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SXG+: The Road Trip
I'm now home and settled in after a whirlwind trip to +SXSW with +Superdave Houdini, and getting back to work on +LocalSense. We drove over 2,000 miles in total to +HIRL with amazing Google+ community members like +Carter Gibson, +Amanda Blain, and +Moritz Tolxdorff. It's over for me now, but the afterglow of meeting even more amazing people than I did at the #DCHIRL will linger with me for a while yet, and the impressions they've made upon me will be permanent.

It started in Raleigh, NC where I departed at around 6:30 PM to meet +Superdave Houdini in Valdosta, GA at around 2 AM. One Georgian speeding ticket later, I was #scheming with my soon-to-be roatrip partner (who'd just arrived from Miami, FL!) and +Raleigh Burke in a Google Hangout for an hour or two before hitting the road again.

We stopped in Tallahassee, FL for some breakfast and #starbucks ( #buxxin !) while I knocked out a few work tasks, and were New Orleans-bound within the hour. We soon passed a sign for a place called “Buc-ee's”, which was apparently 797 miles away ( #WTF ?) [1]. This is apparently a thing, and there's not one-but multiple posts on The Internet™ about that particular sign.

Following up our post-breakfast journey with a stop on Bourbon Street [2] for some wings was an absolute must, and we rewarded our success in overtaking +Amanda Blain (who was stuck way back Atlanta on the +StartupBus!) with a drink or two before cramming back into my car and cranking some #whitegirlfriday jams. Thankfully we had #bluetooth in the car, so +Superdave Houdini was able to play the appropriate soundtrack for the epic that was already unfolding.

There was more +Starbucks Coffee to be had in Baton Rouge, LA [3] before heading out on the final stretch to Texas, fueling our excitement as we looked forward to the upcoming shenanigans in Austin. Texas indeed greeted us with all its majesty, a grandiose lone star at a rest stop just across the border, where one of Mini-Supes' (R.I.P.) last photos was taken... (photo forthcoming!) but US-10 had some surprises for us before we'd land for the night.

Just as we were passing through Vidor, TX, we encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic that we later learned was the result of an overturned truck somewhere along that particular stretch. Not especially excited to endure three hours worth of traffic, we decided to route two hours down towards Bridge City [4] and then west to Winnie before picking up US10 again on the way into Houston, where we stayed with the brilliant and gracious +Calvin Christopher for drinks, intellectual discourse, and planning for the following day.

We all sadly lost a good partner and great friend that night [5], but we weren't to be thwarted-the show must go on! We had three hours remaining, and needed to be back on the road. So off we went! [6]

I'm sure all the others will document the happenings in Austin sufficiently, so I'll save my insight for later--but I'll end with a special thank you to +John Fanavans, +Summer Fulcher, and the rest of you who met us that night when we arrived. That night certainly set the tone for the remainder of what turned out to be one of the most alive, and vibrant, and incredible experiences possible.

Thank all of you for making Google+ for what it is.

+Aaron Kasten +Al Ebnereza +Amanda Blain +Anna Lowry +Brett Bjornsen +Calvin Christopher +Carter Gibson +Daniel Armendariz +Daniel Enloe +Daria Musk +Erika Stahoski +Gisel Ocañas +John Fanavans +Johnny Roquemore +Joltrast . +Justin Myers +Ken Pham +Keyan Mobli +Laurie DesAutels +Liza Sperling (how did we miss each other?!) +Megan Noel Rhea +Michael O'Reilly +Michele Predmore (even though we didn't get to meet!) +Moritz Tolxdorff +Rory Swan +Sheighla Friel +Summer Fulcher +Superdave Houdini +Trey Ratcliff +Yifat Cohen.

(Did I miss anyone? Recording them here for posterity and more!)

Photo credit +Al Ebnereza, who is the man.

Carter Gibson's profile photoEric Martindale's profile photoMichael O'Reilly's profile photoBrett Bjornsen's profile photo
What a great photo... Wonderful memories had by all it seems :)
That photo totally captures the fabulous time we all had! I am even swagging +Superdave Houdini 's fuzzy thing in the photo...Miss u guys already..
Wow. What an awesome post and awesome picture :D Glad it was so awesomely awesome!
Bucee's must have been around Houston. I-10 is easy driving, seriously.
Scumbag +Eric Martindale shares post with me, doesn't actually include me in the post or any pictures included with it. Crying myself to sleep tonight.
Is Bucee's good?, I keep seeing the signs when I drive out, but I've never been to one.
+Joltrast . we actually managed to accidentally stop at Buc-ee's just as we got into Texas. It wasn't bad, but... somewhat anticlimactic. We did pick up a CD called "Texas Road Trip", though!
+Eric Martindale Awesome post dude! I loved it even more, cause I love road trips. The way you've written it, I guess you do too.

Funny about the Bucees. But there's something funnier. Good funnier. There's a drugstore called Walls Drugstore, in Walls, SD, a very small town, and it's like a tourist attraction. Signs for that drugstore are everywhere, and in the middle of nowhere. It's just their thing. There are signs in Afghanistan, Amsterdam, and South Pole :)
I pretty much love everyone who came down to the SXSW HIRL.
+Eric Martindale it was definitely a pleasure hangin' with ya bro! I'm still processing the whole week in my head. Such an amazing whirlwind adventure.
I'm still trying to get my head around someone who wears looks like he belongs in that cowboy hat dancing to techno and rap! LOL

You messed with my head sir!
:) thats cause eric doesn't post enough.. so his what's hot post blows away the stats.. ;) POST MORE ERIC WE LIKE YOU :)
Pro tip: If you care about that statistic don't post photo albums. My SXSW main album, for instance, has about 100 photos and +CircleCount counts each one as a separate post, and while lots of people plus, comment, and share the main album post, far fewer do any of that with individual pictures, which lowers the averages tremendously.
Careful and deliberate action always yields the greatest results.
Thats the biggest flaw with that site.. and this new metric on it is even worse.. :) if you do one post a week and are on the suggested user list for example... your stats will be huge.. (lisa bently is a good example) If you hangout, post albums, or do several posts a day.. (like the average G+ engaging user) each one drops that score a ton... its needs a metric for frequency of posts to matter I would think.... and it really shouldn't count hangout posts or albums :) +CircleCount
+Amanda Blain I really think that's a +Google+ problem. We should be able to control what kinds of posts appear on our profiles; it's one of the main reasons why I don't publish much. I don't want all that crap all over my profile.
What's Hot skewing doesn't matter. It's fair, but it does skew. I actually delete those "photo plus ones" from my stream.
Definitely does look like +CircleCount needs to adjust their metrics or something. Engagement shouldn't be about how many + 1's you can get on your posts... it's how much you "engage" within those posts with people, and how much you comment on other peoples stuff... anyone can hit the what's hot and generate crazy numbers on their own crap... bolstering and engaging in other peoples stuff is what should count. /shrug
+Michael O'Reilly thanks for the tip (even it was not intended for us ;) ). We will check, if there is a way to filter such "single-image-out-of-an-album" postings. Writing this, I'm thinking about if we should filter out these posts from the calculation. They do appear in your stream as single posts, so they are shown in the stream of your followers. If someone has a great album with thousands of photos and is showing each photo as a single post, isn't his stream worse than the stream of someone having the same album and showing only the album as single post?

+Amanda Blain thanks for your (hard) words. I'll try to catch a few of your points:
- users from the sul: we tried to get a good metric exactly to being able to handle such people. Since we are dividing in two of the metrics on the new page with the number of followers, the users from the sul (who have normally a lot of followers) won't be so high in this ranking
- a metric for the frequency of posts is a good idea and something we want to add in the future
- hangout posts: we have to check how to handle these posts
- albums: I'm a bit confused right now on what to think about this (as you've seen in the part for Michael) ;)

+Brett Bjornsen we need definetly two other things to "adjust" than adjusting the metrics:
- being more clear, that on this page people are shown "with highly engaging content" (like mentioned on the page) and not highly engaging people
- the Google+ API. If we could adjust the API so that we could get how much someone is engaging (giving +1's, writing comments) this would be great! The first step would be a ranking with highly engaging people ;)
I dont think there should be any extra consideration for SUL or What's Hot. Those boost the numbers and that's what you're measuring. The album thing is definitely an issue and maybe Google+ will fix it first.
That's why I plus-mentioned you in, +CircleCount. :)

EDIT: The albums get posted as a single post, but Google+ splits them out into separate posts when they get plussed or commented on. It's vexing.
+Michael O'Reilly I agree totally! Only fix seems to be creating the album, then adding a photo and sharing THAT one photo... then if you click through it takes you to all the photos... But it says "1 photo" so most people might not know to click through... What do you guys think is the best method?
I haven't tried that method, +Daria Musk. I'll experiment with that in the next batch I upload and see how it works.
I'm about to share a buncha photos... which do you vote for? ;)
Maybe you could use the one-photo method, +Daria Musk, but then in the post explicitly mention that there is a whole album and people should click through?
Didn't mean to be hard +CircleCount Sorry you took it that way. :) I just dont see the point in using the word engaging.. when many of these people post a handful of times a month. Its hard to find a metric i understand that and i know you guys are trying. But if you have 1 post on your profile and get shared or that person comments on streams... people will go to the page and see one post to interact on.. so of course it will have high engagement. its being divided by 1 ... :)

SUL doesnt really matter... but it means some of those people who post twice a month with a million followers will be seen as top engages.. because people will be posting on their last post from 2 weeks ago.. WHO ARE YOU? hi, kkk etc... An algorithm can't judge comments quality, post of thought vs reshared funny pictures etc. But if you are going to say you are judging engagement it... i think it needs to be tweaked a tad more.

Again sorry if you took it harsh.. was just giving feedback like everyone else here.
+Amanda Blain don't worry! We didn't take it that hard. We try to learn out of each feedback, and more often you can learn more things from a negative feedback than from a positive feedback!
that's not an appeal for negative feedback! ;)

You are right about the comment quality and you are also right about the post frequency if we are talking about engagement (and we do, the wording is maybe something we could change, with the less effort).

But I think the post frequency is not the best metric for good content. Having a few people with awesome posts but posting only once the month is maybe more interesting than having someone posting more often but "only" good content. But that's again the problem of that an algorithm needs to judge content. A company like Google probably has the power to judge content automatically, we have to go a few steps to be able to do this ;)

But judging content is a bit in conflict with our target to be as transparent as possible. In the rankings we have right now, it is easy to explain what is measured (plain numbers), judging content would be intransparent.
There are also some ideas, where we have to check what is possible (average length of posts or average length of the comments, just to mention some of the ideas).

And +Michael O'Reilly: thanks for the mention and bring us to this very interesting discussion!
"I didn't expect such a thread highjack. Oooops!" - Really? You brought up stats, What's Hot!, engagement, and the SUL..... lol Nice try +P E Sharpe. This was a well-calculated derailing.
wait... who you callin' sane and rational?!? ^_^
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