Is Google plus public or private? It's neither, and both!

One thing I find very interesting in the "Google plus debates* is that people seem concerned about two things that seem to be in opposition:

1. Some people are concerned that they will lose the kind of serendipity they see on places like Twitter, where [almost] everything is public.

2. Some people are complaining about the unwanted "noise" from people they don't know that is cluttering up their streams.

I can see that people see Twitter as a kind of public sphere and everyone tends to think of it that way. And that people see Facebook as a place where they can have more-or-less private conversations.

One person even said that G+ combines the worst of Twitter with the worst of Facebook.

What G+ is doing here, I think, is trying to give us something that allows us to be as public or private as we want to be -- to give us more control over that.

Since G+ is an online "space" and people tend to think of real-world spaces as public or private, it presents some interface challenges that are fundamentally new. There will definitely be tradeoffs.

But in the real world we have many spaces that are not public or private but somewhere in between. There's your front porch, for example, where you can watch the world but where the space is somewhat private. Or a booth in a restaurant.

What I think G+ is trying to give us here is control over our intimacy gradients. If you're not familiar with that term you can read more about intimacy gradients in this great post by +Christopher Allen: http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/08/intimacy_gradie.html

This will take a bit of getting used to, and there's a big unanswered question about whether people will want to take the time to manage their intimacy gradients. But Google knows enough about this that they could help us a lot with that, and even manage it completely for us. They know who we email, who we copy on email conversations, what we search for and so on. They aren't doing it today because people would probably find it creepy. But today's creepy is tomorrow's normal.

_Inspired by a conversation sparked by +carmen medina _

What do you think?
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