Google+ | The Netiquettes v2.0On the path to a better online social community» A little foreword
Back in September last year, when google+ was only four weeks old, we could already see the exponential rise in users on the network. The increase meant we now had hundreds of thousands of users where each one of them had their own way of using the platform. This lead to the formation of a very diverse network. Some practices, however, were having a negative effect on our rapidly growing community and so I wrote down a set of g+ netiquettes in an attempt to maintain the quality of engagement.
Fast forwarding to today, I realize a mere six months can bring in so much change on the internet. Google+ has come a long way since last September. Besides all the new features, we now have more than 90 million users. The network is open to public and anyone above the age of 13 is welcome which means we have an even more diverse and massive global society here than we did back last summer.
All this suggests that we re-ignite the debate on social etiquette for google+ and in doing so agree on what is acceptable, what isn't and what we should have more of.
My original article listing some general guidelines can be found at bit.ly/gp_etiquettes
. I'll be relying on it heavily to present a more refined set of etiquette suggestions below.» Why we need netiquettes
Online social networks are designed to mirror your real-life social interactions. Different sites have had different levels of success in achieving that replication. Facebook, for example, is an ideal platform for mutual sharing of content with your real-life friends. Twitter on the other hand is more suited for public sharing similar to public speaking.
In my opinion the newest player in the market, Google+, has achieved the best replication of our real-lives on the web thus far. With the right usage of circles, comment threads, streams, asymmetric relationships and hangouts, we can now mirror not only our complicated social circles but also interact with them in ways that are very similar to real-life. We can exclusively communicate with our close friends and at the same time reach larger audiences while keeping both levels of interaction completely separate from each other. We can take part in discussions across comment threads or we can simply socialize in person from the comfort of our bedrooms using hangouts.
Essentially, that means my real-life daily interactions, both private and public, can now take place on g+. It is for these very reasons that Google+ has attracted millions of users within a period of seven months. However, it is also the right time to realize that, given the above discussion, we are now part of something much bigger than us. We’ve mirrored not only our local communities on here but also our societies at large leading to the formation of one big global e-society. How?• We’re a society because we’re all from different classes and different groups interacting in one place.• We’re a collection of communities because we share similar interests with different groups of people.
Consequently, our actions on this network affect millions of people at the same time. Therefore, as members of this google+ society, we need to act responsibly. As such, this article will try to establish some general points of etiquette that can universally apply to all g+ users. » The g+ netiquettes
I am going to break down this section into seven
sub-sections based on the different google+ features so you can get a nice over-view of what's to come:Sharing
— 1. Sharing
This includes all content that you publish except re-shares. It can be standard text-posts, pictures, links, videos, etc. Once again from a social point of view, we have to realize here that our posts affect other people. Even though we have complete freedom of speech, we cannot disregard the consequences of our actions on others in a society. Therefore, let’s look at what is generally desirable and not-desirable in terms of content sharing:• Be mindful of what you post:
Your followers are from all kinds of backgrounds in terms of culture, religion, personalities, jobs, etc. What may seem harmless to you might be taken in a completely different way by your readers. You're not expected to consider all possible consequences of your post but rather just be mindful of it.• Format your posts:
One of the killer features in g+ is the ability to format your posts with bold
styles. Use this feature to structure your posts for easier reading and better understanding. For ideas you can look at this simple example: bit.ly/yG9Ric• Use hashtags(#):
To give your readers a better idea about the topic, use hashtags inside your post. Furthermore, your readers can click on these hashtags to open up a list of posts on the same topic. This is a great way of discovering new and related content. For ideas you can look at this simple example: bit.ly/yG9Ric• Don’t post everything publicly:
This is where Circles come into play; just like your real-life, you do not share everything with everyone. Therefore, keep your private and personal posts within your closed social circles to make your online interaction more effective.• Put in a time-gap between successive posts:
This is for your own good. Posts go down on g+ streams quite quickly. So if you post 10 GIFs in the space of 5 minutes then users will probably not bother scrolling down to look at the initial ones. Spacing out successive posts allows users to pay proper attention to each of your posts which is what you want right?• Post in first person:
This suggestion does not apply to the majority of us and is directed at the celebrities on google+. Famous people tend to let their PR agents update their social profiles for them in third person. While that is understandable given various constraints, I would like to request celebrities to post in first person. The whole charm of following you guys is to be able to communicate with you on an equal level. So anything on your profile that makes me feel like you’re not the actual person behind this account will most likely push me to un-follow you. I receive news about you in newspapers and other websites, but I follow you here for a more personal interaction even if it is one-way. +David Beckham
, +Dane Cook
, +Mike Elgan
, +Vic Gundotra
, +Felicia Day
, +Michelle Marie
and +Daria Musk
are some very famous people on here that are doing it right. Please try to follow in their footsteps.
— 2. Re-sharing
Now we come to a very controversial aspect of content publishing that has been debated upon many times and not just on g+. The way I see it there is one question you must honestly ask yourself before you publish any post here: Did I find this post on Google+ or via another Google+ user?
. You should proceed further depending on the following two answers:• If the answer is Yes:
You should re-share the post by clicking re-share. If their post is already a re-share then make sure that when you
re-share it, you +mention the person
that was re-sharing originally. Space out
the re-shares to get the word out to larger audiences. To make it more effective, allow a time-gap before you re-share the original post. This way people who missed it the first time now get the chance to view it again. Use the space in the description box when you click re-share to give your feedback
on the original post. Besides this being helpful criticism, it shows your readers why you thought that post was worth re-sharing and thereby encourages in discussion in the comment thread. Even a simple “wow!” or “amazing” goes a long way.• If the answer is No:
Just go ahead and publish your post. If your post contains external content/attachments then it's also appropriate to credit your source.
— 3. Commenting
Google+ comment threads allow for excellent debates and help with instant feedback. However, the commenting system has also been abused and we definitely do not want it to become a replication of youtube as the network grows:• Be mindful of what you say:
Again, to re-iterate, what you think is okay might not be viewed in the same light by others.• Everyone is entitled to their opinion:
There is no need to flame anyone down just because you disagree. If both publishers and commenters are mindful of what they're saying then we will get a system where everyone presents their opinions with due respect to others any way!• Use the +1 button:
The +1 button is at the heart of google+ and so its proper use is essential to the network. To illustrate, let’s assume someone posts a funny picture. The first comment on the post you see is “lol that was hilarious”
. Now, instead of typing in a new comment to say “I laughed so hard”
, just +1 the first comment because it expresses the exact same thing. This is not so important for trivial cases like the one I just outlined; however, we need to realize that the comment system on Google+ allows for excellent constructive and intelligent discussions. The +1 buttons in such discussions can be used to voice your agreement to a particular argument instead of making the same point again in your own comment. In the end you get a nice thread with varying points of views which is infinitely better than a thread with the same thing being expressed throughout.• Respond to other comments/questions:
This especially applies to your own posts. If you publish something, people will respond with feedback in the comment thread. They might even ask questions. Take out time to answer these people in your comment thread. If there are hundreds of comments then try to respond in a way that can generally address most comments in one go, but do engage with your readers to some extent.• Keep it relevant to the topic:
Make sure what you’re posting in a comment thread is relevant to the actual post. If you absolutely want to say something to someone that is not related to their post then just message them directly. Interrupting an ongoing discussion in a comment thread with saying something completely un-related is very disruptive to the flow of that discussion.
— 4. Following
Asymmetric relationships that google+ has given us are very beneficial. They allow us the type of freedom that we certainly cannot find on facebook and twitter. You’re at complete liberty to follow whoever you want without having to wait for any reaction from their side.• Being added to circles:
From my personal experience, when I see some random names adding me to circles, I find myself wishing that I knew a little bit more about these people. I, for one, enjoy meeting new personalities on here. So if you follow someone, it would be nice to leave them a short private message saying how you came across their profile and who you are. Obviously, you don’t have to do this if you’re not comfortable with it. Still though, I think choosing to introduce yourself can greatly enhance the experience of social networking. Think of it as meeting new people in real life and having a little chat with them to break the ice.• Adding to your circles in return:
As mentioned above, the nice thing about asymmetrical relationships is you don’t have to follow someone just because they started following you. But that does not mean you should choose to ignore them completely. There are millions of interesting people on here, each one of them unique from the rest in their own way. So if you find someone adding you, try to make the effort of visiting their profile. This way you can get to know them a little bit and might even find them interesting enough to add to one of your circles. This will allow you to connect with other people who have the same interests as you. Isn't that what social networking is all about?
— 5. Hangouts
Google+ can win the popularity vote because of hangouts alone. It’s a great way to video chat from the comfort of your home/office/anywhere with up to ten people from anywhere on planet earth... and for free, too! But just like real-life hangouts, Google+ hangouts, also demand a certain degree of ethical conduct from its users. Here are a few pointers to think about the next time you enter a hangout:• Greet everyone upon entering.• Be polite and respectful.• Don’t talk over someone.• Allow everyone to talk. Don’t take over the conversation.• Don’t do anything that interrupts the general flow of conversation.• It is okay to mute someone if you find them annoying.• Be mindful of what you say or how you behave.• Use the side chat-box to voice your opinions if too many people are talking into the microphone at the same time.
If you are the one hosting a hangout then it is also advisable to give your hangout a name
so people know before-hand what the topic of discussion is. If you're streaming the hangout live to YouTube then inform your followers well in advance
to avoid any privacy issues coming back to bite you later.
— 6. Advertising and Spam
This cannot be stressed enough. Please do not use the freedom granted to you by the network to spam comment threads or public streams with your website URL, profile link, company or business. If you do, then:• It won’t work anyway because everyone hates spam.• Users will report and block you.
The best thing to do is put links in the About
section of your profile. That space is there to embed links that are relevant to your profile/job/business. People do notice them there and if they are interested they will
click on them. Shoving them into people’s face, however, will only annoy them and will be counter-productive for you. Comment threads and streams are not the right place for advertisements so let's keep it that way.
— 7. General
Here we have a few points of etiquette that don’t necessarily fall under one category but are equally important in general:• Be polite and respectful.• Do not flame or offend anyone.• Be mindful of what you say.• Think before you tag people.• Don’t single out people in your posts to hate on them. Block them quietly instead if you must.• Do not force your way of using google+ on others. We can only make suggestions. It is up to the people to decide what is best.» A final word and a note of caution
There is a wealth of academic material out there dealing with ethical conduct on social networks. The moral value and impact of an action on a social network is always open to much debate and can heavily depend on cultural, religious, moral and ethical values.
As such, in writing this article I do not seek to create a binding law; rather I wish to list suggestions that, if followed, can enhance your social experience not only here but also on other social networks. Proper social conduct on Google+ can shape this network as an e-society built on tolerance and understanding. But as they say, no one-size-fits-all when it comes to social interactions. Therefore, I encourage all of you to take these points of etiquette with a grain of salt and apply them as you deem fit!
The article is meant to serve as a platform for a larger social discussion on what is ethically acceptable (or not acceptable) on the g+ society. For that very reason, I am greatly looking forward to the feedback and discussions in comment threads across the network.
Thank you for reading through.
Cheers,+Ahmed Zeeshan ****************************************Permalink to Post: bit.ly/gp_netiquettesNote to fellow readers:> Please do leave feedback. It helps to improve the article and starts a healthy discussion.> Please feel free to re-share the post.Hash tags:
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