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Yes, Google+ is Google's answer to Facebook, but not in the directly competitive sense many journalists assume. Google+ is core to Google's mission "to organize the world's information", and that's a better frame for thinking about this service.

Here are 35 slides to help kickstart a different perspective on what Google+ really is - a "shared interest graph."

I tried to make this tour as easy as possible with some nice images along the way. Credits for all those nice images are on the last slide.

8-16-14 Update to this post: pointing to an article on the "shared interest graph":

#interestgraph #socialnetworks #facebook #twitter #influence #informationnetworker #socialgraph #influencegraph
Shared Interest Graph
36 Photos - View album

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Transparency on Google+ Plans

This is exactly the kind of post that we need here on Google+. I'm so glad to see +Leo Deegan making these kinds of public statements about where the G+ team will be focused over the next few months.

On an interest-sharing network, like Google+, the users are co-creators of the service. These kinds of updates help us to feel confident in our investments of time and energy into the service.

A very good sign of shifts that now seem to be underway on the G+ team. 
What's new with Google+

Hey there Plussers! I'm your friendly neighborhood Server Eng Manger, and I wanted to take a little time to tell you some of the great things the G+ team is working on. As always, we listen carefully to your feedback, and in the coming months, we'll be focusing on your most highly requested areas of improvement, including:

• Better spam control
• Enhanced community moderation
• Improvements to the web user experience
• More intuitive navigation and discovery
• Cleaner notifications

And more that we'll reveal as they become available ;)

We've heard your desire to stay informed about G+ product updates. Going forward, you can expect to hear more from me; our Product Managers, like +John Nack, our Program Managers, like +Carter Gibson; and Community Managers, like +Leanne Osborne and +Madeleine DeRome. We'll try our best to reply to questions and keep you up to date on all the great progress.



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Google is pushing Photos into some really exciting new directions with Lens, a kind of visual search engine.

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A List of Google+ Topics

Well, now that Topics has released, some of you may be wondering what topics are available. Luckily, +CircleCount is hard at work gathering all that they can find into one place:

Thanks to +Jaana Nyström for the tip.



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Topics Rolled Out Officially on Google+

Another way to aggregate content on Google+ is now official. It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds over time. Depending on where it goes, it could be pretty interesting.

HT +Selina Kyle.
Love anime? Obsessed with street art? Can’t get enough nature photography? Now it’s even easier to get way into what you’re into with Topics.

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Relationships on Shared Knowledge Graphs - and on Google+ in Particular

G+ is on my mind these days, and so I hope you don't mind me spewing out a bit more riffs on this front over the next few days. Like many of you here, I have a substantial investment in this platform and would like it to succeed.

In short, it's not enough to enshrine Collections and Communities. Circles matter too.

Relationships in a Knowledge Network
I've been stewing on a core idea, which is that Google+ needs to invest more into building back relationships between human beings. I'm not saying this to detract from the important strategic turn this network made in focusing on topics. I'm saying this to support the focus on shared interests.

For there is no shared interest without someone to share them with.

A pure topic network already exists: it's called Google Search (and the Knowledge Graph behind it). What Google+ really is is a Shared Interest Network, designed to augment its Interest Graph. The Interest Graph is the point of intersection between the Social Graph (which Facebook already dominates with its social network) and the Knowledge Graph (which Google largely controls).

The Interest Graph is what ties me to a network of particular topics. It’s what ties me into the Knowledge Graph.

For what constitutes knowledge is a true matter of perspective. I may want to know about the human soul, about artificial intelligence, and about mission-driven businesses. You may want to know about marketing, biology, and theology. The value that certain knowledge has for me is not the same as what it has for you.

The Mission of Shared Interest
Understanding this relative value that each of us hold for various topics is essential, not just for advertising, but for the bigger project of organizing the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, which is, after all, Google's mission.

One could argue that Google already has a very good model of this intersection between people and knowledge thanks to the massive amounts of data it collects from our interactions with its Search Engine. But those relationships to knowledge — that search history — is a mixture of our subconscious and conscious minds that we don't always want exposed to everyone else.

The Shared Interest Graph is a representation of our outward-facing expressions of our interests. It is what we consciously express to one another, what we willingly share with one another.

The primary purpose of a Shared Interest Graph is to express ourselves to one another.

Shared Interest Graph Competition
Interest-sharing networks like Google+ that are built for the express purpose of generating an Interest Graph. The Interest Graph is the new frontline in the battle for commerce.

From a commercial perspective, I'm talking about the detailed understanding of how each individual conducts her or himself when we know our expressions are visible to the public.

If you don't quite see how important something like this is, I recommend you dig into what Facebook is doing with its Graph API. You see Google is cooperating with search competitors like Microsoft and Yandex on, which suggests to me they are not anticipating a future where any one company has a lock on the knowledge graph and its connections to our various social graphs through things like social networks, email, messaging, and more critically in the future, the Internet of Things.

Facebook, however, does seem to believe that they can own the whole thing. They are betting they will be big enough to control this interface between people and knowledge. They know there's advertising money there, and know, rightly, that it is this juncture between people and things is where all business-to-consumer commerce originates in the field of marketing and operates in the coming Internet of Things. Facebook is betting its future on owning the interface between people and things.

This, you see, is part of why I invest my time on Google+ and Twitter (and now Mastodon), with only a minimal presence on Facebook.

Relationships Lost on Google+
Google is betting its financial future on this interface too. What Google doesn't seem to realize is just how important its bet on the Shared Interest Graph — its bet on Google+ — actually is.

The good news is that the Google+ team is really focused on the idea of shared interests. That’s been the fuel behind the resharpened focus on Collections and Communities in the new UI.

The bad news is that other topical navigation solutions such as hashtags and search have been badly degraded in the redesign. These need to be fixed.

The further bad news is that the redesign badly crippled Circles, which is really the heart and soul of human relationships on Google+.

But the squelching of Circles is only one example of the way that relationships have been demoted in importance on Google+ over recent years. Another example is the fact that, without tools like +CircleCount and +Circloscope, we are unable to know whether or not someone has circled or followed us back. Reciprocality is social networking 101. This omission would almost be funny if it weren’t so damned egregious and telling of the lack of focus on relationships.

Why did the design team take away the simple icon that shows someone else feels that they too are in relationship with you? Was it somehow running out of pixels? No, my gut tells me its because it is now unclear what exactly constitutes that reciprocality. Should it show as reciprocal simply from someone follow one of my Collections or does it have to retain its original meaning, which was that that person had circled you? It’s a good question right? But rather than resolving this, the design team just punted on it, remaining silent to ongoing user questions about the rationale behind its removal.

Or what about the fact that it take a good 30-40 seconds between the time I hit the “Done” button and the time I’ve successfully added someone to a circle using my Android phone? Adding someone to a circle should take no more than a second or two. It’s ridiculous that it takes that long, and more evidence of the lack of focus on relationships in the redesign.

Let’s Go!
If all this sounds a bit harsh, it is only from a place of the tough love that I hope can act as a catalyst for change. Google+ team, we are here to help you, just as much as you are here to help us. People want to be co-creators, not cattle.

We are telling you, in various ways, that there needs to be a renewed focus on relationships. And here’s the good news, it’s not at the expense of the new strategy, but in full support of it. For a Shared Interest Graph is nothing without people with which to share it.

(Please excuse any typos; I don't consider this my blog, where I edit things more carefully before publishing. If there's something that just plain doesn't make sense, let me know in the comments and I may re-edit the post to address it.)


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Breathing Life into Echoing Halls of Silence

My experience of Google+ has just reverted back to my old experience of lots of interesting conversation.

All that it took was to have a post that generated a lot of conversation like the one from a few days ago on losing patience with this place. Suddenly, my new posts since then are generating the attention of people who like to comment and are good at it.

I am responding, but other than that I am not doing anything different.

This suggests that one of the things that may have dampened down conversations on Google+ is a coincidence of the way the algorithms play with the new Google+ UI. Let's say, for arguments sake that the cumulative effect of the UI changes was to dissuade commenting (for example by exposing posts to large volumes of low quality commenters who drown out conversation with noise, by prioritizing topics over human relationships, etc.). Were conversations to drop like this, the algorithms would have to compensate by relying instead on other signals, signals let's say, like plusses.

Plusses are a low-effort form of engagement. Long, thoughtful posts with something to say are more work. It's much easier to plus a pretty picture, fit example, and so pretty pictures get lots more plusses.

In an environment with a profusion of low-effort and lower-quality engagement, the algorithms are left with nothing but lower quality signals to fuel their work. As a result, chaff is prioritized over wheat, and noise over signal, as we begin consuming a high carb diet of fast-food posts. This feeds the demand for more low quality and the viscious cycle repeats.

The results are virtual hallways, echoing with pings of plusses, in the absence of stronger human relationships and the conversation it generates.

What I'm suggesting here is that perhaps getting good conversation going requires some effort. Perhaps "garbage-in-garbage-out" really is a thing when it comes to social networks, and particularly with interest-sharing networks like Google+.

If this is true, then user experience design that automates and trivializes engagement can't help but trivialize content too. When that happens on a content sharing network, it falls into a downward spiral like that which I described and many others echoed the other day.

The good news, if this is true, is that the problem is addressable with revisions to the user interface.

But. Time. Is. A. Tickin'...

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Given that Google+ is now housed within the G Suite organizational structure, I think it's useful to to see where Hangouts' next iterations, two new apps, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, are evolving. They're also part of G Suite.

HT +Yifat Cohen and +Holger Alexi
Google Hangouts Chat: The smart person's guide.

The Google Hangouts Chat app offers G Suite users a way to collaborate through text conversations and document sharing.
This comprehensive guide covers what you need to know about Hangouts Chat.

#Googlehangouts #growthhacking #Googlechat #hangouts 

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This is a follow up post to the massive conversation started yesterday here:

I got a request to have a follow up post where the conversation could continue should people so decide, since we were closing in on what at least used to be the 500-comment limit on posts.

Not sure there's still energy around this, but if so, here you go...

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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 ( 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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