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What Google+ can learn from the most hated (and loved) app of SXSW

I've talked with hundreds of people about social apps over the past 10 days and I noticed something. Nearly everyone could define what Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn do. They could even define what Highlight, a new app that was being discovered by many at SXSW. But nearly no one could define what Google+ is. Here's how these conversations went:

What is Facebook? "A place to talk to people you've met in life. You know, family, friends."

What is Twitter? "A place to listen to people you want to meet someday. You know, celebrities, news personalities, industry luminaries, the cool kids at work or school."

What is LinkedIn? "A place to network to get business or your next job."

What is Highlight? "A place to meet people you didn't know you wanted to know." or "networking for introverts." +Vic Gundotra I'd tear apart this video and figure out where the puck is going and skate toward it. Highlight might turn out to be a big flop because of a variety of reasons that have been detailed by others, but he's touching a nerve and helping to define a space that's interesting.+Paul Davison

What is Google+? Very few could answer that. Some, who are very active, can "it's a place to discuss things with other people passionate about the same things you are." Or "it's a way for Google to stitch together its services in a social way."

So, back to Highlight. It's amazing how much hate and love this app has generated over the past 15 days. Techcrunch says the real winner is the Mophie battery pack. Because Highlight sucks battery life.

PandoDaily says "no one won SXSW:"

Techcrunch had a guest poster who even explained why it wasn't a breakout success:

I disagree with all this criticism, but it's all necessary. The same stuff happened when Twitter came out. Heck, people forget that it took Twitter six months to get 15,000 users. Highlight blew past that already in its first few months, yet people are already writing off Highlight and its competitors, Glancee, Kismet, Glomper, Sonar,, and others.

Anyway, I met up Highlight's founder, Paul Davison, on Sixth Street at SXSW along with several others. The interview I shot there shows a lot about what Paul's thinking of doing with Highlight in the future.

So, what can Google+ learn?

1. We need a reason that Google+ exists that we can tell other people. It needs to be clear, understandable, and commonly understood.
2. It's hard to define yourself when you hit up against a very entrenched competitor. So don't. Define a new space. That's why I liked Video Hangouts so much. They didn't go after Facebook, or even Skype. They let us do something new. Highlight is that for me.
3. Highlight proves that social networking innovation is NOT done (my new 900 friends on the service proves that).

Speaking of which, it's amazing that in just a week I've been able to find 900 people on a service no one was using and that has so many limitations (you can only really see people on the service if they are closer than 100 yards to you).

I wish Google would really rethink its mobile apps. Highlight starts faster, does something no one else does, and is useful in a way that Facebook is not.

Unfortunately apps like Highlight and Glancee need to be built on top of Facebook. Why is that?

1. Facebook has the best existing social graph. By far. All my wife's elementary school friends from Tehran, Iran, are on Facebook. They are NOT on Google+ or Twitter.

2. Facebook has the best existing database of identity info, which includes what things we "like." No one else has close to as much data about most of us.

3. Facebook has the nicest API so new developers like Highlight can build on top. Google+? No way. Twitter? No way, Twitter doesn't have a good social graph and doesn't have a repository of identity information about us. LinkedIn? Maybe, but it's so business focused it's hard to hit a mainstream consumer audience with it fdsa

For me Highlight shows a future where my phone will DO THINGS based on when other people, or other objects, are nearby. If I were at Google+ I'd be really thinking about that future big time and use this future to redefine what Google+ is.

Keep in mind, I know that the "X" team at Google IS thinking about this, because they are working on glasses that will show you info about your world as you walk around.

This might be my most important video I do all year. It certainly is the most controversial startup I've seen in quite some time. Hate it or love it, Google+ has a LOT to learn from Paul Davison.

Do you agree or disagree, and why? Does your answer change after you hear Paul talk in the video below?
Michel Plungjan's profile photoM Sinclair Stevens's profile photoLee Smallwood's profile photosandeep chauhan's profile photo
Really? a hook? something so limiting +Robert Scoble ? then some (many?) users(tech pundits ?) would(might ?) develop some distorted expectation of Google+, and when that expectation is not met, the resounding chant of disapproval...

Please, no...
MD Seegners finger was enough malaprop for this year, no?
How many people are addimg you daily on g+ and how many on facebook Robert? Where is the mpst interesting interactiom and what does this mean for search? There is nothing on facebook and you know this.
Well, G+ needs to have some sort of hook, or those pundits will provide their own hooks. "Ghost town," for example. True or not, that's a hook and people outside of Google+ are grabbing onto it.
Google+ is easy to define: It's a social networking site for people that dislike many aspects of facebook. Done.
Google+ is the easiest to define: It's where you connect with other people.

Nowrooz Mubarak!
I use Google+ for interesting conversations with people I didn't know I wanted to meet. However, I still find lots of use for Twitter and Facebook. I'd kind of hoped that G+ could dominate the others, but a combination of policy and technical decisions makes that unlikely. 
Why is everybody trying to hate on Google? Were all of these people Apple fanboys? Frankly, its ridiculous. #fanboy
You know, even before I read this I knew it was going to be about Highlight. Robert seems to really be into Highlight right now. Doubt me? Watch this weeks Gillmore Gang!
+Robert Scoble has done nothing but bash G+ since it became public,before that it was the greatest thing ever.
I've not used highlight, seems there's no Android app? so it's an app for interacting with people local to you? Like g+ local stream?

I would guess highlight will be another pinterest, a lot of hype, and a fancy interface, but really not that useful.
+Todd Selby Nah, this is nothing compared to his reaction to Buzz. If he didn't like Google+, +Robert Scoble wouldn't be posting here or forwarding so many of his Facebook posts to G+ G+ posts to Facebook. His usage pattern shows a deep like for Google+. His crabbiness shows a deep want for it to be better.

EDIT: semantic correction
For me, Google+ is a place to share interesting news. That simple. To flesh that out a bit, it's the place to share news, photos, and videos, like on Twitter but more visual, but not so much personal stuff like on Facebook. Seems distinct enough. I don't know how Hangouts fits in there, though.
Highlight and Glancee are really on to something - really. It relies on the degradation of privacy fears, which appeals to me (and apparently +Robert Scoble ) but the benefits I've already received from Glancee far outweigh any privacy or battery concerns I had.

Give them a try - Glancee seems to be the better for professional connections and highlight for consumer/personal.

As to no android app, +Michael Warburton most of these teams are very, very small. Testing your app on all the different android devices, which all act differently, is a major time and money suck - mainly time. I completely agree with Instagram's philosophy on this point: get it right on one platform first.
I'm giving Highlight a try as well. Probably won't be anything interesting until tomorrow at best, when I get to work. But I'm willing to give it a shot.
Simon L
+Robert Scoble you asked tough questions that most tech reporters wouldn't ask. I was less impressed with his answers!
I see neat "What's Hot items on G+" even without subscribing to them and I like it.

Wish Google + added people from sites I visit into a circle automatically and show what's hot for me. Letting people add RSS feeds to page would help too.

Its a tough problem to solve though. Lots of resources needed.
I think Google+ is a place to meet people you didn't know you wanted to know. +Google+ is the very best tool for building communities around common interests.
Yep you hit the question, what is Google+ and what does it do to be special or relevant?

I'll share some thoughts I have been having lately and that might not be of please to someone.

Google+ is currently not a social network were you can be aware of what's going on outside the people you follow, why? Some explanations, on twitter there are the trending topics an amazing way to be aware of what's popular in a non intrusive way, its just a list, the trending topics are feed by millions of different tweets and different persons, like a live news feed from all around the world.

What does Google+ do about that?

They introduced this feature called Hot on Google+ a feature that instead of showing what's going on, it shows you, what somebody with a high number of followers shared and that X number of those followers decided to re-share/(comment inside of it), there's a fundamental problem with that model; imagine this situation, an earthquake, something that even if it happens on the most remote location of the world would become a trending topic on twitter the second it starts to happen, here on Google+ unless a user out of nowhere decides to use the search functionality with the word "earthquake" would be aware that an earthquake is happening or receive updates from the people that's experiencing the situation live, what would probably happen its that in order for an earthquake to become a Hot on Google+ topic the event would have to wait for someone with a high number of followers to share that story and keep waiting till it reaches X number of re-shares/(comment inside of it), there's clearly too much delay in that formula.

It also creates this problem users with a high number of followers posses such power that if they share a Cat picture and Offensive Politic messages, there's an incredible chance that those not very popular topics ends being pushed for the mainstream of the population or every single user that does not have this feature turned off (it's on by default) so more than once I have seen a picture of a cat, religious slang, etc, particularly yesterday the second item on my feed was of that highly offensive nature an it came with a very offensive image, as a purist of information I was not pleasantly surprised.

Since it's not a platform to know what's going on, it's not a Twitter replacement, so what can Google+ replace right now?

It can become a LinkedIn replacement a place to portray your professional self and be connected to those who also share those interest.

It can be the page were you have a short bio and link to all the other services on were you are active, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Can it be improved?

A lot but in order to do so they would have to listen to their users.
Highlight has been running on my phone for a month or so, and I've never seen this battery drain that people say it causes. I don't know if people see the location services indicator and decide that Highlight must be draining the battery or if there are circumstances in which it will drain the battery, but I just haven't experienced it.
Thank you! Been up till 5am daily since getting back working on it, and went live today. Would you be willing to help spread the word? I'd be very grateful!! wow, google+ just got way cooler in my book.
"So far over the freaky line" - 'socially promiscuous' ;)
+Robert Scoble highlight / glancee are products that are looking for a problem to solve. Thats the main reason y they did not succeed in austin. As for g+, +Vic Gundotra explained to +Hillel Fuld about google's strategy. So far its just theory. I will be convinced when I see YouTube, picasa, maps, docs, search and other google properties tightly connected to g+. Till then it will be a niche network
Hi +Robert Scoble Ok to be fair, I watched the video all the way through and used my Highlight app to understand it better. I'm getting closer to understanding how to use it. Few things: I was an earlier adopter for Yobongo and I had issues with the guys who were on it.. "A woman is here!" when I logged on... I brought this to the Yobongo folks' attention so they knew it was very unfriendly for women. I might be bringing some of that hesitation to using Highlight and the other social sourcing apps. Highlight does not feel that way as guys and gals I have connected with have been very nice. Perhaps it is the 100 meter or less thing that helps. Less stalker-ish.
One big suggestion: I would love a 'Highlight How-To Tutorial" perhaps an animated 2-3 minutes video showing how to use to find, connect, highlight people. I'll be in NYC tomorrow and will give it another test run on the streets!. I will let you know how it goes. Best. Joyce @JoyceMSullivan
Take it easy +Robert Scoble . I installed & removed glancee for a variety of reasons including "breach of freak line" and "dumb" recommendations. Maybe it is ahead of its time. Or maybe it should use more advanced algorithms for recommendations rather than just sitting on Facebook data. Infographic data: yes, it was the most talked about app. No doubt in that. But that includes "negative" talk also, doesn't it?
+Robert Scoble there's no doubt that it is working very well for certain people at certain places in certain times.

Their challenges lie in user retention and re-engagement outside of those places and times.
There are a number of other, often unforeseeable factors that determine the long-term success of an application as well. When Waze first appeared, it was an awesome concept, but pretty useless as an Android app because everybody was already using Google Navigation, so they didn't need another navigator. Then Waze came out for iPhone, and now you had a group in need of a free and useful navigator. It became very social as a result and now is 10 times more useful than Google Nav.

I think it's some unforeseeable stuff that will make or break G+ or these new LBS apps. And great job at getting a conversation started once again +Robert Scoble

irish d
still loving my google nav over waze anytime.

anyway, i think i'll just wait for google+ to add geotargetting features.
It's not really that hard to explain what Google+ is! It's is pretty obvious for the people that use it, because that's what you have to do in order to understand it: It's a dynamic platform for learning and a global forum for dialogue. In short you could maybe say; it's the future for networked innovation and SME growth.
I'm sure @Vic Gundotra would agree. 
Dan Gen
Google+ can learn from the most hated (and loved) app of SXSW, not to make the color of logos make people get a headache. Really though, for folks who opt into G+, Google services ought to be integrated tighter into G+. Talk about Google knowing me, I log into my Google account, from there, knows my interests through the history of my browsing, knows my connections through Gmail and Voice, knows my locations though Maps. Maybe Google’s just easing into this slowly, since it’s really scary how much it probably knows about us. Google Maps had a neat layer for Google Buzz Mobile, where people could post on there and it would show up in the Buzz layer of Google Maps.
900+ new friends for an influential tech blogger at a major networking and techie event peppered with early adopters is really the last metric that should count, as explained very well by Erin Griffith in Pandodaily.
Actually I heard today that Google+ is a "personal network". I like that because it replaces the very limiting "social network" tag. Like a PC (personal computer) I think Google+ has the power and elegance to be whatever I want it to be. It is comfortable and efficient to use, and worth the learning effort for the long haul. This is just the beginning....
Google Plus is the network for people who want to have real conversations.

Edit: Wait, no I have a better idea. It's a 21st century salon.
+Mark Armstrong Very well said. I like the term "Personal Network". Infact, this is the closest term for what g+ does. If it could "import" feeds like what friendfeed did few years ago, then this would become 100% "personal network".
Why do "discovery applications" like Highlight/Glancee have to be location bound? For example: My FB friends or Twitter friends are not in the same location. Also, most times, people who I have the most in common with me will be outside my 1 mile radius (except in events etc). So...discovery applications would be more useful in day-to-day life if they are dependent on something else other than the location. Any thoughts?
+Robert Scoble said of Google+: "It's hard to define yourself when you hit up against a very entrenched competitor. So don't. Define a new space." That's what I keep saying. Google+ must stop trying to beat Facebook at it's game. Google+ needs to create a new game -- it needs to provide a service that no one realized they needed until they saw it -- like Search and Maps.

As for trying to define Google+, it is hard. Maybe that's why so many tech journos get stuck with Facebook comparisons. I define Google+ as "blogging on steroids".
My iPhone 4S is runs very hot and shortlived lately... It became better when I turned Location service off... Looking forward to less greedy apps.
+M Sinclair Stevens ... it's a recommendation for me - if I was looking for a word to describe it - but working with different clients I'm discovering that it can be what it needs to be based on respective needs :)
+NoniShanay Cavaliere This raises an important point. All networks (Facebook, G+, Twitter etc) enable us to connect to or follow "people". But people have multiple tastes. And this creates "noise" in streams. How about a network where a user can follow "topics" instead of following "people"? The system (in the backend) should be smart enough to put content (generated by people) into different topic based streams. +Robert Scoble Could you share your thoughts on this? Will something like this be useful?