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Trading On Your Good Name
+Jeff Jarvis has a great discussion going (link below) on "How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live".

I wouldn't be on Google+ if I didn't believe in sharing. But I don't agree that transparency necessarily makes people more open. If we take down the curtains in our house, we are less likely to lounge around in the nude. Likewise, when every public thing we say (no matter how trivial or offhand) is archived and associated with our name, forever retrievable (with or without context), I think this has a chilling effect on what we are willing to say publicly.

Google+ is clearly all about reputation -- designed for those who want to build a name for themselves in their fields. When you focus on building a reputation, your concerns -- the kind of tools you design to do that -- are different than when you focus on building relationships.

So what are some of the things about Google+ that focus on reputation at the expense of relationships?

The Hovercard: Identify with Your Job
Your hovercard identifies you, not by your tag line, but by your current employer. To me, this has a decidedly Japanese salaryman feel: "I am Hideo Tanaka of Sony." This design choice communicates the bias of a certain segment of the population -- people who identify themselves closely with their employer. This is a tiny UX point. But it seems significant. And I've read enough comments elsewhere to know I wasn't the only one taken aback by it. Are you your job?

The Public Sphere: Whose Reputation Is It?
The larger reputation-building design choice is that everything you share publicly (posts, comments, +1s) becomes part of your searchable permanent record -- associated with your profile. So for most of us who are aware that future clients and employers are looking at us, our public posts and comments take on a neutral professional air. (Exceptions for writers whose personality is their reputation or for writers whose personal experience is the focus of their writing. I'm talking about us ordinary worker bees who have to worry about losing a job.)

Everywhere you leave a +1 or a comment, you leave a link back to your profile. This, of course, is what Google is selling: social search, recommendations made by verifiable sources. But whose reputation are we building when we +1 a site? The transaction works both way. The brand is happy because they have real people endorsements. (This is the reason there is no Google minus.)

Conversely everyone who knows us, can see which sites we +1, which sites we've given our seal of approval. (I'm glad I chose my inkan -- my legal seal; it really plays to the game.) This gives me pause. Now it's not just the brand's reputation being built by loyal customers, it's my reputation being built by the brands I endorse. I'm not going to +1 anything which might adversely affect my professional reputation. When the ability to get my next job is on the line, I'm going to err on the side of caution.

On the one hand this makes my +1s more valuable because I give out so few. On the other hand, it makes my +1s less accurate and less personal because I'm not going to put my endorsement on any cause that might come back to haunt me.

Sharing With My Circles: The Limits of Limited
If I want to draw a line between my professional writing and my hobbies, circles seem like they would be the ideal solution. But they're not. That's because my profile identity is stuck being my professional identity. My personal interests end up being shared only privately.

This results in a two-fold problem. Publishing my more personal topic-centric posts to my circles makes it difficult to find new people who share these interests. Conversely, anyone who followed me because of my personal writing elsewhere is surprised to discover a strong divide between my vocation and my avocations. Instead of posts focused on our shared interests, they get posts about Google+. This isn't what they signed up for when they followed me here. My non-professional relationships can relate to me better via Twitter, blogs, or email.

Even more frustrating under the current design is that I can't share content with just my readers, the people who follow me. If I post publicly, then everyone can see it. So what's the incentive for people to follow me if I can't share something with them that I don't share with just everybody?

Your Reputation is on the Line
In an August 30, 2011 article, the Telegraph reported that 40% of the victims of cyberstalking were men and that, "For women the fear is of physical violence to themselves and then to their families or children. For men, they are afraid of damage to their reputation."

Whether you're a man or a woman, I'm curious to know, how much you think about your online reputation when you decide to share something -- especially here on Google+, where your name is everything.
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16 comments
 
I think pretty carefully about what I'm going to share, perhaps even more so on Google+, since I have more people following me here and I'm trying to craft an interesting stream for them. I've found, though, that even Twitter can come back with random tweets, completely context-free, in a search for my name, so I try to be careful all the time on the internet. What's worrisome is that no one is perfect, so I'm sure at some point I've "slipped up" and said or shared something that I don't want permanently identified with me.

For me, this is part of my career as a writer and blogger, but if I weren't in a field that encourages cultivating a public personality, I would be very tempted to lock down everything I say on the internet and never go Public...and even then be careful.
 
i'm willing to share as much as it won't affect my personal life and family, such as information that may track me. online reputation is important in cultivating a viewership because content is what people are interested in. I think personal interests can be public 
 
Indeed. As far as the hovercard goes, there's also a problem there: if Google wants to make it appear as if I'm representing my company, then there's exactly one and only one entry I can ever post: "Please contact the Media Relations department.". That's the only thing my employer authorizes me to say on behalf of the company. All I can do is remove any trace of my employer from my profile, or at least make it visible only to me.

I am not "Jennifer Government".
 
+Amy Sundberg "Cultivating a public personality" -- I'm glad you intuited what I was driving at because I struggled to articulate it. Maybe I should have had the discussion first and then written the post.

As a writer, too, I have always been very aware of my public face. What I've found odd about the Google+ experience is that I didn't get to choose my face here. Because I had to use my legal name, the name I write under professionally, Google+ has, in effect, become my professional blog. The topics of conversation, the things I recommend, the people who I read and the people who follow me are all quite separate and distinct than my presence elsewhere on the Internet.

It's wonderful to have this new community but I'd hoped it would be possible to manage the various facets of my life in one tool -- and I'm finding that that is not the case.
 
I think you're spot on. Once you have a professional reputation to worry about, having to post under your real name means you will be much more careful and much less able to be your real, multi-faceted, self. It's like being at some professional conference, or some kind of "networking opportunity" cocktail party.

(oh, and I was also interested in the point you made about not being able to post to just those who follow you - was thinking about that myself just recently, I think that's a feature we could really do with.)
 
I think I see what you're saying. So your followers here might want to read your private circles directed at people interested in wombats, but they also have to wade through your posts about G+ since that's what you post about publicly. Correct? (Not to mention the +1 thing, which is an interesting point indeed.)

On the plus side, I'm hoping that in the future there will be better tools in place for finding users that share interests, even if those interests are only discussed in private circles.
 
Thanks for pointing this out!
 
Jeff Jarvis must be a member of the New World Order. He is a fool to advocate this nonsense just to sell his book. Identity thieves, stalkers, rapists, kidnappers just love this "Privacy is Dead" theme.
 
+Binh Ly Be brave. Attach your name to your content, or just stay away from social media. If you don't want me to see your page, what are you doing on G+? The guys who signed the American Declaration of Independence were not anonymous. They risked their lives and fortunes for a good cause.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens Another great post man, this is an excellent topic. Here's my 2 cents:

I think transparency does in fact make people more open. I personally found this to be the case when I went through my divorce… I finally opened up to those around me, letting them see the dark that was inside. They all helped me through it and suddenly I found those same people, after seeing my willingness to share and be vulnerable, coming to me with their intimate details. The end result was we were all strengthened. The difference in example and social networks though, is that I DID limit my audience; it wasn’t something for a public forum. Not everything has to be shared; there are degrees of transparency that is audience dependent.

The Hovercard: Identify with Your Job
I’m in complete agreement over the hovercard displaying your job. I find it odd that my face is associated with my employer. The hovercard “feels” like it’s supposed to give you a mini-snapshot of that person. While I love my job, I don’t believe my job defines me. In that respect the hovercard is failing. I found this so odd that I replaced the first slot under employment with a mini-AboutMe (a tip I believe I saw from one of your posts).

The Public Sphere: Whose Reputation Is It?
I don’t really find this to be as much an issue as most. There are things I do behind closed doors that the public doesn’t need to know. There are conversations I have with my friends that I would not have with my parents (and vice versa). The same goes for what I do online. I can share content that I don’t want to be “public” in a bajillion different ways these days. I don’t have to +1 it. I can IM it to my friend who I know will find it irreverent and funny and not have it associated with my public persona.
+1 could help relevancy when searching on the net. It DEFINETLY serves Google, but could be helpful to us as well. I do very much get your point about being conscious of what you +1 though. But again, you may discuss things with your friends you’d never discuss with your boss. There are controls as to who can see what you post. IMO this can and should be solved by providing +1’s privacy just like posts.

Sharing With My Circles: The Limits of Limited
I believe this could be solved with the API’s we’re all waiting for… if I have an external, topic-centric site, with API access to my circles, that site could feed those people into circles for me. Then I could continue to post “non-professional” content to a targeted audience; both on my external site and on Google+, while maintaining a “professional” or sanitized version of my profile that’s viewable to the public.

In the meantime, the appropriate way to do this is through existing blogs, twitter, IM, and email. Google+ has only been out for a short bit, and when opened to developers (provided Google does it right) I think we’ll be surprised with the clever solutions they come up with to handle exactly this.

My gut tells me that Google is in this for two reasons for Google+:
1) Facebook is a wall garden of 700 million posts with no way of it getting out. That poses a problem for Google whose main mission is to organize the world’s data. For them it’s all about search, it feels like it’s all about social because that’s the platform they’re building it on, but it’s really really really all about search.
2) The Facebook model doesn’t work in a Google business environment. They don’t want to mimic the Facebook model and the walled garden of Facebook will cause Google to build in the opposite direction. Providing hooks into, and out of Google+. They’ll essentially make it a commodity, the plumbing for others to build on top of; they do have a history of embracing open standards. I don’t think they care what you share privately, and are ok with you choosing to share certain things privately. Those things you ARE comfortable with sharing publicly though, they want to be able to index, make relevant to others, provide better and more relevant searches, and target the hell out of it with ads.
 
+Amy Sundberg Not exactly. I want to be able to share things (usually other people's posts or humor or interesting tidbits) with the people who follow me but whom I don't follow (the people in my Incoming stream, my readers) -- like I do on Twitter or my blogs. However, the only way to do this is to post publicly (but these are not posts I want associated with my resume) or to add them to my circles (which goes against my follow-back guilt/don't fake follow policy).

On Google+ there is no way to share with just my public (a very tiny subset) without sharing with the whole world.

Original discussion: https://plus.google.com/u/0/118011560178264222649/posts/7rxujTYwnAh?edit=sa
 
+Paul Spoerry Great discussion. You could get several posts yourself out of your response. That's what I love about Google+. I'm frequently inspired to write based on discussions I have had on other people's posts. Anytime one of my comments goes into multi-paragraphs, I know it has the makings of a new post.

I think +Tom Anderson had an interesting idea about how Google+ will slowly grow audience via celebrity niches -- just as Twitter did. When we're out of beta, people will sign on to follow their celebs -- and they they will start interacting with each other. Celebs on a social media site are like an anchor store at the big mall. They're the draw that provides customers to the smaller stores. (That just popped into my head but I think it's true.)

But if Google+ is really just the icing on the social search cake (the metaphors are flying today), is Google really interested in drawing that Facebook audience? I don't think Google+ wants followers. I think it wants content producers, people willing to make and stake their reputation to endorse web pages in search.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens I agreed about the celebs; just look at volume of people using Twitter to follow Justin Bieber, or how any time he starts using a new social platform it immediately sees massive growth.

There really is this widespread confusion about what Google is doing and I think it's clouded by the fact that this IS a social network. I'm not privy to what Google is really up to, but from what I've seen and know of the company they're not out to be the next Facebook. They simply recognize they need to break their 700 million person closed wall down. If Facebook opened up and let Google index, we might not even have Plus. Sure, Google will of course let you post about some silly thing your cat did, but that's not really meaty content that provides any long term 'indexed' value. What they're after is relevant SEARCHABLE information; so I think you're right... they're more interested in content producers. Again, I think the API's when they come will be when we see the full power of G+ unleashed and it will only grow from there. I did an article about content creation/blogging and Google+ a while back where I went into some thoughts on where I see them going: http://www.paulspoerry.com/2011/will-google-replace-blogging/
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