A few days ago, I suggested that the "best feature" of Google+ may be the users themselves (http://bit.ly/nm84Dv
). Could the type of users assembled here be changing in the last few days? Well, opening up to the "public" (vs. requiring that users receive an invite from a current member) has resulted in a few "objective" changes.
Check out socialstatistics.com
-- this site, built by a third party developer, tracks the circle counts of Google+ users. Before G+ opened to the public, I was in the #10 position, just about to pass +Leo Laporte
& +Robert Scoble
. Then, in one 24 hour period, I shot up to #5, growing by 28,000 people in one day. (Formerly I'd been growing by about 400-800 people per day, depending on what I posted, perhaps). Put simply, this shows that a ton more people are signing up. (On I side note, I think all of us are going to be ousted by Hollywood celebrities and musicians who are naturally growing even faster. +Briney Spears grew by 98,000 in one day -- 3 times as fast as me. Hey Brit!)
In any case, less objectively, what does this mean for Google+? I'm not so sure. So far I've seen a lot more one word, short phrase responses to my posts. I've seen a little more spam (maybe 3 or 4 comments out of 100). I've seen a little more "Tom, please fix MySpace!" (maybe 1 out of a 100) And I've seen quite a bit more "internet" spelling. :-) (hehe) Other G+ users have already noted the quality of responses on my Facebook posts compared to my Google+ posts: http://bit.ly/neP9jG
If we don't want that quality of response to decline here at G+, what can we do about it? Any thoughts?
The culture of the community can influence some things -- i.e. do as I do. If we continue to behave the way we have -- engaging with each other in more meaningful ways, then perhaps the "newbies" will catch on and do it as well. But I think this only goes so far. This would only work if G+ was growing in a more measured fashion, instead of like gang busters, which it appears to be.
So that makes me wonder what sort of "features" or tweaks to the comment section might encourage longer & more thoughtful responses? Maybe a way to simply sort comments by some combination of their length, +1 counts, or a poster's "reputation"? Facebook does something like this with its public comments product -- i.e. the plug-in that websites like Techcrunch use to allow people to comment with their FB profiles lets you sort by social ranking. But to do something like that, you sorta have to introduce "nested" comment threads, otherwise people will be responding to each other and things will not be in order once they've been sorted by "ranking" rather than chronology.
So if Google cared about this -- and I'm not sure they do -- would they be willing to change the way comments work on all G+ content to try and encourage better conversation? Maybe it's something worth testing only on large users like me.
(Hint +Vic Gundotra +Natalie Villalobos
-- I don't mind being a guinea pig.) Testing on some big users would mean that it wouldn't disrupt the flow of G+ but one could see how it works / feels in practice. Anyway, just a thought... But this thought comes from a very deep place. As some of you can probably tell, I've really enjoyed my time here, and I'm a little worried it's going to be harder to enjoy if I post and I get 500 responses that say "RIGHT ON TOM!!!!" and then my comments are closed (since we are limited to 500 comments per post).
When I say I'm not sure Google cares about this issue, that wasn't meant as a dig. Wanting to talk about things the way I do is just my preference, and it's certainly not shared by everyone. Maybe, like Gandalf's watch, what I'm hoping for is an anachronism? Is it anachronistic to want this kind of communication in today's Internet, with so many people online, and communities needing to grow large enough to fuel the business purposes for which they were created? Note: I'm posting this in the middle of the night to try and slow down the responses to it and see if we can get some more thoughtful ones. I haven't truly thought through how this "problem" can be addressed. Frankly I'm too darn tired (only slept 3 hours last night), and hey, worrying about these kinds of thing isn't my job anymore. :-) So really, I'm only raising the question. Hope someone has good answers. :-) And, yes, I know that pairing images with my stories often creates two dialogues about one post. But hey, doing that is kinda my little invention here on G+. I've seen people complain about this, but usually the image comments explode at first and then die down a bit. And I like to keep the discussion "light" at the same time it's serious.