforms like Facebook or Google+. Facebook is a place reserved for my private communication with real life friends, so what does it really mean when someone I know links to an article but says nothing to go along with it? It ceases to be personal communication, for one. I don't necessarily care to read articles my friends share if their interests are different from mine, but when someone chooses to share something he or she finds important, that dynamic changes, and the only way to communicate that sense of importance is to add a statement or question to the share.
On a network like Google+, sharing behavior is even more complex because many of us do not simply follow our real life friends. Many of us use Google+ to live publicly as well as privately, and when we choose to share content, we may not be simply linking to articles we found off-site, but rather to posts made on the network itself.
Why do you re-share publicly? #Ripples encourage us to re-share content publicly, but what compelled us to do it before that feature was rolled out? Do we want to show that we are clued in? Are we seeking to give the content in question more exposure? In either case, wouldn't it make more of an impact to add a "review," or at least an explanation of what the content means to us? Sometimes it's as simple as asking your own audience a question about the content in order to start a conversation.
Look at what the "big guys" do. I suspect their behavior is important because it gives us an idea of what generates engagement. +Robert Scoble will often link to another Google+ post rather than using the re-share button, and he has repeatedly explained that this behavior stems from the desire to let others share the whole package over again -- his thoughts included. That gives people the chance to take a very noisy conversation to a new place with an altered prompt, and when you really think about it, that makes perfect sense. Scoble has hundreds of thousands of people reading his posts, and many of them comment so quickly that it's tough to keep track of the conversation. More tools are needed to address this, but in the mean time, doesn't it just make more sense to take the conversation in a direction you're interested in on your own profile? Scoble compared the Google+ community to a restaurant once, implying that at every table there is a conversation. When it's a public table, anyone can join in. Isn't that the beauty of public sharing, really?
+Mike Elgan shares many posts that link offsite, but I don't think I've ever seen him link to something without adding a thought, even if it's as simple as a question he wants to pose to his own readers about the link. Mike is so good at engaging his audience that his posts are often too comment-ridden to jump into comfortably if you come to the party late, so why not re-share with your own comment as the post? It takes nothing away from Mike's post -- in fact, it helps you both. You're showing that Mike shared something compelling enough to inspire you, and you're showing that you understand what he said and that you have opinions about it. You get a fresh start for a conversation about what inspired you. Everybody wins.
You should also comment on the original post if you feel you can contribute to that conversation, of course. On less well-known profiles, in fact, that's usually the best way to show support and engage with the poster.
Personal sharing needs meaning, too. Google+ has been repeatedly touted as a platform for engagement and sharing rather than a broadcasting medium, although it certainly can do both jobs. If you want to really make an impact on someone, it is my belief that you shouldn't share without context. If my friend's dad had shared that article on Facebook with just his son -- or even with all members of the household -- it would have probably had the same impact on my friend as it did being printed out and left on the kitchen table. All his father would have needed to do to eliminate any anxiety would have been to add just one sentence to the share -- "You're not alone." A shared article then becomes a personal message of hope rather than a possible negative judgment. Consider that the next time you share a post to someone specific.
How do you decide what to share? Do you usually just re-share with no comment? What makes you do that, if so?
Google+ can be a more refined network, but it’s our job to make it work for us. Internet technology has always evolved rapidly, but socially, the Internet has had to mature more at the pace of a regular person. Considering that most people my age are now stepping into jobs where we can truly impact the world, and considering that pretty much all of us are online, it makes a lot of sense to start thinking of the Internet in terms of the people using it, rather than the technology behind it. This is important because it puts the onus back on the user to take advantage of tech, rather than the other way around.
I keep repeating that I think Google+ is more than a social network. Whether this venture by Google is going to succeed at mirroring real life connections remains to be seen, but I think we have a unique opportunity to create our own community here, to encourage the maturation of our generation on the Internet by cultivating and placing value upon new thinking and creation.
We can use Google’s search technology to refine our ideas, and we can use Google+ and its public sphere to find the right people to add to the conversation. Then, we can take that conversation to the cloud and use Google collaboration tools to make our ideas reality. When you look at it that way, as a process involving integration technology and social networking, suddenly it doesn't seem so outlandish to say that Google+ is furthering our online social evolution. I mean, that's probably not their actual goal. Google is a business, and they have a bottom line. But why does that matter? We have the power to shape our own community. Google has bestowed upon us a public forum by allowing us to post outside of our individual Circles. As long as that exists, we are responsible for what we contribute to it. And we should demand quality content from each other to keep our network meaningful. Why wouldn't we?
If you keep saying Google+ can’t work, then it won’t. It is up to us to foster the continuing spirit of collaboration we have seen during field testing on Google+. I am seeing an increase in fearful comments about whether this precious sense of purpose is going to wither away and die as soon as Justin Bieber arrives with his army of screaming fans. Fair question. But relax a little bit -- our sense of purpose cannot die without our consent. We can use the tools we’ve been given to keep the conversation going. The public sphere belongs to us as long as we stay engaged with it fully. Keep making art, keep making music, keep sharing your ideas and your ingenuity. Someone with the means to make your dreams come true might be signing up for Google+ right now. And isn’t that really the spirit of collaboration? The idea that anything is possible if we connect to the right minds?
Tell your friends how to make one Stream a "Facebook Newsfeed" so they can get over their e-culture shock and start experiencing the rest of Google+
I've posted a bit about how I think it's a mistake to view Google+ as a replacement for Facebook. Regardless, that's what people are going to do when they start arriving en masse. There are plenty of great resources on how to set up your Google+ experience, but one thing that might help your newly migrated Facebook friends is to tell them they can still have the Facebook experience on Google+. It's kind of a trick, I guess, but it's a benevolent trick.
Here's what you can tell those folks to do, while still helping them make their "New Facebook" more secure, because that's the kind of friend you are:
Make a new Circle called "Close Friends" (or whatever stirs your senses) and add only the people you really trust to see everything you write, as well as the sensitive information in your profile (e.g., address, phone number, relationship status).
Rename the Friends Circle to "Facebook Feed" (or make a new Circle and delete "Friends") and add everyone you know in real life whose posts you want to read to it.
Now, as long as your friend stays on their "Facebook Feed" Stream, it will for all intents and purposes function just like Facebook sharing. They'll read all of the kinds of posts they normally would on Facebook ("Just picked my nose! lol!"), and if they share anything from that page, it will auto-post to their Facebook-feed friends, just like Facebook. Anything private can be shared to their "Close Friends" Circle -- an added layer of security they wouldn't get with Facebook. All in all, it's not a bad way to transition, assuming their friends are moving over with them (presumably, that's what will happen when this thing comes out of field testing and invitations are no longer required).
Once that's set up, it becomes a little easier to view the rest of Google+ as something left over to explore, since the "traditional social network" safety net is in place. You can gently introduce them to the idea of adding new people to a Stream other than their "Facebook" Stream, assuring them that it will not in any way affect their private social network. A safe first add might even be a non-person entity, like +GPlus Tips or someone famous they might like to follow because of their own, non-G+ related interests. Eventually, they will probably even feel more comfortable breaking up those original Circles into ones for better targetted sharing.
I'm just brainstorming on ways to help ease the transition...what else can you guys think of that might help a Facebooker feel more comfortable on Google+?
I have had several people privately message me to ask if I will please do a piece on the pseudonym issue here at G+. Before I weigh in (and I do have my own opinion), I'd like to get an idea for how you all feel about it. I've seen a lot of people who want to post with their pseudonyms publish posts full of passion on the topic, but I haven't seen much from people who claim pseudonyms are harmful or unnecessary.
What worries you, if anything, on this issue? Do you think pseudonyms encourage trolling? What did you think of people who posted only with pseudonyms on other "social networks?" Does it make people seem less trustworthy? Is that important on a network we are trying to refine?
I'm saying goodbye to Mike Elgan's Google+ Diet I started following +Mike Elgan because of a recommendation from +Tom Anderson almost as soon as I joined Google+. The first thing I noticed about Mike was that he wrote about tech in a really engaging way, and as Tom promised, he didn't "mince words." He was assertive in his opinions and had some very innovative ideas, one of which was the Google+ Diet. You can read more about that on Mike's G+ profile (http://goo.gl/8YsBA), but a simple summary is that Mike wanted to reduce "social networking fatigue" by cutting out all other social networks and focusing only on G+.
Sounded pretty cool to me, so I tried it.
As most of you know, I am a regular person, not a "social media expert," nor a web celebrity. Mike's need for a social networking diet made sense because of the level of interaction he was used to on Facebook, Twitter, his blog, and anywhere else he was present online. But for a regular person, "social networking fatigue" is a very different animal. I hardly ever used Twitter before G+, and my Facebook was so locked down you couldn't even search for me. Still, Facebook wasn't doing it for me, so I jumped on the Diet as an excuse to delete that profile and start the revolution. Or something like that.
And delete I did. My Facebook was shut down weeks ago, and apart from one cheat a few days in, I really haven't missed the thing at all.
But something unexpected happened.
The night before last, I was cleaning up my Chrome bookmarks when I noticed my old Facebook link gazing up at me longingly. Intending to delete the bookmark, I clicked -- well, misclicked. Instead of eliminating Facebook from my synced folder forever, my browser took me to Facebook's main page and LastPass autologged me right in.
Welcome back to Facebook, Christina! Your account has been reactivated!
If you're not familiar with LastPass (http://goo.gl/stqSZ), you probably should be. It's awesome. And LastPass and I have been buddies for a long time, but I guess we have some talking to do. To be fair, I didn't communicate to LastPass that I was done with Facebook. LastPass only wanted to help. I can't stay mad.
It was strange to see that once-familiar newsfeed. I suddenly felt weird about reading the personal thoughts of 200 people I didn't know or find very interesting. Some of my Facebook friends are really hilarious and their status updates are always entertaining, but it just isn't the same. It feels like a distant memory, the way I was once hooked to this feed like it was my connection to something important and vital.
I certainly think Facebook helped me find people in my life who were otherwise long gone, and there is something compelling in that sense of rediscovery. But other than extending electronic "friendship," I'm honestly not sure that many of those rediscovered relationships contributed anything of value to my online life. Is that harsh? Maybe.
The driving force behind my use of G+ may seem to be my following, and that's definitely a lot of it. But some of it is also a desire for better quality interaction in general, from a reader's perspective too. What I mean is that I want to read about ideas and interact with the creators. I want to discover new thinkers, new artists, new content. I want to share my ideas too, of course -- and obviously, I do -- but I want to interact and collaborate and share thoughts. Facebook doesn't do that for me and it probably never will. It's a one-trick pony for me.
But I am not re-deleting my Facebook profile.
Google+ isn't ready yet to accommodate my friends and family. I want it to be, but it's not. I had a reality check when my father and I started a Hangout together and had a fantastic time doing it. But his stance was that he only wanted to use Google+ to talk to me. Maybe we'd get my aunt and her cousins to join, too. But neither of us has been motivated to do that yet, and our Hangout was a week ago. Why? I think it's because Google+ is still way too weighted towards content-sharing/discovery and not enough towards private interaction. The content sharing is great and I'm thoroughly excited about that. But if my family wants to join, private interaction needs to be way more intuitive than it is. This is a beta, of course, and features are in the works that we probably can't even imagine yet. But that's the future.
So here's my plan -- I'm going to stick with Facebook for private interaction, but I am going to remove every single person I don't feel I am actually close to or want to read for entertainment purposes, and I am not going to apologize for it. When and if those users decide to move to G+, I would be happy to put them in a Circle and read their thoughts at will. If they prove interesting when they break out of the status-update box, I'll interact. If not, I will probably remove them.
What about Twitter?
I think I have 18 tweets. I don't know what the heck I want to use Twitter for, but I'm going to experiment with it anyway. Why not?
G+ has redefined my standards when it comes to social networking, but it can't yet replace everything for a regular person.
And hey -- I have a new tweet. It's my Google+ invite code. (http://goo.gl/hqcSY) First experiment! I have 11 followers. Maybe they'll join G+ and I'll see what they really think about stuff. And that, I think is ultimately Google+'s best use yet: refining our social networking habits. Now I expect more from people in order to put time into reading them. Maybe that's snobby and elitist, but I think it makes perfect sense. Why "friend," "follow," or "like" someone/something you don't actually find interesting?
Please help me prove that Google+ has an awesome community! I am trying to convince someone in the marketing world here in Austin that there are tons of great conversations on Google+. Can you guys link me to the best, most engaging conversation(s) you've seen in the last few days? I specifically mean a post with great back-and-forth in the comments.
I think with your help, I can prove my point about engagement on Google+. :)
Can't find a way to directly message people? Did the person you want to message hide his "e-mail me" button on his profile? Just make a post and share it with one person instead of a circle! You don't even have to mention the intended recepient via + or @ (but I think it's better if you do, because of the way notifications work at present).
Google+ can easily and effectively replace e-mail altogether via this method, especially considering you may later want to add another person to the conversation: no need to forward a whole thread to anyone, ever again!
edit I had no idea this post was going to be reshared so many times, so I'd like to correct the above: what I meant is that if you do decide to add one person to a circle for private communication, you can always add more people to that circle later and the entire interaction is preserved. If Google were to implement something more dynamic with post sharing, so that people involved or circles involved could be changed later without having to start over, that would be spectacular. And, you never know -- they may already be planning that.
Google+ Tip: Comment More -- You're A Person! Lately, I comment much more than I post. Not just on Google+, but everywhere. This has resulted in a wildly falling Klout score, but I feel like a better person. Maybe there is a relationship there worth exploring.
I consider the art of conversation to be one of humanity's most impressive adaptations. Why? Because the idea of multiple brains coming together to build something which is greater than the sum of its parts is awe inspiring. I don't know if we are genetically programmed to revel in such ideals or if some of this is too lofty to take seriously for more than a few moments at a time, but I know that when you take the marketing and self promotion out of social media and focus on working with everyone you're connected to in order to better the world, you're doing something important. You're being human, using silicon and metal to create relationships that matter.
Your personal brand shouldn't "engage" the same way corporate brands do. Seriously. Whether you're in marketing or you're just clued in to the tech world, you've heard a lot about engagement lately, right? If not, it can be distilled this way: the social web is really about conversations. For a brand, the objective of being "social" is to reach as many people as possible and to achieve lots of +1s, likes, RTs, and shares. This is because marketers largely view "engagement" as another word for "interaction," which is a sign of interest. How much of our content is being touched, they ask, and how can we show that this creates qualified leads? "Social engagement" gives marketers a more powerful potential metric than mere impressions ever could. So they consistently put out content that passes their "engagement" test. Corporate bloggers ask before posting whether their post is "shareable," not whether it enriches the lives of others. There are exceptions, of course, but they prove a very old rule: the bottom line is what matters most.
Thinking like this as a regular person, though, can be very unsettling. I would argue that "engagement" to a person should mean something more like "having conversations," or even just "building relationships." Recently, someone I followed on Twitter sent me a direct message encouraging me to retweet his content. After looking through his feed, I realized he only ever broadcasted things that he thought were going to be re-shared. There was no focus, no topic he seemed to favor. Just "viral" content. I unfollowed him immediately. Why? Because as a consumer, I don't follow brands unless I have a real interest in their product, and a stranger on the Internet is not a product I'm likely to be interested in. (Sorry, Internets.)
Commenting meaningfully shows that you are a real person. That's good. In social networking, making comments means you're not just putting unchecked thought into the universe. Instead, you're lending your ideas -- you're collaborating to build something more refined. It's also possible to use this less "Klout-worthy" behavior to showcase your ideas, talents, and skills to potential employers. When you comment frequently as yourself -- and yes, that means with your real name or the pseudonym that identifies you to the world at large -- you are creating a trail of breadcrumbs in search. Anyone interested can search for my name, for example, and find my comments across the web because I use Disqus as myself. That information may help to create a more complete picture of me than what you'd see if you only read my public Google+ updates, my tweets, or my statuses on Facebook.
In a world where the careful cultivation of a public, personal brand seems to be just as important as having a resume on file, lots of ethical questions are coming up that relate to authenticity. You know, good old fashioned honesty? Where you say things because you mean them? Here's a revolutionary idea: we have conversations because we want to make our ideas better. We also talk to each other so we can build social relationships which may be useful to us later, sure. But often enough, we share knowledge for its own sake. We build our collective understanding by talking to each other. It's a behavior that is its own reward. And it looks great to a potential employer. So, don't just +1 or re-share something you find worthwhile. Comment. It makes you stand out! And it makes you more interesting.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! Whoever is behind +GPlus Tips has been making a lot of noise over the past 48 hours about something called "PreFab Circles," meaning share-able Circles. I think this is a very important idea, even if it's not implemented the way +GPlus Tips and his (or her! -- no one knows!) more tech-savvy followers have suggested so far. The idea is that it should be possible to create and share a Circle of interesting G+ profiles to follow. Ideally, it would be a one-click (or maybe click and drag?) process. The possibilities are hard to put a limit on: you could quickly create and share a posting Circle for a book club, or a package of Google bloggers to follow, or a set of good people to follow about .. well, anything. It's a brilliant idea at its core, and it leads right into what is so important about Google+'s potential: collaboration.
I'm starting to notice some evolution in the way Google+ is being used. I still have plenty of friends using G+ like Facebook. I also see a lot of people purely blogging about G+'s most bleeding edge features. But now there's something else stirring and growing: people are starting to use the space more like something new.
Earlier tonight, someone invited me to a music video sharing Circle he'd made based on my post about Google Music and Last.fm. I think he even double-checked my taste in music! In a Facebook world, that sounds downright creepy. On Google+, where all of my private information is only shared with my innermost circle of real-life friends, it's more like a graduation: we've stopped trying to share music videos with everyone on one clunky "friends list." We're trying to share things with people who we think are actually interested. Don't ignore this! The high is going to wear off when the floodgates open, but don't ignore this forward motion. This can get bigger, better, and even more collaborative. I can't wait to see what else our global community starts doing as more people join and become familiar with the things Google+ has to offer.
G+ Tip: Try adding everyone you recommend other people follow into one Circle. Share that Circle as your "visible to everyone" Circle on your profile. This way, you can expose people who visit your profile to people you think are worth following without having to maintain a list somewhere.
It's subtle, but it's kind of a neat way to showcase people whose content you like. I've found a lot of great G+niuses by looking at who other people are following.
I'm working on my "Recommended Circle" now, so I can share my recommendations with you guys!
RESHARE: I think it's fitting that I found out about this through +Mike Elgan, who is the very first person who ever reshared one of my posts. We were all blundering through Google+ together, but Mike was already a well respected tech journalist. I was a receptionist at a travel agency. The odds that someone as busy as Mike would see any of my posts were pretty slim, as far as I was concerned.
But engagement is the foundation of social media when it's used for something more meaningful than self-promotion, and Mike got that from day one. Mike's decision to share that one post of mine made me consider the idea of using my public Stream on Google+ as a way to reach out to the rest of the early adopter community. That has evolved into a desire to introduce new members of the wider Google+ community to each other, to foster good discussions when I can, and to keep promoting the evolution of social media into something a little more meaningful than ad blasts and breakfast choice updates. One reshare started that.
Having 20,000 people with me in their Circles is a privilege, and being able to interact with any of you is even more of a privilege. I love the engagement here because it began as a truly level playing field and even after opening to the masses, the "big names" like +Tom Anderson and +Chris Pirillo and +Jeff Jarvis (or even the absurdly big names like +Robert Scoble) still interact sincerely with as many of their readers as they can.
In conclusion, you guys are awesome and we will keep the community alive through staying that way.
+1, Google+! And a very big thank you to +Brent Rose, who wrote this for Gizmodo.
Hi. I'm your consumer. If I'm following you on a social media platform and you don't interact with me when I take the time to say hi or ask a question, you are totally missing out. I'm awesome. When I feel listened to, I sing the praises of the listener to, like, all of my real life friends. Furthermore, when you surprise and delight me by responding with a human touch to my comment, it makes me want to buy your stuff.
When you just post coupons or screenshots from your TV ads, you make me frown.
I am currently working on a hypothesis that G+'s Circles idea, with some refinement, could really mirror real life sharing. Your work face, your learning face, your personal face -- all of these things can be visible to the correct people on G+ if you set up your sharing the right way.
To that end, I'd like to poll the crowd! Please re-share to anyone you know who works in education. I want to get a really good conversation going on this issue. For reference, this applies both to secondary education and to tertiary education.
Teachers: Have any of you incorporated G+ into your classrooms? What about Google Sites? How do you think an integration between the two would help with classroom activities? Would having students use their personal accounts cause too much distraction, or can that be overcome? What could Google do to make this work for education? I'm thinking back to my original claims that G+ can flatten the playing field...
Students: Would you be comfortable engaging with your teachers via Hangouts, or is that creepy and weird? How would you feel about group work being done in a platform that can actually track who has contributed what? Could/would you use G+ to organize study groups and keep track of shared documents?
Guess what happened? I cringed. It was suddenly ugly; I just couldn't handle the swarm of advertisements, applications, and requests for events across the globe that had no relevance to me. About thirty seconds after opening the tab in Chrome, I closed it.
And suddenly, it clicked: I don't even want this Facebook feed, anymore. It's like a piece of Internet social media birthday cake that I think I am actually going to put right back into the fridge.
As soon as I find a service I want to use and a block of time I want to spend on it, I'm going to migrate my photos over to G+ and then I'm going to put that piece of cake into the trash can, once and for all.
Auto-cross-posting in social media makes me want to set things on fire. If you choose to automate your updates across platforms, you are missing a huge opportunity to maintain authentic relationships with your connections. Why? Because only robots can automate social media. (Yes, okay, I'd talk to a robot if it was Bender, but it's only 2012 and robots just aren't that profane, yet.)
Does auto-posting make you less likely to follow someone, or do you prefer being updated across every platform with someone's content? Am I missing something, here?
Final thought: scaling social doesn't mean automating social. If you're a brand and you're auto-cross-posting your content across social media channels, you're just creating noise. Noise ain't value.
Is Ad Targeting Evil? In honor of an epic Twitter conversation I had last night with a Bing scientist (https://twitter.com/cmtrapolino), I want to start a conversation with you all about what may or may not be a sensitive topic: ad targeting.
Microsoft's #Scroogled campaign has upset a great many people because -- at least in my opinion -- it's in poor taste, but Microsoft appears to feel that more people are upset because they didn't know their Gmail was being scanned.
Maybe the Scroogled campaign can be about education. Do you know just how often your data is being gathered and used for ad targeting? More importantly, does it upset you to think your data is being used to target ads back at you? If you feel this is "evil" or a "violation," please comment below and explain why -- especially if you also feel data gathering is okay when it's done to protect you from SPAM or phishing attempts.
I don't mind ad targeting because it means I'll see more relevant ads, and relevant is good. If I am using a service for free, I expect to give up something in exchange. If it's my data and that data is being used to show me things I am more likely to find value in (whether that's search results or ads), I'm not just okay with that -- I welcome that. Relevant information is hard to find in the sea of noise we call the Internet, after all.
What say you?
(This will be part one of a series of conversations about this issue. Hopefully, we can come up with a plan to start a global conversation about data and consumers' feelings about privacy in a world of increasingly public living.)
I thought T-Mobile was a great company. I was wrong. (this title also serves as a tl;dr)
My stepfather and I share a T-Mobile account that he's had active since 2001. Because of that, we were on the Family Loyalty Plan. It worked out great -- he doesn't use data or texts and I do, but the plan was flexible enough to allow us both to use the features that made sense for us and the total price was a very reasonable $160 per month.
About two or three months ago, T-Mobile Customer Care started calling me a lot. I usually ignored or missed the calls, but one day I picked up and a very friendly representative told me that we were paying too much for our service. According to her, Family Loyalty was no longer the best rate plan; T-Mobile had recently overhauled all of their pricing packages to be more competitive, she said, and we were missing out. I explained that my stepfather doesn't use data or texts, that we use different features, and that we'd really found a good balance for the price in the Loyalty Plan, especially compared to rates I'd researched with other companies. She insisted we could save more. At this point, I'd had nothing but good experiences with T-Mobile Customer Care, so I took her word for it and alerted my stepfather about the potential opportunity.
My stepdad was not impressed and told me resolutely that AT&T was going to buy T-Mobile and ruin everything forever, so we shouldn't bother doing anything that would renew our contract with them.
Now, look. If you're a geek, you know what it's like to have a parent or relative or even a close friend who needs technology explained -- painstakingly. My stepfather is an attorney who is very intelligent, but he's just from another time in terms of tech. He has e-mails on his computer from the 1990s. As you can imagine, it's hard to explain to someone who doesn't understand smartphones why one data-inclusive rate plan is better than another. It wasn't until AT&T was challenged by the government that he agreed to let me "fiddle" with the contract. The first thing I did was get a new phone because I was finally eligible for an upgrade (a very welcome relief after purchasing both a Nexus One and a G2x at full price in the 24 months previous). I decided to leave the rate plan alone for a while, mostly because I was too busy to take the time to sit down with a representative and go through the process of changing plans. But eventually, I had to face it: I needed more data.
One, I live in the cloud, meaning I don't have any locally stored music on my phone -- I rock out with Spotify or Google Music. Two, I've got a job where rocking out is often necessary to maintain sanity. On the blazing fast Sensation, this combination led me straight down a path to throttled internet.
Throttling data is awesome in principle. It's definitely better than no data after the limit is reached. And it's better than paying per MB of overage. But it's so slow that Spotify skips and jumps. It sounds like when you used to hook up your Discman to a car via cassette...you know, dinosaur stuff.
I couldn't take it. I had to increase my data plan.
Here is where I thought T-Mobile was going to treat me right. The account's over ten years old. Who knows how many dollars and cents this company has taken from my family over the years? Lots. Oodles. Enough to buy some clout. Some respect.
So when Sookie the Customer Care Rep got on the line with me, I was pleased when she praised me for the loyalty. "You've been with us a long time, Ms. Trapolino."
I shouldn't have trusted her. This was mistake one.
"I blew through my data this month, Sookie. It's terrible. We would have to get a new plan for me to solve this problem. But my stepdad doesn't want to sign a new contract with you because he's scared AT&T is going to buy you and charge us all three times as much money. He really hates AT&T. But we like you."
"Ms. Trapolino, I can assure you that locking in a new rate now would be your best bet in the case that T-Mobile is acquired by another entity."
"Okay, Sookie. You sold me. How much are we paying now?"
"About $175 per month."
"Okay. That sounds about right. (NB: this is mistake two -- why didn't I check that? What was I thinking? Blinded by desire for more gigabytes.) So, if we go with one of these new rate plans you guys have been hounding me about, how do I get more data without paying $200 per month? Is that possible?"
Sookie worked hard for me. We crunched numbers, brainstormed, and came to the conclusion that with a monthly loyalty credit, we could get my stepdad a 2GB data plan (he’s been hemming and hawing about getting e-mails and web on his phone, anyway) and I could get a 10GB data plan for a grand total of only $179.99/mo. That's like five dollars more than what Sookie said we already paid every month. It was a no brainer.
“Do it, Sookie!”
This was the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life. I mean, I admit it openly. Changing your rate plan over the phone just because some nice lady in a call center says everything is going to be okay is a bad idea. It shouldn't be, but it is. I should have taken notes, I should have gone back to the account history and looked at some numbers. I should have done anything but press 1 to accept.
But what happens next is not a reasonable punishment for my folly.
The Bill from Hell
Fast forward about a week. The new T-Mobile bill comes in the mail. It's for $195.00. Worse, the previous month's bill was not $175, it was $159. With tax. I managed to increase the total bill by almost fifty bucks per month, which meant my portion of the bill just increased by fifty bucks per month, which is the exact opposite of what Sookie told me was going to happen. What?
At this point, my stepdad got pretty hot under the collar, raving that AT&T must have already bought T-Mobile and blindsided the whole country with absurd rates. We had to cancel, because these guys were being dishonest and trying to take his (my) money. I assured him this was a misunderstanding, or at least that it wouldn't be hard to fix. After all, I told myself privately, I don't need 10GB per month. Five would be okay. Two would even be okay. To save fifty dollars per month, I could learn to live with throttled data. Or put some music on the SD card. This wasn't a big deal. I'd just adjust the plan to be more reasonable. It had to just be the extra data causing the problem, anyway.
I dialed 611
Judith the Customer Service Rep had a slight Indian accent and a wonderful set of manners. In fact, she was so polite that I couldn't seem to get past the "thank you for being so patient, ma'am" and the "yes of course, and thank you for explaining that" stuff to the meat of my problem: dollars.
We had a long back-and-forth about what I had been told and what I had agreed to. I conceded that Sookie probably just miscommunicated by not including tax or something and I felt a little guilty for not having been more thorough (I was really excited about 10GB of data), so I just asked Judith to please figure out how to get the rate back down to a reasonable $160 per month.
"Well, ma'am, and thank you for asking -- we can remove data from your line, remove texting, and scale the other line down to 200mb per month."
"Judith, that's insane. Out of curiosity, what would that get it down to?"
"I need a supervisor."
This is where T-Mobile turns into a Kafka novel.
I held for about fifteen minutes while Judith went to find a supervisor. (And for the record, T-Mobile's hold music sucks. It's not even music. It's a short Nokia ringtone from your worst nightmare on repeat.) Eventually, Judith came back on the line to apologize profusely and ask if it would be all right for a supervisor to call me in half an hour. At this point, my irritation was mild enough that I didn't complain.
Bernadette the Supervisor called me in less than twenty minutes. I was impressed, and told her so. She investigated my issue and said that the solution was simple: remove data from my stepdad's line, scale my own data back to 2GB/mo, and we could get the price down to $150/mo after taxes. I was going to be able to save the day.
There was one problem. The store who upgraded my phone used my stepdad's upgrade, not mine (without my knowledge -- why would I have upgraded his line when I had an upgrade available?). His line was therefore required to have a data package. I was stunned when Bernadette said there was nothing she could personally do. She assured me this was still resolvable -- we'd need to conference call with the store so they could verify their error, and then someone at T-Mobile with the proper access and authority could remove the data restriction on that line so the price could come down.
Because I dealt with this before work on Saturday, I had to wait until my lunch break to try to do the conference call. I dialled 611, got an Australian girl, and was told that there was no one in her building who would be authorized to change the restrictions on the line. I would have to go back to the retail store in person and get them to call T-Mobile’s corporate line.
I asked what the total cost would be to cancel the entire service. She transferred me. I listened to terrible Nokia ringtones for almost 20 minutes, and then I got Everett the Account Specialist.
We Aren’t Going To Help You
“Ms. Trapolino, this is Everett. I’m sorry to hear you want to cancel your service. Is there anything we can do to change your mind?”
I took a deep breath and then explained the entire situation for the fourth time that day. I explained that it was a store error, that if we could just remove the data restriction from my stepfather’s line, I would be satisfied and grateful and remain a loyal T-Mobile customer. I didn’t want to cancel at all, I said. I wanted it fixed.
“I’m not going to mislead you, Ms. Trapolino. There is nothing that can be done. You would have had to return your phone to the store within the buyer’s remorse period, which you’re obviously out of, in order for them to let us change the restriction. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to lie to you.” He said that a lot, the stuff about not wanting to mislead me. I was almost in tears. My voice cracked.
“But Bernadette said..”
“It sounds like Bernadette just didn’t want to tell you no.”
“Okay, then...I’ll go talk to my stepdad about canceling. I’m going to have to pay for all of this. What’s this going to cost me?”
“$200 per line, plus an entire month’s bill.”
“And you can’t talk to anyone who would be able to fix this?”
“I’m sorry, no. You can plead your case to the retail store who upgraded your phone, but I don’t want to set your expectations too high. They probably won’t do anything.”
“Thanks, Everett. Goodbye.”
Even if the local store resolves this, my faith in T-Mobile as a larger company is absolutely shot to hell.
What happened to customer service? What happened to loyalty? Would this really have been so hard to fix?
T-Mobile employees out there, if you're allowed to comment on rants like this, can you shed any light? Did I just get the wrong people, or is the policy that you'd rather lose a client than fix what is obviously an error? Help me understand this.
The worst part is that I don't want to be a T-Mobile customer after this experience, but who's not like this? Is there a mobile phone company that doesn't treat its customers like little fleshy money trees? There’s no way I’d go with AT&T. I hear nothing but bad things about Sprint’s customer service from friends. My friends on Verizon have bad data speeds. Who’s out there? Who can I possibly trust?
T-Mobile, you are maybe -- at best -- the least awful guy at a really stupid party full of jerks. As soon as I can find half a grand to spend on severing our ties, we’re through. I mean it.
RESHARE: Thanks to +Guy Mullins for sharing this in my Stream. Worth checking out. +Brian Caldwell does bizdev for Evernote, so he's a pretty reliable source for Evernote information.
Reshared text: Share Google+ Content Directly Into Evernote
All of your friends on Google+ are sharing tons of great content. Sometimes you want to keep track of this content, so why not capture it directly into your Evernote account? Follow these simple steps to do just that...
1. Open your Evernote desktop application and click... Mac: Evernote Menu >> Account Info or Windows: Tools Menu >> Account Info
2. In Account Info locate your special evernote email address and copy it (you can save it to an Evernote note for future reference)
3. Login to Google+, click the Circles tab and create a new Circle
4. In the Circle creation dialog window... Name your Circle "Save 2 Evernote" or something you will remember Click "Add a new person" and paste your unique Evernote email address into the text field Click "Add 'EvernoteEmail@m.evernote.com' by Email" Click "Create Circle with 1 member" to complete the Circle creation process
5. Share Content: Whenever you want to save something to Evernote, simply share it with the "Save2Evernote" Circle that you just created.
If you find this tip useful, please share it with all of your Google+Circles (and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
Hey, Google+. Who are the best people to follow who post about Star Trek? I am on Season 6 of The Next Generation and I am ready to geek out with a Circle of Trekkies. Help!
P.S. I'm going to add everyone who is a Trekkie in this comment thread to my Trekkies Circle. Let me know if you'd rather I NOT do that. You may see random one-line reactions to episodes in your Stream more often... ;)
I was just taking a stroll down Social Network Memory Lane and it hit me. Remember when +Tom Anderson told us that MySpace was going to start gearing itself toward music -- and, more specifically -- musicians? I don't know how well one might say that worked out long-term, but it got me thinking about music and how important it is to, well, everybody.
As a Google Music beta tester, I wish I could somehow incorporate Google Music into Google+. I love the scrobbling revolution that Last.fm started (in fact, it's the only outside link you'll find on my Google Profile) because I really enjoy seeing how my taste has changed in the last several years. I also have a creepy tendency to look over other people's music taste. Wouldn't it be cool if we could see what other Google Music users were listening to in Google+? Shared playlists, maybe? Could be interesting.
My vision for G+ is one where, because of the way Circles and Streams work, we don't have to sacrifice real thought because of media fodder. If you want to use Google+ to improve your career by demonstrating your talent publicly, and to talk to your family/friends, and to catch up with Justin Bieber's latest haircut/girlfriend, you can. There is no reason that an influx of the masses will stop the sense of enlightened intellectual banter/discussion we're excited about right now. If anything, it might add to it!
The technology in the platform allows us to separate our conversations, and hopefully with the acquisition of Fridge, Google is planning to make this even easier and more refined. I can have a great debate in one Circle about politics and in another, I can watch animated gifs if that's what I want.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about Google+'s potential? I've been doing a lot of comparing and suggesting, but I am really curious how other people are finding new and more interesting ways to interact.
If you notify your Circles about every post you make, you are spamming.
It's not okay. edit - Well, sometimes it's okay. Just try not to do it every time you have a YouTube video to post, that's all I ask!
I know it doesn't feel like you're spamming, but you are. Google+ only shows 9 notifications at a time in the dropdown menu, so when you take up my notification slots with your shared posts of cat videos, you are making it really difficult for me to respond to notifications I want to see. You don't want to be that guy, right?
Say no to notify (unless it's a special occasion)!
edit - +Melina M did me the favor of explaining this more explicitly in the comments below: "For those of you who aren't sure what behavior Christina is referring to, when you create a post and share with specific circles, if you hover over the circle you will see a checkbox option to "Notify about this post". If you check it, everyone in that circle will get a notification "__ has shared a post with you" in their notification box in the top right corner.
Pro tip: don't check that box! It makes people hate you."
edit: This started as a reply to +James Bruce, who commented below, but it turned into kind of a long comment, so I'm editing it into the original post.
James, what you've said [below in the comments] is exactly the point I have been trying to push -- "[Google's] not building the community -- the G+ users are." [Keep in mind he's speaking as James, not Google.]
Google is a business and it's providing a truly exciting set of tools, and the community -- the G+ Public Sphere, as I call it -- is an open, and clearly very even playing field (at least so far). That's almost unprecedented, guys. Well done.
It's a large responsibility. This community will become something that's important to people, something that they will want to protect. You are in a position to help human beings learn a great deal about each other and themselves. If you do this right...well, I'm sure I don't have to pitch G+ to Google.
Google and the Google+ community share a common goal, which is to achieve a truly refined network filled with people who can increasingly benefit each other. Google can definitely handle building the tools, but the community has to take responsibility for itself. If the culture we build is going to mean anything, we have to keep examining and improving it and not get distracted by immediate successes. I think we have a lot of potential power, here. Let's use it to be better at sharing and creating and rewarding innovation. Let's get back to great art and literature and ideas.
I know, I know. Crazy optimist. :)
I never thought I would have to explicitly say that I don't work for Google, but here we are! Over 6,500 of you have me in a Circle. That is possibly the least expected thing to have happened to me...uhh, ever.
I'm really glad that some of the things I've said have been useful to new users, and I'm glad to be furthering the conversation about where Google+ can take us as an Internet society, but you guys have got to make sure you don't tell your newly signed up friends that I work for Google. They e-mail me and ask me things I can't answer!
I'm a receptionist at a travel agency. I really hope to one day have a way cooler job than I do, but for now...y'all are gonna make me put up a disclaimer on my "About Me" page if you're not careful. ;)
Brands and their pages are here and they're not going away. How can we, as consumers, have a say in how they behave?
While social media gurus are busy blogging about the 8 Steps To Creating The Perfect Brand Page, I think it's important for us -- the consumers -- to reflect on the opportunity we have. Some of us are excited about brand pages for the same reason we were excited about Google+ itself -- because it's a new frontier -- or at least many of us think it can be.
Not all of us are celebrating, of course. Some of us are worried that brands are going to kill the community aspect of Google+, but we were also worried that removing invitations would kill it. This time, I'm not worried. We're a powerful collective, and we can influence how brands behave here by actively rewarding what we see as good behavior.
What is good brand behavior? We can probably agree that a minimum requirement for good brand behavior on Google+ is sincere engagement with consumers. Being sincere in social media is simple as long as your business has sound ethics and a great message. If it doesn't, you should fail. Sorry.
Generally, if you're a "good" business, then I want to support you with my money. I also want to support you through social media. But I don't particularly want to retweet your broadcasts about an upcoming sale because it's not interesting. Give me content I can share authentically instead. Engage with me. Start a conversation about something we both care about. Show me how your principles align with mine, and I'll be happy to buy your products or spread awareness about your cause.
How do we reward good behavior? It is my belief that a great company will seek to earn my respect. When it does that, I go into reward mode. When I act alone, that doesn't necessarily mean much in terms of influencing how companies behave. But the Google+ community is a lot bigger than me.
Want companies to listen? Engage with their pages! Share their content when it's something you believe in. Participate in the conversations they start. Comment thoughtfully. Create and collaborate. Elevate those who elevate your ideals. If we all do that, the impact is enormous.
You're on Google+, so you're already ahead of the curve when it comes to social networking. You have the power to be the future of social media, so you should participate rather than sit back and let corporations set the pace.
What about brands who misbehave? Ignore them.
Smart brands have had their PR people and community managers checking out Google+ right along with all of us, and hopefully those folks have gotten the message that this community is smart, civil, and hungry for meaningful discourse. If so, there is a chance that brands will approach us with the kind of respect we deserve. But if they don't, it's within our power to vote them off of the island. We are a collective body, and our power is that we're the target audience. If we sit passively and let brands take over, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves. The power of social is the consumer voice, not just the broadcast potential for brands.
If you see brand pages doing a good job of sincerely interacting with consumers, reward them by adding them to your Circles and engaging with their posts. If you see a cause you care about struggling with their brand page, send them a message and give them some tips that would make you more engaged. You get out what you put in -- that's been the theme of Google+ since day one, really, hasn't it?
Can a company win if it openly promotes intolerance polarizing views on sensitive subjects? There's a lot of anti-Chick-Fil-A sentiment floating around my news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. It's been prevalent in my Google+ Stream, too. I know this is industry-nerd talk, but isn't it interesting how a company gets so much publicity when it takes a stand? I keep hearing people say things like, "to gain a customer, you must first be willing to lose a customer." Do you think Chick-Fil-A is going to win in the long run with this stance?
I'm not planning to eat there again until they change their stance, personally.
*edit*+Antonio Guadagno has pointed out that Chick-Fil-A has posted on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/Mo1WNe) to take back their stance. It seems obvious to me that this statement is a classic reaction to negative social backlash. There is nothing in it that indicates the company thinks its stance was actually inappropriate (as in, there's no apology). To me, it doesn't come off as sincere in the least. What do you think?
note: I changed the title to help lessen the heat in the comments. This question is more about business strategy than gay marriage. I support marriage equality, but my personal view isn't the point of the discussion. Thanks for keeping things civil. I know this is a hot-button issue.
I had a great theory a while back, after letting go of +Mike Elgan's Google+ Diet (http://bit.ly/nXP9hx). Like +Chris Pirillo, my theory was that Google+ is great for interacting with strangers and Facebook is great for interacting with real-life friends.
At that time, I made a pledge to remove everyone from Facebook who didn't interest me sincerely so that my feed would be more relevant and interesting (see the original post here: http://bit.ly/pBBjvF), but every time I logged into Facebook to try my hand at culling the "friends" list, I got lost. Or maybe it's better to say that I didn't know where to start. And, frankly, I didn't have the heart to "unfriend" people just because they didn't interest me. (Wow, is that great marketing or am I just a softie?)
In any case, nothing has happened. I login to Facebook less than once a week, and I have the same reaction every time: LastPass logs me in, I see my feed, and I can't even scroll through more than a handful of posts before I'm bored. I tab back to Google+. I plan to clean up Facebook later. I never do.
I'm pretty sure the reason for my lack of engagement is that my feed has far too many people making far too much noise. In stark contrast to Google+, adding strangers on Facebook is a really weird concept, because the foundation (for me) is the idea of a social network built for online interaction between real-life friends.
If I've never met you in real life, being friends with you on Facebook makes almost no sense to me. But if I met you at a party and then you added me on Facebook, there is a good chance I accepted you as a "friend," put you in a filtering category that couldn't see my Wall, and forgot you existed (largely thanks to EdgeRank). The acceptance of questionable relationships in social networking was born out of a need to be polite for me, based on Facebook's use of the word "friend."
Here's the problem: my friends -- some of whom aren't even really my friends -- post a lot of things I don't want to read. With the newest Facebook changes, my real friends -- the strongest real life connections I have on Facebook -- are posting more automated noise now than they were before I left Facebook. So and so commented on this. Then he visited some websites. She just played a Delta Spirit album. On and on...honestly, that ticker makes me antsy. I feel compelled to look at it on the off chance that I'll find some awesome new band or restaurant or website, but it never happens. It's not that my friends have bad taste. It's that they do too much stuff online and they like too many things. I can't keep up, so it all becomes meaningless noise.
I have no idea what to use Facebook for when it's like this, so I think I just have to nuke it and start over.
This time, I am only going to "friend" people I know in real life whom I also want to interact with through social media. That means I have to want to read your Facebook updates, whatever that even means.
I have to be honest -- I'm a little unsure about how this is going to go. The most thoughtful friends I have are not posting their thoughts on Facebook, they're blogging or using Google+. But on the off chance that I find a use for Facebook (I don't know if that exists for me, anymore), I'm sure I'll be glad I did this instead of just deleting my profile and ending the affair entirely.
Those of you who still use Facebook -- what do you use it for? Personal interaction only? If the people you interact with on Facebook were on Google+, would you still want to use Facebook? Why or why not?
I feel like I've said this before...but Google+ isn't Facebook! Are we obsessed, or what? I'm still reading tons of comparisons between Facebook and Google+. Admittedly, even I have made the comparison on multiple occasions (okay, a lot of occasions) while trying to figure out exactly how to use this platform.
But now that I've abandoned the G+ diet and returned to Facebook, I've seen the light! I know the truth!
Google+ does not need to be better than Facebook at being Facebook. It seems really intuitive when you say it like that, doesn't it? Why would Google+ want to be Facebook when it can be something completely different?
I mean, we all keep talking about the "toppling of Facebook" (even if we're saying to shut up about it) but...if you're trying to do the same thing as another social network exactly, only then do you have to worry about "toppling" it, and only then you have to be worried about being the best at it.
If you're trying to do something different but within the same basic parameters, you have to be just as good, but different enough to be interesting. I think Google+ achieves the latter part of that already, while still in beta. And it can be "just as good" as Facebook at letting us interact more intimately, but for now, I'm really okay with using Facebook for Facebooking and Google+ for Plussing.
I feel that Google isn't asking us to only live in Plus-land. Even when Google finishes integrating every one of its products under one roof, there is no need to stay here all the time. We can also travel to Facebook or Twitter to visit our friends, family, and celebrities who only know how to tweet #WINNING. Google just wants to be our social home base. It doesn't mind if we have a summer house or two. And that's pretty all right with me.
But what about social networking fatigue? You only have yourself to blame for feeling "fatigued" by the amount of content you're interacting with. If you have 500 Facebook "friends," no wonder you are worn out by reading your feed! I urge you all to (gasp) unfriend the people who aren't interesting to you on Facebook! Unfriend the people you don't really know! Unfriend everyone you don't care about! No more apologies! No more weird sense of internet obligation! No more artificial relationships intended only to be polite!
I think I need +Aaron Wood to make a poster about this (hint, hint).
If you haven't yet, you should really pick up a copy of #PublicParts by +Jeff Jarvis. According to Jarvis, when books were invented, "it scared people to death." People were frightened of what they didn't understand. Further, "people didn’t create new books until 50 years [later]. It didn’t affect society for 100 years, clearly." Seriously, 100 years.
We don't know what we don't know. Social media is hardly a blip on the timeline so far. We're still talking about things that happened in 2007 as if they are old hat. We're still mass producing mistakes along with all the good stuff. We're still learning how much leverage we have as consumers when we really develop our networks.
Doesn't it just make your skin tingle to think about all that we'll do once we're better at this? For the people in the first 100 years after the printing press was invented, the future held all kinds of political, philosophical, and technological wonders...including the internet. What could be in store for us?
Whether you're an optimist or a pessimist about the quality of future communication online, you must admit that we are about to live in an even more connected and social world than we do today. So, it's practical to prepare ourselves for that future in some way, and I believe that means being as open as possible to new technologies and new ideas. I also believe it means embracing what it means to live more publicly. But we have social media fatigue to contend with, and trying to "be everywhere" on the internet is probably too demanding for any of us (well, any of us with jobs!). So, where can we spend time optimally in pursuit of this openness? After well over a year and plenty of good and bad press, I still think Google+ is the place.
Why Google+? The short answer? Google.
The longer answer is that Google has a lot of brilliant engineers and it will hire more. Google also has a lot of wicked smart people people (shout out to +Natalie Villalobos), and they'll hire even more. While Facebook and Twitter aren't necessarily showing signs of going anywhere (I'll leave that debate up for the comments), Google feels practically unmovable by comparison.
There are more reasons than that, of course. Another is noise control. As far as I can tell, innovation on taming the firehose is what's going to drive us forward in social media (and although he will probably disagree with my feelings about Google, check out +Robert Scoble's recent musings on this topic here: http://scoble.it/T2aqfg) -- and I think Google+ has better, more robost noise controls than any other social network thus far.
Google also already has a strong cultural infrastructure in place -- most of us use Google to do something on the internet every day. Search, email, calendar, documents, Android -- the list goes on. If Google decides it wants to make the internet more social, is there really anyone else out there equipped to do it in such a potentially mind-blowing way?
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying Google has done everything right. Google is a for-profit company with a bottom line and human beings at the helm. But look around at some of the best known early adopters here (like +Daria Musk or +Ryan Crowe). Look at the level of sincere, authentic, awesome engagement on their posts. With strangers! What the hell is more social than that?
Ultimately, it's all about us. It's our patience and openness that will really drive the cultural impact of social media. It's about how we choose to use these tools and these platforms. _Our_ behavior will drive the behavior of brands, the iteration of algorithms, and...well, who knows what else? Perhaps we're on the cusp of a major cultural revolution.
This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for my 90 year old Sicilian grandmother. She's had two strokes in the last month, but she still poses for photos like a diva. I adore her and am so glad she was here tonight to try my first ever from-scratch pecan pie (it was a success).
I'm also grateful that the world seems to be getting nicer, at least according to Steven Pinker and +Nicholas Kristof. Check out the NYT article here: http://nyti.ms/vBcj82 if you don't believe me! It made my morning.
I'm also grateful for all of the Google+ users who have helped restore my faith in people. That may sound dramatic, but I've been astonished repeatedly by the community here because it includes so many different kinds of personalities and interests and yet remains the most civil, intellectually hungry group of people I've encountered online. Well done, everyone.
Find books, movies, and shows you like online. For books, try Google's eBook store. Movies? IMDB would work, but I'm sure commentors below will think of others. Click the +1 button on the webpage displaying your interest. Watch your "+1" tab become a real promotional tool for interests you actually have and recommend to the world!
edit Thanks +Cora Triton for pointing out how to display your +1 tab on your profile in the comments: "Go to Profile -> Edit profile -> +1 -> Show this tab on my profile -> Save"
New MySpace can wait -- Google+ Communities are coming! I am so excited, I can hardly stand it. Google+ is finally rolling out what looks to be a true community-driven product -- check out the blog post at the link below. My favorite part is probably when +Vic Gundotra says, "let’s be excellent to each other."
Most of you know about my Google Voice experiment by now (if you don't, check it out here: http://goo.gl/GhglF).
It seems, based on comments and voicemails, that many of you are very curious about GVoice and how/why to use it, so I thought I'd write up my method for integrating Google Voice into my life as my primary phone number.
First of all, I have an Android phone. I use two apps -- the official Google Voice app, and an app called Voice Plus (http://goo.gl/hMKGX). I have no idea whether Voice Plus is available for iPhone. It probably isn't. I'm sorry. (Try Motorola next upgrade?)
Second of all, I still sometimes use my real cell phone number. Call me paranoid, but I always want my parents or close friends to be able to reach me on my real number.
Keep in mind you can still follow this entire guide if you want use Google Voice as your secondary number, just by changing some of the more obvious things I do (e.g., set Voice NOT to always dial out, etc).
How to integrate GVoice as your primary (but not only) number: (alternately titled, "How to always dial some contacts with Google Voice and some contacts with your 'real' number without ever having to toggle any settings ever again")
Google Contacts Seriously, before you do anything else, set up your Google Contacts and arrange them into groups that make sense to you. If you're one of those people with the entire population of North America sitting in various contact lists, this is especially important.
It sucks to consolidate and clean up your contacts. But it's really worth the trouble. There are some great guides to consolidation, especially on LifeHacker (my favorite method: http://goo.gl/nhfSV), that make this process a little easier. But take note: you really have to do this to get the most out of Google Voice. And you'll feel better once it's done. I promise.
You'll notice after playing around a bit with Contacts that you are able to keep people in multiple groups, just like G+ Circles. I can't wait for the day Circle technology integrates fully with Google Contacts, but until then, your best bet is to master Contact groups as they currently exist.
The magic part of this step comes when you create the following two groups (if you make no other groups, make these):
1) Always use Google Voice 2) Never use Google Voice
You might be able to guess where this is going, now...
Setting up Android If you have an Android device, go you! If you don't, this guide is probably not going to be very helpful past this point.
As far as I'm aware, Android phones ship with Google Voice installed. If I happen to be wrong about this, grab the app here (and don't yell at me): http://goo.gl/1Hdfv and run it. Set Google Voice to ALWAYS dial out instead of your real number by hitting the Menu button, then More, then setting Voice to "Making calls." It should say "Use Google Voice to make all calls." If it doesn't say that, try again.
Keep in mind, this setting ensures that any calls you make to people NOT in your Google Contacts will display your Google Voice number, not your real cell number.
You'll also need a super awesome app called Voice Plus (http://goo.gl/hMKGX). When you run it, you'll probably think it's broken because it's just a black screen that says "No Area Codes in area code list," but ignore that. Press the Menu button, then Settings.
Voice Plus settings should look like this: . Main Number is Default (no check) . Use Area Codes (checked) . Dial by Groups (checked) . GV Group Name: (select whichever contact group you chose to *always use Google Voice*) . Main Group Name: (select whichever contact group you chose to *never use Google Voice*)
Once this part is done, you will never have to open Voice Plus again. You'll always control who receives calls from your real number and who receives them from your Voice number by editing your Google Contacts.
Beyond this point, everything is purely a matter of preference in terms of how to receive texts and calls. I'm including what I do because people have asked, and because it is obviously how I think you benefit most from Voice on your smartphone.
Texting In my Google Voice settings (found via the web interface), I disable text forwarding to my phone for three reasons.
First, I still use my real number for some texting. I use an app called Handcent SMS (http://goo.gl/tp1ZC) for texting with my "real number" since Voice cannot do MMS.
Second, I dislike the way Google Voice forwards texts to mobile, period. Messages are often fragmented and come out of order (especially when texting iPhone users...hmm!), so I just use the Google Voice native app for interacting with texts sent to me via Voice.
Third, I never have to worry about whether or not I'm sending texts from my "real" number. It's always Voice if I'm in the app!
Call Forwarding Google Voice is capable of simultaneously forwarding your incoming Voice calls to 6 different U.S. phone numbers, plus it can forward to your Gmail for pure, web-based VoIP calling.
Now, I don't ever really need my Google Voice to ring anywhere except my mobile phone, but if I'm in a dead zone and can't get good reception, I am glad to be able to use Gmail calling. But when traveling, it's rare that I remember to bring my clunky gamer headphones and mic. No problem. Google Voice works on landlines, too.
Using Contact Groups to send people to Voicemail no matter what This is a little more advanced, but again -- worth the trouble! Sometimes, you don't want certain people to be able to reach you, but you don't want to block them because they'd get mad and tell your grandmother (I hope my great aunt isn't reading this).
How about just sending them to voicemail forever? Easy!
1) Create a group in Google Contacts called "Always Voicemail" (or something more creative, like "DOOMED TO VM") and add everyone who applies to that group.
4) See that bit about "When people in this group call you:"? Click Edit.
5) Uncheck every box.
Now, in your list of groups, it should say "None" in the "Forwards To" column. Voicemail doom, indeed.
If you want, you can even record a special voicemail greeting for this group. "Hi, Great Aunt Sally! I'm in Europe. Forever. Love you, leave a message! Bye!" Or, you know, something less obvious. It's your show.
That's it! There are TONS of other things you can do with Voice, but my lunch break is over and my brain needs a rest.
Feel free to leave your own tips & tricks in the comments!
Someone should write an app that only lets you post to certain Circles between certain hours. 3am? You can only post to your "Drunk Tank" Circle. It would fit in nicely with Gmail's awesome Mail Goggles Lab.
I believe that social media has the power to be a progressive force for good in communities all over the world. +Chris Pirillo has generously offered me the opportunity to write a guest blog post on LockerGnome.com, and I’d like to write about why I think social media might be capable of changing us for the better. I think a great demonstration of this very concept would be including the thoughts of the Google+ community in that guest blog post. So, to do that, I’m posting what I’ve written so far. It’s not perfect, and I’d like y’all to help me refine my ideas. Am I way off on something? Why or why not?
If I use your input to edit my work, I will credit you in the LockerGnome post when I do eventually get something ready to send to Chris.
Here’s what I have so far:
I am 25 years old. The people who are part of my generation demand more transparency from governments and businesses than anyone who has ever come before us. [EDIT: I am definitely going to be changing the preceding sentence to something that makes this less contentious. Thanks to everyone who has commented about it!] Those to come will demand even more than we do. I have a strong suspicion that there is about to be a restructuring of sorts in the social media world. A lot of this suspicion is based on the emerging power of relevance, which I posted about recently (http://goo.gl/C8BN3).
Social networking has evolved quickly into a system that is easy to game -- though elusive to many, the rules of SEO and SEM are based on conquerable concepts. Marketing gurus and social media experts understand the concept of sharing the right thing at the right time. They also understand how much randomness can play a role in creating viral content. Some of the social media game is expertise, and some is left to chance. But all of what happens in social media marketing is based on the reaction of the consumer, right? Doesn't that give us an upper hand if we want one?
Our role as consumers is more important than ever.
Social media has largely been meaningless until recently. Why?
Arguably, it's because people think of social media as a tool for marketing and branding -- and that's it. The obsession with the collection of followers and likes is intended to create higher "conversion rates" -- to sell more widgets, to spread brand awareness. And while the elusive ROI formula is difficult for social media managers to deal with, I don't think anyone argues seriously that social media hasn't made a huge impact on consumers.
But we -- the consumers -- are no longer just using social media to advertise and be advertised to, anymore. Look at what Egyptian youth used Facebook for earlier this year. Think about Twitter's role in the recent London riots, in the uprisings and revolutions of the Arab Spring. Think about what it means that social media was embraced and used by a new generation in this totally unexpected way.
Google+ was probably not created to change the social media game in a fundamental way, but so far, the communities springing up are simply not like the ones we see on other networks. Who knows why? It could be the way invitations rolled out to Silicon Valley superstars and social media "gurus" first. It could be the absence of a character limit. It could be the "blank slate" feeling some of us get when we look at Google+.
We see people using Hangouts to teach each other classes, we see people performing concerts for free that reach thousands of people from the international community. People are creating art, music, sharing jokes, and thoughtfully discussing issues in ways only previously seen on isolated forums and niche newsgroup communities across the web. Google+ connects each of those communities to one another through an overarching network. That's new.
And I suspect something else is on the horizon, too. It's a rejection -- a clear, outright one -- of the current "social media hierarchy" where experts sit at the top and dictate to each other how to best take advantage of people via social networking. My generation won't stand for it. What we do put up with, the next generation won't. We want real interaction, not endless re-tweets about a new Nike commercial.
But it’s not about Google+ or any of the other tools at our disposal. It’s about how we use them. If you love social networking for talking to your friends, great! If that’s all you ever want to use the network for, that’s okay. But I think many of us are starting to understand the power of building a really strong, refined network with the tools available to us online. Not to get rich, not to take advantage of anyone, but to grow as human beings and to build ideas together in ways our ancestors have never had access to.
What will you do with the power you can unlock with a refined network? Will you try to deviate from the idea that history only repeats itself? Will you try to make an impact that benefits your fellow man? Will you try to leave the world a better place than you found it? Or will you water your neighbor’s virtual plants? It’s up to you.
edit - I just want to say thank you to everyone who is helping me in a constructive way. You guys are amazing and you all have wonderful input. I have a lot of work to do with this, that much is for sure, and I really appreciate that you all understand what a "rough draft" is, haha! :)
I thought T-Mobile was a terrible company. I was wrong. or Why Social Really is the Future (and Present)
Many of you will recall that only a few days ago, I posted a long rant about T-Mobile and its customer service practices (http://bit.ly/psmmDY). To summarize briefly: I couldn't lower my rate plan's cost by removing data from a line that doesn't use the web but couldn't get it done over the phone because -- supposedly -- it was up to the store who had mistakenly upgraded the wrong line in September. After speaking to five or six different people who all utterly failed to help me (although some did try!), I expressed my frustration (and a growing desire to punch kittens) very openly on Google+.
The response was overwhelming. Within a few hours I had over 100 comments on the post, several links had been posted on Facebook, and we'd invented a new hashtag on Twitter and G+ (#donewith611). The conversation changed from being about T-Mobile to being about the mobile telecommunications industry in general, with much agreement that customer service seems to no longer even qualify as criteria when choosing a carrier. A sad state of things, indeed.
I was resolved the following Monday to try going back to the retail store I had purchased my phone upgrade from. It was my last resort, according to Everett the (smarmy) Account Specialist, and I didn't have very high expectations (he informed me that I shouldn't). The in-store experience was wildly different to my Customer Care nightmare, and I posted about it from the parking lot after visiting because I was so relieved and impressed (http://bit.ly/n30l0L). However, my private sentiments were still that I wanted to leave T-Mobile as soon as I could figure out how to come up with $600 to break the contract.
This afternoon, T-Mobile's social media people convinced me not to leave.
I got a phone call this afternoon from an 800 number I didn't recognize. Because I don't owe anybody any money, I wasn't afraid to pick up. It was Melissa, a T-Mobile Customer Relations representative who told me she wanted to ask me about what she called a "Facebook escalation" -- which I assume means the Facebook link to my Google+ post was discovered by T-Mobile's social guys. She confirmed that, and told me she saw that the situation was marked as resolved in my file. Did I have any questions? Was there any lingering concern she could assist me with? She didn't outright apologize for the experience I had with the much maligned 611, but she seemed genuinely interested in making sure everything was okay.
That is customer service. It is also a lesson in how to deal with T-Mobile. Tweet! Post on Facebook! Post on your blog. T-Mobile has a Twitter account (@TMobileHelp) dedicated to assisting customers who have had poor experiences, whether those experiences occurred in-store or over the phone.
Doing this simple followup via social media saved T-Mobile one very angry/betrayed customer. And I didn't even get anything for free!
Social media is about the consumer, and many companies have already realized it. When we do, too, we are going to see real change.
I still say #downwith611, but I am not closing the door on T-Mobile after this experience. Just don't dial Customer Care.
RESHARE: Post G+ floodgate, we have to keep helping new folks out. Otherwise they'll drive us nuts with questions! Share this to anyone you know who's new and needs help with G+ features. :)
Reshared text: G+ Tip: New users (and old users) - The Comprehensive Guide to Google Plus
+Johnathan Chung is a sociologyplus.com team member and a well-respected Google+ content curator. His early Google+ Resources Guide continues to be one of the best guides to Google+ that I have seen.
I know there are a bunch of new users looking for Google+ help - this might be your best starting point. Simply click on the link below and you will be taken to Johnathan's resources guide - you won't even have to leave Google+.
Please give Johnathan some kudos and show him you appreciate his efforts (if you do) by commenting, +1'ing, and resharing (which will help other new users).
In Johnathan's guide, you'll find over 100 posts leading to different resources that include but are not limited to: photo sharing privacy posting etiquette circle management starter guides and tons of other helpful users who are dedicated to enhancing the user experience
I am reminded of what excited me most about this platform when I read Whittaker's sentimental look back towards a more innovative Google. Back in July and August, when I used to post daily because I was freshly addicted to the sense of purpose and engagement I found here, I said a lot of things about how the user is ultimately responsible for how tools are created and refined. The way we choose to use things is the cue for businesses to adapt. Get enough people using social media, and you see a lot of companies finally buying in. Get enough people mindlessly playing Farmville, get enough people actively clicking higher quality ads, get enough people doing anything and companies are going to buy in. If enough people start using social media to empower themselves, companies are going to have to buy in to that, too.
We have to evolve our own use of social media before we can expect businesses to adapt. Why would we wait for corporations to lead us down a more meaningful path? The power is increasingly in our hands. Social media makes some companies shake in their boots because suddenly, their customers have a voice -- a platform -- a stage -- a way to shape things. Companies with good ethics who innovate and adapt are perfectly suited to help us down our road to becoming better people, but those companies are few and far between. It is up to us to evolve and use social media to do more than consume. We have to learn to to reward good brand behavior and to discourage bad brand behavior. Brands have to catch up eventually. But they won't catch up to a void -- we have to create the demand for the behavior.
Social media isn't going anywhere, and brands working within social media aren't going anywhere, either. Now that we have this much buy-in from so many influential companies and individuals, we're on a path. I argue that we should try to shape it instead of trying to fight it. We can't un-make Twitter and we can't dismantle Facebook and we shouldn't try. But passively resisting the rapidly evolving social web by checking out and withdrawing seems like a doomed approach.
Reshared text: The final set of my social media war propaganda posters. These represent each side's victory poster if they had won the conflict. Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback and helped spread the previous posters all around the world, both in physical and in digital form! :)
So far, it seems totally separated from the rest of the platform. This feels nothing like what Facebook did. I'm at work and I don't want to play games at the office, so I'll have to wait 'til I get home to experiment more, but at first glance, this is pretty much exactly what I'd hoped for.
There's a "report abuse" button on every game, which I like a lot. I can't wait to check this out more!
Have any of you gotten the Games tab yet? What is your experience so far?
Why You Should Explore For Real instead of letting Google, Facebook, or anyone else do it for you
Have you ever used the Career Explorer tool on LinkedIn.com?
You tell this little box what your degree is in or what your starting position is, and it thinks for a few seconds, then gives you a few choices for the next step in the path. If you type "Marketing" into your college major field, your starting position is Marketing Intern or something similar. The next step in the path is a choice between such wildly varied possibilities as "Marketing Manager," "Marketing Associate," or "Marketing Advisor." All the while, a little blue guy (presumably you) moves from one square to the next, like Candyland. The background is made up of soothing blues and greens. It really freaked me out.
I realize that planning for the future is a pragmatic and rational thing to do, but seeing that map of job positions laid out in a few "easy" steps summoned up all of my (mostly) forgotten teenage angst. Nightmarish images flashed across my eyes of ending up in the plot of the movie Office Space. I felt trapped, anxious. Just seeing this single-path career map with no branching roads, with choices that left no real room for change...that was enough to put my heart in my throat.
This was all before having my morning coffee, of course, which is probably why once I drank some, everything seemed much less dystopian and terrible. You have to work hard and demonstrate loyalty to move up -- that's life, and that's what this little tool tries to understand. What it can't tell you is the really important stuff. Like that if you can work toward goals that inspire you, that single path doesn't look foreboding at all. It's invigorating, not a life sentence.
Still, my dramatic overreaction got me thinking about routines in general. I started thinking about how much of our lives are spent online and how much of that online behavior is routine. How many of us have a morning ritual that consists of something like checking e-mail while the coffee drips or Facebooking while in line at the same breakfast place every morning?
How many new things do you learn from the Internet? Probably a lot, but how many of those things are you guided to by algorithms, and how much pure discovery is there? If you spend a lot of time reading articles, how varied are your sources and how often do you change them, if ever? These may not seem like important questions, but in a virtual world of increasing relevance, I'm reminded of a TED Talk given by +Eli Pariser that was pointed out to me by +Max McNally. (http://goo.gl/Cc9uS) The idea is that if you are only exposed to the same ideas all the time, you become less well-rounded. An endless pursuit of relevance can result in less progress.
So, let the lesson be this: explore your social networks yourself instead of just relying on algorithms, shared Circles, and public lists of who to follow. Use those tools -- they're great -- but keep your selections as human as you can and you may find a much bigger payoff.
Add people who say something useful or funny in the comments of a popular G+ post. Add people who say things you disagree with but do it intelligently. You can always remove anyone who doesn't interest you. Be bold and reckless, but keep it organized so you don't overload yourself. Circles make this easy.
True discovery puts information in front of you that you didn't even know you wanted to know about. Relevance algorithms put content in front of you that you have already indicated to robots that you would like. It's subtle, but there's really a huge difference in the long term. Think about it -- if you live in one small town and that town has one rock and roll band and you never leave your town or turn on the radio, how on earth do you really know what kind of music you like?
Explore! Network with people you don't think are relevant to you. You just never know what's waiting to be discovered.
Google has always wanted to get to know us. Whatever you think about the wider implications of Google's very thorough datamining, there is no denying that Google wants to know us better than anyone has ever known us before. Can we use this to our advantage? Absolutely.
If Google is the best at organizing data in the most relevant way for everyone, then there is an opportunity for us to refine our networks more than we have ever been able to before. However, I believe it is vital that we keep the human element alive and well in the process.
Google's spiders and robots and algorithms are the best of the best, but despite all attempts by Google to make them as intuitive as we are, they cannot substitute for a human choice. Google recently announced that its "suggested users" system on Google+ is going to be changing, is going to be smarter -- more relevant. But nothing is more personal than a conscious, human decision.
Relevance matters. We live in an online society where our reputations are based on our networking skills, not just our achievements. If we want to market ourselves to the rest of the world as worth listening to, or worth paying, or worth any attention at all, we have to make sure our voice is not echoing into emptiness -- or worse, into uninterested ears. Something as vital as cultivating the right network cannot be left to Google or to any other data crunching entity. You have to get in there with your own two hands.
Is it a lot of work to maintain your Circles on Google+? Honestly...yes. Should it be easier? Yes. But I don't want to trade relevance for ease just yet -- if the best way for me to build my network on Google+ is to manually do it, then I'm willing to put in that effort because there is a lot of potential payoff. If you don't believe me, look at +Aaron Wood or +Daria Musk. Look at the regular people whose ideas get re-shared by +Tom Anderson, +Chris Pirillo or +Mike Elgan. The big guys know that the little guys have something to contribute, and lo and behold -- they find the time to share. That's the beauty of Google+. It's a network that's actually about sharing, promoting content, promoting people who have something to add. I do it myself every Sunday.
The most common questions I get are about how I got so many followers, or what I did to make people start paying attention to me. The answer is that I began cultivating my network carefully from day one. I am not a +Robert Scoble, so I am not following 5,000 people. But I do follow hundreds. I interact with their posts. I add my ideas to their articles. I comment frequently in places and become a "regular" for people I respect. Believe it or not, even high-engagement profile-owners are aware of names that repeat frequently in the comments on their posts. I recognize names I've seen before. I pay attention to the content of people who have insight to add to the discussions I try to encourage. I also notice when people constantly come in to post links to their own posts (rude!). I re-share content when I think it's relevant to my readers. Truly famous folks like Pirillo or Elgan do the same. The power of that simple concept is truly staggering when you sit back and think about it.
Use Google's platform, its obsession with relevance and Circles technology to embed yourself in the kinds of communities you are relevant to, not just the ones you think are of interest to you. +Pete Davis is a musician and a flavor chemist. If he wants to network with other musicians and with flavor chemists, he can do that by carefully refining his network and by separating communities into Circles of his own making.
The human element is priceless, and it's something Google knows the worth of. Otherwise we wouldn't be on a Google-powered social network in the first place. They wouldn't be wasting the time.
Refine your network to stay relevant. Refine it to stay engaged by content you enjoy. Refine it to learn something new. And refine it to stay ahead of the robots!
RESHARE: The insight in Jon Christian's article is powerful. Must-read. Thanks to +Jason Salas for the find.
And now...seriously, can I please unplug myself and go to bed? Jeez! Good night, Google+!
Reshared text: remarkable social study into teen-level engagement patterns from Friendster -> MySpace -> Facebook. worth a read, especially given that this platform is a userbase of people 18 or older.
How do you decide whether to Circle someone back? +Michael O'Reilly made a post today with a feature request that would allow him to sort the people who Circle him by how many followers they have (http://bit.ly/GDuMYk). The comments that followed prompted him to ask me how I decide whom to Circle back, considering that I have many new followers per day. I get this question a lot, actually.
I want to extend the question to everyone, though, because I think it's really interesting to learn how people discover each other here.
For me, it's all about comments. If you Circle me but never make a comment on one of my posts or on the post of someone else I follow, I probably won't ever see you. So I probably won't ever Circle you back unless I discover you another way -- perhaps a recommendation or a shared Circle. There are tons of ways to discover interesting people on Google+, including +Mike Elgan's brilliant searching strategy (just type any letter into the search bar, hit enter, and watch the frenzied Stream that results), but I still personally use comments above all else to decide whether to look at someone else's profile -- and that applies to people who Circle me first as well as people who don't.
How do you decide whether to Circle someone back? Do you check out everyone who Circles you, or do you wait for them to engage on your Stream before taking notice?
Why do you keep telling me to buy your stuff? Can't you just, like, have "bonus stores" that aren't in my face the whole time? I'm trying to learn how to build huts, and all you keep telling me to do is BUY GOLD. Did Glenn Beck make you?
Want to be in my Secret Circle? You have to tell me what you care about.
I'm taking a cue from +Ryan Estrada (who is traveling at the moment; godspeed to him), who has a "Secret Circle" he only occasionally adds people to, in order to keep it tight. I like the idea, but (obviously) can't share what he does in there to explain why. Just trust me, it's awesome.
In any case, I'm inspired to experiment with the idea. I have need for a Secret Circle! And you guys know how I feel about experiments.
If you want to be in my Secret Circle, you have to be interested in how to make the world better in one way or another -- big or small. So, please comment with a cause that's important to you. Feel free to link to charities you like, but to be added to my Secret Circle, you have to explain why it matters to you.
I'll take the first 50 who express interest and follow the instructions. The first 50 have been added. Please feel free to use the comment-space to discuss your favorite causes anyway. It's a cool discussion.
edit1 - A note to those who aren't sure if they've been added: you should click through to my page and it will be in my posts, visible only to those in the Circle.
edit2 - Added a limit.
edit3 - Ryan is still posting while traveling!
edit4 - Some people in the comments took issue with how I approached this. I deleted the comments because they genuinely derailed the thread, but I don't want to ignore what they brought up. This is only a "Secret" Circle because I think it's fun to make it that kind of a thing, but if that comes off in a way I didn't intend, I do feel responsible for clarifying my intentions.
The purpose of my "Secret" Circle is to foster discussion about causes that people care about. The reason I want it to stay small and tight is so that the conversations remain focused and helpful. As I figure out how to navigate the content produced and to deal with larger amounts of it, I will add more people to the Circle to participate in the discussions. I don't want to make anyone feel left out, but this isn't being done in public specifically because of the kind of nonsense that went on in the comments on this thread before I removed them. Everyone deserves a voice, but this is "my house." If you think I'm a monster for naively making this idea a silly "Secret Circle," it's your right to say so. But please do it in your own space, not in mine.
I want to be able to follow people's comments, too.
I wish Google+ could somehow acquire Disqus' comment system to create an ubernetwork of people whose conversations I could follow in addition to their published posts. I've found almost everyone I follow here through shared Circles and comments, after all.
Through reading the comment streams of people I respect on Disqus, I've spent the last couple of hours surfing blogs I've never heard of. I learned a bunch of neat stuff and found more people who post content that resonates with me. It got me excited about the internet all over again.
If I could follow eveyone's comments on Google+, I'd probably never get any sleep. That should be something to get +Vic Gundotra thinking!
Comments are my favorite part of Google+, and I would argue that's because ultimately, it's nothing to click +1 or Like a post. It's not much to share without commenting, either, really. But to respond to an idea with your own idea? That's engagement.
+Terrence Lui recently posted an incredible story about how Google+ changed his life personally (read it here: http://bit.ly/KGuA7J). I think it would be a beautiful project for us all to talk about how Google+ has altered our perceptions, broken down boundaries we didn't know we had, and generally made us more connected to each other by reminding us that connections don't have to exist offline first!
Before and After Google+: My Life In July of 2011, I was working as a receptionist at a travel agency in Houston, Texas while I worked to get back on my feet after a string of failed start ups. I was living with my parents and saving up every penny I could. I didn't know what was going to come next for me in my career -- but then I joined Google+. I started writing my thoughts down about how I thought Google+ could move us forward as a social society. Through writing here and interacting with all of you, I began to understand more about myself and what I stand for. I became immersed in so many conversations and idea exchanges that I was invigorated and inspired to keep connecting -- to keep refining my ideas and testing them.
Because of you all, I was able to build a following here that opened up a whole new world of possibility and opportunity for me -- not just in my career, but also in my personal life. I landed a job at +Jason's Deli as their Social Media Director in December -- the new job brought me to Austin, TX, where I have made many friends through Google+ who have welcomed me with open arms into this city and its deep network of brainiacs (looking at you, +Scott Swain and +Yifat Cohen).
Because of Google+, I have made close connections with people I still haven't met in real life (but hope to!). I'm not as active as I used to be, granted. It turns out that being the Social Media Director for a national restaurant chain is far more time-consuming and fulfilling than being a receptionist. But I still read my Streams every day and I am still making new connections all the time. I'm learning and growing on Google+ in a way I've never been able to on any other social network.
Google+: Then and Now When Google+ started, it really was a "ghost town." After all, this was the private beta! None of my friends (save the one who got me my invitation) were on the network. I had no idea where to go. Once I found +Mike Elgan, things became clearer. The trick he taught me? *Follow people with promiscuous abandon.* Weed out the ones who don't interest you or don't post. The key word there is interest -- Google+ can be about connecting you with the people you already know if that's how you choose to use it, but if you decide to live publicly and interact with people who are connected to you based purely on interests rather than established real-life relationships, the sky is the limit. Just ask +Daria Musk or +Terrence Lui.
And look at us today. There are thousands upon thousands of wildly talented people being public and sharing their passions through Google+. I follow 5,000 of them!
What's your Google+ story? Please, participate in this project by sharing your Google+ story with the hashtag #MyGPlus !
What topics would you add to the Suggested User List from Google? Okay, I've never been a fan of the SUL, but it's not going away. +Chris Pirillo asked who you'd include today (see his post here: http://bit.ly/JnCku1), but I'd like to ask what topics you'd include. If there are particularly awesome curators or thought leaders for those topics, you could include those names too.
Me? I'd probably add an entire section to the Google Suggested Users List dedicated to G+ meta talk. That would include a Welcome Wagon for newbies (including folks like +pio dal cin and +Ardith Goodwin) and other people who spend a lot of time building community within G+ because they love talking about the platform. This would be great for Google (the G+ meta group is like a love bomb for the brand) and great for unsure new users who think they have to leave Facebook to justify being here (you don't, but you might want to after a spell). It would be like a shot in the arm for the meta community! I'd include folks like +Mike Elgan (I know, I know, he's already on the list...but he's a must-have for new users, so putting him in multiple categories would be a smart move by Google), +Dan McDermott, +Jaana Nyström, +Yifat Cohen, and others who keep the G+ conversation flowing and going strong.
I'm tempted to say I'd add a Trekkies section, but I think that's my own bias (I'm totally watching TNG right now).
What topics and thought leaders do you think deserve some SUL love?
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Re-sharing content is already a huge part of what makes Google+ fun. It's also a great way for us to make sure we are promoting quality content, which is important because it gives content creators exposure and motivation to keep creating the things we like. In other words, re-sharing responsibly can ensure that everybody wins!
Saturday, I spent my time on G+ trying to find content from relatively unknown folks that I could bring to the Streams of the people who are already following me. I cannot promise that my taste in comedy or art is the same as y'all's taste, but I assume that you wouldn't be following me if you weren't interested in helping me foster the growth of a great content-sharing community on this platform.
That said, I really couldn't keep it to just one re-share. I tried. I really did! But there were four posts in particular that stood out to me, so I'm going to include all of them.
Photography:+Jens Lumm has some of the most interesting photography I've seen -- and this platform seems to have a lot of interesting photographers, so that's saying a lot! Check out this awesome shot: http://goo.gl/40lEP
Political Debate/Discussion:+Andrew Moursund definitely has strong views on politics. Can't deny it. He's pro-gun rights, loves Ron Paul, and seems totally ready to foster discussion about current issues. The first two things on that list might turn some of you off (and even I don't agree with all of this guy's views, certainly), but the last one is important, especially because G+ is still in its infancy in terms of discussions, and Andrew's posts all encourage active engagement. I think his most interesting post to date is about the tragic Norway bombing/massacre. It's a sobering read, but the discussion that got started there is fascinating and I think more people should get involved in it. You can read and respond to the post here: http://goo.gl/N8nwn
Writing/Blogging:+Jason Corrigan's essay on why he's falling in love with Google+ (http://goo.gl/9dI2f) is a long read, but it's beautifully crafted and I'm including it because it really captures the essence of what excites me about the platform. He also happens to mention me in it, but I promise that's not why I'm including it, haha. In all seriousness, he really goes beyond anything I've mentioned and gives a distinct shape to the idea of personalized content that I've been grappling with for the last few days. I can't wait to see what else he shares in the future.
The Comedy Option:+Dustin Hoffmann sometimes shares animated .gifs, which is something you either hate or you love, but the Dance Party video (NOT a .gif!) he posted here (http://goo.gl/vlPNt) is hysterical and cracks me up every time, especially since he compares it with the growth of Google+.
And that does it for this edition of Circle Sunday!
As a final side note, +Ari Bancale recommends that we all check out a website called group.as to find new people to Circle. I checked the site out a bit and it's pretty decent, although it's still really just suggesting the top followed, and I'm not convinced that's the best way to promote content by people who don't already have thousands of followers. ;)
Happy Sunday, guys (and Monday for you other hemisphere dwellers)! Can't wait to see what this next week has in store for G+.
RESHARE: Watch and share. This is our Internet. Let's keep it open, thanks!
I almost never post video content because I find most things are "too widely shared" -- this is an exception. I hope this video and others like it bombard your Streams. It is a lot more important than those animated gifs some of you favor.
Speaking of gifs. You may never get to post one again if these bills are not stopped.
+Chris Pirillo asks what we can do beyond writing to our representatives. The answer is create and share videos like this to spread awareness about how #SOPA and #ProtectIP would affect us all.
Reshared text: Watch and share this video. Your life on the Internet depends on it. #ProtectIP #SOPA
edit 2: Looks like the "intervention" e-mail really works and there is some information in the comments below that suggests this might be more official than I thought it was. So now the question is -- are you weirded out or do you just think it's funny?
edit 1: I think it's worth noting that I found this link on a Googler's Profile. I made sure it was okay to repost -- he said it was fine since it's a public/marketing site. But please remember that this isn't an official Google commercial. It looks to me like it's just a project some of the Gmail folks have been working on, so don't get too freaked out. I think (and hope) that Googlers will take to heart the idea that people usually don't like feeling marketed to, and even though I personally find the video amusing rather than alarming, I think Google has to be really careful to keep from appearing to be too aggressive in its pursuit of more users. We like Google because Google makes awesome stuff, and those products stand for themselves. I've never needed a commercial to want to try a Google product.
I almost never post links, but I think anyone who likes Gmail might find this pretty cool, and if that's not most of you, then...wait, what am I talking about? Of course you like Gmail.
The response to my "comment etiquette" post from a while back was really encouraging. It makes me wonder if we can possibly come to a consensus on how to deal with negativity in our comments.
Plenty of people have written really thorough guides on how to deal with "trolls" on the Internet. Most of us are not strangers to the trolling phenomenon. You pour your heart and soul into a piece of writing and people just come in and smear it with mud. Or, you know, some other rather off-putting material.
But what do you do? How do you know when you're just taking it too personally, and when it's justified for you to block someone? Do we think of our posts as our personal property, and that unwelcome comments are exactly that -- unwelcome? Should we try to be open to comments that seem to "call us out" or express disagreement, even if it's not what we want to hear?
Here is the strategy I've developed:
1) If a comment is just plain mean-spirited, I think it's okay to politely ask the commenter to be more civil. If s/he doesn't stop, I think it's okay to use the block feature. 2) If a commenter seems to just "not get it," and is being very vocal about how "wrong" you are, I think it's okay to try to reword your stance one time in a reply. If the commenter is unrelenting, disrespectful, and will not respond to polite discourse, I think it's okay to use the block feature. 3) If a comment derails your comment thread, I think it's okay to delete the off-topic comments and privately ask the person to start their own conversation on a re-share of the post. If the person throws a tantrum, I think it's okay to use the block feature.
When do you use block? Do you ever refrain from using it even when you really want to because you feel it's better to give everyone a voice? I find myself erring on the side of not blocking, but I'm starting to wonder (especially after my post about Anonymous hacking the Syrian government's website) if I'm being a little too understanding.