Both +Robert Scoble
and +Vic Gundotra
are touching valid points here, but I am not sure they fully cover it.
We all suffer from what psychologists call 'functional fixedness'. 'Functional fixedness' refers to the fact that people tend to see all objects, basically everything in life, in the context of previous usage.
The classic experiment by Gestalt psychologist Karl Duncker (1945): Fix a candle to a wall. Available tools: a book of matches and a box of drawing pins (thumbtacks). The solution was to nail the box to the wall with a drawing pin, and put the candle in the box. However, most people were unable to see that solution. In their minds, the box had a fixed function, to serve as a container for the drawing pins. That already assigned function of the box being a container prevented them from seeing new applications for the box, like being a base for the candle.
Functional fixedness is an enemy of all innovation. Functional fixedness makes as tweak any new product so much that it finally becomes something that is not different from what we already know. Functional fixedness makes us use new products in old ways.
Eric von Hippel (1986) identified the risk of involving normal users at early stages of innovative products. Functional fixedness of those users could undo the innovation. His solution was to only involve what he called 'Lead Users', people with specific properties with regards to the innovaton. Some newer research suggests that young children below the age of 6 are even immune to functional fixedness.
From what we see here in Google+ right now, I guess it is clear that users of Google+ are not all under the age of 6 and / or Lead Users. So while we all appreciate Google's attempt to receive our feedback, there is a risk to that. And yes, in this interview by +Liz Gannes http://allthingsd.com/20110628/google-execs-explain-why-they-launched-google-now-before-its-ready/
it becomes very clear that receiving feedback from real users was the driving force behind the field trial. The risk is that we all, due to functional fixedness, try to turn Google+ into something that already exists (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, you name it) rather than exploring what it could
Scott Jenson (2004) made a point that functional fixedness (he called it 'Default Thinking') ruined early mobile internet. When Apple first introduced the iPhone, lots of reviews were just hitting on what was different compared to the then popular Nokia handsets: The first iPhone had no support for MMS, no UMTS radio, no copy & paste, no support for video calls, no running of apps in the background and so on. Apple was wise enough to not listen too much what the media was saying (or rather what functional fixedness was saying), and not turning the iPhone into a Nokia phone.
When the early posts by Google came out that they invite users to report profiles that do not represent people, they left some room for interpretation. For those who had followed the discussion around businesses on Google+ this request by Google was about removing businesses who started to spam Google+. For others this apparently sounded like removal of pseudonyms. Shortly afterwards this became a discussion of people using their complete and very offical legal name vs. people using whatever comes first to their mind when opening the account.
To me, the problem here was not
that there was too little control over statements by Googlers (Google employees). The problem here was too little emphasis that this is all a field trial. Too little emphasis that Googlers who post here are not
giving press statements, but talk to us as if we were part of Google. And this being a field trial, we, who are using Google+ right now, are somehow part of Google, part of the team
Following this path of thought, it would be logical for Google to continue to participate in the discussion. Even if the only statement was 'I am listening' or 'I feel that we need to do some corrections immediately, and block some accounts, but that should not be understood as establishing new rules - I do not yet know the rules either' or 'Something is going terribly wrong right now, but what we really want to achieve is XYZ, and we need some more time to figure out how to implement that into code - please bear with us'.
Personally I totally admire how brave Google behaves as a company with regards to Google+, and how brave the Googlers individually behave during this trial. Beeing open to users rather than hiding behind PR representatives, having all these conversations or asking for comments rather than just giving interviews etc. That is so much how I personally envision how companies should communicate with their users these days. For me, these achivements count more than the few mistakes that have been made. Who doesn't make some mistakes when they try something totally new?Permalink
to this post: https://plus.google.com/108148301314648041799/posts/3hopTdgdeDkPermalink
to the post I am refering to: https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/Fddn6rV8mBX
(Strangely enough, there is no way to 'share&comment' in a way that the introductionary comment will become part of any re-shares. That is why I re-did this post in a different way. Thanks to +Bernard ben Tremblay
for making me aware of that problem)Update
There is post by +Bradley Horowitz
on the matter, see here https://plus.google.com/113116318008017777871/posts/VJoZMS8zVqU