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The Mounting Minuses at Google+ (wsj.com)
73 points by ssclafani on Feb 28, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

Google+ fills a void for me most similar to a mix between Twitter and HN. The discussions are what makes it shine.

Why doesn't this happen on Facebook or Twitter? Here's what I think:

For most people, Facebook is just the wrong context for intellectual discussions.

Similarly, Twitter's medium and user interface are too limiting to have quality discussions since there is no centralized concept of a post. It's just a sea of tweets, retweets and reply tweets that you have to track if you want to follow the discussion.

A lot of my real-world friends are on G+ but that's really only an ancillary benefit to me because I can direct share things to my friends in 1-click from anywhere on the web (e.g. with the +1 Chrome extension). G+ would still have value to me without them, honestly.

That's fine, but realise that intellectual discussions are a niche use case.

Like gms said, the majority of the public doesn't have intellectual discussions. It's hard to engage the masses with a killer feature like that... you might as well be selling online PhD Dissertation latex markup editors.

I still agree, but it's sometimes hard for HN to separate their own niche uses of software versus what will be successful on the market. Pinterest and even Chill are examples of this

I find use for G+ due to the same higher intellect density that my circles generate on it.

If Google were really interested in integrating their crawling search with social search, they'd provide a "share this search with your circles" feature on the google search page, together with some descriptive text that you add like in a normal G+ post .. so people in my circles can respond with results that they think are relevant/related/tangential/interesting/whatever.

I still have yet to hear a compelling reason why Google+ offers real value. The experience sucks compared to FaceBook, without even factoring in FB's existing adoption rate and the resulting network effects. The branding is confusing; people think of Google for finding stuff, not socializing. And the marketing is pushy, shoving +1s everywhere, which holds no appeal to the regular people who click the "Like" button on their friend's Farmville plot.

Google is making the mistake of fighting the last war. FaceBook may not own the social graph forever, but even Google can't unseat them with a frontal assault. People often compare the situation to FaceBook's conquest over MySpace, but they forget that the MySpace user experience was pure shit. As long as the FaceBook experience isn't terrible, there isn't much reason for them to leave.

First of all, you are comparing apple to oranges. Google+ is not a direct competition to Facebook and there are many ways all three (including Twitter) can coexist.

Lastly, the Facebook user experience is really horrible. That's one of the top reasons I don't use it. Menus are not ordered, options are hidden, many parts are not explained nor documented, top search works different depending which page you are one, etc. And even though my grandma uses it, most of the times, she's posting on other people's walls things she wanted to share with other people, or not posting on walls when she is trying to communicate with my brother. The experience is just too complicated.

First of all, you are comparing apple to oranges. Google+ is not a direct competition to Facebook

No matter how much they are claimed to solve different problems, they work in the same way and occupy a similar brain space. Facebook is already well above and beyond the level of time sink that many people are willing to accept. Their user numbers are already starting to drop in many countries because many people -- even ordinary users -- eventually run out of patience.

Given Facebook is already wearing peoples' patience thin, it's unlikely many people really want to give full engagement to both sites at once. People just don't have the time, and after you've spent 30 minutes on Facebook, do you really want to go over to Google+ and repeat the same process again?

It's kind of like trying to play multiple similar MMORPGs (say, WoW and LOTRO) at the same time; they occupy the same sort of brain space, so when you're bored with one, you probably don't want to go play the other. But maybe you can actively enjoy two different experiences; say, World of Tanks and EVE at the same time... or Facebook and Twitter.

Google+ could hypothetically win out against Facebook, but it's unlikely that they can seriously coexist with a large overlap in users. Most likely, Google+ will end up like other social networking services like Orkut; very popular among some particular groups (Brazillians, in the Orkut case), but very lacking in penetration outside of that, due to the network effect.

I have never had a facebook account. I never will. I have had a G+ account for many months and I dont use it at all. Literally zero time per week.

There are too many distractions online, I don't watch TV at all either, but I just don't have the brain space for the following peoples feeds.

I had scoble on my follow list on G+ when I first joined, and I had to drop him because he just produced way too much crap I didnt have time or interest to read.

Between my family, friends, reddit and HN, I have way too much content than I know what to do with.

Aside from this - it detracts from my attempts to dedicate time to learning new things.

I am very close to dropping reddit and HN and only watching Kahn and other online trainings.

G+ is what it is because it can't compete with Facebook. At this point they're rolling with whatever they can get and it seems to be a sparse tech savvy crowd that only logs in because the service is ran by google.

It really doesn't do anything that people don't already get from forums/facebook/twitter/linkedin.

Every time one of these articles come out, my Google+ stream fills with this stories. In fact, I read it first on Google+ than on Hacker News.

If you are on Google+, and you participate, you will notice that it's a big success. I'm not saying this because I love Google, I'm saying it because it's almost the only social network I feel compelled to use.

Google+ also works for me. 90% of the content in my stream was not published publicly though so it wouldn't look like there's anything going on to an outside observer.

"If you are on Google+, and you participate, you will notice that it's a big success."

Can you explain that more? I'm on G+ and I participate but I have seen no evidence that "it's a big success."

What I meant is that it's a product that's here to stay. Maybe I went too far with the word big , but it's a success in that it has gained enough momentum to be really useful to a large amount of people.

A marking difference is that Facebook asks "What's on your mind?" and Google+ asks "Share what's new...".

G+ isn't really a social network, it's an extension to my Google profile and Google account. I would like to use it as my social network but it's lacking a couple of crucial things.

The reason it's suited for almost sharing news only and as an ad-hoc blogging service is because it doesn't allow you to actually be in touch with people like Facebook does. Unlike in Facebook, in G+ you can't post to the equivalent of people's wall and you can't send short messages such as on Facebook. There's email but it's not available with all my contacts, and G+ chat only works with a select few people, and there's always a barrier in writing an ordinary email.

Surprisingly, addressing a single person privately or publically is the only thing that I need from Facebook. I don't use anything else on Facebook so I could probably switch to G+ with most of my friend base if G+ had those. Surely the user interface is much better on Google side, Facebook is absolutely horrific.

Agreed. There were suggestions early on that you can just make a post limited to one person (instead of a circle or public), but for some reason that feels really awkward even though it's easy to do. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe because it ends up in the same stream as everything else?

The main issue with posting to only one person is that the person doesn't know it is actually private, at least it didn't have any marking the last time I tried. The feature would be perfect if there was a message saying "this post have been shared with you exclusively, your replies will only be seen by the original poster".

G+ is absolutely a ghost town on everything except SEO, photography & tech news.

The company I work does womens fashion marketing for bigger e-commerce sites retailers and designers. I was researching over the weekend to find any designer on G+ and couldn't find anything. There are some active bloggers but most get no +'s or the profiles havent been updated since 4 or 5 months ago.

From my 2 or so hours of research trying to find any thread of activity, most women sharing content are definitely not doing it on Google plus.

May I recommend https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ao1OX3UN25EvdHR... or http://www.recommendedusers.com/?

There are many kinds of different people on Google+. Some came from twitter, but many of them are just new to the social scene are starting to get popular.

I've found the (somewhat public-facing) science and (academic) math content and discussion to be great on google+. Not being more popular might hurt the service long term if it gets shut down, but I really enjoy it right now, so I don't particularly care.

Facebook I use mostly to keep up with family members and friends getting married and having kids, which is fine. Twitter continues to be a great pseudo-rss feed, streaming in tons of content in such easily digestible bite-sized pieces (but every time I try to figure out the course of conversation between other people I remember why I hate their interface). Google's plan may have been to be all things to all people and they haven't been able to, but it's good for me right now for finding interesting stories and very interesting people to talk with and learn from in the niches I care about. The interface is designed for back and forth conversation, and the signal to noise ratio is such that I actually enjoy it. Again, for now, why would I care about more than that?

> While Intel gets dozens of responses to its posts on Google+ Ms. Walter said the company has nine million "fans" on Facebook and gets thousands of comments there.

This (and the trending-twitter-content/youtube-comment quality of the thousands of comments you get on those posts) is exactly the problem with public discussions on Facebook. Really it's a problem that no social network has been able to solve as it scales up as far as I know. 100s of millions of people are going to cause serious tragedies of the commons, of course, but we also get the growing pains of reddit and, to a lesser extent, HN. Hopefully google+ can maintain it's comfortable minuses for a little while longer.

If I want to post publicly to my "followers" (people I don't know) I use Twitter, if I want to post to my friends I use Facebook, for me and almost everyone else I've spoken to Google+ offers no value. I still don't understand what Google was thinking with +, it offers nothing to most people. The only good feature is hangouts which could easily be a separate product.

I have around 150 friends on Facebook and I see a new time line "story" every 2 or 3 minutes (average). I follow 40 or so people on Twitter and see about 1 tweet per 15 minutes (average) and on Google+ I have 44 people in circles and there are only 3 people that actually post anything, it averages at 1 post to my "feed" per day. It's abysmal.

If I want to post publicly to my "followers" (people I don't know) I use Twitter, [...] I still don't understand what Google was thinking with +

How about publicly post long form content to your followers? Because G+ excels in that, and both Facebook and Twitter fail at it. There's a network effect problem, for sure, but it does have a purpose in the situation you outline.

Tumblr and other blogging platforms integrate into Facebook, and can drive a ton of traffic to your long-form content from there with short story previews or thumbnails. It's not the most seamless transition, but the functionality exists

The problem with Tumblr is that it's down a lot. I use it, but it suffers from reliability issues and has for a long time.

So you're really arguing that the size of the textbox is what distinguishes it from the other services? Most people post to their blog and distribute the links if they want to share something longer form.

I never really got Twitter. I found the 140 character limit quite infuriating and ended up deleting my account. Google+ for me is Twitter without the limitations that I found frustrating.

As to how busy your stream will be, if you only follow quiet people then you won't see much in the way of posts. There are a lot of people on Google+ sharing/creating interesting content. It's just a matter of searching for them.

G+ is much more engaging for me than either facebook or twitter.

This article feels like it's shilling for facebook.

"It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook Inc., which is preparing for a massive initial public offering.'

Among the most compelling positives about G+ for me is that it's not Facebook.

Among the most compelling negatives about G+ for me is that ... it's the emergent evil face of Google.

Nothing has changed my view of the company as much as it's exceptionally ham-handed dealings with real identities, real names, pseudonyms, and the like, particularly as expressed by Schmid and Gundotra (with an honorable mention to Horowitz) in the past six or eight months.

I thought G+ would be the first "non-evil" social networking site... until everything happened over the past year since it's launch. Google is betting the farm on the importance of social data for advertising, and it's disappointing to see them so desperate (when it's still considerably early in the race).

To be honest, I don't think Google even needs a social networking. They will be the kings of search, youtube, and email for the foreseeable future, and that's certainly enough to rake in billions in profit.

It's the lesser of two evils. Would you rather facebook (rumored to deal with the CIA/Palantir), or shudder - the government, be the internet's identity provider. In fact, unless Larry and Sergey crash in their planes I don't believe google will actually ever turn evil.


My own familiarity with social networks gives me a strong hope that some sort of social networking interchange protocol can be established which will enable the sort of sharing and disclosure (among friends and common interest groups) we've come to love, while limiting the exploitation by advertisers, spammers, scammers, and surveillance entities many of us have come to dislike intensely.

I see Diaspora as a very significant development to this end.

I was initially very excited about G+ because Twitter continues to be such a disappointment, but I find that I'm using Twitter more than ever (and, it should be said, disliking it more than ever). It has become clear to me that -- like the transition from black-and-white to color television -- the winning replacement for Twitter will be the one that doesn't force the world to choose overnight. To that end (and apologies if this obvious observation has already been made): could Google not allow me to associate my Twitter stream with G+ such that my tweets automatically show up as G+ posts? This would allow for the advantages of G+ (namely, discussion and follow-up) without me having to abandon Twitter followers -- and would allow me to gradually increase my use of G+ over time. Clearly this is technologically trivial, and if there is a legal reason that this isn't done, it seems to me that it should be circumventable. So is there a reason this hasn't been done? (Or perhaps it has?) Or maybe my fervent hope for a Twitter replacement has clouded my thinking, and this kind of bridge wouldn't be the panacea that it seems?

1. Why do you use Twitter if you dislike it so much? (I'm actually curious) 2. Syndicating your tweets across multiple networks would annoy people - and you would probably lose followers. The most annoying thing I see on Facebook is a stream of someones tweets. People tend to tweet a lot. They also tend to update their Facebook status a lot. But G+ is different. People post less and their is more discussion. Allowing tweet syndication would ruin that. You can however easily share your G+ posts to twitter (although not automatically) using one of several Chrome extensions.

I use Twitter primarily because of the network effect -- and secondarily because of the benefits of the 140-character narrative. (In particular, this allows for a much higher density view than I get with G+.) As for syndicating across multiple networks: I don't really see how I would lose Twitter followers -- and if I lose G+ followers over it, then G+ was probably never meant to be (at least for me). But I think you raise the essential question: is G+ meant to be different or better? And if better, how am I to migrate from Twitter (or FB) without having to manage two social networks?

I think it's meant to be different, not better (or at least that is how it is right now). It allows the follower model of Twitter but with the long form post ability (+profiles/photos) of Facebook. For me they are all best used separately: Facebook for friends & family; twitter for news/content that won't instigate discussions; Google+ for blog post style content and discussions.

How is G+ different? What does it do better? Here's what I want to see: Facebook took media, Google+ should take mobile. It seems to me that it is a positioning problem.

Facebook has made big moves recently to be the place to share all media (news papers, music, movies, tv etc) through their announced partnerships. Sharing media is something we've been waiting for and users have been doing themselves for years. For all the complaints, privacy concerns, user experience changes -- it seems to be going quite well.

However, Facebook's mobile apps have been atrocious. They are just recently approaching usable. How long did we have to wait for an iPad version of the Facebook app? Considering how often and how long people access Facebook from mobile devices it is astonishing that the mobile experience is what it is. Where is the innovation?

Google has an army of Android devices -- just take mobile and make the most awesome, seamless, integrated mobile experience ever. Partner with everything that's cool in the physical world. Social people get out and do things. Google+ should bridge the gap between offline and online social experiences. Android android android.

That sound you hear is a giant checkbook opening in the direction of Pintrest. The parallels with Google Video and Youtube shouldn't be lost on anyone.

Actually, it's the sound of Rupert Murdoch directing his properties on an anti-Google crusade.

I was going to say, it sure seems like News Corp beating the old drum.

I sure hope you aren't implying that Google is the one with the checkbook for Pinterest. Feminine interests + Google = death.

Last time I checked G+ my feed looks like a mix of photo gallery and Google fan club.

It is really really weird. All social groups have circle-jerky tendency, none is as apparent at the scale as G+

I couldn't be bothered to type it but now you have I'll add "me too". I even added a post entitled "Google+ test" (or something like that) and a paragraph about how I wasn't sure exactly how it was better than twitter or facebook. And I posted a few grumbles about Android phones (real grumbles, not just anti-fanboi stuff)..... And all I saw in my stream were Googlers posting pictures being praised by there 5000+ followers.

I cant even think of a reason myself why to join G+. Right now, Facebook offers almost everything I would have need.

So, because it wasn't instantly successful, it's a failure?

I remember thinking about MySpace that, with 80 million users, nobody would ever catch up. Boy was I wrong.

You and Rupert both.

I hear he bought a paper once, too ....

the problem is simple: no one wants to maintain multiple social accounts.

if all my friends migrated exclusively to G+, it would be fine, i would as well. but for that to happen, all of their friends would need to migrate...and so on.

i deleted my g+ account a week ago because no one has only a g+ account, everyone on g+ is ALSO on FB. as long as there continues to be a significant majority of content posted to FB (in my case over 90%), i have absolutely no desire to waste even more time being faux-social on an additional network. i have a real life as i am sure most people do.

i would need the equivalent of google reader to aggregate my social feeds so that i can stay sane. until that happens, "no thanks".

> the problem is simple: no one wants to maintain multiple social accounts.

I'm a FB refugee and G+ is the first social network I don't have to maintain. It's just there. I use other G products anyway so I don't think about using or not using it, if having the account is really worth it. And circles are so damn easy I don't care about adding even whole public circles I wouldn't normally friend/follow on any other network - they are there, I don't share with them, I can read them once per month and their existence doesn't bother me, if I realize I don't read them, I can drop a whole circle 4000 people at once with two clicks. And it's usability is disobliging, especially comparing to FB.

if G+ has 90 million users, and FB has 900 million users. statistically, only 1/10th of your FB contacts would be on G+ without the help of warm-market recruitment.

if you happen to find yourself in a situation where 95% of your friends are either exclusively or primarily on G+, you are likely a rare exception and don't need to weigh a choice between following 95% of what your friends share and the freedom from "maintaining" a social account.

i am very specific about what i want to share and what i dont. for that to happen, yes you need to explicitly post and not post. i hate the whole "share everything implicitly" concept. to be honest, beyond the FB feed of my tight circle of friends, i don't use it for anything else.

Not following 95% of what my "friends" share was a decision I made way earlier. So I really don't mind that on G+ I have 10-15 daily posts from people I know IRL, not 650. And if facebookers came to G+, certainly over half of them would land in a separate circle of IRL people I'm not interested in reading for various reasons. Most of the mentioned problems with G+ are problems I don't have.

i don't FB friend people that i don't talk to IRL at least once every 6 months. in fact, i actively unfriend stale contacts every year (probably about 10% each time). i'm usually at around 75 contacts. so my "friends" are without quotes and actually those who i do care to follow.

Yeah I agree - I am only on one social network site - twitter. I can't be bothered with FB.

The problem with Google+ is that people inside Google saw the things that were going wrong with it and the executive team didn't listen. A lot of them were punished. People were fired over RN advocacy, and the person who tried to save the Games product from failure had a manager push him out through various abuse-of-process tactics enabled by their ludicrous "perf" system. (Interesting fact: Google has two weeks every year where nothing gets done because everyone-- not just managers-- has to drop everything and write performance reviews.)

Google now has huge internal morale problems because of Google+ and the culture is falling to pieces. That, in my opinion, is why it will never succeed.

Wow, really? Can you provide a source for that claims? Maybe it's in the article but I didn't see it.

Everyone knows G+ is using better and cleaner tech than facebook or twitter, but social networks are defined by, and made vastly more valuable by their total network size and so facebook with its billions of users will probably be on top for some time to come.

The ONE thing that I loathe G+ for is that they did away with the just-about-a-standard @username and replaced it with +username. That's as lame as a .biz domain. No one is going to use it if you have to translate your post into googlese.

Google+ has one draw for me - hangouts with extras. The rest I ignore.

This is hit piece by rupert murdoch, who has some kind of insane grudge against google, which is funny when you think about - grandpa telling the kids to get off his lawn.

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