G Minus—The Lowest Common Denominator
I must thank +Peter Strempel for the impetus to write this sad and unfortunate post. Peter’s original, reproduced below, was directed at a limited audience. Paraphrasing his words after he gave me permission to re-post publicly owing to our shared horror of today’s disaster, Peter said: ‘Sure, Colin, the post was limited to my Google Inc circle and a few like souls only because I believe that this issue deserves attention.’ Does it just!

Concerning today’s changes I used the word ‘disaster’. Disaster? Certainly. Mind you, it is relativistic. As such, those of us who have been here since the first week, last June, must decide where we stand. This will define our perspective—and our actions. What, for example, are +Mike Elgan‘s real feelings? Mike was the original advocate of the ‘G+ Diet’. A concept that I ignored, thought about for a couple of months, then finally embraced to the extent that I took down my blog—the domain for which I have owned and maintained since 1994. Yes, that’s no typo, 1994. The benefits were huge. Thank you Mike! But. Where now?

Here, as usual, I’m bifurcated. I can see both sides. Hell! I’m on both sides. The entrepreneur in me can see Google’s angle. After all, it’s a business with many, many stakeholders, both internal and external. It’s a business that has bonuses and dividends to pay. Dividends? Gosh, those were the days! But that’s another subject.

I had started my first two Internet businesses before Google was even a corporation. I’d even sold one of them the year Marc Andreessen left Urbana-Champaign, and the other just prior to the ‘dot bomb’. In addition, since I lead a strange sort of quintuple life, outside of my commercial persona I’m an author, ghostwriter, a photographer, and a journalist also. These activities are more by way of profitable hobbies. Some more than others. What is important though is that it is these ‘hobbies’ that pulled me into G+ and made me such an early evangelist.

Finally! A medium where I could be ‘me’. Where I could (indeed I had to) ignore my pen names, stay away from my commercial interests, and write as I felt. A medium where I could be me. A medium where I was not penalized by some idiotic pseudo-algorithmic model that defined my ‘clout’. Most of all, a medium to which I could post an essay and receive multiple essay-length comments. Many of which influenced, and even changed, my thinking. Yes. I’m one of those people who only posts five or six times a week. I rarely share. But, when I do, I add value—I hope. Those who comment on my posts, and upon whose posts I comment, add even more. Where do we go now?

I’m not interested in 20% of the screen being taken up by an avatar of the person making their comment. I’m interested in their views. I want to read the essay. I don’t want the most important aspect of a post being greyed out. I want to know what +Peter Strempel, +Dieter Mueller, +Alex Grossman, +Bob Lai,+stephanie wanamaker, +Meg Tufano, +Giselle Minoli, +Max Huijgen, +Thomas Power, +Euro Maestro, +Jack C Crawford, +Jeff Jockisch, +Paula Jones, +JR Snyder Jr, +Cara Schulz, +Carol Rizzo and many, many others think. I want to engage. I don’t want a ‘Hang Out’ forced down my throat. I want to plan. I want to hear and see notifications. Particularly if they are related to something upon which I have been tagged, or related to something upon which I have taken the time to comment.

So, here’s the inevitable question. I’ve tagged a lot of people here. What do you think? Has the understandable commercial motivation of Google destroyed the first and only truly open discussion forum for thinking people who have zero interest in the cat’s latest trick or where’s cool for coffee this morning? But, and this is really important, for those who do post funny images, shares, and even cats, G+ used to be great. Even I have been known to be engaged and share. It's one of the great, or it was one of the great, equalizers that made G+ special. Now what? I've never had an FB account. I enjoy sharing concepts in 160 characters but the essays lack a certain something!. Where now?

Please feel free to type in caps. It will be easier to read given the poor contrast of the comments.

+Peter Strempel's Original Post
Ignore text: see me leave along with other literates

If the new interface design is an indication that there is a deliberate strategy to retard the usability of text-based communication on Google Plus in favour of massive photos and video streams, it becomes just another Facebook to me, and I will find some other community.

The greying-out of comments makes them harder to read than they already are due to the massively oversized picture place-holders.

No new tools to format text size, colour, font, indentation is disappointing but not a critical fail if something, anything, is in the pipeline.

No feature enhancement to allow multiple links and pictures in all comments is disappointing.

Precipitously collapsing a comment window and deleting a half typed comment in the process for the sake of updating the stream seems like a serious flaw even back in October.

Making stream/circle switching harder with a fixed horizontal menu that disappears on scrolling, and a further drop down menu that disappears off-screen seems like an incomprehensible design flaw. Like placing massive tank traps on a busy freeway every 100 meters.

It’s a shame, but not a fail, that I can’t customise the layout of the stream/circles to include, for example, all my circle names as visible by default, and to exclude junk like recommended new contacts that I actually deleted from my circles months ago, or the rather low-brow and useless trending thingie.

I do hope that G+ has some ideas about keeping a community of literate/literary users of G+

But as a precaution, and plan B, I signed up for a Diaspora account this morning. Would be sad to turn my back on G+, but if Google’s aims become too remote from my wants that’s an almost inevitable outcome.

Well said +Peter Strempel!
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