Each time I reach a follower milestone on Google+, I'm always inspired to write about Google+ as a platform and what I'm thinking about it.
I started this tradition when my Circle count hit 100,000 four years ago. In that missive, I talked about the value of Google+ as a platform for writers and other content creators.
I was totally gaga about Google+ back then and I'm still gaga. I love Google+ for reasons that I'll specify below.
Speaking of gaga, is the top profile on Google+ in terms of followers. Just as I reach 5 million, Gaga approaches 10 million.
That a self-promotional international superstar with a social strategy and team to post on Google+ would gain only twice the number of followers on this platform as a writer-geek like me is a testament, I think, to the core strength of Google+: substance.
Regular social sites are dominated by frivolity and fluff, celebrity and salaciousness (and, in recent weeks, Donald Trump). Google+ has all that, too, but it's not dominated by it. The G+ zeitgeist is conspicuously dominated by unapologetic passion and enthusiasm for whatever people are into.
Google+ has been through a lot in the past year, most significantly the big redesign.
In general, the Google+ redesign made Google+ faster, leaner and simpler. Those improvements were accompanied by the removal of powerful, basic features, such as the ability sort search results by date or the ability to unflag comments that have been flagged by Google's spam filter. And it comes after the removal of Photos and Hangouts.
I think we can accurately make three broad generalizations about the new Google+.
1. It's better for new and casual users and worse for hardcore fans
2. Google+ used to be focused primarily on people with topics of interest secondary; now it's focused primarily on topics of interest with people secondary
3. Active Google+ users seem to fall into three categories: 1) people who want to engage and share their ideas and interests; 2) people who just want to say "hi" in the comments and don't seem to care much about content; and 3) spammers and their ilk
Google+ used to be the everything site and now it's almost exclusively for people sharing passions.
I have long been Google+'s biggest fan, and I still am. And I'll tell you why.
When Google+ was the everything network, I liked the everythingness of it. In fact, I stopped using other social networks, closed my blog and started using G+ for all that.
But despite the power and utility and convenience of Hangouts, Photos and all the rest, the real thrill of Google+ was the ability to have a substantive, engaging conversations with super interesting, intelligent, thoughtful people.
That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is. In my personal experience, you can't really do this on Facebook or the other social networks. Especially on Twitter.
You can do this on Reddit. Google+ and Reddit are the only two places I'm aware of on the entire Internet where a large number of intelligent people have great conversations. The trouble with Reddit is that it's butt-ugly -- a throwback to the 90s Internet.
More importantly: On Reddit, you don't get a sense of who the other people really are.
On Google+, I've made dozens of friendships. No, I'm not talking about superficial make-believe friendships. Real friendships. People I have sought out and connected with in the real world, and others I intend to connect with in real life.
Five million sounds like a big number. But the truth is (and this is just between you and me) I'm really here to interact with about 500 people.
On the social Internet, everybody pretends like they make connections with other people, but they don't really.
So that's why I'm not unhappy about the removal of features from Google+. Photo management and editing services; messaging services and all the rest are a dime a dozen.
Real conversations. Real human connections. This is what makes Google+ unique.
Google+ has been constantly disparaged by people who don't use or understand it and who, let's face it, don't want real conversations (they prefer Twitter's hit-and-run "I have spoken" approach to engagement) and don't want real human connections (preferring to stick with existing friends or simply to acquire "followers.").
And I'm totally fine with people choosing another network. I want everyone to be happy, and understand that choice of social network is really about matching personality to different communities.
What I'm not fine with is the corrosive power of negativity on the Googe+ community itself.
I say that if you love Google+ like I do, then ignore the haters and just enjoy it. This is the best community on the Internet, and you know it.
Remember that a public post on Google+ is a page on the open Internet. It's a blog post.
Take advantage of the new features, especially the easy ability to share G+ posts on other social networks. Reach out to your Facebook and Twitter people and invite them over for a real conversation.
Engage -- the more you post, comment, plus-one and interact, the better it gets.
Block trolls and spammers like it's a bodily function.
Stop and listen. You hear that? That's the sound of zero ads!
Restore easy access to your Circles: Settings > Advanced Settings > "Enable circle stream in navigation"
If you want to sort searches by date, use Google Search (instead of Google+ search) but add the following to the end of your search: site:plus.google.com (then, of course, sort any way you like).
Finally, I'd like to thank all my Google+ friends for all I have learned from you. It's been a privilege to get to know you, and I'm looking forward our continuing friendship.