Death of Google+? Film at 11
The question of G+'s death is being bandied about again, and it's one that deserves asking. I've been behind a fair bit of the discussion myself.
I'd also like to add, since the point seems to get lost in discussions:
⚫ I use G+ heavily, and have since early Beta days, June, 2011.
⚫ I find it useful.
⚫ My concerns with G+ and Google fall into three general categories: 1) a failure to live up to expectations for discussion, 2) grave misgivings over privacy and trust, and 3) numerous UI/UX failures. All indicate places Google could improve
. And I really wish it would, though four years in, I've largely lost any hope it will.
⚫ I also
use several other sites, some heavily, including Reddit, Hacker News, and Ello. Though not
Facebook -- my trust issues with it are far greater than with Google.
And specifically this: with a highly curated set of profiles followed, and a no-regrets policy to blocking fuckwits, the G+ experience can be pretty good.
, mind. But reasonably compelling.
That said...Quantitative numbers for G+ performance and activity have greatly lagged other networks. Over the past year and some, Google have progressively de-emphasized the social network in marketing, discussion, and systems.
Playing this as some cryptic sign of strength is profoundly unconvincing.
Google have, from the very beginning, been at best coy, and frequently manifestly deceptive in activity, engagement, participation, and referral activity concerning G+. The rationale for my own investigations has been to demonstrate that the numbers are fairly apparent if you look for them. Which means they're simply not fooling anyone who matters. Possibly their own fanatical users, and employees. But not marketers, advertisers, investors, business partners, or competitors.
There's the frequent claim that G+ has some hidden strengths. Sadly, if the issue is public discussion
, then you do far better to advertise your strengths, loudly. No, Communities aren't some vast wealth of discussion (see previous studies). No, there's not some vast depth of private discussion (though yes, I've found limited private discussion useful). Widespread collaborative discussion tends to strongly favor open
rather than closed
networks, though not entirely
without standards. Noise and referral mechanisms are conspicuously opaque, and always have been.
There's the claim that G+ discussion is somehow "better" or "higher quality" than Facebook. I've been taking a stab at a direct measure of "tracking the conversation" on various terms across multiple sites. I've expanded this to a more general "Rating the Socials" study, which compares Google results for the first 36 of Foreign Policy
magazine's "FP Top 100 Global Thinkers" on multiple domains, vs. a publicly notable woman largely famous for being famous:Rating the Socials: Foreign Policy Top 100 36 Global Thinkers vs. KKhttps://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/OWi0xokvAwo3j-9SYRa5dw
(The accompanying image highlights results from this study.)
Tested are Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress, Google+, LiveJournal, Quora, Metafilter, Medium, and Ello.
The first standout result is that, if you're interested in discussion
or focused intelligent content
, you don't want either
Facebook, but Reddit (discussion) and good old fashioned blogs
(content). I'm shocked, shocked to learn that interest-oriented discussion sites favour discussion, and that long-form content sites favour long-form content.
There's also what seems to be an opportunity for a system which works far better to tie together disparate blogs
with intelligent commentators
across the Internet. Oh, say, something like Google Fucking Reader. But no, that had to get killed. I've suggested to Ello's team that they might want to consider the space -- the social graph there is tiny, but the site has numerous features which might make the concept attractive.
Another element to come out of Rating the Socials is the FP:KK ratio. That's a comparison of the ratio of FP-36 posts per 1,000 pages (see the report below for why), and the KK posts per 1,000 pages. A higher FP:KK ratio means more
FP Global Top 36 results relative to KK.
An estimate of total pages per site is obtained using a search for "this" (a common, unbiased, English word). G+, Reddit, and Wordpress all have roughly 1/15 the total page count of Facebook by this metric.
The surprise for me is that G+ is far more ass-obsessed than Facebook: a 3.45 KK/1,000pg ratio vs. 0.58 for Team Zuckerberg. This shows in the FP:KK ratio, where Facebook does 5.38x better than G+ in terms of discussing the Global Thinkers. Google's FP:KK ratio is the lowest of the lot.
So much for Highbrow....
The best FP:KK ratio by the way: Metafilter, at 32.75.
The full list, ranked highest to lowest:
⚫ Metafilter: 32.75
⚫ Quora: 6.80
⚫ Reddit: 4.52
⚫ Wordpress: 2.26
⚫ Facebook: 2.10
⚫ Ello: 1.06 (estimated)
⚫ Twitter: 0.94
⚫ Medium: 0.73
⚫ LiveJournal: 0.55
⚫ Google+: 0.39
Of course, raw numbers aren't all there is. There's the question of how accessible
content is, and how easy it is to find (though as noted, G+'s Noise, Notifications, and Search weaknesses are substantial). There's the question of how long any given discussion is live
. Here G+ has an edge: threads are never locked due to time
, though there's a reply-limit maximum of 500 comments. There's the question of domain-expert depth. G+ suffers here in that with what seems to be perhaps 10% the participation of FB, domain experts on any given topic may not be present. Some are (notably in the Linux community), but this tends to be the exception.
There's also the question of presentation capabilities. The entire reason I posted my findings to Ello, and not G+, is because of the ability to include tables, multiple images (editable after publishing), sections, lists, inline links, and the like.
If I'm going to discuss complex topics, Ello makes a far better blogging platform than G+. Its superior capacity for images and embeds makes it more attractive than Reddit (inline images supported only under the RES browser extensions) or many blogs (independent image hosting required).What would make G+ better?
Making it a chosen
option rather than a forced one would help a lot.
Better publishing tools. Markdown (I requested that of Yonatan years ago). Or better yet: user's choice of markup language, appropriately sanitized. Multi-image support. Embeds. Tables.***********TRUE FUCKING CONTENT CLASSIFICATION***********
This isn't fucking rocket science. Blogs have had this forever, it's called "tags". A stock set of content tags, and the ability to subscribe to these, would be Really Fucking Slick.
Oh, and classification by language (foreign posters may be of interest, their foreign-language posts generally less so, despite G+'s quite good inline translation). By media type (images, animations, video, music). Location, where appropriate.
RSS/Atom feeds. Incoming and outgoing. G+-as-feedreader could
be a thing. With Sparks (an early feature, long since ditched), it had elements of this.
Better Search. The comprehensiveness
are good. The specificity
are fucking idiotic. The fact that Google
launched a service without search capabilities
boggles my mind.
Curation. 'Nuf said.
Interest-graph focus with an author/authority spin
. Facebook owns social. Face it, that's going to be reality for a while. Attack Facebook's weaknesses rather than strengths: Real Names mandates, utter lack of privacy controls, morally bankrupt management, floods of irrelevant content. Unfortunately Google's been chasing
those taillights instead of taking the winning move: flying the opposite direction at warp speed.
Attracting "thought leaders". Not sycophants (Mike Elgan and Jeff Jarvis come to mind). But people who are distinctly and genuinely original. Lower all barriers for them so long as the content is quality
. And yes, I count Robert among the good (he's not Einstein, but his posts are interesting, informed, and he engages). This is the same recommendation / challenge I've presented Ello.Why listen to me?
I'm a space alien cat. I offer no claims to authority other than my own record, and the data and methods I present. Those last are independently verifiable, and I openly invite others to independently verify (again: kudos to Eric Enge who's actually done that).
If you don't care to believe me, fine. I'd suggest however that assume good faith. My views and understanding are based on a mix of experience, on G+ and previously, which admittedly others can't verify, but also some substantial quantitative analysis, which is
Draw your own conclusions.
1. Estimating G+ User Activity: 4-6 million active posters in January 2015 to datehttps://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/nAya9WqdemIoVuVWVOYQUQ
This was the subject of a number of articles in January, 2015.
Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting did a far more rigorous follow-up:https://www.stonetemple.com/real-numbers-for-the-activity-on-google-plus/
2. "This One Trick Will Revolutionize Your Use of Social Media: Block fuckwits."https://plus.google.com/104092656004159577193/posts/drLZV8sm7Tq
3. Robert Scoble, "Why Yo Daddy Won’t Use Google+: No Noise Control"http://www.businessinsider.com.au/why-yo-daddy-wont-use-google-no-noise-control-2011-7
4. See: "Tracking the Conversation: "Mark Blyth""https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/rPizdGtcOi1UikLL1k4A1Q
"Tracking the Conversation: Postcapitalism"https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/kkfMVN5egp0HsCy5zOmtew
The initial inspiration was a search for "Thomas Piketty" across several domains.
5. Why the first 36 and not the full 100? Because the queries are being run by an automated script (10,700 manual queries is a tad obsessive, even for me), and they're rate-throttled to keep from triggering blocks by Google. The process is now working through the 51st name. Still, the first 36 give a pretty good overall ndication.
While we're answering whys, why the FP Global 100 and not some other list with $YOUR_PREFERRED_INCLUSIONS? It's arbitrary, but as an extant list drawn from a fairly broad and representative interest group, it's a reasonable proxy for "where is conversation on substantive topics occurring?" Agree or disagree with any one member, if you're talking about
them, you're not just talking about the weather (though you might be talking about the climate).
6. I didn't run the full FP100 query over the ello.co
domain, but instead estimated counts using the top seven names, accounting for 66% of the hits for the FP36. Pope Francis was added to Pope Benedict given timeframe (Benedict's papacy ended prior to Ello's launch), which highly favours Ello (47% of total hits are Francis). Take with much salt. Ello's tiny, thatsthepoint.jpg.
7. For a discussion of strengths, see: "Ello As Blog / Publishing Platform"https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/HN7ZS4dFJDWsSq3JayVIbg
Yes, changing the present site styling would be a major win. I've [written my own](http://stylebot.me/styles/9519
) which I consider to be a massive improvement. I also have my own CSS for G+, whose stock UI is awful, and whose underlying CSS is an unmitigated clusterfuck. Google's use of Closure CSS minification is a category error.
A better Markdown parser (more complete, fewer bugs) is also high on my list.
8. Yeah, something else I've written about:https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/FTpX7LWNFjtOpYGu5xRkHg
For what's wrong with G+ "Collections", admittedly a start though a bad one:https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/gdidy2f4MTuS8zpxiUKSGQ
9. "This is a challenge to the Ello team (and Ello members)"https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/qNaGY6s0tStDkT5eaubaLg
10. See Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith
Also: "Our social policies are not a suicide pact"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Our_social_policies_are_not_a_suicide_pact
You're welcome to drop the assumption if you've found compelling reason to show it unwarranted. Though I've seen far too many attacks based on prior frames and lenses which my counterpary won't drop.