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Getting a Lot from G+, but Giving Up a Lot, Too

Sometime early today, I was put into a circle by a Google+ user. He or she (or it, if the account was created by a spambot) was the 100,000th account holder to do so.

I haven't stopped blogging, or using Twitter (I rarely use Facebook), but I'm doing less of them. The reason is simple: engagement. I get vastly more direct engagement here than I do at the other places.

To those who've been part of the conversations, thanks. To those who've been observing, thanks as well. With few exceptions, the level of discourse here has been high. Even when we've disagreed, most of you have remained civil, and I'm grateful for that.

That said, I'm having misgivings. Specifically, I fear that I am transferring, via my postings here, more of my online identity into Google than I should.

It makes me distinctly unhappy, for example, that the first listing in a Google search on my name is now the Google Profile. The second one is my personal site (, which had been at the top of the listing, for years. UPDATE: A commenter says this is due to Google's filtering of users' personal results; he gets my personal site first in his own search.)

I'm not sure what to do about this. I've recognized from the start that Google gets at least as much value from my postings and conversations as I do, and maybe more, just as Facebook's users are giving Facebook a lot of themselves in return for use of the platform. Ditto Twitter.

I believe I -- not Google, or Facebook or any other operator -- should own my identity. I'm not sure I do anymore, and that worries me a great deal.
Welcome… Posted by Dan Gillmor in Etcetera, tags: about, Media. Thanks for stopping by… This is what I consider my “anchor site” on the Web. Think of it as a portal to (almost) everything I'm doin...
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FWIW, I think the healthiest way to approach any of these social media sites is as one of many fungible output channels. That is, post to a place you own, and echo it here to amplify. That's hard, since the G+ API is currently read-only.
The reality is I get immense value from posting on Plus - it's just less friction than WordPress and usually better feedback. I'd ideally like to do the opposite +Les Orchard - have my main site soak up my Plus, Twitter, etc. (with rel="canonical" links back to the place they were originally posted).

I'm not aware of anything that does it though. I know backupify does it, but only privately...and maybe Diaspora, not sure.
I also have this concern, but like you, I don't really see a way around it. Better to embrace and control it as best you can (ie, engage in as many places as possible, and try to always point back to your home base). One bright spot is that is the first link I see when I search you. Those results you're seeing may be "personalized".
I get your personal website as the first listing, your google profile is seventh on my search.
I am guessing that you are seeing a personalized search result because of your heavy use of G+ on that browser.
Try logging out and/or using another browser with a clean cache.
you're welcome. I almost always read your posts, Dan, except when I'm simply too damn tapped at the moment. They insightful.

This identity thing is a multitudinous faceted coat (is that the biblical thing? ha) It's philosophical at the root. Who controls your identity? Maybe only you, because only you have that ability. Like, for example, part of your identity is worrying about loss of identity.

I might suggest that identity is controlled by the entity that can take some action in said identity's name. So you can take action in your name, by writing a new post. It's a little freaky that Google is also probably taking action in your name-- I'll grant you that! ha

In the end, you can certainly control it. Just unplug and head for the hills. Me? I could use a vacation myself in the hills about now.
+Bob Maloney I see the same thing, but that's more a symptom of the problem than the problem itself.
Wasn't there some guy who turned G+ into his personal blog? That is, you went to and his G+ posts showed up there looking like WordPress? That would seem to suggest a potential future solution: a blogging platform that embeds engagement from G+ but stores and publishes from your own site. (kinda like the facebook social plugin, but the actual post is mirrored into G+ as well, instead of just the comments)
I only get my G+ profile if I'm logged in as myself. I actually like this feature for businesses. But the privacy concern...seems like we're way past that point. It's the trade-off of using any online products.
+Dan Gillmor I appreciate the comments and understand where you're coming from. I hope you continue to post here as I consider you one of the highest quality posters in my circles. Perhaps it will help if you remember how many USERS of Google+ are also reaping value from your presence in addition to the corporate entity that is putting this all together. Keep up the good work. Cheers.
Obviosly G+ wants to own you. Confront with them and negotiate a win-win solution. If you feel your voice is too thin, create a Circle and occupy G+, until they listen.
It seems to me that the broader the audience you seek, the less of your identity you get to own. Not to say that you should give up control altogether, but you will have less if you use a broad-based forum like this. I'm with +Benny Chin in thinking you can negotiate a better arrangement with Google. You have broad recognition as a journalist. At any rate, my selfish interest is in seeing you post often. I enjoy what I read.
Daniel, you have my respect, but from my humble point of view, more of G+ and less of Fbook, Flicker or Twitter it is an advantage and not a disadvantage. I would only miss the blogger, but hey, I don't have a great bunch of followers as you have!
Know that there are a number of us that work on Google+ that also care very much about maintaining our own, independent online identity. Ultimately it's up to each individual to decide where they invest their time. Like you, I get so much more engagement on Google+, that it doesn't make sense to invest the same kind of resources in other places. That's one of the reasons why I still write long-form posts on my personal blog, but point to Google+ for comments ( It's a tiny step to be sure, and by no means do I think I've found the right balance, but I do think there is a sweet spot to be found between self-publishing and leveraging the great community on Google+ (or any social network, for that matter). It's still early days yet, so I'm still hopeful.

/cc +DeWitt Clinton +Chris Messina +Joseph Smarr +John Panzer +Tantek Çelik
Agreed, +Karen Holmes; and like +Dan Gillmor, I have some misgivings of my own. I don't think it's due to one service over another, or one provider over another. "Social networking" is still in its infancy, I think; I don't believe society, culture, or even personal expectations have caught up and learned how to deal with the ease at which identity and personal information can be collected, or the power (both for good or otherwise) with which we can manipulate and use that data. We certainly live in "interesting times." :-)
That's kinda the rub isn't it? An online identity only exists through interactions. G+ and the other social sites provide heaps of interaction. At the best my private blog had a visitor rate that is a small percentage of what I, the totally not-famous Michael Rasmussen, get through G+, Facebook, Picasa, and Twitter.

It's the community. Substitute "New York" for "Google" in your post. Could it still ring true?
Google is in unknown territory with G+. Their core tools usually were known Internet services they simply did better than the competition. Consider search, ads, mail, Reader, mapping, etc: there is not a huge cost to moving elsewhere (and Google's design task was often constrained.) G+ represents a newish kind of tool, and it is impossible to move. It's a closed "sticky" world that does not build off of non-Google resources.

Closed systems seem easier to design, but they're monocultures. A huge driver of innovation on the Internet is unexpected reuse of services. This is a bane of long-term corporate planning, but for the most part Google has been happy to surf changes and watch less agile incumbents drown.

G+ may open up more later; for instance, by consuming (authenticated?) Atom/RSS feeds into circles, and cope with external identities. We'll see. I don't know how much I want to pour into an information sink. May get bored soon, and normal caution in interaction in archived media may return.
Interesting how many power users are saying this and yet the mainstream press seems to prefer to report that it is lacking traction. I personally find it so much cleaner, easier and less noisy. I'm sticking around....
Malls and resorts are cleaner, well-organized, and less noisy than towns and cities too. Technical fixes (single sign-on, full feeds) reduce the friction of interaction here, but regulatory control of the space has to be part of it too.
So ... why don't we have a way to do the same kind of interaction that we have here, but on our own servers? Seems to me like we need a federating blog software which is open source, secure (that is, NOT written in PHP), easy to install and use. So when I comment here, or one anybody's "Federation" (I just totally invented that name, from scratch. No, I never watched Star Trek.) service, it uses OAuth to verify that I'm logged into my Federation server.

Or am I simply being lazy in not evaluating Diaspora?
+Russell Nelson see Ward Cunningham's recent work on Federated Wikis If the two of you are talking the same language, it's being done today.

Of course another reason may be that some ISPs (Comcast comes to mind) EULA prohibit running your own server - even with "business class" service. That kinda crimps people rolling their own.
Doesn't need to be on your desktop; just on a machine you control.
Excellent post, I thought about many of these same things myself. We give a LOT of our valuable time to contribute to Google+, I mean without us (the community) Google+ is nothing. But I want to start seeing some real beneficial payoffs. What reimbursement do we obtain by opening up our own inner thoughts, conversations and postings to the world on a proprietary system? As our Google+ profile grows and log in time increases what rewards do we receive? Does just engagement satisfy your needs? If so, have fun... but at this point in the game as an entrepreneur I keep saying to myself…. Hey Google “Show me the money.”
+ThinkUp and/or Diaspora could be tools which helps us (re)gain some control over our online presence.
And/Or maybe not.
I also share that concern.
We understand, of course, that nothing is for free in this world.. :)
Even so, we have options.
I can't say if I am going to make use of these options, but it's good to know that they're there.
+Darrell Hudson I have no experience with this, but I assume G+ pages will allow for monetizing content. If this is specific to a Page and not a personal profile, then I guess the question to ask is when are you a brand that wants to make money on content as opposed to just enjoying the interaction? And is Google going to find a way to remunerate content publishers who only want to use a personal profile?

Philosophically there are a lot of subtly complex questions embedded in Dan's question that Google are going to have to figure out. I really enjoyed +Will Norris 's reference post and comments on snowflake. I think we will be seeing the potential interaction between GReader, Blogger and G+ blurr quite considerably over the coming months.
Our personal data is being transitioned from our laptops to the cloud, so our identities should probably make the move as well. OpenAuth also transferred part of our personal sovereignty to the cloud. Then it is a matter of picking the best horse, and I'd guess most of us think Google is better than some other services we've tried. It is not a matter of Good/Bad but of better/worse. At some point we may all transfer to the next cloud provider, if Google seems too controlling.
In which case it would be foolish to not use something like +ThinkUp to at least get a copy of what's in the cloud about you. Or ODesk.
Dan, I certainly share your concerns, but surely haven't figured out a way to maintain/control my online identity. When and if you do, I certainly hope you'll share that here on G+.
+Will Norris I can related to wanting to outsource comments to Google+, however I have a few experiences here that concern me with that approach both in general and specifically:

1. Pownce permalink fail. I used to outsource comments on my blog posts to Pownce. All those links are now dead. So I can't trust SixApart (nay, SayMedia) to bother maintaining permalinks or at least providing an option for users to configure offsite permalink redirects (so that I could for example port all the comments to my own site and redirect the URLs accordingly).

2. Buzz permalink fail. On a few blog posts I outsourced comments to Google Buzz. With Google Buzz going away, all the Google Buzz post and comment permalinks have broken (which is just plain stupid, all my Buzz content should have automatically migrated, including URL redirects, to my Plus account).

So while I'm still considering using Google+ for comments on my own blog posts, it's now quite low on my implementation priority list because I have very little confidence that Google will maintain Google+ permalinks based on past experience. Why bother building on something that's likely to be fragile and stop working in a few years anyway?
+Tantek Çelik The permalink situation is yet another reason to wonder/worry about this stuff. The nuances of this keep getting more, uh, nuanced.
The only real permalink is via a domain name that you own. Or do I mean "own" given the federal government's insistence that it can remove names from the DNS? That's a thin reed -- if they overuse it they'll find people switching to non-government-controlled roots.
+Dan Gillmor the permalink situation is bad which is why a while ago I decided to stop investing time placing primary content on such content hosting sites, except when intended like an email that recipients would receive, but could disappear at any time. This is the crux of the #indieweb movement:

My point is that it's gotten so bad that I'm now deprioritizing time investment to enable/encourage secondary content (comments) on such sites.

Posts and comment threads (like this one) are essentially just semi-public email, received at the time, discoverable for a while, and eventually (within a year or two?) gone from the publicly searchable web.

+Russell Nelson There is no real permalink. There are only more and less persistent links. When we speak of "perma"links they are an ideal we strive for.

You don't own a domain name. You rent it (who knows what it will cost in the future, inflation etc.). Numerous forgotten/abandoned domains are squatted for redirection traffic. On a long enough timeline, every domain is a porn site. ( )

With more resources you could become a registrar and mint your own domains (again, inflation for annual registrar fees etc.).

Perhaps the Internet Archive could (should) become a registrar and accept donations of domains to redirect to its static archives. Perhaps we could will our domains to the Archive.

However even then, the DHS / I.C.E. can take down any domain they wish, damage which the MAFIAAFire Firefox add-on does route around, until SOPA makes it illegal, as well as hosting it, or even linking to it.

But yes, rent your own domain name, don't piss off your government, and your URLs will likely outlast any content hosting service.
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