The efforts of the Google+ Community to reestablish outposts together on the social interwebs has been both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Heartwarming, because a lot of hard work is being done by Plussers to help migrate individuals and Communities to new platforms like ETER9, Pluspora, Minds, MeWe, and Cake, or just to reconnect on mainstream networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or by channels outside of social media like phone and email. There are whole Communities and Lists dedicated to the purpose of helping people migrate and reconnect, on-and-off network.

Heartbreaking, because there is no one right home for all of us, and we don't stand a chance to find one. Each network choice has some of the things that drew us to the Plus, but not all of them, and even if one had all of them, too many people feel burned by centralized networks where things like this... Mass Digital Diasporas... can happen.

I've been thinking lately about Classic MySpace. I remember a few MySpace hardcores who just never felt at home online anywhere else again. Mind you, at the time, social media was much newer, and many users migrated happily over to Facebook. Plussers, more generally, were at best not wholly satisfied with Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other networks, and have far more options available to use even outside the mainstream networks than were to be had back in the dying days of MySpace.

I wish we could all find a common place to end up. Sadly, that won't happen. Nonetheless, seeing all the effort going into this process, it reminds me of the magical spirit of online community that brought us together in the first place.
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I just want to say, to my fellow #GPlusRefugees starting to make that move away from here to other networks and services: don't lose that exploratory boldness that brought you here in the first place.

While I understand the desire to avoid trusting another big company that could 'pull the plug' at any time, playing-it-safe with demands for Open Source/Decentralized/Nonprofit Social Thingies also risks you never finding that unique place and unique people that make it worth your time even if it does come to a sudden end.

After all, if any of us here now had played-it-safe, we wouldn't have taken a risk on G+, and made connections and had experiences that made it such sad news to hear we would be shutting down in the first place.

Everything ends, eventually. The only question when it does is: Was it worth it to you? Do you regret your time and effort? Or would you not trade them for anything? For me, it's the latter, so I will not be too timid to take a risk again.

#GooglePlusMassMigration #GPlusMassMigration
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Farewell Google+

Well, this is awkward. Just a few days ago I was retiring this Collection, and here I am Posting in it again. At the time, I didn't know that if I retired this Collection, its exact lifespan would be 10-months from the time I stopped Posting.

In case you haven't heard... but, who am I kidding, of course you've heard... Google+ will be shutting down in 10-months time. After that, all my Collections on here will be forcibly retired, if not taken out behind the shack and shot.

I won't say this isn't even more emotionally impactful than I thought it would be. I can't say part of me isn't furious, but I also knew going in that a network aimed to kill Facebook would have a hard time. At one time, I thought they'd drag the social bit along forever just for the obvious benefits of the integration across services, but eventually they bifurcated the two, and I can't say I blamed them. Once that happened, I knew it'd likely be sink or swim for us, and we'd likely tread along years past when most companies would have abandoned us.

I'm more sad than angry. It's an End of an Era kind of thing, and the end to my favorite social network. I've enjoyed the evolution. I've bemoaned the loss of features at times, but I always went with things as best I could.

Man, have I had some amazing memories here. Only on Google+ could I have ever been a frequent guest of TV News Shows by "Hangchors" like +Sarah Hill and +Melissa Carlson (and shout out to the epic +DeAno Jackson!). Only on Google+ could I have witnessed +William Shatner sniping at +George Takei for insisting on getting his husband's permission and a certain number of followers to add Google+ to his list of networks, or interacted in Post Comments with +Jeri Ryan (who used to love this place). Only on Google+ could I see Hulk Hogan (no longer active here) get help with his profile (which got wrongly flagged for impersonation) in a Hangout with social media experts like +Mark Traphagen (who became an incredible friend of mine, I should add). Only on Google+ could I attend a Live Concert by +Daria Musk, who was discovered here once so many years ago when a cancelled concert drove her to do a Live Hangout that spread on this network like wildfire.

Only on Google+ could I find common ground with +Mike Elgan and +Guy Kawasaki over our shared love of this place, beyond our pre-Google+ disagreements over Apple products. Only on Google+ did I ever get an acknowledgement from the head of a social network, first +Vic Gundotra and then +Dave Besbris. Only on Google+ could I become a niche but noted Memer, (yes, my Downfall Memes period was... something). Only on Google+ could I find an instant, intelligent audience for my longform content, which earned it a status as being essentially my Personal Blog until this sad day.

Only on Google+ could I have earned a reputation for Online Marketing Savvy, which netted me a few jobs and a fair income for a time, though I had already moved beyond that. And only on Google+ could I have gained tens, and even hundreds of thousands of Followers, even if admittedly the overwhelming majority of these were never really my Followers but just people who clicked a Follow button during Sign Up and never came back. And only on Google+ would my audiences and connections be so international, as to span East, West, North, and South of the Globe, with Google Translate to help us engage across borders.

Only on Google+ could I have made so many meaningful connections with people I have never met in person, so many I won't even begin to try to name them all. Only on Google+, did I find countless Topical Collections of such richness and depth that they transcended the usual social media boundaries.

Though we have 10-months yet, I know many of you will not wait that long, and so I thought to write this Missive now. There will be more to come, I assure you.

And lest I leave all things pie eyed and glorious, I should add that it was not all joy and friendship. Some friendships ended, some very badly. Many interactions were not always pleasant. Feelings were hurt. Profiles were Blocked. People formed into private cliques, speaking cruelly of one another where only like voices could hear. There was trolling. There was flaming. There was Spam... oh, ye gods the Spam! There were times and days, when there was so much ugliness, especially during the heat of politics seasons, that I felt like walking away, and a few times I stepped back a bit.

Still in all, I could not regret this period in the least. I learned so much about so many of you, and so much more about myself, and although I am not now and never will be Sanctified, I nonetheless feel that I have grown over this time in so many ways, I barely recognize myself for who I was anymore.

I cannot conceive of how often and intensely I will feel the absence of this place in my day when it is gone, especially because I have rarely been drawn personally to the Big Social Networks. This occupied an interesting Goldilocks Zone: a network by a Big Tech company, but with more of a startup feel, especially in those early Glory Days when everything was new and fresh and everyone was just getting to know everyone else and no one was defending turf or had developed a hatred born of familiarity for each other yet.

I will likely miss this place for the rest of my life, though I may think of it less as the years go by. It's strange, isn't it? How a place, even a virtual place, can become something that just fits as part of your life so much, you never really knew how much you would long for it when it was gone?

Farewell, Google+! I will be here until the doors close and they turn the lights off, but for those of you who aren't, I say: We were Merry Met, now may we Merry Part, mayhap to Merry Meet again some day on Greener Pastures.

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I've decided this Collection is not achieving what I'd originally hoped for it. That's my fault, entirely. Nonetheless, I will be retiring this Collection, at least for now, to focus on my other Collections.

Perhaps in the first place, I failed here to even make it clear what I was going for with this Collection: to springboard off issues being discussed in society, but to reframe them and focus them on higher meanings and underlying principles.

I did this, because I have been watching our society turn every issue into blood sport, and I hoped I could provide a perspective to help defuse this. But, when I didn't inadvertantly elevate the issues to a level of analysis where the original issue which inspired it was completely lost to possibly everyone but myself, I ended up spinning my wheels around the same distressing point:

This is not normal. I don't mean that as the sort of cliche someone says when there's a leader in power they don't like. I mean the times we live in are interesting, as that term was used in that ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Fundamentally, we have Weaponized our social discourse. Everything is War. Everything is a Sleight. Everything is an Aggression. Your opponent is not your enemy, he or she is a Nazi, Hitler, Cthulhu risen from his slumber in watery R'lyeh to usher in a nihilistic era of murder, cannabalism, and madness! It isn't a wonder nearly ever level headed thinker who recoils at such brutality is disgusted by the state of our society now.

And let me not hurl criticisms of the modern tone of things without saying I've earned a few, myself. I failed to appreciate a basic, and now so-obvious-to-me-I-wonder-that-I-ever-missed-it fact: we have successfully, through mass media, social media, and the post-truth-free-for-all of the web, converted Mass Opinion into a Weapon of Mass Destruction, which leaves carnage in its wake. And it is, even beyond the atomic bomb, the single most dangerous weapon we have ever concocted, a Hydra Headed beast which may sometimes be steered, but also has a mind all its own and eats its own young.

We cheer when this 'Takes Down' whom we oppose, or just rubs us wrong, or was all-too-ready for a good smackdown. We jeer when it claims those we support, or are just our kind of people. And we pretend, despite its inhumanity and nonpartisan cruelty, that we can control it, turn it to our purposes, because of those times when it does seem to go as we wished it to. Like ducks in a Skinner Box, we think we can control it, because its own freeminded operations sometimes overlap with our input.

But we are not its master. It is our Digital Emperor, giving the Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down that we the crowd clamor for! We no more own it than does the audience at any show own the performance. It performs, and sometimes we agree with it, and sometimes we don't, but we dance to the beat of its drum either way.

This is a rant, because I have no real answers to give. If it seems I am speaking of some strange world that isn't the one before your own eyes, I can no more make you see what I now see than anyone could have made me see it before the scales fell from me.

Take it from someone for whom the term 'Social Media Influencer' was sometimes ascribed before I wearied of the whole subculture in which such terms got bandied about: this thing we sold you, this new era of mass communication connecting the world and bringing us together, is entirely defective. We were all had, and anything we said or still say in our fancy Marketing Conference Speeches or overpriced books to the contrary is, at best, us swallowing our own snake oil to dull the existential anguish of selling ones soul to a distributed computing network.

I can keep saying it over and over, so I'll leave off to say this: I pray for our world every day now, metaphorically and (just in case it does any good) literally. But this Crazy Train has blown past the last stop to Sanityville, and I'm getting off while it's still in the rearview mirror. I wave my white flag at all sides of the Culture Wars, and exit their stage.
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For all the talk of how Social Media 'flattens' all news sources, so Dr. Conspiracymonger's Variety Hour looks as authoritative as anything else, it does something far worse: it flattens outrage.

All outrage starts to look the same. That's why they all end up lending themselves to those journalistically braindead "What Twitter Is Saying About X" articles, where people pen their name to something as if they authored it that should really have been credited "Twitter Embed Code".

So, debates over crucial political, social, moral, and cultural issues become Carbon Copies, through this flattening, of arguments over the merits of bus shaving or the color of a dress. This would be bad enough if it made truly important stuff seem unimportant, but what it really does is makes everything seem Hyperimportant and a few things Superhyperimportant.
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In the ideal Just society, both Accusers and Accused are treated respectfully and given the fair opportunity to plead their case, but Presumption of Innocence rests with the Accused.  Evidential standards may vary by context, such as between Criminal Courts, Civil Courts, and 'Courts' of Public Opinion, but in each case, the scale is initially weighted towards Innocence.  No one who concocts a means around this, no matter how sophisticated their arguments may be, truly believes in Justice.

At the same time, and despite the Presumption of Innocence of the Accused, a failure to prove an accusation cannot be treated, in and of itself, as proof of falsehood (or, at least, willful falsehood), malicious intent, or character defect by the Accuser.  Nor should the status of the Accused compound the weight already borne by the Accuser in making public their claims, such as to insulate the powerful and privileged from consequence through the greater fear of consequences to their victims for speaking out.

Moreover, it must be accepted that an Accuser may be a decent, honest, sincere, and credible individual whom many admire, yet still potentially accuse in error and even with high confidence in their error, and conversely that the Accused may also be a decent, honest, sincere, and credible individual whom many admire, who never repeated their error, yet still potentially be guilty, even of acts unrecalled (for which they must still be held accountable).

And it must also, in the final judgment of an ideal Just society, be allowed that any of us may have blots on our records, indeed that most of us do, even those blots which we do not recall (which, again, does not absolve us of any of the consequences for our actions), but that few of us deserve to be defined by our very worst moments in life, and should rather be judged in most cases by the collective weight of our deeds in this world.
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Humans like to tell a Great Story, about how there are Good People, and Bad People, locked in a constant struggle for the soul of Humanity. Good must always appear to be winning but never quite win, while Bad must always appear to be losing but never quite lose.

It's an entertaining story. It's so entertaining, in fact, that we felt the need to invent it, even though it's basically nonsense. It's much easier, in the end, to believe that everyone who wronged you had donned the jersey of the Opposing Team, than to accept that there really are no teams, just individual people, with their own inner world largely inaccessible to the rest of us, and their own backgrounds of experiences unique from the rest of us, most of whom are trying as hard as anyone to be Good, Moral People and the Protagonists of the Story.

What's even harder to accept is that none of us came into this world immune to becoming the very sorts of people we abhor and consider the Bad Guys, and that we are, all of us, also abhorred and considered the Bad Guys by someone else. "There but for the Grace" of whatever we each believe in go we ourselves.

The benefit of tearing down the Good Guy-Bad Guy Mythos is that it opens up possibilities beyond a Zero Sum Game of Absolute Victory or Absolute Defeat. It expands the horizons of Sympathy and Empathy, and thereby tears down the false dichotomy of two opposing teams, which can permit only one winner. It also makes it easier for each of us to face that which is always, in truth, our greatest potential enemy: our own failure to live up to our standards, or to set standards worth living up to in the first place.

If Wise Thinkers have always exhorted us to love our family, friends, neighbors, enemies, and ourselves, which they have, it is because there are no clear divisions between these categories. Rain falleth on Saint and Sinner alike because none of us are wholly one nor the other, but both, and neither, depending upon who is telling the story.
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History tells us that no one who, in the public eye, faithfully serves the policies and agendas of a leader whom they themselves consider unworthy of their power, has ever been celebrated by future generations for "staying his or her hand" on their worst excesses.

"I was only following orders, which I sometimes covertly subverted to promote my own policies and agendas, while lobbing anonymous complaints against my leader from the shadows" is hardly more worthy of mention than it would have been to make only the first third of that claim.

It may even be taken as a damning admission that you lack any 'First Principles' of your own, for all your complaints about the morality of your chosen leader.

As Obi Wan might ask, "Who is the more foolish: The fool, or the fool who follows him?"
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The ideal of Liberty was never about giving anyone the freedom to impose their worldview on others. It was about giving everyone a measure of opportunity to live their own lives in accord with their own worldviews. This should be an obvious statement, but it clearly isn't, unfortunately.

We who have been fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where we have enjoyed a fair measure of Liberty, have sadly begun to forget this, which is giving rise to a politics of Absolutism and Extremism. Instead of a glorious cultural Tapestry of Diversity, increasingly we seek Fidelity and Purity to The Cause (whatever the cause may happen to be).

Instead of recognizing that a government 'Of, By, and For the People' must reflect all the aspects of those people, in their due proportions, we seek to gain the loudest and only voices on issues, and demand nothing less than our full grocery list of ideas be implemented in every detail. In short, we are fulfilling the observation of H.L. Mencken that, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Even those who cry loudest for 'Diversity' often, in fact, mean only that they want to impose their own idea of what Diversity should look like, and would gladly exclude from their idealized "Rainbow Tribes" any number of worldviews that disagreed with their own, if they but had their druthers.

Until we stop seeing politics as a means to impose an agenda on society, whether one backed by force of law or merely by social and institutional biases (i.e. which disadvantage those who hold different worldviews than the favored view), Liberty will always be more of an ideal than a reality.

Until two people who, in all other details, should abhor each other's very existence as a result of their most foundational and unshakable worldviews, can in fact truly transcend this to celebrate, joyously and without reservation, the very existence of their own polar opposites within the same society as a good in itself, then Diversity never means anything more than, "Everything I like, nothing I don't," and Liberty means only, "The right to be whatever we want you to be."

Our agreements are not what give us strength, but our capacity to forge a More Perfect Union by bringing together all of our disagreements, hearing each other, respecting each other's basic dignity as fellow humans, and struggling, not so much against each other as against our own limitations, to reach some set of agreements allowing us both to live, and to let live, in society. If we forget this lesson, then Liberty will be lost, before it is even fully found.
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You cannot dent the support a Populist enjoys by noting each and every way in which he or she breaks the rules. One of the central pledges of any Populist is, after all, that those before them have but lacked the Will to Power, or if having it were in some way prevented from using it for the betterment of others. They even assert that the rules themselves are rigged.

The key, then, is not to attack them for breaking the rules, but to hammer home how they do so only for their own gain, wasting time they could be spending to keep the promises they made their supporters. After all, however gullible you might believe those supporters to be, most are not truly interested to defend a Populist unless they can believe he or she has been working for them. As Populists inevitably care more for their own petty issues, it is by no means impossible to convince their supporters that their support has been misplaced.

Again, though, this will not be achieved by merely pointing out the rules which were broken, or by explaining with however much elegance the reasons why breaking those rules is bad. Their supporters care only whether they appear to be breaking the rules in order to keep their promises. But if they know this is not the case, then their loyalties will turn faster than Mayonnaise in the summer sun.
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