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Jon Pincus
7,546 followers -
strategist/writer/entrepeneur
strategist/writer/entrepeneur

7,546 followers
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Jon Pincus's posts

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I stick my head in here every now and then ... things certainly seem to be gong downhill and Google sure looks like they've given up on it.
Losing My Patience with Google+

Over the last six months or so I have watched as the quality of engagement here on Google+ has steadily declined. I have watched my follower count fluctuate and flatline. I have watched as people I used to engage with quite a bit here have left or dramatically scaled back their investments of time here. And yes, I have seen my own enthusiasm for investing time here wane significantly.

I ask myself why and the answers are never as simple as I would like. In the end though, I have come to the sad conclusion that the real thing that is killing Google+ is just plain bad management.

Lack of Attention
One gets the real sense that many of the people now charged with running Google+ don't really understand what it was that once made this service so good in its early days. Indeed, one gets the sense that few of the people managing the service today even really use Google+. There are a few noteworthy exceptions like +Yonatan Zunger and +Leo Deegan, of course. I once made a circle with some 50+ Googlers who were once active here, and when I click on that stream, well, it feels a lot like a ghost town.

+Bradley Horowitz, the VP in charge of Streams, Photos and Sharing, (which is where Google+ sits within the Google org structure) hasn't posted here on Google+ in half a year.

Oh, and remember +Luke Wroblewski, who used to manage Google+ and would send out all those updates on the redesign? Well, he hasn't posted a single thing here in over 7 weeks (even though @lukew is quite active on Twitter). You know why? I just happened to check his LinkedIn profile, and he's apparently no longer managing Google+. I don't recall seeing any announcement of this change - just a sudden silence from the man perhaps most responsible for the UI makeover of Google+.

Rudderless and Un-resourced
That decision to remake the Google+ UI followed a long string of decisions going back to the separation of Photos and Hangouts, each of which have seriously hurt the service. I know there were probably some good reasons to move to the new, mobile-dominant (as opposed to "mobile-friendly") UI, but the lack of enduser empathy from deprecating all the old functionality really was pretty staggering. Much of it hasn't come back, and much of what has is so stripped down (e.g. Events, community moderation) that it isn't really that usable.

As users, we have been asked to be patient and to have faith in the new strategy. Because I have been such a huge fan of Google+ for so long, that is exactly what I have done. I've been patient. I've believed. Believed that some big, cool fix was coming down the pike that would not only fix all the problems caused by the UI decision, but actually start innovating again with some cool new functionality.

Yes, we got Collections, and they actually are quite useful even if they do need a lot of work still. But that's really about it. It's been a couple years now and the silence is stultifying.

And finally, it hit me:

Maybe this is it. Maybe Google has significantly curtailed its investments in this network. Maybe the management squandered the scarce resources it did have on a redesign that users weren't really even asking for. And maybe, just maybe, what we see right now is pretty much what we're going to get.

User Investments
And this is where I start to get really mad. Like many others here, I have invested a lot of personal time and energy building a following here. Like many of you, I have poured heart and soul into filling this place not just with great content, but also with a sense of community. I could have made those investments in Twitter or Facebook or reddit, but like many of you, I made them here. And now I'm starting to wonder how smart of a decision that was.

All of this is particularly raw right now because I'm starting to play around a bit with the new distributed social network called Mastodon (https://mastodon.technology/@gideonro). It's far from perfect, but one thing that is very different is that it is open source and federated, rather than centrally owned and controlled.

There are lots of implications to this different model. For one, there is lots of competition and innovation in the works because Mastodon sits on top of GNU Social and rests within a "Fediverse" of related, and interoperable, social network platforms. They are working on solutions that make it easy to export your content from one platform to another - to prevent lock-in. Also, there is a lot of visibility on exactly what investments are being made in the platform by various contributors.

More importantly though, there is a very conscious understanding that the value of these networks is only partially the result of the software developers behind these solutions. Just as much of it lies with the end users.

In the end, this is the thing that I am most frustrated about right now with Google+. End users have made this place every bit as much as the coders and product planners behind Google+. This isn't to in any way diminish the importance of those contributions. But what I do find frustrating is the way that Google seems to regularly dismiss the importance, and the real economic and social value, of end user contributions. This was true with Google Reader, and sadly it appears to be true with Google+.

I'm still rooting for Google+ to turn things around, of course. I have a huge soft spot for this place, given all the great learning I've done here with my fellow travelers. But one thing is clear: I'm losing my patience, and I don't think I'm alone. 
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Not sure who's still on G+ these days but here's the announcement of the latest release of the "new G+". 

Before looking at it, what would you expect the gender ratio in the comments to be, not counting +Danielle Buckley (who is valiantly doing her best to keep up with the questions and feedback)?

cc +Yonatan Zunger 
Bringing the new Google+ to more people

Last November, (http://goo.gl/Yn6mjA) we introduced a preview on web of a fully redesigned Google+ to make it easier for people to discover and connect around unique and interesting things. From a Japanese astronaut sharing his experience in the International Space Station (http://goo.gl/JZQ7wH) to food lovers sharing their passion for breadmaking (http://goo.gl/wEh0C8), people are using Google+ to explore their interests more than ever.

Since introducing the new version, twice as many Collections are followed per day and there are 1.6 million daily new Community joins. Many of you have also shared feedback and requests, and we’ve been listening (http://goo.gl/IMLvy7).

Today, we’re announcing three new updates for Google+.

First, some new features. You can now have richer conversations by adding links and photos to your comments. We’re also offering Community owners and moderators more control over who posts what with approved posting. Finally, we're launching a new notifications center on the web where you can see and manage your recent activity on Google+. These features will be available across the web, Android and iOS in the coming weeks.

Second, if you haven’t yet previewed the new Google+, over the next few days we’ll upgrade you to the experience when you sign in on the web. You’ll still be able to toggle back to classic Google+ for the time being.

Finally, businesses have told us that they’ve found Google+ to be a valuable way to help employees share ideas and expertise via Collections and Communities, and we’re looking forward to making it available to more organizations. Today, Google Apps users already using Google+ (http://goo.gl/GxGRXo) will also see the new experience (goo.gl/IJtbah) when they sign in and in the next few weeks, Google+ will become a core Google for Work service.

From the interesting (http://goo.gl/yP2QJp), to the surprising (http://goo.gl/3dk0Xs), and the delightful (goo.gl/gix7s6), we hope Google+ continues to help you discover amazing things from passionate people.
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+Yonatan Zunger takes "let me Google that for you!" to the next level ...
Shaun King asks a fair question about Donald Trump's plan to deport eleven million people over a two-year period. Answering it feels a bit like doing a sociopathic sort of "What If?," but sometimes it's good to see what's actually involved in a policy proposal.

If you want to deport all of these people, you'll have to do a few things:

(1) Figure out who you want to deport.
(2) Round them up.
(3) Transport them to wherever you're deporting them to.
(4) Dump them there and get them to stay.

The biggest things that probably aren't blindingly obvious are:

- Identifying people is harder than it sounds, since it's not like everyone has proof of citizenship tattooed on their arms. You'll have to put people in the field, and they'll have to have a lot of leeway to deal with ambiguous cases. Which is another way of saying they need the power to decree someone an outsider and deport them.

- Rounding people up is easier than it sounds, Ben Carson to the contrary. The police have more guns, and if you're already at the point where the local field commander is willing to say "this entire neighborhood is probably deportable," it turns out that rounding people up and/or shooting resisters isn't very challenging at all. Most people will stop shooting when you threaten to kill their families, and the ones that don't, well, you just kill them and their families.

- Transporting people is much harder than it sounds. 450,000 people per month is a lot; even with serious packing, you can only fit about 80 people into a standard boxcar or truck; a typical modern train might have 140 boxcars or so, which means it can only transport about 11,000 people, and loading them takes time. Unfortunately, people are somewhat scattered out, so if you want this to work, you'll need to use trucks and so on to deliver people to staging areas, where you can store them for a while until a train is ready. Fortunately, there's a lot of prior art on how to concentrate people in a small space while they're getting ready to be loaded on trains.

- Mass-deporting people to an area you don't control is harder than it seems, because the people who control that area are likely to object. You'd probably have to conquer and subjugate Mexico as a first step, and then set up receiving camps on the other end. Unloading areas would have to be fairly heavily armed and guarded, of course, to keep people from attacking you; the logistics are somewhat similar to the staging camps on the sending side, only you have to worry less about killing people.

- Running this is going to be really expensive, so you might consider finding ways for the project to help pay for itself. So long as you have people concentrated in one place, maybe have them do labor as well? They can pay for their own deportation!

So I suppose the good news is that we can answer Shaun's question fairly straightforwardly, because this has been done before and we do know what it looks like. We don't quite have the right expertise in the US, because none of our past mass-deportation efforts were quite at this scale per month; the transatlantic slave trade moved roughly this many people over three centuries, the Trail of Tears moved only about 16,500 people, and the internment of Japanese civilians during WWII only about 110,000. But outside the US, there's much more experience with it; probably the world's top expert on it was Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), who ran a program very much like this which managed to move people at about this rate. 

Trump's team may be interested in checking him out; there's a tremendous amount written about his system, I'm sure it would be very helpful. And as I noted in a comment below, the design of this program really wasn't easy; they had to iterate through quite a lot of trial solutions before they could come up with a final one. You should always save work by studying prior art when you can.
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Interesting research on several counts.  Wikipedia fares well in terms of the proportion of articles that are about women.  But ...

- articles about women are much more likely to link to articles about men than vice versa.  Guys still don't link!  (cc +Shelley Powers )

- articles about women tend to emphasize the fact that they are about women by overusing words like “woman,” “female,” or “lady” while articles about men tend not to contain words like “man,” “masculine,” or “gentleman.” Words like “married,” “divorced,” “children,” or “family” are also much more frequently used in articles about women, they say.

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Kathy Sierra leaves Twitter.

This month is the 10-year anniversary of my first online threat. I thought it was a one-off, then. Just one angry guy. And it wasn’t really THAT bad. But looking back, it was the canary in the coal mine… the first hint that if I kept on this path, it would not end well. And what was that path? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actually made or said in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. The real problem — as my first harasser described — was that others were beginning to pay attention to me. He wrote as if mere exposure to my work was harming his world.

...

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed. ❞

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Facebook apologized to "the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community", clarified that their policy is "authentic names" (and that Sister Roma and Lil Miss Hot Mess are indeed "authentic")  and said that they're working on improving the process.   (via +Wizzy Gynoid )

EFF points out that dropping any policy would be better -- but, if Facebook's determined to keep it, has some suggestions.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/10/dear-facebook-sorry-start-now-lets-see-solutions

#nymwars

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La plus ca change ...
New article: Facebook is re-enacting the Google Plus #Nymwars  and appears to be going after LGBT performers first. I think it shows just how clueless about user safety Facebook really is. Some people are looking at Plus as a safer option....

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Skud's take on what google+'s announcement SHOULD have been (also via +Peter da Silva  +Edward Morbius).

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Three years after killing G+'s momentum and driving many of their early supporters away ...
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names. 

Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use. 

We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be. Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.

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VP of Engineering David Besbris will replace him. 
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