The Big Picture (Part 3/3)

The Google+ Problem.

In part 2 I talked about how despite the privacy abuses of Facebook, people are just too addicted to really leave in masses (especially the young generation). I also made a rather tall claim saying that Google+ will not be a refuge for those who want to find another private social network to replace Facebook. In other words, Google+ will not make Facebook redundant. Let's find out why.

The problem lies in Circles.

You see, Google+'s circles model is a synthesis of both the public sharing model of Twitter and private sharing model of Facebook. You can scale a post's exposure linearly from a person, to a group of people, to everyone. As a result, all Public posts are by design sent to Private circles as well. In other words, all of your private friends are included in all of your public conversations.

You might be thinking "Duh", but think about what that actually entails. If you were a tech enthusiast for example, would you be sharing your excitement about the latest gadget with your non-tech Facebook friends or family who would have no idea what you are talking about? What about a programmer who has a great programming tip, would they share that with their non-technical Facebook friends as well as the public programming community? Probably not, but that's what Google+ forces us to do. Now of course we aren't trying to hide things from our friends, just not pollute their streams with irrelevant posts. If they wanted to see those posts as well, there should be a way to be able to. We are multifaceted people with public and private personas. Facebook and Twitter have generally kept those two sides separate and satisfied. However, Google+ tries to consolidate the two but forces our private relationships to be bombarded with posts from our public personas.

So why is that an issue? When someone realizes that they don't want to pollute the streams of their family or friends with all their public posts, they will try to keep those people separate by reserving Google+ for their public life and use services like Facebook for their private life. So what ends up happening is, people start using Google+ as a place away from their friends on Facebook to post things that are more relevant to their public persona. Twitter used to be that forum, but it's being downgraded to just a speedy way to spread info (over multiple channels including texts) while Google+ is evolving into a public ecosystem for collaboration, ideas, and also for disseminating news fairly quickly.

This isn't just speculation, it's already happening. People like +Christina Trapolino have already stumbled into this problem ( Think about your own situation, have you felt that you actually want your friends to stay on Facebook so that you can keep Google+ for your public persona and not bother them with posts they may not care about? Of course not everyone has public posts that they don’t want their friends to see and there are times when public people want to share posts with their private circles as well.

You see, Google+ was originally designed for what I call "Casual Public Posters". This is a big niche of people who want to share things publicly occasionally but not always. Before Google+, there was't really an option for them. G+ was never meant to overtake Twitter or Facebook, it was designed for a segment of people who they had ignored. If you remember from Part 1, I said Facebook tailors to "Private People", people who only want to share things privately. And Twitter tailors to "Public People", people who like to share things publicly. But I think "Casual Public Posters", people who are mostly private but want to share things publicly occasionally, are the most abundant among the three. I also believe that most people who fall into the Private People category are in reality Causal Public Posters who never had a forum like Google+ to discover that. That's why there are so many people who before Google+ had never posted anything publicly. Read the comments on Part 1 if you want some proof.

The extreme success of Google+ has already shown that there are many people who like to share things casually with the public. As I mentioned in part one, there are people here who are posting things publicly who have never posted anything public before and definitely have not touched twitter. Google+ has put in the right incentives to subtly make people more public and more willing to engage with the public community.

So what does this all mean? Let's recap.

1) Google+ is a great place for private people to come and become more comfortable sharing things publicly. These people thought they only wanted to share things privately but realized that they are "Casual Public Posters", that they like interacting with the public community as well. (outlined in part 1)

2) The design flaw with Circles will cause Google+ to inevitably become a place for Public People and not Private People.

3) This will cause Private People (who now will never realize they are really Causal Public Posters) to never join G+.

4) Although G+ was really designed for Casual Public Posters, this flaw will eventually drive them out as Google+ is used more for public communication.

5) Finally, without Casual Public Posters, Google+ will be dominated by mostly public personas and the genuine down-to-earth people would disappear. In essence replacing Twitter.

So the big problem is, if we don't fix this flaw more and more people will stick to Facebook to manage their private life and many potentially Causal Public Posters will never realize that they would have loved Google+.

We need to fix this issue to protect these people. They are the majority of Google+ users. They are the people making G+ worthwhile. You won't find them on Twitter and it would be just plain creepy if you tried to friend them on Facebook. I wrote this 3-part essay to outline the importance of the private social networking side of G+. Without it the Google+ ecosystem would not have been what it is today and without it the Google+ ecosystem will not stay this way tomorrow.

Of course I only point out problems to provide solutions :)

Luckily, there are solutions that allow private people to still become more comfortable with public interaction while giving users the option to separate the private and public posts in a way that is elegant, completely customizable, and removes noise pollution. But I will have to save that for another post.


Read Part 1:
Read Part 2:

Let this be a heads up to +Natalie Villalobos and +Toby Stein
on behalf of the countless number of people who have started to say that G+ is not catering to their private social networking needs.

Have you also started reserving Google+ for public interactions while keeping private relationships in Facebook?
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