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Shutting Down Google+ for Consumers (blog.google)
1613 points by Nemant on Oct 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 699 comments

Google+ had terrible marketing and release, but it had some decent ideas that I wish other networks had carried over.

The idea of "circles", where you had a circle for "acquaintances" "friends", "family" would be great on, say, Facebook, as it would allow me to filter down my feed to just the people I really care about but still have a connection to more distance acquaintances.

Currently on Facebook the news feed is automatically generated, and the only control you have over it is to subscribe/unsubscribe from particular friends. Given hundreds of acquaintances, this is a pain, and made me give up on Facebook altogether. I wish social networks would trust me to decide what I want to see rather than just let an AI attempt to understand it, which in the end just ended up spamming my feed with clickbait and baby pictures from people I barely know.

There is no way Facebook would ever implement something like this. The whole point of the Facebook feed tinkering is to force you to wade through a river of shit to find the nuggets you are interested in. The feed algorithm is all about making that river just slightly short of unbearable, because the river is where they stuff all the ads. If they provided you with useful filters it would make the revenue opportunities more visible.

I'd like to think that's not true, but it wouldn't be the first time such a technique has been used, apparently successfully. Witness the local TV news which is always teasing that some story is coming up next, only to put it at the very end of the broadcast so that you have to watch the whole 30 minute program (including commercials) to hear the 1 minute you care about.

> I'd like to think that's not true

Facebook insiders have admitted that it is. Mike Allen, Facebook's first president, said this in an interview:

“The thought process was all about, ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’,” he said. “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments. It’s a social validation feedback loop. … You’re exploiting a vulnerabilty in human psychology.”

So that underscores their general attitude towards user behavior. The 'every once in a while' piece applies to the newsfeed too - it's designed to keep you searching for things you care about, and they carefully mix in things you don't, so that you're never too satisfied or unsatisfied, just constantly craving more.

I couldn't believe this quote, so I had to dig it up. It's real, but from Sean Parker. Mike Allen was the interviewer.

Source (a slightly clickbaity-looking place, go at your own risk): https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-god-on...

Why is it hard to believe the quote? This has been the MO of mass entertainment since the gladiators fought the lions.

It's just so bald. I hadn't seen anyone at Facebook so openly describing things like "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." They usually say stuff like "bringing people together," "connecting the world," etc.

Sean Parker wasn't at Facebook during that interview. This was after his unamicable separation.

He isn't the only person who talks about the dopamine driven feedback loops. Chamath Palihapitiya, who was one of the first engineers at facebook, talks about how they all used to gather in meeting rooms and have intense back and forth discussions on how they actually build this thing so that the entire world wouldn't be able to resist adopting it.

He talks about how at the time they really didn't foresee the foreboding future implications of what they were trying to build at the time.

That's a little like talking about how you didn't foresee the foreboding implications of designing a self-sustaining chain reaction involving neutrons.

Although I think the reaction continues and we can't tell exactly what's happening even now.

Yeah, I see lots of early hires of the tech giants bemoaning the monsters they've created. They are very concerned about the negative societal impacts of their former employers, but not quite concerned enough to give back the millions of dollars they earned peddling these products.

They will use those millions (or at least part of one of those millions) to create "An Initiative" along with an app or two to somehow combat the monsters. Of course that will fail but their conscience will be cleared. But more importantly, they will be able to think that their blood money is now normal money and they can live and die peacefully.

Give it back to who? Facebook? Their shareholders? Doesn't seem to help the situation in any sense. In the videos linked the early FB engineer says the only thing he can do now is to try use the capital he has earned to combat the ills he created, which is a sensible approach in my view.

  not quite concerned enough to give back the
  millions of dollars they earned
Do you have a way to undo the social harm done by facebook for a few million dollars?

Or do you think they should just get rid of the money, K Foundation style, regardless of whether doing so would reverse the effects of the work they did to earn it?

Well they could start by planting trees.

I tend to think Facebook is more like a slot machine than anything else, where you are constantly putting in something of value (your posts, pics, etc) in hopes of getting something of greater value back (likes/shares, friend requests, heated debates, etc).

And just like a Slot Machine you are always left wanting to come back to play some more and even if you do your best to quit facebook, you are always being constantly reminded that of its existence everywhere you go.

If so they're doing a really bad job. The only ones in my friends list that is contributing anything except comments are the typical conspiracy nuts and racists. Every one else contributes next to nothing. Maybe a picture at major life events.

Seems like the disbelief was more related to the quote's candor than content. Not surprising that this was the thought process, but pretty surprising to hear it straight up without a thick layer of "we're saving the world" to coat it.

Yeah. I'd defy anybody to think critically about Facebook for five minutes and not come to that conclusion.

> This has been the MO of mass entertainment since the gladiators fought the lions.


Lots of early proto-social media companies were already doing things like that back in the 90s. Like when AOL was king and "You've Got Mail!" was a household catchphrase and featured in their marketing. They knew that people were thrilled to get stuff from other people.

Probably the most obvious and recent antecedent to gamefied social media would be, uh, well, games. There were a few decades of ideas to cherry pick from the game world.

Right. It's basic. Let me assure you that the future will make it a laughing matter.

Edit: brevity

Chamath Palihapitiya also talks about this.


I actually find Axios to be a pretty great news source. Lots of solid, insightful analysis on categorized topics delivered as regular newsletters that don’t take up all your time.

> It's real, but from Sean Parker.

Does that give it less weight or more weight? It's hard to see what you were going for here.

It seems like a simple clarification of a source, not a judgment in either direction.

Doesn't change the weight, I was just making a correction.

Oh I see, okay thanks!

> "so that you're never too satisfied or unsatisfied, just constantly craving more."

That quote reminds me of Louis CK's interview with Conan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c) where he says about mobile phones:

"You never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product... and then you die."

It doesn't even have to be intentional. Imagine endless ABX testing to increase ad views and session time, cycling through countless feed algorithms. The winners could very well end up being the ones that are most frustrating for the user, but with product and engineering just thinking they are running some tests and reaching goals.

I strongly believe stuff like this doesn't happen by accident. It's easy to write pieces about how a soulless algorithm is determining stuff and we can all be sad about it, but in my experience, that's rarely true.

There's almost always at least a software developer (or technical person of some sort) calling out "Hey, are you sure we should rank by $X? It will have this edge case in situations $Y and $X?". Usually they get steamrolled by a "product" person who's invented some new terminology for whatever shady shit they are pushing now. "It's just growth hacking" "complimentary contextually relevant ads will improve the user experience".

People know. They always know. They just choose to feign ignorance when they get busted.

Even if we grant them the benefit of doubt, it certainly isn't an accident to keep using the same algorithm once you know its consequences.

There's been hand-wringing about Youtube funnelling users to extremist content, and it always comes to down to "the algorithm" as if there's nothing that can be done about it.

Someone had to choose to implement the algorithm. Someone had to choose the metrics it was optimized to meet. Someone had to go, "Children are being drawn to extremist videos after watching PewDiePie and that's okay."

I view facebook's newsfeed and youtube's list of suggestions like entering into a popular reddit thread about something dividing the community that has lots of posts.

You enter into the comment section and it's automatically sorted by Controversial. At least that's how I see it.

People don't necessarily know. I can, or there was a time when I could, code a Mandelbrot set generator from memory. Yet that doesn't mean I can draw it myself in its infinite detail. Algorithms have unintended results, in general or in detail.

Why would people intentionally use an ad-hoc solution that is less effective than the one determined by machine learning?

> I'd like to think that's not true, but it wouldn't be the first time such a technique has been used, apparently successfully.

It's also why Twitter wants to 'curate' your timeline, instead of simply displaying tweets from people you follow in temporal order.

Twitter have recently re-introduced a chronological timeline as an option.

Does it work like it did in the past?

I've given up every platform that forwent the chronological timeline because other feed algorithms are just frustrating, and Twitter is the only one I miss.

I never realized Twitter curated timeslines because I don't follow enough people for it to cut anything out. It is effectively a chronological order of posts by people I follow.

My big problem with Twitter's timeline is showing me things that people I follow have liked. In every case, those posts are political and divisive, i.e., the "red meat" of social media. They're just throwing those into my feed to get a reaction from me, hoping that I'll "engage" with whatever stupid topic comes up, as though Twitter were a good place for having a discussion about anything.

I've turned off the "show best tweets first" option, and I stick with using Tweetbot. But, like most people seem to indicate here, about Facebook (which I don't use at all), my continued use hangs by a thread. It wouldn't take much for me to cancel my account. Again.

I follow around 500, have around 1500 followers.

As far as I can tell, Twitter doesn't hide anything from, instead showing me tweets from people I don't follow.

I believe this is why recently Twitter reverted the change and now allows you to browse in chronological order.

Our local station started doing this where they would list the stories coming up on the right hand side of the screen. They held to it for about two weeks. Then they kept it, but then continually shifted the stories during commercial breaks. After many, many complaints, they finally got rid of it.

Other networks I watch, they still do the same thing. On the NHL Network, you'll see a story about a big trade coming up and they will continue to shuffle it down during commercial breaks until its one of the last stories they cover before the end of the broadcast. It's the same thing with highlights. You'll see your team's game in the left hand column like they're about to show the highlights. Come back from a commercial break and suddenly two more stories have shifted above your local team's highlights. Same thing with several ESPN shows like PTI (Pardon the Interruption).

It can be incredibly frustrating to watch sometimes.

Why do you watch and wait if you can get the headlines from websites?

I hadn't watched broadcast TV for a while (lack of time), but when I did I'd just google whatever the teaser was, to see if it was worth waiting for. Very seldom would they have an exclusive breaking story that wasn't already all over the internet.

Just like grocery stores putting milk and bread way in the back so you have to walk by all those high margin items.

There's a practical reason for this. Temperature and where they unload (and the perishable nature). Not saying there couldn't be a manipulative reason too, but I wouldn't assume so by default.

Everything in business happens to increase sales. For retail, there’s even a name and occupation for it:


You always want dairy and fruits/vegetables on opposite sides of the store since they’re perishable, hence they get purchased the most often, and you want people to walk past all the other aisles every time.

It seems to me that a sensible person buying a lot of groceries gets refrigerated and frozen items last so they have the least amount of melting/warming up on the way home. So the positioning of them after everything else is in the interest of the customer.

the perishables could be closer together, vs having people traipse across a store to get the basics (conveniently seeing hundreds of other opportunities to load up their cart along the way). "interest of the customer" (saving money) doesn't align with "interest of the business" (maximizing rev/profit)

Completely and obviously false (the part about everything in business is about sales). It's not as sexy, but often policies are about reducing costs. Like changing suppliers to save a few pennies per item.

If it were all about sales, then I could buy widgets for $100 a unit, sell them for $50 a unit, and call it a success.

Obviously positioning matters too (hence all the garbage food at checkout), but I wouldn't by default assume that this is the case, and especially not the only driver, behind dairy placement.

No you don't. You can can walk around the outside so you only see the cheap raw produce, bakery, and dairy. There are also plenty of low margin items in the middle (canned beans) and high margin items in the back (meat and fancy dairy)

Yes.. and just like trying to get out of Ikea

Ikea is funny because it has "shortcuts" all over the place where you can bypass larger chunks of the full path. You just need to look for doorways outside the main path. Also because most (all?) it's stores follow a very similar layout, so once you've been to one, you'll find the shortcuts in the others very easily and know pretty much exactly where you'll end up. They've just made the obvious path simple enough to mindlessly follow that most people do.

I agree this is generally true, but isn’t the case with my current grocery store shockingly enough. Both are essentially at the front of the store. I’m not sure why they are the exception to the rule, but I love it none the less.

This is the same strategy as news sites where you have to go to the "next page" fairly often within the article (what does that even mean) so the ads reload, or there's a dumb slideshow where every 5 images it's an ad. Or when sourceforge had its full on transition to a money sucking machine and they made the UI worse and everything multiple page reloads away just to show more ads.

I don't watch the news, but if that is true, why don't you just tune in for the last 5 minutes?

"There is no way Facebook would ever implement something like this."

Except they did in 2011 in response to Google+ by adding Friend Lists, which you can use to filter your News Feed down to stories and news items from just friends in certain lists curated by you. This is still in existence today in 2018.

And in subsequent years they've done everything to hide this feature from the users and make it much harder to access (it used to be on the left navigation bar, now it's under 'Friend lists' (which also has been renamed at least twice) and also it disappeared from the mobile app)

That's a great example of building a feature as one of the cornerstones of your product vs adding a feature to tick a checkbox.

Yes but it is so hidden and “ancient” that I would be surprised if more than 1% of users actively uses it.

I’ve given up trying to find anything on facebook... I just post a picture once in a while and talk to whoever comments on it.

I can't even use Facebook without it freezing anymore. I'm using containers and locking down on tracking (no umatrix or noscript though) and Facebook literally craps itself everytime I have it open, helps keep me off of it. It must be my exact setup cause I do the same setup on every laptop / workstation and it slows to a crawl, though mobile.facebook.com works just fine... oddly enough. And I know if I use a vanilla browser it works just fine...

Any specific reason “no umatrix”?

It's more work than I care to perform I just have a typical adblocker (Adblocker Ultimate).

Search discovery is by far my biggest pain point, and I say it as a fan.

I disagree with the GGP (I think) about Facebook wanting you to wade throw a river of crap so you stumble on ads. Their ads have been spot on to my interests so far.

I think an onioned version of Google plus circles could help Facebok influence the AI without preventing discovery.

But TBH, had G+ really been a contender at this point? This sounds like the creak of an abandoned house by now.

That's only half the feature, though.

The killer feature with circles is being able to post different things to different audiences IMHO, which Facebook can't do without different accounts.

Of course you can, I've posted things visible for only specific lists before.

That's not quite what I want -- I don't mind tech things being visible to family, but I suspect they're following me for the baby photos. So I don't want circles, or friend lists, that block people from seeing things, so much as a functional tagging system that lets the viewer decide which of my circles/lists they want to be in.

And I want it simple and easy to understand and use, even for non-techies, such that it "just works". And a pony.

This would be nice actually. Did Google Plus have this?

No, but I agree that it would be a nice feature. Not so much as a tagging system, but this strikes me as something good they could finally do with all their ML/AI stuff.

I have friends who will post photos, and I'll love for FB to detect that they often post single photos, and allow me to subscribe to just those. Even if it means relying on FB's algorithms deciding what posts make the cut.

The same goes for friends who will occasionally post blog-style stuff. While I'd prefer it if they actually blogged, being able to go to their profile and getting a FB-suggested 'type' of post to subscribe to would be peachy.

Other algorithmic suggestions I can imagine: - the friend who consistently posts great links to longer-form journalistic articles - the friend who posts mostly 'funny comics/pics', but actually funny ones - the friend who seems to know half the town and diligently clicks 'interested/going' for events that I am also interested in. - and the above possibly with an option to drill down and get more specific suggestions (I'm sure FB could segment the events at least by a crude party/political dimension. - the family member who posts all sorts of weird crap, but also the interesting family-related updates. It can't be that difficult to detect which of their posts are the family updates (and perhaps there could be a 'suggest category/tag/whatever' feature so that my dad can diligently mark these updates (which I know he would!).

With the above, or even a crude version of it, I could see myself browsing FB quite a bit, and I wouldn't mind the occasional sponsored post (which could be targeted specifically to the feed/mood I'm in).

I'm sure there's a lot I'm missing about all this, but I feel moderately confident that FB is not doing this, not because of particularly good reasons, but because they're stuck in a particular 'mode' and a bit too conservative about it (shortsighted advertising). I can't tell if this is just because they're a big corporation at this point, or because of 'SV incentives', or going public, or whatever else.

Yep, the privacy and sending specific things to specific circles and all was spot-on in G+. Or even specific people, groups, even non-G+ emails.

You can do that and indeed could do that before Google+ was even announced. It wasn't even tricky, you could create lists, set any one as the default, then when you wen to post just click and select the lists you wanted to appear to, or alternatively the ones you didn't want it to appear to.

I never got the whole circles thing as a unique selling point... like that functionality existed in Facebook beforehand and the reason people didn't use it much is simply because for a personal social media it's not that useful. I've used it maybe a handful of times in 10 years.

I mean I guess maybe because circles are a nicer design concept?

Again, Friends Lists. You can most certainly post to only certain groups of people.

Though let’s be honest here - anything you post on Facebook (or any other social media) you should assume is public, regardless of privacy controls.

This is a very cynical view of things. I'm not a product manager - but I can't imagine one sitting in a room thinking about all the evil ways to make the feed harder for people to find relevant posts. I can, however, perfectly imagine a PM who is "extremely numbers driven" to look a bad version of the algorithm that increases the time users spend shifting through shit and assume that the algorithm is a huge success because it increased "retention" and reduced bounce-rate.

Seems to me like PM's would think in the most positive terms about the same issue, e.g. what is the maximum amount of ad space that we can use before users lose interest?

No one would directly attempt to be evil, it'd just turn out that way.

“The truly terrible thing is that everybody has their reasons.” ― Jean Renoir

Socrates agrees: "no one ever knowingly does wrong". :) And a nice essay on the subject: https://midnightmediamusings.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/socrat...

As a PM, though not one that works at Facebook, I would probably approach it something like, how do we ensure that our users stay interested in the homepage, coming back as often as possible and staying on it as long as possible?

There are lots of other sites competing for attention, and to sacrifice a good UX would be shortsighted, especially with all the “FB is dead” comments people have been making the last few years.

And, to be sure, many will justify it by saying "by maximizing this revenue, we're able to provide even more services that people love for free." Is it a Faustian bargain if practically everyone is begging to be Faust?

Well to be frank I've been in these meetings and yes people do intentionally think of dark patterns. If people are willing to sit in war rooms to murder people and Wall Street board rooms to steal pensions, it shouldn't seem so unbelievable that someone could intentionally obfuscate a social media timeline. In fact they use more technical language, such as "engagement", to discuss these topics so that it seems less repugnant.

Yes, jargon is a very important aspect.

"Lard it up with debt, fire down to a skeleton-crew and stop all maintenance" sounds bad, like you're killing the company or something. "Unlocking value", hey, doesn't that sound better?

Similarly, "Let's get rich creating the second-coming of AOL by building a tacky nextgen panopticon" doesn't sound that great. "Creating a community of technical greats to bring people together and foster blah blah blah", while a completely bullshit nothing-statement, seems to shift focus off of the surveillance capitalism. For a bit.

Eventually, though, if you make your living sniffing other peoples' panties, eventually they notice and they take measures to limit your access to their laundry. FB and Google are both blocked entirely by IP at my gateway (along with a bunch of other surveillance shops), and the internet at home is so much nicer than what I see other people putting up with.

How did you put together your IP list?

>I'm not a product manager - but I can't imagine one sitting in a room thinking about all the evil ways to make the feed harder for people to find relevant posts.

Really? Especially a FB PM you mean? Because PMs otherwise have been known to use exactly such techniques and worse:


Easy, launder it through abstract metrics like “engagement” and “ad relevance” and the talks are about what make those numbers go up, not about holding pictures of your friends hostage behind more ads.

Agreed, pathogenic designs can come out of poor success metrics.

Some low level PM was tasked with optimizing time-on-site. They had some negative user feedback, but it didn't show up in their low sample UR and segmented rollout. Since they had good results in their primary success metrics and the secondary metrics did not tell a consistent story, they rolled it out to 100%. Any negative feedback from there was chalked up to change aversion among a small segment of users.

That's still too optimistic. You're assuming that they weren't fully aware of the problem, and would have fixed it if they could. The truth is that they only care about problems that could impact their bottom line.

See the Sean Parker interview: https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-god-on...

> I'm not a product manager - but I can't imagine one sitting in a room thinking about all the evil ways to make the feed harder for people to find relevant posts.

Increasing "time spent" means spreading out relevant posts. I'm sure that Facebook is tuned to optimize for some combination of "time spent without drop-off in engagement". This is a "Good" version of the algorithm because it nets them the most revenue, while still fulfilling the need for the larger user base.

It's milkshake marketing[0]. People don't want the most efficient method of content consumption. That's why most "feeds" are no longer chronological. People on Facebook want to scroll around, look at posts, comment on articles, like a few things, etc. for X minutes/day without seeing things they've seen before, and without seeing things that are boring.

The job-to-be-done isn't to consume a certain relevant piece of content, it's to waste time and not get too bored.

[0] https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/clay-christensens-milkshake-marke...

I am a PM who has actively made decisions to harm the user to my company’s benefit. Don’t know why you’d put it past us.

They are optimizing for posts that generate revenue. Since users don’t pay, the news feed is optimized for advertisers and the user posts that lead to more advertiser engagement.

True, no one goes around thinking "how can I make my product as obtuse as possible," presumably while twirling their mustache and saying "bwahahaha" occasionally.

The thing to realize is that there's not actually a functional difference between that and the "numbers-driven" guy you describe. Evil isn't just the sadistic maniac; it's the affable businessman who doesn't care, doesn't even consider, whether his product helps people or hurts them, so long as it maximizes profit.

Someone else posted an interview with the former president of Facebook, and it's pretty enlightening: https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-god-on...

The milk is always at the back of the store.

That is where the loading bays are, so they keep the fridges nearby so cold items have less chance to heat up. Plus milk is often stocked from behind, which can only be done where they have the extra space at the back of the store.

I could buy this on smaller or older grocery stores, but the Safeways near me have 2 full aisles of frozen goods (and one additional one of refrigerated goods). These aisles extend all the way from the back to the front of the store, and are located in the center of the floor plan.

The milk is still in the back, along with perishable juices. The difference between them and the aisles is that processed foods (frozen dinners, vegetables, snacks, brand name yogurt & cheese, ice cream, breakfasts) are all located near the front of the store, while fresh ones (milk, meat, fish) are located at the back, and perishable-but-non-refrigerated goods (fresh fruits & vegetables) are off to the back & side. So it really seems like a deliberate attempt to put the items you would buy frequently as far away from the door as possible, and make you walk through the goods that you might stock up on on impulse.

Frozen food doesn’t need to be stocked from the back because they don’t need to make sure the stock turns over very quickly.

Still doesn't explain why the cheese/yogurt/eggs aisle is stocked from the front, why the fresh produce displays are stocked from the top, or why cashew/soy/almond milk (which doesn't need to be refrigerated at all, and is in fact stored unrefrigerated in another part of the store if you buy smaller containers) is in with the milk case.

I would bet on consumer psychology over logistics here.

> why the cheese/yogurt/eggs aisle is stocked from the front

Logistics: because then you don't need rear access to the cooler shelves. That's square footage that you can better use in other ways. (In school I worked in a supermarket that put dairy in the beer/soda cooler, and we stocked it from the back.)

Some groceries -- every Whole Foods I've ever shopped at, for example -- have the eggs & dairy at the back with the milk, and stock those shelves from the back, too. Non-dairy "milks" only don't require refrigeration if they're ultra-pasteurized tetrapaks, which (in my experience) are only in 1Lt/Qt containers.

Milk is heavy. It's stocked onto shelves slightly angled forward so the remaining stock slides to the front for ease of reach. This need isn't generally applicable, or desireable, for other refrigerated/frozen foods.

None of that stuff moves as much raw volume of product as milk.

Most people, given the choice, consume more than only milk.

Eh. Most grocery stores I’ve been to have a small milk fridge at the front near self checkout for convenience.

Not to mention you probably want to pick it up last, so it stays colder longer. This way you don't have to carry milk around the store while you look for all the other items you need.

Although, maybe that's an argument for putting it by the checkout lines instead, which I suppose are by the entrance. Hm.

I'm not sure that's a compelling reason. Why aren't frozen goods at the back of the store then?

And are you sure milk needs to be stocked from behind? Is it at the back of the store because it needs to be stocked from behind - or is it stocked from behind simply because its at the back of the store?

If you stock it from the front, then there could be a couple gallons in the back that never get bought. Unless they let the stock run out completely before restocking.

Plus with thing like milk, it is a real pain to push several gallons uphill to put something else in front (ever try to put a milk container back on the sloped shelf? Takes a couple hands and some fidgeting to do it).

In the UK I've never seen a rear loaded fridge, you always stock from the front.

that's a good point about the keeping older milk up front!

Frozen food has a freezer-life of months. That's what freezing is for. Fridge food has a fridge-live of days.

Plus it's heavy as hell so having to move it far is big driver of this too.

>That is where the loading bays are, so they keep the fridges nearby so cold items have less chance to heat up.

The distance from bay to fridge plus fridge to the exit is the same wherever it goes.

Heating up on the way home is the customer's problem, not the store's problem.

Except this is not true at all, and we have somehow managed to have the milk out for 30 minutes at a time without going off. Watch when they refill.

Not from what I've seen in the UK. It heavily depends on the store where the products are placed, and the milk could be anywhere from near the door to the back.

For example, in Aldi stores, the milk is usually kept quite near the entrance, along with the kind of things you'd keep in the fridge (butter, cheese, etc) and the bread. In the likes of MS and Waitrose, it's usually somewhere near the side of the store, not too far from the entrance but past the fruit and vegetables. Same sort of deal with Tesco, Sainsburys, etc. Smaller convenience stores are usually just kind of random.

Nah, if you want real exploitative design, note how many shops are designed to draw out your shopping time as much as possible, by having a nice Z pattern that 'encourages' you to trudge through the whole store before ending up at the checkout. I think in that sense, most over here seem to have taken inspiration from the likes of Ikea or Costco more than anything else.

There's also the obvious 'fake sale' dark pattern, as well as the 'move everything round every few weeks to disorientate regular customers' one.

Which shops have a Z pattern? Which shops move products around? I've never seen that.

Costco certainly doesn't Costco has aisles, and sections for each major product category. IKEA has a "tour the store" design which is nice for a store you browse because you want something for every section (room in your house). You can go directly where you want if you know what you want.

> Which shops have a Z pattern? Which shops move products around?

In the US, Trader Joe's does this.

I am not so sure this matters. At least in my experience if they put the milk in the front of the store I would run through it and be confused.

Sometimes the organic milk is not at the back of the store

That's because organic milk is rarely a loss leader.

Except I distinctly remember Facebook having customizable feeds in 2013. I was able to separate friends by groups to their own specific feeds and block them from my main feed. I havent been able to figure out how to get that feature back since I forgot about it. My best guess is I either deleted those lists or Facebook pulled back the feature due to lack of use.


Here's a link to someone asking for help when I guess they started to pull the plug on custom friend feeds:


Friends List is here apparently:


They had a features largely the same as circles, from around when g+ came out, to about two months ago.


They specifically added mediocre, hidden filter options and labels in order to kill migration to G+. Once they were sure G+ was not a real threat, they stopped caring about those features they never wanted in the first place.

They had the idea, not the implementation. Circles were not some bolted on feature you had to access through a submenu. They were fundamental.

That covers the “I’m only sharing with this subset” feature. It doesn’t cover the “I want to see what this circle’s members are saying” feature.

I'm pretty sure this is implemented on Facebook though it just isn't called 'circles' - I remember blog posts about the same functionality when Google+ launched, but I don't remember the details.

Before Google+ came out Facebook had "lists" where you could group friends to "lists" and make posts only visible to certain "lists". I used the feature heavily but come ~2013 I stopped using Facebook completely so I don't know if they have the same feature.

It was nice for keeping my World of Warcraft friends separate from "Family" and "College" and "Highschool" etc. As there were things I'd maybe want 1 group to see, but things I'd rather others didn't.

After ~4 years I just started unfriending people as it was easier then bothering to curate posts for specifics lists, and soon after I just deleted the account as I could SMS-text the people I wanted to chat with easier then bothering with facebook.

"The whole point of the Facebook feed tinkering is to force you to wade through a river of shit"

You know, I read this, and I thought "gee, Facebook is behaving a bit differently at the moment for me", because the last time I checked it, it showed maybe six posts and a message at the bottom that basically said I need more friends to see more posts.

And then I realized...I installed uBlock Origin the other day and promptly forgot about it, so of course Facebook hates me. It's like the Soup Nazi - no dopamine for you!

I was creeped out recently by how Facebook recommends people I've never met as friends; I've read some things that suggest it may be utilizing GPS data to try to match people in physical proximity, so I have to wonder if the recommendations are from the apartment building I live in.

>The whole point of the Facebook feed tinkering is to force you to wade through a river of shit to find the nuggets you are interested in

Why on earth would this be the "point" and what product manager is being paid for this BS.

The point is that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more ads you look at, and the more Facebook gets paid.

"If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold."

That's a really interesting perspective. In a sense, the only differences between clickbait listicle sites and Facebook are the infinite scrolling, the personalization, and who "owns" the ad network.

I unfollow (in contrast to unfriending) people who post things that I'm not interested in. I "hard follow" friends that post really cool stuff. By "hard following" I mean "See First" functionality of the the Newsfeed algorithm. It helps to keep my newsfeed more or less under control. I also try to teach the newsfeed to only show relevant ads by hiding those that I don't care about and clicking the ones I find interesting.

The Facebook feed is a slot machine.

Erm, Facebook did implement something like this. Shortly after Google+ came out. You can still assign friends to different groups.

Alas, the concept was never fleshed out and is all but buried and featureless.

That's the feature for viewing a separate feed per friend list. The basic functionality of creating friend lists and assigning them different privacy settings isn't going anywhere.

Okay, but we're specifically talking about only viewing a feed of certain folks here..

hmmm, I've been using it since it came out and still use it. Yes the UI is a little crap but basically every time you post there's a tiny drop down you can set which groups can see and which groups can't. It will stay on whatever you last chose.

Mine is set to "All Friends" except "DoNotShow" and there's about 3 people on my "DoNotShow" list.

Have also excluded family for a few posts.

It's not heavily promoted but it is there. You can view feeds of your Facebook friend lists, just like Google+. Bookmark those feeds and you are good to go.

> Erm, Facebook did implement something like this. Shortly after Google+ came out. You can still assign friends to different groups.

IIRC, Facebook never really promoted those features or tried to make them easy and intuitive to use. Recently they've also made changes to make them less useful.

It's sort of like difference between having a well-designed and usable feature or a similar feature that only exists to check off a checkbox.

They were easy and intuitive. Facebook didn't promote them for the same reason the circles in Google+ lacked traction: The majority of users didn't care and didn't want it.

>Shortly after Google+ came out.

I remember Facebook having it first; this blog post (https://jessicavitak.com/2011/09/01/facebooks-circles-how-to...) confirms that.

Well, that failed. I just do not wade through the shit.

Groups only. And even those are just an occassional check in.

Facebook is to the newsfeed what Zynga was to games.

It would also reduce the amount of time users spend on FB, which would be the biggest hit on advertising opportunities, really.

Facebook has this already, and has had it since I joined in 2004.

I love you.

There was an entire presentation made by a product manager at Google on circles: https://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-netwo...

The presentation was amazing and I can definitely believe is influenced leadership at Google to make a product that was "better" for people who have complicated social networks (the "I want to go to a rave on the weekend and share those photos with my friends, and then go to a wedding and share the photos with my parents" problem).

it's unfortunate the the leadership (mainly Vic but enabled by a bunch of other people) ran with this idea but ended up making such a dislikable product.

Anecdote: when Google+ Events launched at IO, I had to give up my practice spot on stage so that Vic could practice his product demo. Events is now gone- it wasn't very popular- but the product I demo'd (Google Compute Engine) is now a major source of growth. Oh, and the other reason I didn't get to practice was Sergey practicing the launch demo for Google Glass (the amazing parachute jump). That's also a product that is in the dustbin. AFAICT the leadership just didn't understand how badly it understood the market for social, cloud, and consumer products.

I think the real solution to this turned out to be using different apps.

Maybe Facebook for general friends and family posts, Snapchat with friends, WhatsApp chat with another group of friends, Twitter for truly public posts, Slack for work, etc.

That only works for about seven years at a time, though. Eventually, the app where your college-aged college friends are (Facebook) becomes the app where the adult-aged friends you know from college are (Facebook), becomes the app that the next generation thinks of as "the app their parents use", and therefore don't want to post anything public to lest some adult who knows their parents sees it.

So far, I'm pretty happy with the "isolated communities with shared identities" model of Slack/Discord. I feel like something that took that model and made it into a social network would be popular. (No, not like Reddit. Picture, say, Tumblr, but you can't reblog something if it's not from your community, instead only being able to create your own original link-post to it that doesn't propagate its interactions back to the community of the post it links to. So you have one shared piece of Original Content, but each community has its own sandboxed graph of likes and shares and comments and other interactions built around that Original Content.)

> So far, I'm pretty happy with the "isolated communities with shared identities" model of Slack/Discord.

You mean IRC?

Not the same posters, but yes, that is what it is esentially. People are starting to notice that they don't actually want "social networks". Most people are not interested in constantly curating an optimal public image of themselves. What people want is communicating with people they like and share interests with. Slack and Discord are basically efforts to make more user friendly IRC. There is nothing wrong with that. (Except of issues with centralization and non-standards based communication)

how do you prevent people from reblogging?

One thing the younger kids are doing is making separate accounts altogether. I know for certain I follow my younger brother on his "family approved" account and not his "you're my close friend" account.

That's a very logical approach to identity. Try the veal!

I always wondered why Facebook didn't just syndicate its site, i.e. allow people to congregate on differently-themed sites as they wish, while using the same infrastructure underneath.

This was the biggest appeal of Google+ for me: That they recognised two things about relationships that Facebook pretends doesn't exist. Namely that relationships are inherently asymmetrical, and that we are different people to different people.

We learn both of these from early childhood. We all at some point go through the realisation that our best friend may not always see us as their best friend and vice versa. Not forcing a two-way connection or nothing is an essential part of how humans actually relate.

Secondly, allowing easier more precise control of who we share what with. I don't want to share pictures of my son with everyone I have some sort of relationship with. I want to share them with at most family and maybe a few others. I don't want to share pictures of a night out with work colleagues. And so on. Facebook basically forces you to reduce yourself to the lowest common denominator of what you're prepared to share with everyone unless you're very careful with permissions or make socially awkward distinctions about who you accept as friends.

And then, when you've reduced yourself to that, it forces your "friends" to wade through a bunch of stuff that you may well know a lot of them will have no interest in, as you point out.

Facebook is basically trying to force human relationships to change shape to suit their ad targeting, and eventually someone will figure out how to leverage that weakness into dethroning them.

That also allowed Google+ to be used for virtual relationship with virtual identify far better than Facebook, although that is something Google dislike and constantly trying to crack down.

Apparently my brother's college roommate is a UX designer who worked on Google+ and he told my brother that he was directly inspired by the way I used AIM at the time. I had different screen names for different groups of friends and I would sign into AIM at different times of night with different screen names to chat with all these different groups.

Don't really have a point, just wanted to brag. :-)

Didn't the circles work in the opposite direction of how Facebook works?

That is, you are not subscribing to circles on various topics of things to receive, but you are creating circles of people you can send things to: so you can send family stuff to your family, technical stuff to technical people, etc.

Hypothetically a good idea but it is still seeing the world from a sender's perspective as opposed to a receiver's perspective.

The more immediate problem though is that we are all getting hit with a large number of messages (in the most general sense including e-mail, physical mail, social media, TV, ...) and I think we could use our own filtering A.I. that we control.

Another principle I see is replacing "scanning" (eg. loading a feed over and over again) with a workflow based on "say something once, why say it again?" That is you should never see anything in your feed more than once. Maybe you could go back and search or browse for it, but you should not be reloading just on the hope that you'll see something new and interesting.

Imho, with Google's raft of products, I think they used it wrong. Google didn't really need a Facebook. However, it did have room for a Disqus. They shouldve started with an improved system for comment pages on Blogger and YouTube (and heck, other products like Google News) and built out a social network from there, not the other way around.

I was excited about the "circles" idea on day one, but on day two I realized it was basically useless because it didn't let you create ad-hoc circle-groups based on venn diagram unions and intersections and differences, and their APIs were read-only so you couldn't hack this on top. I haven't cared about Google+ since.

On Day 2 I realized I was going to spend more time managing my circles than ever posting something to Google+. That was the moment I stopped logging in. (I like your idea of circle management. If they had adopted some sort of algorithmic approach where it "guessed" groups based on mutual interests/connections/etc then that would have worked too. "We've automatically created a group based on your University, when we add someone we will let you know!")

I can't imagine how I would spend very much time managing circles had I used Google+ more. The day I add somebody is the day I determine what circle(s) they would go into. For most people I know they would stay in those initial circles permanently. Moving contacts between, say, friends and work acquaintances would be pretty infrequent.

How do you imagine you would spend that much time managing them?

ML suggesting or guessing groups automatically would lessen the requirements of the user, but it was already pretty easy I thought.

Yeah, good points. I haven't used G+ in so long that I've forgotten the process. I think it was because I had way too many groups that I thought I was going to use, so each new connection required more though than necessary. You are right though, once you put someone in a group there isn't much more management necessary.

> Google+ had terrible marketing and release, but it had some decent ideas that I wish other networks had carried over.

While I agree with your points, nobody ever mentions how hard it is got get people off of FB and ONTO their social media platform.

I remember when this came out and I did like a number of the features over FB. After some, "Hey, Google+ does this so much better than FB, you should swtich to G+!" posts, and nobody switching. I just found some friends used both, but eventually went back to just using FB exclusively.

This has always been the Achilles heel of anybody who wants to compete with FB. It's not about features, it's about how are you going to get all these people, with all of these deep rooted connections, to leave FB and not just join YOUR network, but to stay and bring all their friends in the process.

Insanely, insanely hard.

This is exactly why the vast majority of my friends/family/contacts/whatever didn't use it.

Facebook was the first of this type of social network to get just about everyone to join. MySpace and Friendster and the like got the kids and the heavy web users but Facebook got your mom and your grandma. They got your boss, your barber, and your barista. They got the people who designed websites and the people who never did anything more complex than pointing at a picture on their iphone to launch an app.

It didn't matter if you or I liked some feature or other on G+ (or another competitor) because you can't just switch platforms like you can switch webmail providers. In order to work, you all have to be on the same platform and a good chunk of the potential userbase will simply never deal with switching platforms. How many people in your family or friend/acquaintance group still use their old hotmail (or AOL) email account? Probably not zero.

So even if they did "build a better Facebook" (which I think they did in many ways) it doesn't matter. A nicer layout and some improved features aren't enough to move the entire user base away from the default option. As long as it's a winner-take-all system, it will take a lot more to replace Facebook. It's more likely to become irrelevant than replaced.

Totally agree. FB's massive user base + user inertia = FB's killer feature.

Which, IMHO, means Google didn't understand what it was doing when it started G+.

TBF, FB didn't either.

I'm not sure. Wasn't the underlying principle always to connect everybody in the world? I think FB has done a fair job of doing that.

They just tapped into one of the basic tenets of the human condition; the desire to be connected to another human.

Having and understanding goals are not synonymouss.

Does this date to TheFacebook (Harvard)?

I don't think you can put it down to "terrible marketing and release." Even a crappy release from Google still gave G÷ access and exposure to Google's enourmous user base. G+ got to feature in results whenever you Googled a name... it's 100 times the exposure any upstart social network could hope to achieve, even with genius marketing.

At some point, it's up to the product. If you can't succeed with that much exposure, the product wasn't right. People didn't get it, didn't care or didn't want it.

Circles (and other ideas, some going back to wave) is more like goals than ideas. The goal is to have different categories of friends to control what you see, and who sees which of your stuff. You still need an idea for achieving that goal.

Google's idea put too many confusing choices in users hands. It's like the difference between Gmail's search-centric UI and outlook's folders.

Folders are great, if everything is in folders. Search works no matter what, no inbox management necessary. The folders that work best, work by default too (updates, promotions, junk...). No sitting down and pondering how one would like to use email.

Google's "idea" for achieving their goals was asking users to think of how they'd like to use this thing they've never used before and do some preparatory work, like categorising friends they might connect to in the future.

Abstract questions are always harder than they seem. Asking users to create abstractions is tricky.

Maybe, but I think that g+ failure just comes down to network effects. I made the switch, loved it, but my friends didn't follow.

I dearly miss the concept of circles in Twitter, both in incoming direction (filtering by what kind of stuff you'd want to read right now) and more important in outgoing direction (so I don't offend my fragile dev-o-sphere snowflake followers with manosphere or alt-right retweets).

Requires 2 things: - feature to classifying your followers into circles (unbeknownst to them) - feature to select target circle for a tweet/retweet/like (or, more comfortable, classify people I follow into the same circle, and making retweets/likes per-circle).

AFAICT, gab.ai does not have anything like this, either.

> The idea of "circles", where you had a circle for "acquaintances" "friends", "family" would be great on, say, Facebook, as it would allow me to filter down my feed to just the people I really care about but still have a connection to more distance acquaintances.

You can do that already, with lists.

Unfortunately, the UI for lists isn't great, but when you figure out how (it took me long enough), you can view a feed of just people on a certain list or post to just one list if you want.

It's a nice idea in theory but I prefer the current solution of completely separating your circles into different apps. Work/Career - LinkedIn, topics of interest - Twitter/Reddit, personal stuff - FB, etc.

If your feed is spammy you should unfriend/unfollow the users who you don't want to see.

I think one of the main mistakes which every big company makes, when introducing a new service or product that's different from their usual space/expertise, is to put the company's name on it.

Microsoft is the biggest offenders in this, since time immemorial, with an almost sad sort of attention-seeking "Look look we made this!" by prefixing every product and service with their name.

Of course I see why they would want to do this; it entices your existing fans to check it out and bolsters confidence.

But the problem is that your company's reputation and "image" is then immediately projected onto your new product before anyone even tries it.

In Microsoft's case it's their sterile 90s-suit-and-tie-office-workplace, wannabe-cool /r/fellowkids image (in my view at least.)

Even Apple does this and it adversely affects their new products too (like Apple Music) for people who hold some kind of brand grudge against them.

I and I'll assume many people use Google out of necessity than any brand loyalty, and in spite of disagreeing with their privacy-hostile core model. If they hadn't bought YouTube and if other search engines were as fast and provided as relevant results (though Google Search has been slowly crapping out in that regard since the past couple years), I would be using no Google products or services.

Google were hardly associated with the word "social" and "Google+" doesn't say anything about anything social. The first impressions of most people when hearing about it very probably did nothing favorable for the service.

They actually borrowed[0] the circles idea from a Lycos product from 10 years earlier that was actually called Circles.[1]

[0] No idea if anyone on the Google team had actually used Lycos Circles but it's not unreasonable to think they might of.

[1] https://info.lycos.com/about/press/?pressReleaseId=1550

I was just about to post that Facebook has Friend List feeds, but it appears they're sunsetting that feature as of August 8th.


FB has been slowly making friend lists even less accessible than before, so no wonder nobody's using them. Currently just making a status update visible only to a given list requires a ridiculous exertion: Open privacy dropdown -> select "More" -> select "See all" (the fuck?) -> click "Custom" -> TYPE a prefix of the friend list name in the combobox -> select the list you want from the dropdown.

I had no idea this feature even existed. It was well hidden.

I found Google+ circles time-consuming to maintain. Facebook actually had a better idea with Graph Search, which would have let me direct a post to “my friends from Boston”, or “friends of my friends who like hiking”. Sadly it probably was too “power-user” a feature for Facebook.

I unfollowed everyone except close family and a few local communities, buisnesses I actually care about. Now Facebook is great, now when I check it is has content I actually care about. FYI, there are tools to help you unfollow your 1000 friends...

> The idea of "circles", where you had a circle for "acquaintances" "friends", "family" would be great on, say, Facebook

I don't think Facebook will add them, but Diaspora has them.

>But Diaspora has them.

Oh is diaspora still alive? I would use it, but I'd guess I'd have even fewer friends there than on Google+

It has a dedicated number of users.

Network effect is always going to be a problem. But beyond that, Diaspora is pretty functional. And pretty easy to use - the docs make it look a lot more complicated than it is. It isn't as featureful (no galleries, no events/calendars). If all you want to do is post and share, and have the privacy of Google+'s circles, Diaspora will do it for you.

> I don't think Facebook will add them

Facebook already has them...

You can create lists in Facebook and classify people into close friends, acquaintances, and restricted classes. You can view the feed from those lists if you want. It's more cumbersome than Google+ but you can do something similar on Facebook. I even have a list of all friends to actually see each and every update from all of them if I have the time and not the fraction of them that Facebook usually serves me.

The release was definitely terrible, but ironically not for the typical reasons of the time...namely servers falling over.

From my POV, the release was terrible because it let people in too fast. Social networks need to go through a period where only the "cool kids" are there. It creates a network effect. It was kind of impossible to go through that, so being on Google+ conveyed no status...in fact, it kind of did the opposite.

Agreed. I remember the first person I knew with a gmail account, back in 2003. I remember when I first heard of facebook. Being stuck with a "What is this?" thought for months was my problem and their lucky strike.

I loved the idea of Circles and I used Google+ a lot in the early days. It all seemed to go to shit with the unified account business.

It sorta exists it's called Friend Lists:


Sadly it seems they've hidden this to push their more tailored feed so they can push whatever ads and things through there aka filter (censor?) your friends posts better.

I wrote a report in my freshman year of college on Google+ and how it was going to be "the next big thing in social media" due to Circles and how easy they were to use (I even got A!).

I still wish these had caught on more, or at least that Facebook hadn't implemented Friend Lists as an answer to this that they all but bury in their UI. It would be a much more tolerable place if they made it easier to use this, but similarly, if you have to categorize people in such a way that you rarely see their posts, what is the point of "keeping in touch" via Facebook in the first place? At least for me, if I don't care enough to see your updates (or at least the memes you like) on my news feed I may not think to look at your profile.

MySpace had one clever thing going for it, and that was your "Top 8". People had to choose who would be in their "Top 8" friends listed on their profile page, and being selected by a friend was considered a badge of honor in the friendship.

Having circles, which is in essence tags, to place your contacts in is a great feature, but if a social networking site did that and also let you sort them by how meaningful those contacts are to you, it would allow the site to do more meaningful content filtering and promotion, as well as let people express the importance of those contacts within the tagged groups.

I agree that the "circles" idea is good, and that's why I'm implementing it in my social network. However the idea of circles by itself is not good enough for people to make the move.You need something else too..

My problem with Google is how terrible they've proven to be at building consumer software. The Google + news today just set me off even more than usual. All this search ad revenue has them drunk on power with zero concern for providing the end user with actually useful software.

I can't think of one piece of Google software, except maybe YouTube that is enjoyable to use or at least decent. Even then, this doesn't exempt Google from being idiots with how they treat content creators on YouTube. Everywhere you look they do some absolutely terrible thing, or some completely incompetent thing.

Take email. I loved Inbox. They killed it. Like most of their acquisitions or other projects, they kill everything. It would make sense if they integrated Inbox features into Gmail mobile and desktop apps and then killed it, but no. They just killed the useful application and kept Gmail an ancient turd of a client the way it is.

So you would think it's no big deal - just switch to another email client. The only problem, they all suck. Edison molests your data unless you opt out of every app install for sharing your email or useage data, and then if you want to scrub your info from their servers (which I'm pretty sure is BS) you can't actually use their app. So... Switch to Spark and it seems decent but you can't do inline images in emails on mobile - only attachments. I need to send customers inline images while on the go so that's the end of Spark. Meanwhile on the Mac you CAN send in-line images. But guess what? The Spark Mac app has every option EXCEPT a taskbar icon and badge count (you can look in your MenuBar but are SOL if you prefer to have it hidden. Next up, AirMail3 is another turd. AirMail3 seemed awesome, but the first time I tried composing a simple email to family it found every damn contact EXCEPT the everyday contact I would use. Maybe it needs to learn over time so I give it some time... Well, it still decides to match every possible iteration of something I search for - for any type of search. I think I'm typing an email from "XXXX YYYYY" and I get back every email or contact from every duration that somehow even every possible match that might include a variation of XX YY.

Jebus. Seriously Google - F U. It's incredible to me that they don't seem to give a S@#$ that they're making people go through all this. People are spend monthly on email clients from some 3rd party that is doing god knows what with our data and Google refuses to improve their own stupid products but also insists on killing any they own that are actually useful.

Forget "Don't be Evil" you clowns, maybe just focus on "Make Uncompromised Products" - Google: you suck at writing decent software applications. Period.

I disagree.

I think Google+ had great marketing and release. Good enough to create a social network with 300 million monthly active users out of thin air.

However the product did not provide enough value for people to keep using it. The circles idea was good, but the improvement is too incremental. I am also wondering if the average user really understood that idea and cared enough to put in the effort to separate their contacts.

It could be argued that by focusing on the wide release, they inherently doomed the product. Hard to build a cohesive community of 300M when the stickiness factor doesn't exist yet. Arguably would have been better to focus on limited releases on niche communities to create that stickiness/increase retention.

"... out of thin air"

I'd say, rather, "out of Gmail account users"

And even then it was 'invite only' for a fairly long time, creating an artificial desire.

I liked the idea of circles when posting, not just consuming. I know my work and university friends would appreciate techy stuff, but not my regular social circle. Same is true of my communities of which I'm a part.

On the other hand, this can enforce echo chambers, but as long as one is aware of that effect (and sadly, most wouldn't care), I really like broadly selecting my audience.

Nextcloud [1] (Federated Groupware) has the concept of circles [2], but yes, that's probably not what you meant with social network ;-)

[1]: https://nextcloud.com

[2]: https://apps.nextcloud.com/apps/circles

Facebook groups are the next best thing (but still pretty terrible as it requires reciprocal participation)

Take a look at what we're up to with https://textile.photos. Threads are private groups you can create and share with (currently photos, later any content). Very circle like.

Circles is/was awesome, but it lacks the virality and oversharing present in the Facebook ecosystem. With FB, it was essentially (yes, one can fine-grain it, but it isn't straightforward) all or nothing, and people preferred all to nothing.

I'm working on something that, to this day, is inspired on circles -- I just think the execution was really poor, the UX of having to always decide who sees what is just too heavy and there are better ways to approach this lovely idea.

Facebook had this feature from the beginning until August 8th, 2018. They were called Friend Lists and you could filter your feed using them. They also can be used for restricting access to content and that feature still exists.

I found the circle pitch amazing, but in practice meh. That said G+ attracted a bunch of guys who gave me very nice streams of informations of all kinds. Some circles weren't as good in other network like twitter or reddit.

Very much agree. I've ended up using Instagram as a de facto circle of people I actually care about, and rarely use up facebook proper, except to connect with more distant acquaintances.

>> Given hundreds of acquaintances, this is a pain, and made me give up on Facebook altogether.

Sounds like you need https://circles.app

I'm surprised there is not a third party facebook app that can do that for you?

There's no amount of marketing and assurances that would make me believe circles would keep my private life private.

It's the reason why I never used Google Plus. And it's the reason why when I had a facebook account I never friended coworkers or professional contacts.

To be fair Google+ just straight up stole the circle idea from that Path social network after failing to buy them.

Can you share evidence that Path had circles?

I cannot track down any screenshots of how Path worked in the early days, only some media buzz around Path declining Google's buyout offer shortly before they launched +

So many old apps and services are just forgotten now, it's hard to prove any claim about who stole what idea. Kind of a shame really, so much of our digital history is effectively unknowable and lost forever.

The idea of circles sounds fantastic on paper but it's simply too much work for the common user.

For most of the posts users would make, users would probably spend more time thinking about which circles to enable than actually writing the post. It's a headache and it leads to a poor experience, it feels like a hurdle, something you must do; it makes posting less natural.

Facebook on the other hand offers the same functionality but it's "buried" so you can use it at your convenience.

>For most of the posts users would make, users would probably spend more time thinking about which circles to enable than actually writing the post. It's a headache and it leads to a poor experience, it feels like a hurdle, something you must do; it makes posting less natural.

How low have we got, capacity wise, when this is even considered "a hurdle"?

At one time, people had to walk to the TV to change the channels...

And before that, they had to have candles and be good with finger shadows to entertain themselves...

It's because it forces you to pick. Outside of the discrete friendship groups online, there's an ever-shifting on-the-spot calculation about who's around you and how much you want to say. One day you might feel like telling friend X while you're in the coffee shop together with just one other friend, the next day you might not feel so open in the bar for a variety of reasons. Add in all the variables about who else is around, how much beer you've drunk, whether you've just been paid, if the relationship with a partner is going well etc. and every situation is different in a very nuanced way. I'm not on Facebook now, but when I was I rapidly gave up on the idea of administering my friendship groups because it felt like I was bureacratising my friendships in a very unnatural way.

One person is all it takes to ruin it, and there's no cost for them to do so nor immediate negative consequence.

I thought g+ circles was a great idea, the reddit webdesign circle taught me I don't care about all of your kids.

> The idea of circles sounds fantastic on paper but it's simply too much work for the common user.

Google has ML based version of circle where depending on who is on the photo or whom you have added as recipient it suggests additional recipients.

To me that is a better UX.

a. They don't have to explicitly create circles.

b. If you keep adding someone new or remove someone over a period of time, the model would learn that and act accordingly.

c. If user wants to explicitly create a circle, they can probably do it as a group.

Livejournal had this long before G+ or Facebook existed, and people sure did regularly lock their posts to one group of friends or another.

The choice of how to restrict your audience was placed below the 'new post' entry box, and was something you'd usually think about after writing your post. Which was more likely to be a multi-paragraph thing than the short fragments we're so used to tossing off on all the commercial social networks now.

Sorting feeds into algorithmically informed circles would be helpful. The current algorithm is a nightmare if it is data starved, ie you get fed a bunch a irrelevant info from people you just interacted with. There is no process to say, hey Facebook show me what my old college friends are up to. Or hey Facebook show me what my family is up to or hey Facebook show me political news. It's just a bunch of random grasping at straws.

I don't know why circles was so difficult for some. As soon as it launched I dropped FB because I would always get concerned about different groups of people seeing what I posted. On G+ I immediately had a Family circle, a circle of people I knew from work, close friends and then people I met on the service. In fact it didn't seem like people had a problem with the system until TechCrunch gave them talking points. The same thing happened with them integrating it across the properties and the "ramming it down our throats" flap.

Same. It made instant sense.

Too bad it failed. I liked g+

Good grief, deciding who to communicate with is considered too hard for the common user. Better let algorithms decide it for you!

> users would probably spend more time thinking about which circles to enable than actually writing the post

I'm not sure why this is harder than choosing an email address to send an email to. Some things I'd share with FAMILY, some things I'd share with EVERYBODY, some things I'd share with MY QUILTING GROUP.

Seems like the easiest thing in the world.

Also seems weird to say that even selecting a group to share to is a massive hurdle, but the fact that facebook buries the same functionality behind 5-6 clicks for each post is convenient. Seems more like it was too easy, and had to be made harder.

Facebook's implementation is only behind two clicks. When you go to add a post, there's a drop-down to select who you want to see it. Opening the drop-down is one click. Selecting the list is the other one.

The problem is in managing the people in these lists. I haven't found a place where it shows all users I have in a single list. Adding or removing a single user is easy though, as the available lists are available for selection/deselection anywhere you're allowed to change your friend status with that person.

> Some things I'd share with FAMILY, some things I'd share with EVERYBODY, some things I'd share with MY QUILTING GROUP.

But if you're truly disciplined about this, you never learn that your second cousin is interested in quilting too.

And in many scenarios, there is little reward to being disciplined; unless you're into rather transgressive quilting, you'll probably share your quilting projects with everyone.

There is nothing stopping you from sharing things you are proud of with you family circle. But technical discussions about quilting don't need to eventually end up on a random friends feed.

Google+ also implemented the opposite: you share to your Quilting collection, and everybody who follows you can choose whether to follow that collection or not.

The combination of circles and collections is very powerful, though the way G+ implemented it, they do overlap a bit, and don't entirely play well together. Slightly more flexible collections would help a lot.

I can see the argument regard engagement, but honestly you probably should take at least as long to think about your intended audience as you should posting your birthday picture.

Heck I wish Facebook forced you to provide at least one tag with each post, just so that we could unfollow e.g baby posts/political posts and then maybe get something useful out of Facebook (my current solution is to unfollow the annoying person, but that is a bit too crude).

You are spot on. However you have groups in Whatsapp. If somehow you could use instant message groups as "circles" for publishing posts too... that's what I intend to do in my social network btw.

WhatsApp groups seem to be popular

Yeah, but they're not perfect. You quickly end up with groups containing mostly the same friends, but different configurations of them depending on the event and exactly who you want to include in each discussion. It's a headache, really

RIP. Like so many of Google’s high profile efforts (anyone remember Wave? Glass, etc), a bunch of good ideas and great tech brought down by an utter failure to understand the human element/social psychology angle.

Google+ was dead in the water from day one. You don’t beat Facebook at social by building a slightly different product with some cool ideas like Circles. Going for feature parity was a mistake. Instead they should have tried to identify a niche where Facebook was failing (say, intimate private sharing, or the antithesis of the narcissist fest) and build up a loyal core of rabidly passionate users, then slowly expanded from there. Kind of like how Facebook started out as a platform for elite universities, then high schools, then workplaces, then the world.

This approach would have been hard to sell internally at Google given the pressure to release a “Facebook killer.” But people always forget that the way to build a platform is to start by nailing a niche use case and then expanding. Even the Apple App Store only came to dominate because it was based on a hit product, the original iPhone.

Anyway, kudos to Google for finally admitting defeat. Hopefully management learned something and they hire some people who understand humans so that their brilliant engineering capacity doesn’t get wasted again.

>RIP. Like so many of Google’s high profile efforts (anyone remember Wave? Glass, etc), a bunch of good ideas and great tech brought down by an utter failure to understand the human element/social psychology angle.

Absolutely this.

It is, however, not the marketing strategy that failed them. G+ was hyped for some time before release and it became a hit since day one.

With the level of attention any Google product gained at that time, there was no need to focus on a niche. The issue were their horrendous decisions in UI and product design as well as feature integration. In short, it was a product for the tech savy user, yet aimed at the mainstream. It wasn't satisfying anyone.

I still can't understand why they would not cap the most valuable resource they had, GMail, GDocs, GCalendar, GReader, etc. Zero integration.

I don’t remember many particularly egregious failures in UI and product design. In my experience it was well designed, but served no purpose whatsoever given that it was almost a complete clone of Facebook features, thus no reason for any of my facebook addicted friends to start using it, thus no reason for me to use it, thus dead in the water due to marketing fail and not product. Maybe I missed some specific UX or design issues that you are referring to?

I do agree that there was a missed opportunity to integrate their other awesome products you mentioned. But to me even with those integrated Google+ would have needed a raison d’etre that was substantially different than facebook.

G+'s interface may have been clean and minimalist, but its features were known for being too confusing to navigated and manage, especially the circles - its core function. Finding, linking to, mentioning other people, the +1 button; you had to experiment for a good amount of time to get G+. That isn't attractive to normal people.

At the same time, the minimalism pervaded the rest of the platform. Instead of giving its users reason to spend time on G+, the site seemed to expect for people to entertain themselves. As such, there was little that drove more activity, connected people, and gave reason to spend time to understand all the features.

One thing I misremembered. There was a serious issue with marketing. They didn't open up to the public for several months. By that time a lot of the hype died down.

The "Real Name" policy at the start was a huge mistake that hurt them. Early adopters were overwhelmingly digital natives who immediately felt the product wasn't for them.

See, that's an interesting angle. Facebook had to stick with real names because they were trying to become the default source of personal identity online. (and basically succeeded) But with real identity comes a whole host of problems.

If Google had pivoted 180 degrees and offered up a full featured social network with pseudonyms and, like, one other twist so that it wasn't just Myspace, then there's a reason to care about Google+. LinkedIn is facebook for professional identity... There have to be other identities not shown on Facebook that google could have gone after.

They made a complete farce of marketing it as it wasn't initially like Facebook. Facebook connects to people you know or are connected to. Google+ seemed more a Usenet 2.0 in connecting based on interests, especially with things like circles, whether you knew people or not. A few friends joined really early in beta and thought it was great.

So when I got to joining what did it present? Welcome - connect to some famous people. Now add your friends. Not one mention of interests, and I'm not sure they even mentioned circles. So everyone joining was being presented a picture of Facebook.

I didn't last long.

When it launched I had several friends on g+ that were not on Facebook. Facebook already had a bad rep, but Google was still cool. The circles were a great idea. I didn't see any problems with the ui either.

But there was simply not much to do, contrary to what you'd expect with all the other Google services available.

“Friends on G+ that weren’t on Facebook” <== this was an opportunity

I was still very high on Facebook kool aid at that time. It may have had a bad rep to some people, but this sentiment was years away from reaching people like me.

Note that I am about as much of a Facebook insider as possible without actually having worked there. I personally know most of their top execs, Zuck interviewed me in 2007, turned down a PM offer to join Bebo but stayed close with a number of them for years. I would have loved to be filthy rich with those options, but if I had joined I would feel guilty for the destruction I contributed to.

i haven't seen anyone mention this yet, but google+ made it difficult to join in the beginning. it was invite only or something else limiting like that where you couldn't join even if you wanted to unless you had an invite. i remember it being quite a long time after their initial buzz before they opened it up. it made me lose interest.

Not sure if it was intentional but you mentioned an earlier failed Google social effort - buzz.

In fact including wave buzz and orkut, Google had to date at least 4 abandoned forays into the social market.

I'd go so far as to posit Google:social::Microsoft:mobile

> Instead they should have tried to identify a niche where Facebook was failing and build up a loyal core of rabidly passionate users

As Google Reader history shows, Google does not care about the passionate users.

I still miss Reader. :(

I basically stopped following most blogs when it shut down, and reverted to individual bookmarks.

I wonder if that's in their interest or not

the feature is basically replicated on android phones that have the google now launcher page that shows you customised results based on how you search.

Have a look at Feedly. I, too, loved Reader. Feedly filled the void for me :).

Big companies typically don't go after small niches. There are so many of them available they can't possibly pursue them all, because ultimately you don't know which one will take off. The book The Innovator's Dilemma focuses on this.

Exactly. My point is that going after small niches until one works would have been a better strategy to come up with a viable Facebook competitor. This could probably only happen with a “startup within big company” model where they had the freedom to test out a bunch of crazy stuff for a long time without pressure from management.

Big companies typically don't go after small niches.

Big companies go after niches all the time. Many microbrews are owned by massive multi-national breweries. Huge drug companies chase niches every day. Giant food companies release ethic niche foods every month.

Whomever told you that there isn’t big money in niches or that they’re not worth going after is someone you should stop taking advice from.

> "Big companies go after niches all the time. Many microbrews are owned by massive multi-national breweries."

AB Inbev, et al isn't targeting a niche by buying microbrews, they're building a portfolio that gives them access to growing and profitable craft brew market that's 1/4th of the total US beer market.

   Retail dollar sales of craft increased 8%, up to $26.0 billion, 
   and now account for more than 23% of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market.

It very much depends on the market. This is the reason why Seagate and Western Digital aren’t big names in the SSD market. They dominated the mechanical drive market for years (and still do!) but by the time SSDs were worth pursuing, other companies were light years ahead of them.

Google isn’t really in the business of filling small niches. That’s why they kill so many products that have small but passionate user bases. It’s just not worth their time and money so they shut the products down. This is why I can’t see them trying to start with a small social media niche and slowly expand to a bigger market. It’s a great idea; but seems to go against everything they do.

That's because HDDs and SSDs are actually very different on the inside. They do roughly the same, but just because a company is good at manufacturing HDDs does not mean that it can also produce good SSDs.

The typical SV wisdom is that you want to find a bit market you can monopolise. While good for startups, this doesn’t apply to big companies.

I still miss Wave... In my opinion, Googles biggest failure was the missing real-world federation. They promised us, that there will be a server to run on your own hardware and yet it took them years to release anything that was usable. Even years after the open source release the software was quite unstable.

Paired with the missing backward compatibility with email those two are the most important aspects of why Wave failed IMHO.

Personally, visual clutter and poor performance were two major factors why Wave didn't work for me. Visually they were cramming too much stuff on the page, with loads of avatars / icons for participants and the like - IMO unnecessary information to have on the landing page. And performance wise it was just not good enough, maybe if they made it an optimized native app instead of a webapp.

At least they could incorporate the tech they developed and used for Wave in other products, notably Docs and G+.

> Instead they should have tried to identify a niche where Facebook was failing (say, intimate private sharing, or the antithesis of the narcissist fest) and build up a loyal core of rabidly passionate users, then slowly expanded from there.

Great advice for a YC startup, but not how big companies that already have large user bases operate. Big companies have a metric they want to drive, then look for big opportunities, simply because dominating a “niche” is too small an opportunity to make a dent in a big-company metric like DAU, time spent, etc. If you do want to start with a niche, it can be super hard to justify continued investment from management, given that there are so many other bets that can drive larger near-term changes to metrics.

Right. But the reason big companies fail at this is because they don’t have the balls to pursue optimal longterm strategy in the face of quicker near term wins. There’s nothing preventing a big company from thinking like a nimble startup, other than fear/lack of vision coming from the top. If the CEO stuck to his or her guns, they could outcompete startups for these opportunities.

Then they shouldn’t have tried starting a social network at all.

> Going for feature parity was a mistake

But there was no feature parity, not even close.

When G+ launched it was more like a tech demo, interest died down when people discovered that there really was not much to do.

They added more features over time, but at that point the hype was already dead.

They had the important stuff. Posting content, a feed, friends. This is what drove Facebook. All the other stuff was icing on the cake.

The existence of core features does not a compelling argument for switching make.

There were no events, no pages.

If I just want to chat with friends I might just a well use a messenger with a group chat.

Actually, Google+ never aimed at feature parity with Facebook. At least not in the way of having the same set of features and accessible as easily as they were/are on Facebook. Having used both platforms for a long time, this was a huge barrier to doing anything on Google+ even if one didn't mind many people not being on it.

If it had copied Facebook shamelessly, it would've given an alternative for all those people fed up with Facebook for the last decade or so, and thus increased usage too.

Uh, they kinda did copy Facebook shamelessly on the core features and basic UI, with the exception of Circles. I log in, I see a feed, I have a way to add “friends”, I can share text/photos/videos/links and comment. It basically looked and felt like logging in to Facebook with no friends on there, less features, and a few interesting UI differences.

If they had done something different, like say restricted you to X number of friends, for any small X, or focused on groups, or done something anonymous like Secret - now that at least would have been different. It may have still failed but at least it would have been trying to scratch a different itch on the social spectrum.

I think the parent meant that Facebook had more features so Google+ didn't really aim at "feature parity".

I get that. My point is that Google aimed at “core feature parity,” which was a mistake.

> anyone remember Wave?

Doesn't Google Wave live on as Google Docs?

Google Docs predates Wave and has since been rebranded as Google Drive. Various blogs have pointed out how certain aspects of Wave have been integrated into Docs/Sheets/Drive. The big concept with wave was that you did operations. "Go to row 12 and bold characters 15 through 38" as an operation within a document, as opposed to synchronizing an entire object. So when you set your cursor on a word in the document, it sent that as an operation, and any other clients editing the document could see where your cursor was at. Operations at the individual character level would sync to all attached clients and you can see edits in realtime. It's really interesting when a team at work is all looking at and modifying the same spreadsheet. The box they are editing is highlighted so you naturally stay away from it. If you are "idle", you might click your cursor away from all the activity as a common courtesy.

Good Docs had this to a degree before Wave, but it was unpolished. Two people could definitely edit a sheet together, but editing a document was more cumbersome (whole blocks of text would update at once). After Wave, they took the concepts and you could then see everyone editing the document as they typed or simply moved around the document.

I believe Docs has always been an entirely separate product. They may have had a version of it inside Wave. Not 100% sure on this but that’s what I remember.

Individual features from Wave were ported over to Docs, from what I read. Eg some of the collaborative editing etc.

> finally admitting defeat.

Not so much defeat , but more avoiding future liability. They sure could afford to run it , but under the current circumstances, a data leak like the one they claim they didn't have would be very damaging to their image and their moneymakers.

If shuttering a consumer product and relegating it to enterprise isn’t admitting defeat, then I don’t know what you mean by defeat.

defeat happened a decade ago, i don't think it was the hope of "victory" that was keeping it alive. Rather, it was not enough of a trouble/liability (until april), and a small number of people/communities still used it.

“defeat happened a decade ago“

...right. Hence, them finally “admitting defeat” which you objected to for some reason in your previous comment.

Are they admitting defeat, or are they simply removing another bit of their business that can’t be profitable without exploiting privacy?

To me it seems like google is forcing more and more on selling services rather than user information.

Not to beat a dead horse on this defeat thing, but it's defeat from the perspective of trying and failing to have a competing social network. I like your optimism and I wish Google's reasons were that noble. But it's hopelessly naive to say that they are shutting it down as part of a trend of selling services rather than info.

#1, they're shutting it down to avoid a massive backlash after being hacked, because otherwise they might steal the crown of "most disreputable Big Tech co" from Facebook, which could begin to affect their stock price much like it has Facebook's.

#2, they are making inroads in every other part of their business sacrificing user privacy for nebulous features/benefits. See the recent debacle over Chrome auto-sign in. They basically tried to change the definition of Chrome from "it's a browser" to "it's Google" without anybody noticing.

Not particularly consistent with a company ostensibly moving away from a business model relying on targeted advertising.

> But people always forget that the way to build a platform is to start by nailing a niche use case and then expanding.

The median Googler works there for something like 1.1 years, and gets recruited straight out of college. Combine this with the fact that Larry Page almost immediately abdicated after being handed back the reins from Eric Schmidt around this time, and a lot of other influential old timers like Marissa Mayer are long gone, it's no small wonder, I guess, that the sensibilities and follow-through of early Google are dead.

I'm pretty sure Google would have more luck in making and keeping these technologies if they found some middle-ground on spying, tracking and profiling. I almost bought Google Glass, but after reading review that it makes picture every few seconds and each time you blink and uploads it to Google, I decided not to ever buy something like this. It's not only harmful for my privacy, but literally everyone else around me.

> but after reading review that it makes picture every few seconds and each time you blink and uploads it to Google

This is a ridiculous claim and should be discarded without sources. Do you have any?

Why do you need to beat Facebook at social at all? Just focus on what you’re good at, it’s not like Facebook is going to suddenly dominate search.

Because social is/was such a fundamental aspect of the human experience. As proven by facebook’s continued explosive growth in the years since Google tried to compete. Not to mention FB’s ability to affect markets, attitudes, and politics at global scale.

It would have been better if they had competitors to keep them honest.

Disagree strongly. Lots of categories are a fundamental part of the human experience. No one company can or should try and compete in all of them.

I really admire Apple here a lot more than Google. They seem to have a stronger sense of who they are and who they are not.

Sure. But I never said Google should try to compete in all of them. Just social, given that it is up there as a fundamental human need, hardwired into our brains like the need for food or sex. Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful.” You really can’t fault them for trying to organize the world’s social information when it became clear to everyone that social was powerful enough to become one of the dominant computing paradigms.

My take is, they were justified in going for it, but it’s simply not in their DNA. Social information is different from the non-human information where Google dominates (eg search, maps, etc).

I do share your admiration for Apple vs Google. But I wonder how long they will be able to keep it up without a Jobsian product visionary to define their identity. Tim Cook is doing a good job so far but there is only so long they can coast on iPhone dominance and strong operations. Apple’s identity revolves around defining the future, and I’m not sure they still have that ability.

Whether or not they should have, I applaud Google for at least trying. Facebook needs a real competitor.

This was, in fact, the dominant narrative at the time. Niche search products like Amazon (products), Facebook (social), and Twitter (news) were going to be the end of Google if they didn't get their act together. It's the same reason they're so obsessed with becoming the destination or broker (ads) for search queries instead of sending people on to organic results.

Facebook is the only other company that has meaningful market share in online ads - the stats are always something like "Google + Facebook have 90-something %". Had Google managed to build a product that replaced Facebook, maybe they'd have that 90+% to themselves.

All large enough corporations expand until they can read email; those that don't are subsumed by ad-hoc implementations of 50% of Common Lisp. - Paul McCarthy (1956)

Facebook is perhaps the biggest competitor to YouTube with video.

can't search a closed Facebook network. Facebook sucked up the internet.

>say, intimate private sharing, or the antithesis of the narcissist fest) and build up a loyal core of rabidly passionate users

Kind of describes Google Wave in a sense - private collaboration and passionate users. But it couldn't expand out of that niche set of users/use-cases.

FYI: Google Glass Enterprise Edition is still alive.

Yes. But still a non player in the much more important consumer market. Arguably Google still has a stake in consumer glasses via their massive investment in Magic Leap. But whether that has any chance of succeeding is a whole other story.

What "important" market is there? It's far from certain that VR/AR hardware is going to amount to anything for the next 10 years.

The important market is when smartglasses replace smartphones as the dominant form of human computer interaction. Which will happen in the next 10 years.

Are you sure of this? I would find that surprising. Is there some market research somewhere that points to this?

There’s a lot of market research readily available, admittedly of questionable quality. But the more reliable weather vane is estimating when Apple will launch their smartglasses. Add 5 years to that for when glasses disrupt smartphones. At the rate Apple is buying up AR and VR companies you can expect them to launch in late 2019 or 2020.

But I can't turn my smartglasses around and show someone the memes I'm looking at. I don't see how it could replace my phone. Compliment perhaps, but having used Google Glass Enterprise I don't think it's as big of a game changer as you might think.

I bet it won't because somebody will come up with implants and/or lenses.

That’s the next step. Will take another few years after glasses.

here's to hoping it happens in the next 5

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