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Here's a post I just wrote for Techcrunch. Pick your location to read & comment :)

Google is an algorithm driven-company. "PageRank" (named after +Larry Page himself) was the "founding algorithm" of Google -- the one that gave it superior search results, and eventually led to Google "winning" the search wars of the early 2000s. The algorithm continues to evolve -- in fact, it's Google's most important work -- and by some accounts, it includes more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms to perform its magic. Can a company so enamored with the power of algorithms and machine learning, let the user take control? This might be a more precise way of raising the question people keep asking. Is "social" in Google's DNA?

I love using G+, enough so that I'm worried that Google is going to make a misstep and ruin the service. Specifically I worry that Google will assume an algorithm alone is what's needed to reduce the "signal to noise" ratio in the G+ feed. Several Google engineers have posted publicly that they're working on this algorithm. I've been making my opinions known in comments for a few weeks now -- hoping to catch the ear of Google engineers, but now that it's harder to gain their attention as 1 voice within 10 million, I thought I'd do better to post something more substantial.

One of the key issues that will determine the fate & nature of G+ is whether Google favors an algorithmic approach over a user-controlled approach to the stream. Facebook (almost counterintuitively) is the one that favors an algorithmic approach, and currently it’s one of the defining differences between Facebook and G+. As usual, +Mike Elgan nails this one. As Elgan wrote recently: "Facebook deals with information overload by using a secret algorithm to judge the quality of your relationships, then secretly blocking most of your updates to your friends" And: "Google+ deals with information overload by giving you, the user, real control. " At least that's what G+ does right now. Is it going to stay that way? And behind the scenes right now, are G+ engineers working more on their sorting algorithm or on features that would further enhance the users' control of the feed?

Because of the way my posts, articles and my very presence on Google+ have been interpreted, people seem surprised when they learn I love Facebook as much as G+. I'm rooting for Zuckerberg & Co. as much as I am for Google. I want to see more and distinct networks thrive. I don't think social networking is a zero sum game. I suspect that people believe that social networking is a "winner take all" endeavor, because they mistakenly assume people "left MySpace for Facebook." Facebook didn't kill Myspace; MySpace "committed suicide" through continual mismanagement. (For what it's worth, I include myself in that group of mismanagers :-) and I don't mean to blame any single individual -- the troubles were tremendous. I'll explain it somewhere else, someday.) Likewise, MySpace did not "kill Friendster" -- Friendster had its own set of problems. If they'd been corrected, I believe both MySpace and Facebook would have thrived as different types of social networks. (In fact, Friendster basically would have been "Facebook" -- a real name network, focused on real-world relationships for efficient communication.)

Anyway, I love using G+ and Facebook. On Facebook, nearly all of my "distant" friends and former co-workers are there. It's the best way to keep in touch with them. But recently I've noticed that I get less and less response from my Facebook friends. I post something that used to generate some interaction, and now I receive almost nothing. I suspect that this has to do with the way the Facebook feed works. And I've done a few tests that seem to confirm my belief. For my own Facebook "consumption," I choose the "Most Recent" Feed option. (For those unaware, it's the way to see everything being posted to Facebook as opposed to what Facebook thinks you want to see.) I've also created some lists and filter my feed to see what certain groups of people are posting. (Yes, Facebook has friends lists, and yes you can share to that list and choose to see only what that list posts. Sounds like "Circles" doesn't it?) The problem is that almost no one else on Facebook does this. And that's why Facebook created groups and uses the "Top Posts" algorithm (the technical name for it is EdgeRank: http://tcrn.ch/npaXax). Facebook has tried to find different ways to bring the information users want to them, because the "Circles" concept when implemented at Facebook in 2008 ("Lists") didn't work. Facebook has assumed that users can't handle the overload of information, and that EdgeRank is better than the "Most Recent" option. They've downplayed Lists, sorting and Newsfeed "preference" options more & more, so that most users don't even know they exist.

Is that the right move? I'm not so certain. And I'm wondering what kind of data Facebook has to suggest that it is. Mike Elgan covers the "dangers" of EdgeRank in his provocatively titled article "How Facebook Secretly Ends Your Relationships" (http://bit.ly/pIIIpl) And in it, he concludes that transparency and education is key to helping users understand what is happening in their newsfeeds. Facebook may have already made the decision on which way they want to go, but the G+ team would do well at this juncture to consider the specific suggestions Elgan makes. And even more important, Elgan raises a point he made years ago from another article: http://bit.ly/n4qRHa -- that the real utility of social networks is not to help us connect with the 10 people in our lives who we care and love about the most, but rather the value lies in being able to cast our net wide & far so we can maintain relationships with 100s of people in a way we never could before this technology. Social networks may be more valuable to us in that they allow us to maintain more "weak ties" than we ever could before. Our "strong ties," after all, are already "strong," and don't benefit as much from the technology boost. If you question the value "weak ties," how about job networking, dating (a shocking (to some) percentage of of new relationships start online), advice/recommendations, or opportunity of any kind? (If you doubt the basic human need here, please go read Mike's article, now. It may turn you from an anti-social networker to an open social networker.)

G+ is so new. Of course it's going to go through continual changes. Whether it continues to attract audiences, and whether it retains them, depends on a lot of things. (Many more, of course, than I'm covering here.) My favorite anaolgy I've heard so far is "Let’s not judge the cookie by the dough," from Deven Coldewey's post (http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/15/google-one-hell-of-a-trojan-horse/) where he echoes the sentiments of my first post about G+ (http://bit.ly/o9NC7N ). Will G+ give users more control by letting them sort the feed based on post date vs. comment date? Will G+ give users more control and let users sort by photos, videos, links? Or simply search the stream?

More importantly, will Google use their nearly unmatched strengths (understanding of human language and machine learning) to create features we've never seen before--imagine if G+ could determine the semantic nature of a post, categorize it, and let users follow a subset of topics from a user, instead of an entire feed: (e.g. follow Tom's posts about Google+ and Apple, but not his silly .GIFs).

So to return to where we started -- is "social" in Google's DNA? What does that even mean? I would argue that this means understanding that sometimes humans can do things better than computers. That sometimes when building social software, we need to use social science to understand user desire & behavior. And finally, that sometimes, it's better to think highly of people rather than to assume your product will be too difficult to comprehend. Please give us control Google. If you do, we'll have no reason to complain about your algorithm.
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258 comments
 
first yesss and tom youre awesome bro
 
Great question. Looks like they are certainly open to feedback from it's users, so it appears, that social is something that can be learned by Google. Thumbs up, so far.
 
loved it. Im seeing u a lot more active on TC and always enjoy reading it.
 
People should really stop using the word "algorithm" when they mean program... I realize PageRank proper is an algorithm, but the word really should be owned by Knuth et al. and not pretentious technologists and prankster banksters (who have also adopted the term and use it with gay abandon).
 
They have to continue to try new things during beta. They might not all be better. Just make sure your voice is heard now instead of later. Good example Tom
 
I always thought page-rank was named after Jimmy Page.
 
I always love reading your posts Tom, you make very intelligent and interesting points.
 
Good shit Tom. I think Google will learn from MySpace and Facebook mistakes 
 
I think that an algorithm still has a place in G+ - namely in finding people to interact with whom you wouldn't normally have been able to talk to. Currently in other social media this connection is made by a fluke - FOAF, a chance occurrence of commenting on the same piece in a blog article, and so forth.

But G+ has the opportunity of being a connection site. Broader than dating, unbounded by location, more of a meeting of common ideas where you can meet people and make new intellectual discussions on anything form particle physics to the latest happenings in a soap opera.
 
i concur. good article.
 
I'm adding you to my "Thought Provokers" circle.
 
I very much like your assertion that social networks don't have to be a zero sum game... in that sense, I still don't see G+ as a "rival" to Facebook, but merely a cohabitant. I hope that will continue.
 
i get the feeling that the purpose of google plus is to get more 'human powered" intelligence with the realizations that an algorithm can only take you so far.

btw... this is a story as old as time. Pythagoras and his followers used to think the universe could be explained through math while Aristoxenus had a great time poking fun at their 'theories'
 
Wow, I couldn't agree with you more, Tom. I'd really like to hear your side of the Myspace story one these days!
 
"They've downplayed Lists, sorting and Newsfeed "preference" options more & more, so that most users don't even know they exist."

I agree. I sorted my contacts into all these lists so I can segregate my feeds. (Kinda like streming by circle in G+) And I used to be able to do that simply by clicking an option on the left side of the page. That's gone now and I can't even figure out how to do that anymore. :|
 
hmmm, I've always had my suspicions that fb indeed used an algorithm on its news feed (ie friends id hang with more and like more of their statuses would become more prominent, even in my "most recent" list)

as far as the whole state of social networking, twitter didn't kill fb but both became a component of one another. Google+ is unique since unlike the previous social networks, it didn't start from grassroots but rather came out in a bang, and as you said the users now more than ever are going to dictate the direction of the network.

Right now I, as I suspect most of us, feel as if we are pioneers on G+, and I can personally say it is interesting to see how this all develops
 
Great article Tom, friend from MySpace, now G+) Glad G+ is out, as I have all but shut down FB acct. via. privacy settings. Getting way too much Spam invites to play this game or that.
Jsyk, feel cool sharing this with you> Only visited MySpace a few times, and seemed every time I did, p/c got infected by a virus/worm which ate through my hd. Coincidental? Maybe, but after couple hdrives and motherboards, I stayed away, enjoying newest 2 Trillibite hd.
 
So good I shared this with my Facebook friends -- thanks, Tom!
 
.... (Open) social networks may be more valuable to us in that they allow us to maintain more "weak ties" .... (moving from) an anti-social networker to an open social networker.
 
G+ could have a slider allowing the user to adjust a "relevance" filter/valve on posts displayed in the stream. The valve can be closed down so the stream only contains a trickle of posts that are most relevant. With the valve fully open, the stream would flow as it does now (which must be like a torrent for folks like +Robert Scoble who are following thousands.)

Example levels of relevance (from most to least):
small post shared only with you
larger posts shared only with you
small posts shared with you and some others
larger posts shared with you and some others
small to large posts mentioning you
small to large posts shared with public

Additional bits:
Slider setting could also effect amount of comments are displayed.
Above the slider could be a graph indicating number of posts that will be displayed when slider is at a particular setting.
 
+Alex McNeill I learned to do that a a long time ago, when I had lots of time. :D A while back I was trying to figure out how to do it again after they changed the layout and all, and I quit on it. I agree, they made it too much of a hassle.
 
And all this time I thought PageRank was written by Shabba Ranks. The more you know...
 
I agree Tom. I also sent Google feedback on this issue. In Gmail I am trying out the automatic tagging of certain messages, but I modified the default rules to keep the Inbox label on all of the messages to see how well their algorithm works. It actually does a very good job of picking the right tags for my incoming email.

If Google can bring the concept of tags over from Gmail, even automatic tags, as long as the poster and the person receiving the post can tag or re-tag messages (for proper training), I think it could work.

But, there should be a dead simple way to view everything untagged, just like there is a dead simple way to view your profile as anyone else.
 
+Tom Anderson The EdgeRank algorithm on Facebook didn't bother me as much as when they changed the Most Recent tab and set the default settings to "Friends and pages you interact with most" without announcing it. The only way most people know to set it back to "All of your friends and pages" is if someone informs them about the change. What's worse is they've now adapted that same idea to their chat feature, so only the top 19 people you interact with will show up on the side bar, making it even harder to manage the "weak ties" that you're talking about.
Ed Chi
 
/CC +***** +***** +***** +***** 
 
Tom - some of what you are asking for - like the ability to automatically categorize posts semantically, and the ability to follow slices of a person - is already working in a stealth startup I'm involved with. Http://bottlenose.com -- happy to show you sometime.
 
Long but good post. I totally agree that G+ maintains more "weak ties" than FB.
 
Thanks for your comments guys :) It's nice to hear since the funny photos seem to get more shares :)
 
Great, and well articulated, as always. You got a blog or is Google + all you need? =]
 
Commented on twitter, will here too. Excellent article Tom, thanks.
 
+Nova Spivack Thanks msg me privately. I think http://www.twylah.com/ is doing it too. Someone should make a Twitter client that does this, and Twitter would be so useful. Though I know there's some issues around building a twitter client these days ;-)
 
Tom, I've been reading your last few posts, and I must say I've gained a whole new level of respect for you. I really appreciate what you're trying to do, and the information/opinions you've shared. I totally regret buying that "Tom is not my friend." shirt half a decade ago. It was pretty funny at the time though. MySpace will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks for all you did then, and everything you're still striving for now. It won't go unnoticed.
 
Tom - AGREE. I strongly dislike facebook's 'top news' option. It makes terrible decisions so I always use 'most recent' and filter friends myself. I very much like to control my own experience and, yes, facebook is making this harder. I know that most of my friends use 'top news' without realizing that they have other options...that being said, there are still aspects of facebook I like a lot. I'm happy to use both.
 
Awesome read. I hope someone at Google is watching.
anju s
 
thanks for the article.
PS: i envy your awesome energy!
 
Great article and you definitely have some great points! I think it's very interesting to see the comments from one social network creator on another social network. All your posts are great and hold a ton of value!
 
+Tom Anderson This is bright questioning. My thoughts are that Google, via the various buy-ins throughout the winning years, has brought the social chromosome to its genes. Injecting the human factor in its algorithms has yielded Panda and this has already rocked the ranking process of major sites that rely mostly on understanding basic Google search algorithms.
I also think that Google has learnt from Facebook's capacity at using social search to offer popular services and app integration that seem to respond to users needs and wants.
So I guess that the guys from Mountain View won't go for a 100% algorithm ruled platform. They will need to listen to the billions of streams and tweak in to have the best services available to a demanding niche. They will have to add in that human touch that makes a software really social.
As for Facebook, I do use it, now that G+ is here, more than a general newspaper with feeds from my friends and acquaintances. I expect my professional activity to multiply and expand here. I can't see myself posting my party pix on G+. I'll leave this to FB. And I believe that Quadruple Play Blog-FB-GooglePlus-Twitter is a good base to start a fruitful Social Media presence.
 
Hmmm, still no +1 button on TC. Oh well.
 
+Eric Spring agreed - I was trying not to get into too much detail in the article, but I think your'e right here. The chat window is really disturbing. It makes it seem like no one is even using FB anymore
 
I think that there is probably room for both. Although one could just shift post hogs to another circle.

I wonder which of the different versions of this article (the G+ version or the TechCrunch version (with FB commenting)) will get the most comments?
 
New G+ Rule: If you say you're first and are not, you will be summarily shot. This should reduce the number of dumb-asses on Google+.
 
human powered intelligence + actions is also an algorithm.
 
+Travis Koger there's a chrome extension for it in the web store. but yeah, need to make a petition to MG for a +1 button.
 
Great article. I think you hit the spot
 
Let me have a pure stream, no math or magic genie controlling the info. I am perfectly happy sorting it out with circles. If other options are added on, that's fine, but we should be able to choose whether to use those options.
The point is that we should be in control. Great article Tom!
Hali DJ
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Agreed too. You've gained much newfound respect by reading your posts on here. You give us budding startup entrepreneurs some insight, inspiration and hope. Kudos for paving the way and everything you've done!
 
awesome article. After using google wave I feel like there's a gap in the ability to summarize information. For example on chat/IRC everything is temporary there's not normally a way to go back and check to see what was said let alone the important parts of conversation. Now we see so many conversations where people express opinions and sometimes there's a lot of chitter chatter that should be temporary or hidden by default. In wave there were many times when I felt the need to initiate a chat but the problem is that eventually it would lead to a conclusion that might not have been reached in your standard chat environment. So while I don't want conversations to be completely deleted it is nice to have them hidden at some point. I don't know whether that should be done by an algorithm of some sort or by the user alone. What I do know is that there should always be a marker for a hidden part of conversation. Hiding an entire conversation could be a different story though.

Maybe an algorithm approach would be ok as long as they made a new stream for the "rejected" posts? Not sure what you would call the "stream" like rejects? lol kinda funny but kinda horrible at the same time. I'd say "Outgoing" which might go along with the whole "Incoming" thing... I think maybe it should be optional and by default turned off?
 
Tom thanks for a great read. You really do have an amazing feel for this social networking thing... Who would have thought it... haha
Thanks for making me realize that FB was doing the same with the chat as it's been doing to the news feed... I hadn't put 2 and 2 together there yet...

Keep up the good posts. If you ever have time I'd like to bounce some concepts and ideas I have about a Twitter App that I'm making off you.

Cheers
 
I've read all the articles mentioned in this one and I have to say you articulated the situation very well. I think the early popularity to Google+ is largely due to the fact that it has a refreshing amount of user control, and not buried in settings or painful-to-navigate menus like what is plaguing FaceBook's experience. If they can expand their feature set while maintaining that philosiphy they will have no problem maintaining or growing their presence in social networking. Likewise I feel FB has a chance at this time to learn an important lesson in that sometimes you have to take risk with innovation, such as when they added lists and instead of changing the ui to compliment such a feature they buried it in submenus. It'll be very interesting to see how both companies react and possibly evolve in the next few months.
 
Simply letting us know to what circle a post is sent. And letting us priorities based on circles. Would solve it. I think.
 
@Ben Parker (couldn't tag you because you didn't show up in the list (another fix for G+?!)). I just liked your reference to chat/IRC... unless one kept chatlogs, then as you said, there was only a buffer of a certain size.

I really feel there are a lot of similarities between G+ and IRC, or even other chat clients. Most importantly, I have embraced the concept of meeting new and interesting people that I wouldn't have otherwise met. That concept is still not popular amongst, say, Facebook users... whereas in chat/IRC/etc, it is expected. I feel the same here, and since I have always loved IRC, I am loving it.
 
Great post, +Tom Anderson, but don't you forget that most of people and FB users are not "enjoying being retired", and it's sometimes difficult to "maintain relationships with 100s of people" ?
I do use "most recent" feed when I can, but after a big work day without to be able to check FB, I just need the head lines ;)
 
Well put! I prefer to filter myself, so that I know what I'm missing.
 
Social networking wasn't a winner take all prospect until Google + game along, but now I think that could be a viable endgame for this service.
 
You're quite well versed +Tom Anderson and I hope everyone gets the point I think you're trying to convey in your message. When they switched to recent news feed I was upset that overnight my posts that would get 10-20 comments on them, suddenly went without 1 comment on it. At first I believed it was my content, but luckily someone made me aware of what was going on with news feeds. Shortly thereafter I then had problems with my account being locked down for posting pictures that were being harassed and reported even though they showed nothing more than a girl in a bikini would show. That really frustrated me. To the point where I created a second profile to battle the person that was anonymously bullying me. I don't know if Google+ is going to be able to control that any better than Facebook, and that's why I uploaded a test set of pictures of scantly dressed females at a party we had here in Sacramento a few weeks back. So far I have had no complaints for the pictures and I hope it's because users on G+ are a little more grown up than the people I had on Facebook. But long story short, you have a great point and I hope we can keep up with the technology of fast and informative.
 
+Geeky Sprocket - very good point, but I think FB gave up on lists in favor of "Groups". I posted about that on techcrunch and here a week or so ago.
 
+XVI Ames good point - but since they're not retired, maintaining those ties helps in all kinds of economic opportunism. Definitely understand the needs for "top posts" and agree that for some people, it's probably all they want. They're very thorny issues, and the "right answer" is probably still coming into being :)
 
There's a middle ground here. Google could come up with an algorythm that helps us organize circles while simultaneously giving us more control over how individual circles show up on the feed.
 
Adam Krause : Yes you should be able to mention strangers that would be pretty nice lol... I think I just want some sort of meaningful hybrid between IRC and forum. At first I thought Google Wave was what I was looking for if only it wasn't so awkward to use. I'm looking for something instant yet with something that people can go back to--a conclusion, reference or something learned. Whether I find something like that and it happens on a social network or not doesn't really matter to me. I feel like G+ brings out a new level of depth however I don't feel like G+ is a place where you can very easily look back and see where you've come from.
 
I think we need public circles... not sure what you'd call them... groups, "rings" lol, or something else.. (basically public circle would mean you or anyone in the circle can post to the circle maybe certain or all users would be able to add/remove members)
 
Very well written article -- one I've been hoping would pop up so I could share it with others. Thanks for being such a presence on Google+.
 
Great post on Google+ vs. Facebook! It's not a battle - it's a move towards the evolution of "social media."
 
Tom advertising is only a smart part of what killed MySpace. I honestly never even really noticed the advertising ie: it became background noise whenever I used MySpace.

I will give you an example of what killed MySpace. I will never forget checking my email one day and reading "Sarah has sent you a message log in to read it". I couldn't even read the message, I had to log in. I log in and instead of it being my best friend Sarah who I thought was emailing me to tell me that she finally opened a MySpace account, it was actually from some stripper trying to promote their new XXX site.

I would get bombarded with emails from "people" telling me how I can make 6 figures working from my home, as well as sleazy people promoting their XXX sites, and friend requests from bands that I could care less about.

The other problem was listing to quiet acoustic guitar music only to click on somebody's page and there techno music was so loud I had to immediately hit the back button on my browser, find the mute button, and then go back to their page.

This is what killed MySpace. If everybody's friends were on it they would have put up with the advertising.

What killed it was that it was a horrible user experience and it did not keep up with the times.
 
+Tom Anderson I have just added you to my Genius Bread Circle. Genius Bread Einstein TV ad great post. Perhaps They need to make a video and teach people how to manage the stream using circles if it gets too big for people with followers/following therefore avoiding algorithms.
 
Spewing a few thoughts before bed or I don't think I will be able to sleep. Some good comments already. I'm definitely looking for more control and maybe Google could create an algorithm that enables that. I 100% agree though I don't want Google randomly deciding what to put in my stream and what not to put in my stream.

There have been quite a few suggestions that I would love to see:
Circle Check-boxes for your Stream : Instead of everything vs a single circle allow multiple selections.
Different ordering options : Or simply the ability to turn off comment bumping.
Searching : Some real-time searching/filter options beyond Circles would be incredible. Topics, types of posts, etc...

Would also be nice to include date filtering. Allow us to select time-frames and do real-time updates to the stream based on our date choices. Some kind of summary view at the top of the stream could help (with profile pictures of everyone with a post in your stream - clicking jumps to their post.)

Abbreviated stream views (ability to collapse your stream into one line messages - John Doe posted a public message at 7:00 PM, with multiple levels of expanding.) Seems like there is a lot Google could do. I for one am hoping for more control, not less.
Mr A
 
Well, I was able to disable "Most Recent" but other FB users obviously did not realize and posting on my status to let them know made no sense. Instead, I found myself commenting, liking, and sharing on whoever I see to trick their algorithm into getting my name on their feed. Either way, FB users have started to notice the same ppl over and over that most became suspicious. Or was it a side effect since the FB algorithm seemed to promote socialization? ...more like forced interaction.
On the other hand, its not a bad idea FB is doing cuz a lot ppl just like to post often without giving a shyt abt other ppl's post. That's where the algorithms comes in, no? 
 
+Tom Anderson, Any comment on people like Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis leaving over management of large numbers of encirclers? (That sounds like a term that's bound to take off). Right now G+ seems to aspire to social - aware information management, which fits in with its mission statement and aspirations. On the other hand, once its APIs are opened up, it could change the dynamic entirely. How does one even plan for that impact?
 
There is no doubt that Google is driven by algorithms and engineering. But they are also smart enough to know when algorithms are not the solution to everything esp. social. They learnt that from Wave and Buzz as well. And it certainly appears that they are taking a different, non-algorithmic approach to G+. For starters, they are actively listening to their users. You can follow and interact with the entire Google+ product team right here starting with Vic Gundotra, and every other senior Google executive. When was the last time you saw Mark Zuckerberg or Ev Williams engage with you, talk to you, listen to you, ask for your comments/feedback/suggestions about their social network? (Well Ev, a bit on Twitter). Now that is real human, social interaction at work - not algorithms.

This is not only unique but a huge competitive advantage for Google. Ultimately, Google+ is empowering its users - not just by giving them better control of so many things that matter to them (privacy, granular sharing), but by working with them to create a product that incorporates their feedback in an open, transparent fashion. They are using social networking to build a better social networking product. You can't get more social than that!
 
Great article Tom! I have to agree that you are slap in the face right on. Btw, you are by far providing me with the most useful, interesting, and thoughtful feeds on Google+ :)
 
Great post Tom... Have you received any feedback from this post from any google engineers?
 
Hi! anyone know how to do this, set an option to MUTE stream for some of your CIRCLE or change the sharing permission "Public" to "Limited" or the opposite for some of your post that has been published
 
Great post! I really hate that facebook algorithm... I don't have that many friends so there is no information overload, but still there are some people who's posts I never see... very annoying I find... Good for G+ leaving it to us to decide what we see.
 
Completely agree with Sam. I actually was not aware I could still sort my lists via the "most recent" tab. Thanks, Tom! Tom -- in it's day, MySpace was pretty great. My kids loved it. Thanks for developing it.
 
thanks, now I know the "reason" why nobody comment my FB status anymore :(
 
The friends lists on facebook didn't get traction because facebook makes it too difficult to group people into lists. They should put on the friend's profile page, in a way that the user can only see, "Add Friend to list" and then have a drop-down menu. Instead, you can only put your friend in a list when they first friend you (what if you don't know them well enough at first to pigeon-hole them?), and then again if you click your friends lists and then a bunch of other steps -- too much work! Facebook should go back to friend's lists and make them more user-friendly.
 
For me dealing with FB friend lists and G+ circles is pretty much the same, except the interface on G+ looks nicer. Actually, FB is better in that it allows to exclude and not only include when posting. For less personal relationships groups and pages don't do such a bad job, and I like how they 'keep things in one place' for me. Both need ways to find things again, when needed, though.
 
Agreed. I use the little lock feature on my status posts all the time on fb.
 
Good post, Tom. And totally in line with why I think that Google (and other tech companies) should employ way more social scientists, psychologists, and arts people than they do now. If you look through the job postings, it's either geeks or sales/ marketing people they are looking for. If they want to survive in the long run, however, they need us.
 
Good points.. Actually it seems it is all about who controls what, and who wants to control what.

Human mind works better than any algorithm because humans all have different personalities and needs and motives. Of course level of intellectual power is also not same for all mankind. These being said, humans also prefer to do less to get more; everybody has a level of laziness. Some prefer to control more themselves, and some prefer to leave the control to others.

G+, as opposed to FB, for now, seems to be for the guys who like to control more. This is only natural as we are all the earliest adopters.

We will see what will happen when more mainstream people join G+. In the longer run, most probably, G+ will become another FB with the games and the ads, and all the clutter. (The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of an isolated system always increases.)

Then some people will move on, just like moving our homes away from the old-tired neighborhood to another one to our liking.
 
+Tom Anderson I loved your article. Very deep analysis indeed. I actually started using friends lists since the feature came out, and it's as useful and flexible as G+ circles. Despite everything I don't know if Facebook can survive with G+ especially if it won't include an improved video chat feature(as I understand, Facebook algorithms do not support such feature), but also the integration of G+ with Google services which I think most users love G+ because of it. If G+ kills Facebook(and eventually Twitter and Skype) and takes control, I don't believe we can urge it to give us control, they will do whatever they want to do and we must then share and interact with others with their rules. I am not saying it's bad or good(maybe it's good for us) but I'm just saying that G+ does not know stuff kinda like "Please give us control Google".
 
I really appreciated this article. I'd already noticed the way EdgeRank was working in Facebook, although I had no idea how or why. When I log into Facebbok in the morning, the 'top posts' very rarely contain who or what I want to see, so their algorithm doesn't seem to work very well. Another aspect I noticed is that if I post 2 or 3 consecutive photographs; maybe because they tell some kind of story, the only one my friends see is the last one, making any message I may want to convey pretty pointless. So now I post them in reverse order, stated there are more following, and they can go to my wall for them. I DON'T want G+ to get llike that :(
 
agreed/!,i got two facebook profiles,one for the family and other for friends!,
 
The fact that I get 80% of my quality G+ info from "that myspace dude" is all kinds of hilarious. I read that other article on the Facebook Algorithm-based automated culling, and in addition, thank you for the tip on the viewing most recent, to ensure you are getting your complete feed.

I'm a grown up, and I can decide for myself who I want to block from my feeds. G+ opting for user-based spam controls is obviously a step in the right direction.
 
Glad to see a lot of Facebooker's here. It's cool that people are learning how to use those FB tools better. If more people use them, FB will head towards more control as well.
 
Tom, I get to where I look forward to your posts here and on TechCrunch. Keep it up!
 
And a Myspace user before that, to boot! check out the awesome fail: http://www.myspace.com/kungfucolin (but really don't bother to send it any messages I never log in, which is I suppose the most awesomely ironic part of this conversation.)
 
Great articulate and interesting post Tom. FB algorithm is a fail.
On G+ I would like to mute a crcle...... anyone?
 
I think rather than filtering the feeds we need options to organize them in more intuitive ways that each person can tweak to his/her liking. Weight to certain circles, or categories would be helpful. Great post though Tom some things I hope the guys/gals at Google are listening to as it may make or break the service as you said.
 
Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. Just an aside, Myspace was brilliant when it was brilliant. As for now, I'm hoping that the competition between Google Plus and Facebook will make both evolve, change, react, and improve the user experience. Time will tell.
 
+Tom Anderson That was really great to read. I really appreciate you taking the time to educate me about the algorithms and other issues behind social media, which I had been ignorant of.

Since the search algorithm is the one thing that makes Google a ton of money (that you can put your finger on) it would seem likely that they won't be able to resist the temptation to use it here.

I look forward to your further posts. (I'm ashamed that I used to think you were some guy who just friended everybody on MySpace!)
 
I like your observations of the social network arena, and I actually really dig that you're trying to help by sharing your ideas—as it's clear they're sharp, and accurate.

I'm hoping Google+ can maintain (or of course improve upon) it's momentum; I know it's oversimplifying, but they've wonderfully managed to mix a lot of the best of Facebook and Twitter. I want to keep using it!
 
Good article. ad. MySpace: I was just writing this to my music circle: it seems unbelievable how MySpace could blow it to be "the place" for musicians. Because for a certain time it really was, many many musicians were there, and the promoters were used to going there to check out a band. The html mess aside, lots of the old-school music-biz people found it easier to go to MySpace, where they at least sort of knew where what was - player, basic info, pics. They really preferred MySpace to the native websites (based on anecdotal evidence). Now there is tons of websites for music (Reverbnation, Bandcamp, etc. etc.), but I don't think any of them will ever be as big as MySpace was. For me it is really hard to understand that a network, which basically became synonymous with music could fail this fast.
 
+Ben Parker Looking back is especially difficult if you write a lot of comments, since none of them appear anywhere in your profile posts. The only reminder of past comments I can see is the annoying constant stream of notifications every time someone adds a new comment to a post under your previous comment - even if the new comment has no mention of you. I really can't figure out how G+ can fail to index all of those comments with my name clearly attached to the front.
 
I don't see why Google can't follow a middle path: let the engineers develop a number of interesting and intelligent algorithms for sorting/filtering the stream; provide users with a list of those algorithms with descriptions on how they're intended to work; and let us try them out from a selection list, play with them, and see what works for us - or go back to most recent or some other simpler sort. Machine intelligence and user control!
 
+Tom Anderson Everybody wants something different and I think everybody should get it. Such an approach by Google would really put the "plus" in G+. And it's easy to achieve: just let 3rd party developers build stream management tools "on site" (as opposed to reading the stream in some website via an API). Algorithms are here to help us and there's no way to avoid them: when this thing goes public with hundreds of millions users I will be glad to have some help with my stream and, for that matter, my circles.
 
I think Tom works for google now, pays better and better algorithm's lol. :P
 
With TC's redesign I really appreciate you putting it here. Nice article btw
 
The problem is that "good for the user" doesn't necessarily mean "good for the network". Maybe users are "hurt" by Fb algorithm, but as long as they don't care enough, maybe this is the best Fb can do: Give the user the feeling to stay in touch with all his acquaintances while actually curating a very limited "second social graph" on top of the user curated one to reduce noise.
 
This paragraph says it all for me:

"More importantly, will Google use their nearly unmatched strengths (understanding of human language and machine learning) to create features we've never seen before--imagine if G+ could determine the semantic nature of a post, categorize it, and let users follow a subset of topics from a user, instead of an entire feed: (e.g. follow Tom's posts about Google+ and Apple, but not his silly .GIFs). "

There are scripts available now that allow me to mute a user because of all the damn GIF's but occasionally +Chris Pirillo does post some interesting stuff, so I've created a Circle called NOISY an dropped him in there. I then use the chrome script to MUTE him in the stream, Problem is, it mutes him even in the NOISY feed. Great concept, but still buggy.

Google could fix this rather easily I feel by giving us the control your article discusses.

Great Article, Tom, thanks. Hopefully someone is listening.
 
Tom, you're an excellent, engaging writer! I'm so glad you've chosen to "retire" by nerding out on G+ with loquacious (and insightful) posts...when you could be sipping Piña Coladas with supermodels on a postcard-perfect beach in the Caribbean. Well, I hope you do that too...
 
I was expecting G+ to kill Blogstalk, but the opposite seems to have happened, despite significant functional similarities. It seems that finding more ways to interact with the same people reinforces the social bonds and increases the desire for further interaction with those same people regardless of the medium of interaction.

With regard to the filtering, I definitely agree that users should be allowed to do it. It's very disconcerting to miss some posts from my friends. That is the absolute worst aspect of Facebook. I consider it far worse than the privacy issues, because I just never post anything on there that I wouldn't want the general public to see. The main stream on G+ has already started to create similar problems, although not via filtering. During my first few days on G+, the stream was chronological by post time. It now seems to be chronological by last comment. This can result in posts being easily missed. I don't want to miss anything. Obviously, I can't read everything, but I can skim and choose what I want to read in depth.
 
Ever since the pundits (those who need to be filtered) began to squawk that Google+ needed to fix their noise problem I've been concerned of the algorithmic approach. I like the mechanisms provided, my noise problem never existed - I knew who would source the noisiest streams and had them isolated as they were being added.

I prefer the control that Circles provides, I prefer to do it my way.

There is definitely room for Google to step up its semantic capabilities, its a recognized gap in an otherwise blissful social experience. Placing context between human and topic will greatly improve our time spent here, what we can learn and participate in. However this could become another algorithmic approach that doesn't quite work if the rules are entirely machine generated. When presented with dynamic content, let me know why the machine thinks I wanted it, let me tailor the machine's interpretation of who I am.

I have no doubt of Google's talent, but I have more confidence in myself to craft my own rules and system for rich content. Let's partner up Google, don't take it all upon yourself.
 
Good to see you arguing against the bloody "x as y killer" terminology that haunts much tech-press coverage of these kinds of site.
 
How about having 3 panes for a News-feed instead of 1 long one?

(i.e. 3 vertical or horizontal scrollable/re-sizable/collapsible boxes--instead of 1 long feed)

1st Pane -- Most Important Feeds (family/best friends/boss)
2nd Pane -- News Feeds (companies/agencies/co-workers)
3rd Pane -- ALL FEEDS (real-time update/customizable)

--Each pane can be moved, minimized, and restored into position..
--All panes are also search-able!

Instead of figuring out what users want in their feed--give them control over it! :)
 
Tom - I agree for the most part. The downside to groups/lists on Facebook is you can't have a friend or user be part of multiple groups and the filter is up above instead of on the left column under your profile picture on Facebook.

It's not very intuitive how the Facebook filter works and I much more prefer the G+ method of sorting streams. I would love to see FB take the approach that G+ has with the stream filters and let people know they can easily filter by putting their groups of friends on the left column.

It's very easy to manipulate the EdgeRank on Facebook and as a business page owner on Facebook, I can essentially trick Facebook into thinking my posts are important to people and have it show in the top news almost all the time.
 
nice, but people wanting more control over feeds, tend to be power users. I tend to think the vast majority of users just want instant solutions
 
Look at Google Reader. It has three modes for any given stream. "Sort by newest," "sort by oldest," and "sort by magic." I hope g+ follows this model.
 
No time 2 read all right now, but my 2c:

Something that I believe they can nail is creating a platform where circles/streams can be weighted and shared by users and therein will lie the secret to having your feeds filtered more intelligently with least effort.
 
+Tom Anderson I think Google should implement a combination of algorithm and usability improvements that let us set default views for circles. For example, I want my friends/family circle to show all posts chronologically, I want my tech strangers circle to show just posts on (tech), and I want my co-workers circle to show only limited posts. I've written more about this idea here [http://blog.ericachampion.com/2011/07/how-google-should-be-improved.html]. The most important thing is that it takes almost no effort for the user. (Tags and filtering are not easy enough.)
 
Tom, I disagree that Lists is the functional equivalent of Circles. Every Facebook relationship is based on mutual acknowledgement. I cannot create a list
of people who are not my friends, which I can do on Google+. This makes it a completely different environment. 
 
Tom ! You are da man so real and so to the point we need more direct people like you in the social network game !
 
Google should open up an API and let third parties provide filtering/searching of the streams as a value added service - so users can fine tune their own stream experiences. Some may prefer manual tuning, some may prefer keyword affinity or user data affinity, GIS or some other clever algorithm not yet thought of by Google.
 
well i have been reading all the articles about google+ being the facebook killer.I do not believe so especially after going through vincent wong's presentation mentioning the red sea and the blue sea, i believe in google is giving users something new its not facebook, twitter or any other social site its just something else, considering the track of events:

Android
Android ADK
Signing up with major companies like panasonic, hyundai, GE etc.
Chrome book
Google+

(i totally believe they are going to somehow merge all its technologies and make life more interesting, and i like to call it google-ization)
i think google won't let us down, after observing the success of android they wouldn't take away the power from the user, i sure hope so.

as far as third API's are concerned i think google might working on more features to add before giving way to 3rd party applications or they might just want to do that now.

PS: this is just my view
 
mind blowing... lots of evidence with great flow of logic... just what can be expected from a pro writer...
 
This is a good article. Totally agree that FB's algorithm is the worst part of the experience there. I always read recent news unfiltered. I do hope that Google puts control in users' hands. I find myself deleting folks from circles vs. being able to "banish" their updates to a specific circle or to rate "less or more" updates from users. I'd be interested in putting that time into it to make it relevant.
 
what a great read. good work
AJ Kohn
 
Interesting but I'd argue that unless the control over managing those relationships is easy, then the algorithmic approach is likely better in the long-term.

Configuration and curation of friends is not something mirrored in the real world. In fact, the discontinuation of friendships, where you simply drift apart and see and talk to that person less and less is actually fairly well reflected in Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm.

It's still pretty raw, but I can see a real future to it - as long as I'm always able to see all my updates and 'rescue' friendships through interaction.
 
The issue of stream filtering also applies to comments. On this post, as on many good posts on G+, the number of comments are in the three digits. Some are part of a conversation - others are more of the "thumbs up!" or "great read!" variety. Again there is the tradeoff against simplicity for non-power users, but I miss some kind of Reddit-style threading of comments and voting up of the insightful comments (and posts, for that matter) so that they rise to the top of my stream. The way it is now, I often don´t open the "whole" list of comments because too many of them add little - and even if you read them, following questions and responses is harder than it needs to be.

Even a +1 option on comments could help :)
 
Tom this is a great point. I think that google should not lean to heavily on Algorithms in this case, when they have in some ways structured something that does not to rely on them heavily. The point being is they need to preserve the human interactive elements.
Circles for example. I think letting users prioritize circles effects on thier stream should be a manual process. Creating a priority order to me is something that can be highly beneficial for the stream, rather than having an alogrithm do the work. The point being is a human is determining the importance, but an algorithm is doing the work to reflect that input.
I think leaning to heavily for example on arbetrary factors is what can lead to problems. You handed people a tool to prioritize. Don't make guesses or refine alogrithms, refine that tool itself. Just my opinion.
 
If the results of the "Nearby" page in the mobile app are any indication, I would say that there's no way G+'s algorithims would be ready for prime time.
 
You are right about the newsfeed censoring. A business puts up a facebook page and spends money to get more likes but if EdgeRank censors those posts, then it would have been for nothing.
 
Another interesting, insightful, and well-researched post. IMO, the "semantic scanning" of posts is one of the most important things G+ needs - either that, or allowing users to "tag" posts, so that their followers can enact the filtering themselves. As I read somewhere recently (quite possibly from you!), "I want to hear Sergey Brin's opinions about social networking, but I don't want to see his holiday pictures".
 
You were suggested as a "must follow" by a friend when I first joined...and he was totally right. Really appreciate all of the work you're putting into your research and writing!
 
I agree and I hope to have more control over what I see and what others see. That is why I joined G+. You just can't interact on Facebook in the same manner. The only reason I continue to use Facebook is my friend list. I think FB knows they have this power over other networks. Almost everyone you know or have known is on Facebook.

One of my favorite sites out there for connecting is Tumblr. I don't know anyone that I follow. I connect in more ways. You're not afraid to share an idea or a picture you love. I post more of me on Tumblr and I find myself doing that on G+. I hope that any changes they could make still leave me with that feeling. 
 
The problem with FB's Most Recent is if I'm not mistaken it only shows 250 friends.
 
Simple answer: instead of showing users the entire stream, give them the option to show a Circle by default. That way people can have a totally personalized stream, whilst still having the option to see everything.
 
Still looking forward to your "take" on what happened with MySpace at greater length, and appreciate your nod to it in this article. You might be expected to submit that neither MySpace killed Friendster nor Facebook killed MySpace -- and that's too simplistic, but, boiled down -- they did have that effect.

I booked Tila Tequila on a talk show (her first, I believe) back in 2006 as I had been paying attention to what she was accomplishing with social media -- she was probably the first to exploit it so well for self-promotion and did it wonderfully well (nevermind what she did in the following years!). My assessment is that she had a heck of a lot to do with MySpace surpassing Friendster -- she made the multitudes really aware that these things CAN be used to expand your social circle and didn't have to reflect "just those ten people you care about." I don't know what others would say about this, but I saw the clear impact. I had eight friends on Friendster. No one seemed to know what to do with it, and it was boring. On MySpace, that world widened significantly.

MySpace became tremendously frustrating though. Absolutely no customer service there! Something grievous happens, you look for help, a bot writes back telling you how to add a video to your page. Blah. The service was fun though -- since it had become accepted to "friend" people you didn't know, it was great to sift through profiles looking for them. But the noise from spam, too much promotion, scammers -- people loading up pages with computer-gobbing crap -- and then, introducing the ability to privatize pages -- made it much less fun. If every other profile you wanted to look at was private, it dampened the fun of even trying. There should have been some dis-incentive to keep people from wanting to do that -- it is, after all, a social network!

Then it seemed that Facebook came along and provided an answer to people either frustrated with MySpace, or who wouldn't ever touch it to begin with. A clean, uniform layout. Ads tucked neatly to the side. And it seemed a better "place for REAL friends" with some leeway to also add new people, but without folks doing it like crazy (thus, probably the 5,000-friend limit). It was free of news stories about decadence and pedophiles dominating the space -- and it felt like something you could show your mom. But, their space is showing signs of crumbling too; no real access to customer service; it seems like it's trying to "dominate and invade," and it's becoming less fun to exist there with so much irrelevant noise, too.

So Twitter comes along and provides a neat "supplement," not so based on "friending." It took a while for people to figure that out, and many like the simple sharing aspect. Twitter wasn't an "anything killer" at all.

And now we have Google Plus. It suits the same kind of need for sharing as Twitter, but might not draw users who like Twitter's text limit and don't need "too much sharing." It allows a better format to express, like a more social blog, which is appealing -- this never caught on so well with MySpace nor Facebook. It seems to try to keep things simple, like Facebook did. Right now, it feels like a "bigger Twitter" with a healthy Facebook injection.

Twitter, and now G+, seem best suited for people who want to share, especially to a faceless audience as though one is onstage. For instance, I'd never find the desire to write this for Facebook where my audience would be friends, acquaintances, family and high school chums. But, this type of service only serves people who HAVE an interested audience -- which most people won't. They become lopsided with the weight favoring those who do, while the rest of us are "tweeting to the wind." The world pays attention once the media latches on, usually reporting on what celebrities say on these sites, and the growth is from people who mostly come to see it for themselves; basically "listeners."

So, is it social? Yes and no. It's interactive and you can meet people. But it also becomes futile in many ways, if you're sharing and no one is really listening... which is how the experience will be for the majority of users. Will Google+ be a "place for friends" then? It's hard to say. The way it's setting itself up, it could be -- but these early days of mostly techie types dominating the landscape could alienate potential casual "social media" users. An influx of celebrities will attract the "Twitter listeners." The key to longevity and it becoming a useful "utility" for people will be to perhaps try to shape it mostly for the casual internet citizen. It will be interesting to see if that can be accomplished.
 
Really the comment above is bigger than tom's post ..Lmao
 
Tom, you're a brilliant mind; it makes me wonder if you should've stayed on at My___/ after they were bought by the Australian.
 
I'm glad you brought this up, because I've also noticed this disconnect on Facebook.
 
I agree with your observations about Facebook's algorithms making the FB experience les and less and how it feels like you are continually ceding control to them (as if you really ever had any). I agree there is some noise in G+ right now, but I'm hoping a little de-duplication will be all it takes and perhaps getting some sub-circles to allow for more rational relationship management.

Thanks for the post, Tom. I'll be watching your updates.
 
+Tom Anderson yet another powerful post. "TopNews" contributed to me moving almost entirely to G+. i primarily use the Android mobile app for FB. The default, and uncorrectable, position of "topNews" results at boot makes it very uncomfortable and awkward. Yes, i know you can select "recent" manually each time, but little things like that turn people off. I prefer the crispness of G+. I just hope they don't follow the path of FB. It would be a serious misstep
 
#FoodForThought #Strong Ties #Weak Ties #Facebook

+Eric Spring I agree with both your points, and I’m curious as to how they determine who you’re most active w/ on FB; my list seems to change randomly w/ a mix of people both online and off, about ½ are people I've either rarely if ever interacted w/, or the relationship is heavily skewed one way (person “likes” my posts often, but not I their's - there is little interaction in the way of actual communication). Some of the people I’m most likely to chat w/ are those I don’t actually interact with that often on FB, because I do so in other ways (texting, email, etc.).

Further, as +Tom Anderson mentioned (kudos on the article, Tom), Social Networking Sites (SNSs) don’t benefit the maintenance of “strong ties” (aka Bonding Social Capital) as much as they do “weak ties” (Bridging Social Capital) or “latent ties” (those ties that could become “weak ties” between individuals you’ve recently met, such as in a class, a new job, etc.).

We have other methods of maintaining our strong ties beyond SNSs – such as calling, texting, or emailing them. The main effect SNSs have is the maintenance of “weak ties,” which this new chat feature, among others on FB, have really worked to quell. The benefits from weak ties are generally derived from gaining novel information, new perspectives, advice/recommendations and sometimes job networking. This seems less possible when both your FB feed and chat restricts the content provided by these individuals.

Lastly, I wonder if this new chat feature is meant to be geared towards increasing one’s interaction and maintenance of those “strong ties.” What I mean by this is, w/ FB’s new integration with Skype tech, who would you be most likely to Video chat w/ on FB, but those “strong ties”? On G+, I feel like the Hangout feature overcomes the awkwardness of 1-on-1 chat w/ weak ties; FB’s seems more geared towards interaction with those you’re closer to.

(Edit) #FurtherReading - If anyone is interested in academic articles looking at these types of issues, check out work by Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe. GScholar Link to their work: http://bit.ly/o0nef9
 
+Gian Carlo M -- I've been reading In the Plex. More convinced the Google singularity is coming :)
 
+Tom Anderson Isn't it the other way around? On FB, "Most Recent" seems to chronologically filter post by those people FB thinks you interact with the most, while "Top News" shows you posts by everyone on your friends list based on what's generating the most buzz.
 
I agree 100% Tom. I've been chatting with my tech buddies lately about how the interaction on Facebook has dropped significantly and I'm getting people in my feed that are more acquaintances than friends. Of course, it was my choosing to allow over 2000 people in my network, but I really do know (or have met) most of them). Regardless, I'm +Bradley Horowitz on this (in case he already hasn't) because he's "the man" and does listen to user feedback.
 
+AJ Kohn Good to hear from someone who FB's EdgeRank is working for. As an example for me, I posted a link to my TechCrunch story to my 400 FB friends over 12 hours ago-- so far I've got 2 comments and 3 likes. None of them are from people I know particularly well. One I just met at a conference and added me on FB a week ago. Maybe I bore the heck out of my close friends, but for me it seems like EdgeRank really isn't working the way it was intended right now.
AJ Kohn
+
1
2
1
 
+Tom Anderson I'd agree that EdgeRank isn't working as intended right now. I think it's a work in progress. However, I believe that the reason behind it and the goal are admirable.

Too many people participated in 'over-friending' and 'over-liking', so the feed became this crazy pastiche of random high school friends, family, good buddies, brands you liked to get a coupon, sites you liked because your colleague asked you to etc. etc.

That type of behavior is ... sadly, a bit of human nature. Yet, people don't seem to want to take the time to go back and undo those things (nor is that 'nice' in some instances) so what are you left to do as a platform?

If your users aren't going to do it, you need to do it for them - or help them do it. Because one way or the other, they'll blame the platform for the noise problem, not their own behavior!

I think EdgeRank is in its infancy but I like the idea that it is working to curate the best of your relationships - it's akin to my6sense (paging +Louis Gray), XYDO and KnowAboutIt - all trying to solve the relevancy problem with content based on your social graph.

What I'd love to see someone do (G+ or Facebook) is to merge the algorithmic with transparent curation. The filter bubble isn't the problem, it's the lack of transparency that the filter is in place.
 
+AJ Kohn +Tom Anderson I hear you and I liked the post. I am considering a response to Tom. There is a good way to do this. The way Facebook has done it is not good at all.
 
"imagine if G+ could determine the semantic nature of a post, categorize it, and let users follow a subset of topics from a user, instead of an entire feed: (e.g. follow Tom's posts about Google+ and Apple, but not his silly .GIFs)"

An incredible thought...
 
Great post, like the communication control with circles and ease to do so on G+. It puts the filtering of messages in the hands of the individual, but not just on one end either - on both ends. Plus (pun intenteded) you can communicate specific information to specific audiences without the inevitable friend or family offended because your privacy settings are exclusive. Facebook groups had this intention, but not effectively putting it in the hands of both the sender and receiver of information.
 
Good post! +Mike Montealegre good idea to divide the stream! the best way is that every one can define that with a simple way!
 
Honestly, there's no way 'social' is in G+'s DNA - there doesn't have a place listed anywhere that says this is inclusively a social networking site. It's just all the cool tools without all the lame ads and all the 'people you don't know' ... and invites to Mafia Wars.
 
All I want is to be able to view my stream chronologically.
 
Facebook used to be such an amazing and helpful tool. The old version of groups was incredible...for instance, if I was ever feeling particularly in the mood to read about or talk with people in a certain group, I didn't have to worry about getting email blasts for every single thought that someone had. I cannot tell you how many groups I have left since the upgrade. Similarly, I'm not looking too forward to the emails I will get from commenting on this and often won't post on a really popular person's post because of that. G+ needs an opt in/out for comments.

I was crazy about MySpace and Facebook for a long time, but the things with both that pushed me away were all the noise and clutter. "Check out who views your profile!" "Hey, I'm some band you've never heard of! Come see my show tonight that's 2000 miles away!" "Hey look...1000 people think this is stupid. Pass it on so I know you are my true friend!!!"

I like G+ right now because it is a clean slate. But is it just a matter of time before it's full of junk too? Is it more the people who make up the network that kill something than it is the developers? I'm inclined to think it is, but it's not 100% the users' fault. Where is a good Facebook app? I am testing a Motorola XOOM and couldn't find one for it that was half as useful and pretty as the G+ app.

I hope this translates well...I can type as I think, but this hunting for letters on a tablet is a different story. :-) 
 
I read all of these posts to The Social Network soundtrack... it's very fitting.
 
the old facebook search feature was excellent! the one that let you sort by major, college, etc.
 
I am 100% in agreement with regard to FB algorithm that displays feeds. I also use Most Recent. Another problem I find depends on the volume of posts and the number of people I (want to) follow. FB does not make it easy to browse/scan through a large number of updates. I think G+ will do a better job simply from its experience with search results. Back to the DNA you mentioned.

I am not sure about your verdict on social networking being a multi-player universe. Imagine telephone networks, if phone companies make it difficult for its subscribers to talk to other company subscribers, we will have what we have in social media right now. What made phones universal? It was not smart company decisions or altruism. It was mandated by government regulation. As long as each social media is a pond in an ocean of users, I think there will be only one ultimate winner, and G+ appears to be the only pond big enough to hold everyone. FB and Friendster and MySpace had trouble keeping up with its expanding universe. You'd know better so I don't presume to know the truth here. In my humble opinion, I think the surge of expanding market killed the predecessors and is killing FB. Without adequate resources (including capable management), what was good had all the "cut corners" and weaknesses exposed. All 'em privacy issues with FB were not important when most FB users were people who WANTED to find their friends and their friends to find them, who ONLY want their good and close friends on their friend list. When more and more people want to use FB for REAL social interactions that include not only gossip and meet-up, the privacy issue, and the friend list structure becomes a problem. FB had to evolve to keep up, and it didn't or couldn't for whatever reason, so it opened a window of opportunity for Google and G+ marched right in. Thank you very much Mark.

I am glad you are sharing your thoughts on this, Tom. I really appreciate your being friends to millions.
 
Tom you contiune to +1 the collective intellect of g+ with your educational and relevant post! Even the *.gif's
 
+Jessica Wallin I think that's very true -- networks get noisier over time, and then it's easier to reset with a new system. That's why this "signal to noise" issue is so critical for G+ and why I'm hoping they work on control & algorithm issues. Right now it might make sense to pop everything to the top of the stream when someone comments because the userbase is small. It creates a lot of engagement early on. Later, when the average user is following a lot of people, this unchangeable setting may be a nightmare.
 
I hate the Facebook algorithm! Did you know the "Most Recent" button on your News Feed also filters out posts? To stop it from doing that, you have to click it again and select "Edit Options" and then choose the option to have it show everything. So, unless all your friends do the same thing, many of them may not ever see your posts unless they actually view your wall.
 
About Social Networking being a multiplayer field: StatusNet and Diaspora are doing a lot of work there. Now just hope that Google+ will hook in...
 
+Tom Anderson Facebook made the mistake of thinking its users were not smart enough to control their feeds and options, google did not. It has given the user a lot of control over this and this along with the simple interface are features that stand out for me. Ive shown these options and user interface to various people and they were surprised at how simple it was. Tried to do the same with facebook lists and news feeds and would completely "lose my audience".
Ive reached a point where i use facebook for the same reasons you mention, to keep up to date with former coworkers and friends that are in different countries, but facebook's choices over what I see and the way the majority of people have ended up using facebook has made me despise it wholeheartedly. i used to say "Use Facebook as a tool, don't become a tool for Facebook" ...now I just say "Use Google+ instead"
 
That was an amazingly written article. I'll admit, when everyone first started going nuts because of your presence I really didn't think anything of it. Nor did I attempt to see what you were posting. I didn't care.

But this article changed everything. It honestly made me love you, but I'm word and essayist geek, and this was seriously well done. [Ok I'll stop, I'm repeating myself now.]

So I'll stop with: Welcome Back to the world of Tech Relevancy +Tom Anderson ... We didn't realize how much we missed our First Friend
 
Spot on! I would love to see some more controls added to the stream, and a step away from algorithm driven feeds. Searches and filters cater better to what the expected G+ demographic will want, as well. The stream could use negative selection, ie: I can select what circles I want to read, but I can't select out circles from my stream. Searches are a given.
As for categorizing post topics, I think a tagging system that consolidates customization with commonality and that is specially integrated into the search function would work very well.

Thanks for your provocative post, Tom.
 
what's up with these al gore rhythms I always hear about? does this have something to do with global warming? I know the heat from all those servers has to go somewhere.
 
+Tom Anderson Beautiful post, not much to add. Primarily two great points I support 1. "It's not a zero sum game", it does not have to be Facebook vs Google+ vs Twitter vs Anyone else. 2. Transparency, transparency, transparency...what more can I say, users want/need to know what they can and can't do and they do need to be educated, and guided and mentored. Absolutely! Thanks +Tom Anderson
 
Tom, for being retired, you have been doing a lot of writing lately. Great work! Keep it up, I think the original Myspace was great, back when your innovation was the driving force behind it, before all other parties got involved.
 
I think the algorithm has already happened. i was seeing your post from a few days ago up top. unless it was a cache bug. Likely since Google and Firefox are such good friends.
 
I totally agree with you about the sharing control , in fact that was the first thing I noticed as a "+1" for google against Facebook, we like to share stuff with friends , but not everything with everyone . facebook made a solution to this issue with the "closed group" option , but its not that easy and smooth to access like the circles in G+ , For the good reason that the circles are in the major action in G+ not an option like the groups in Facebook . Thanks for the article ;)



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+Jason Paul No, that's just a bug/feature that Tom noted a few days ago (http://bit.ly/r5ZyA2) - anytime somebody comments on a photo-post that you've also commented on, it gets bumped to the top of your stream. I anticipate there will be an on/off switch for that soon, if it's not removed entirely.
How Ah
 
Excellent thought provoking post Tom!

I agree with several of your points. The social networking game is most definitely not a zero sum game contrary to the beliefs of many (including those playing the game). I believe that several social networks can exist harmoniously through healthy competition, collaboration and each defining their niche. Unfortunately, most social networks (as well as other products) get lost in the "catching up" game that they forget to be innovative. Though such games are competitive, there's little innovation, and hardly any collaboration between companies to such a large extent that it creates an unhealthy environment that equates to a zero sum game (one company triumphs, while the rest lose).

This, I think is the true test for Mark Zuckerberg & facebook. Facebook is great for certain tasks and has potential to continue to be great for those tasks and others it has yet to explore. The same goes for google+. Though there might be some overlap, facebook is clearly stronger in some aspects than g+ (vice versa). As they both evolve, I hope they play to their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.

It seems to me that google is fairly good at merging algorithmic processes with user controlled features (at the very least, there is a facade of some control granted to the users). Google pride themselves in this, and I doubt the amount of (supposed) control they grant to the users will decrease over time. As google's algorithms evolve and improve, I personally would like to see more AI features based on user controlled inputs (ie: I'm tired of scrolling through hundreds of "Great post! You rock" comments, but I'd still like to be notified of the substantial comments). Facebook definitely favors the algorithmic approached and it has worked for them in the past, I would like to see what they do with that next and how it evolves (a drastic change to allow for more user controlled features could be messy).

The next couple of months will be extremely exciting! I can't wait!
 
+Andrew Chow Interesting point on the phone network comparisons... I've thought about this myself. I wonder if at some point some of the competitors will get so strong that there will be some kind of open standard where "social networks" are like email -- i.e. they can talk to each other. Email hasn't evolved much of course ....One of the ways I used to describe MySpace to people back in 2003 when they were confused by the concept, was that it was "like email, but better." It came with a picture attached, and a click on that picture would tell you a lot about the sender. It could also form a natural spam filter if you only wanted to approve "emails" from your friends (and could still be open enough, if the user wanted, to accept and categorize non "friend" messages). There's a lot of problems with this analogy and a lot of problems with the idea that the big boys of social networking will agree to play friendly in the same sandbox, but powerhouses like Google and Facebook could possibly form such a detente.
 
tom i just got the new chat sidebar on facebook (yuck)...and the messages inbox looks all effed up D:
i wish more people would be interested in g+

i managed to invite 1 girl today...felt like i was doing google a service XD
 
Great read, Tom. Enjoyed reading. Some great thoughts. Such an interesting time to see all of this unfold.
 
Same experience for me: status updates, photos, and videos that used to receive many comments, now often will receive virtually nothing on FB (even though my content only improves). What's more shocking: I don't think the "Most Recent" tab on FB does show everything. It just shows more than Top News.
 
Are u the real Tom from myspace D:?
 
You're alright Tom! Think it's time for a d/p update don't you think? ;)
 
Well said, Tom. The feedback that I have given that I am most hoping Google takes is the option to define your stream, and maybe even create more than one custom stream. The stream you customize would contain only selected circles. For example, I love all the posts I get from you, +Felicia Day, +Wil Wheaton, etc., but I would love to be able to remove them from my stream and view them all at once at my convenience. Maybe even a "quick" and "free time" self designed streams. I love your concept of topic based filtering as well, and agree that if the control is user based and the work is server based it will work out quite well. Thanks for the thought provoking posts.
 
Just at a loss, amazing article Tom. I would love to see g+ turn into an unfiltered stream mitigated by our ability to filter and search the stream.
 
Excelent analysis it help me understand where these social networking sites are goin so i can choose which ones to be used more frequently and with which group of friends or like google says circle of friendz :)
 
You can search for G+ posts (the content stream) using this site: http://oneseek.com/gp It works just like Twitter search so you can find topics that interest you and join in the discussion, or find people with common interests and then add them to your circles.
 
Very interesting article, you might want to kill the extra of though "percentage of of new relationships start online" =]
 
Agree on all counts.Exceptionally well written article. Thanks for sharing, Tom! :)
 
Yep, completely agree with you. So I hope the Googleplex is listening. I especially like the idea of being able to follow topics of posts - mainly becuase I had exactly the same idea myself :) - but still, I'm glad you're shouting for the same things!
 
As an early FB friend of yours I continue to appreciate your insight. How G+ handles business and brands will be a big part I'll be there success or failure. The biggest problem with myspace what is the lack of authenticity and a distinction between personal and business profiles. FB went a long way To correct this, but now there is starting to be too much noise. There are too many pages for the same business. I can't wait to get access to a business profile to see how google will handle this. If anyone knows how I can get a business profile please let me know. The link to the application is no longer working.
 
love yo Tom great post read it yesterday but I didn't have time to comment :) #Tom4Ever !! ❤
 
Great post +Tom Anderson. However, I think it's naive to assume that G+ won't take away from other networks. There's still only so much time in a day, and only so much your "average Joe" will spend engaging in social. Personally, I've seen my own use of Twitter drop off fairly sharply since I got on G+. I don't think G+ will "kill" Facebook, or Twitter, or any of them for that matter. But in a highly competitive market where grabbing attention is key, Facebook has done that better than anyone to date, yet G+ seems like it might just have the juice to be a real contender. Enjoyed the post though... and FWIW, you were my first social media friend. :P
 
Fitting: This post never appeared toward the top of my stream, so I might never have seen it.
 
I happen to agree with you about letting the users dictate the algorithm. I know that I'm getting rather annoyed by the amount of stuff that's getting bumped to the top of my feed because of new comments, which whatever algorithm they're using currently seems to think is as important as the new stuff. No offense, but for the most part, I have to keep muting you +Tom Anderson. What I'd personally like to see is less of that (without muting, because I don't want to mute every post that I come across and read once in full simply because it gets commented on by someone trying to have a voice), and more new posts. An ability to "hide future reshares" would be nice too. I follow a handful of people who sometimes have original things to say, but frequently post something that someone else already has. I don't want to see the same thing a hundred times over. I'm not even sure how possible that is, since I'm not a coder. I just think it would be a nice feature to have. Just my .02 ;)
 
Yes. Mute Tom. He was much better on MySpace when he was just a smiling avatar. :)

Seriously though, no offense, but it's starting to look a little like Tom+, or perhaps he is one of a handful of people who are using Google+ to it's fullest. Need more vocal people!

Also, all these posts on Google+ about Google+. I don't go to Facebook to read about Facebook. That's what blogs are for. Can we make it a little more interesting? Hmmm...
 
+Ian Atkin I think that Sparks will play a big role in keeping things interesting on G+. I know I'm using them for some of my personal interests. I've got a few circles for the people who share my interests. I'm hoping that will come in handy when I move halfway across the world in a few months. People are slowly starting to get away from posting about G+ on G+, with the exception of a few Googlers and people like Tom, most of that noise, for me, has died down.
 
It seems to me there should be a mix of algorithm and human feedback. I've always wanted a volume control knob for "social friends". Have a friend who takes up too much of stream/news feed? Turn their volume down. It would be less than muting them completely, as their posts that the top news algorithm really likes will still get through. And maybe I could "turn up" a friend who doesn't get much love from the regular algorithm but is of particular importance to me. Maybe the same idea could be implemented for posts as well as. This could help the user keep tabs better on a discussion that is proceeding slowly. It would also allow the posts with pictures from Larry Page's vacation that get lots of comments to flow gently down my stream to where ever old news goes to die- without me having to actively mute every single post from heavily followed people like +Tom Anderson because I have no interest in comments like "great post tom".
 
GREAT article on the challenges Google+ faces going forward!
 
Solid information and insight in this article, great writing Tom. I really do hope this battle between G+ and FB ends up well, but it is still hard for me to tell how both networks will stand up to each other over time.
 
Good article and is another good example of when you put the little bit extra time or effort in, it gets noticed :)
 
+Tom Anderson I agree that the FB list functionality has been under utilized because of its difficulty to use and manipulate. However, I think that a major problem is the setup of their GUI and not their algorithm. As others have pointed out, G+ and FB fit different niches. To me the difference to me between G+ and fb is like the difference between windows XP and mac os - similar capabilities but mac os is so much nicer. Windows 7 has incorporated many tools that made macs such a joy - and I believe fb needs to do something similar in order to stay competitive.
 
more interested to see if america goes bust or google bails them out
 
+Tom Anderson said, "More importantly, will Google use their nearly unmatched strengths (understanding of human language and machine learning) to create features we've never seen before--imagine if G+ could determine the semantic nature of a post, categorize it, and let users follow a subset of topics from a user, instead of an entire feed: (e.g. follow Tom's posts about Google+ and Apple, but not his silly .GIFs). "

YES! Exactly what I want! I discussed this concept with a friend before G+ came along and I have suggested it to the G+ devs via Send feedback. I really hope that they incorporate something like this.

BTW, great post!
 
Very true and i call this select viewing of what i view not what many view. I am not liking it because im not getting the whole picture.
 
Indeed, I agree to all of what you've said.
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