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
By now most are probably like me, someone who actually likes Google+ (Transparency), are probably starting to grow a little wary of the number of blogs on Google+ that talk about how awesome or un-awesome (it’s a word..seriously..) it is. Okay, fair enough, I have written my share on this topic and comments until my fingers were getting blisters from attempting to dispel ignorance and stupidity (yeah..there is a difference, look it up, you’ll feel slightly more intelligent for having done so.) However, every now and again I actually have stumbled across an article and/or blog that makes an interesting point in the use of the technology. What a novel concept I thought, mostly to myself, an article that actually is talking about the use of the tech and for actual benefits. (Engagement type benefits no less.)
For today’s discussion, I want to focus on a Mashable article (5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+) as it has taken a position from an actual group of end users and discusses some interesting things that have found their way out of the bottomless pit of random egotism and otherwise useless junk we tend to find on social outlets. I mean seriously, do we actually care what people have put on their Facebook wall or tweeted about for the 15th time today? Meaningful content is becoming difficult to separate from the general noise of social media. Anyway, I digress.
The Five Ways:
“Talking About Google+”: As the article points out, this is a no brainer. Google+ is new, shiny, and ripe with controversy surrounding issues like privacy, functionality, and how it’s not Facebook. Not much to be said here, news is news. Love it or hate it, new tech is always going to leave plenty to talk about.
- “Hosting Audience ‘Hangouts’” (TV/Web News): This is probably one of my favorite points the author talks about. A news organization in Columbia, Missouri hosts ‘Hangouts’ in Google+ while on the air. This allows viewers to log in and interact with staff, etc while they are on the air. Staff can then use the discussion and content from the ‘hangout’ to answer viewers questions and/or mention someone’s point of view. (Granted this is similar to tech like UStrea, Justine.TV, etc Google is taking it to the main stream.) Want to talk about social engagement? *BAM* Social engagement.
- “Engaging Readers” (Written News): I’ve enjoyed this concept already personally. A handful of reporters I follow are actively engaging their friends/followers as they post articles. This is not a “fire and forget” environment like their primary news organization’s website. Reporters are engaging their readers for feedback, open discussions, etc. (Don’t believe me? Follow +Dan Patterson of ABC News)
- “Analyzing News Coverage”: This is similar to “Engaging Readers” mentioned above. Reporters are starting to use their stream to have discussions about their content instead of just stating journalistic “fact” and moving on. News that is interactive is always more interesting to me. You can watch stories evolve and get multiple input from people all over the World. This allows for a more inclusive world view on developing stories and may provide input you may never had considered.
- “Showing Personality”: Okay, so this one isn’t really Google+ specific. However, I think is a great point to mention when talking about journalists interacting with people. You can see their personality, how they think, and as an end user of their content you can understand their perspective on issues. This is important in the news cycle and to active news junkies.
So, as stated when we started: These concepts probably could be applied to any tech in the space right now, however Google+ for some reasons is the break out leader in journalists using the medium in order to engage their audiences and push content. It will be interesting to see what adjustments, if any, Google makes as this becomes more so the case. (Or if other social media giants will make adjustments in their tools to attempt to gain a piece of the growing news based organization pull Google+ is amassing.) Say, what you will, but I promise you if you take a close look: It’s most journalists, media specialists, content providers, etc that are filling up the Goolge+ streams right now and the engagement is very high so far.
Now it’s time to stand by and watch agile development in its beauty go to work during this beta and watch how it impacts other forums as well.
Stay Classy Washington!
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.