No need to write a long drawn out discussion here on the pros and cons of Google+ as we have all spent a lot of time “discussing” said topic. However, I did stumble across something awesome last night and wanted to share it with the believers and non-believers: Start G+ (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hbgcgahdbgbdenffckohanhob…)
Start G+ is a Chrome extension that provides almost everything everyone has grumbled about in the last few weeks:
1. Gmail Inbox Indicator
I’ve been making this case from the middle ground for a while now: What we have here is an up and coming “battle” of social networking sites that will ultimately hinge on people’s personal preference, ability to be influenced by the masses, and even driven by their discontent with the competing technology. Or, to put it another way, this is our new “Beta vs. VHS” or “PC vs. Apple”..etc..etc..etc. So, I would tend to agree that in today’s society, with the backing of a 24 hour news cycle and mass media available via the internet, Google will make a solid showing in the first round.
However, I will also argue that something different IS taking place right now; Google is showing everyone what a Beta SHOULD look like. (Least we forget we’re currently looking at a live beta and NOT the final product.) Google is taking feedback like it’s going out of style, directly engaging individuals who comment, and making changes in a fast paced, agile format. This is mind blowing by comparison of how facebook and other developers typically drop an update or new product and simply expect their customers to accept it on first sight. (Facebook and Microsoft love this business model and accept nothing but grief even from their most loyal consumers when something simply doesn’t work well.)
Love it or hate it, there is a lot to be seen and learned from here. The question remains “who will come out on top,” “what will kill what,” and so forth, however I think the best lessons to be learned from the current beta is how you actively engage end users for the benefit of your application/tool/etc.
I’m also growing wary of the standard “Google is out to misuse all of our personal data,” or “hackers will steal everything now that Google has placed it all in a single place,” story. As I’ve stated, multiple times in the last few days, this is a tad unbalanced. For if anyone thinks that Facebook and Microsoft don’t attempt to do the same type of things by correlating all our different “data” in some way, they are living in the land of make believe. All of these companies are out to make money, and having access to a combination of your “data” helps them in creating and/or selling targeted advertising. These are after all, businesses.. Like most things on the internet it is up to the end user to conduct their own risk management of their digital lives, the only thing that seperates Facebook, Google, etc from one another is what tools they provide you to do this via access control, etc. (and to be frank, Google has done a pretty good job with G+ offering us multiple ways to provide or restrict access to our “google lives”..however, by default Google does make everything public..so be aware action is required.)
That all being said, for all nay sayers of folks that rather blog non-stop about the evils or things they dislike about Google+, why don’t you take your efforts and focus on providing that feedback directly to Google? As mentioned this is a BETA and they are LISTENING. Novel concept, I know..
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
I have seen a lot of discussion on the privacy of Facebook vs. Google+ and have felt the need to really dive into this topic as it seems most are unaware of the functionality and/or actual usage of information we as end users provide to Facebook and Google.
Unlike facebook, which allows access controls at a very macro level (e.g., at the account level), Google actually allows access controlls now via multiple catagories on who and how people view your information they have linked across all of their acess points. You do point out the simple fact that Google has a LOT of our data, however you incorrectly correlate that Google is “evil” and that they are out to make all of said data available to anyone who comes across it in a search. This is simply not the case, and trust me I’ve been looking it over ALL weekend, as probably the BEST feature of Google+ is now that it allows you to choose your level of access control for EVERY component you are linking and/or sharing via Google. Now granted this means a user needs to go in and set every stinking piece of information Google can share, let us at least be glad they have given us the ability to do so.
So, let’s revisit the Facebook issue of being “less evil”: As mentioned previously, Facebook has decided to allow access control at the macro (read=Account level). To an extent this is good control as it requires individuals to request access to your entire existance. However, I think Google correctly makes the correct decision to allow the user to decide what information is discoverable and sharable at a very specific level of control. This means that information you CHOOSE to share can be shared openly or information can be controlled that you wish to keep only between friends and family. Furthermore, Google+ also provides you the ability to set up notifications for just about every account level interaction. (Annoying to most, interesting to a few, and useful probably just to one or two of us.) Now, all that being said, let us also remember that Facebook has branched well outside of just profile based sharing and is now used across the board as a form of “authentication” for third party websites. (e.g., flash games, news media websites, blogs, etc.) To assume this information is protected at the same level by your account privacy protections may be a tad on the assumption side. (Note that each time a website asks to use Facebook for authentication most are informing you that the same privacy controls DO NOT APPLY.) As proven by past articles and even law suits, we know Facebook collects all of these interactions and information just as Google does. My argument, for consideration here, is that, at least with Goolge the control of your information is transparent, where the jury is still out with Facebook.
..buyer beware..things are not as they seem..
Least we forget that BOTH organizations are out to gain market share, increase advertising dollars, AND make money. When these things combined we must remain well educated end users to ensure we know exactly what is taking place with our information. Like most things in life, nothing is easy, but always worth a closer look. Take the time and understand what privacy controls BOTH Facebook and Google+ have to offer and control your information as YOU see fit. You may be surprised to find out just how much control you really have, or don’t have as the case may be.