Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Google Circles vs Facebook

When I first joined facebook I was taken back by how incredibly impertinent the news in the news feed was.  I wrote a few long private messages to friends to try to catch up, but vowed to log on very infrequently for fear I would become addicted to it like some people I've heard about (I am easily addicted to video games, as my Diablo II hardcore sorceress's #1 USWEST ladder rank can attest, or could have in 2001, heh).

I had accrued some principled reasons for being anti-facebook.  Of course there are the privacy issues, but I especially disliked how an account can be revoked and there is very little one can do about it.  I also don't like how Chinese activists have had difficulty using names of their own choosing.  What I wanted most was a way of controlling what subset of friends would see certain posts.

I had told myself I would switch to whatever social network Google would come up with (since Buzz and Orkut did not seriously compete with facebook).  Google+ has now hit the scene and I have joined, read posts, and posted on it.

What I am most surprised by is how much I detest making the choice of who should see my post.  Is this post for friends, family, professional colleagues, or people that are only in a combination of those, or only a subset of those?  This is too much thinking, too much pressure for a post about how nice the weather in Palo Alto is (very).  Or how much better the Mexican food is (much much).  Or how much I enjoyed playing Red Dead Redemption with my uncle during my last visit to Southern California (a lot).

I find myself using facebook much more now.  I think Google+ has taught me that I do not want to think all that much about my social network postings.  I would rather spend 10 seconds writing a dumb musing instead of 2 minutes.  In fact, after spending 2 minutes thinking about it, I generally would just abandon the idea of posting... or log on to facebook to check if there are any posts I might troll, err, comment on.  If other people are like me then that does not spell good news for Google.

This reminds me of the "affordances" taught in the human-computer-interaction  course I took in college.  Every item has a use, or affordance.  To kids, trees are "for" climbing, stones are for throwing, and soccer balls are for kicking.  It was funny that this notion also extended to more nefarious purposes.  For example, the behavior of hooligans could be controlled by the material that covers an opening in a building.  The hooligans thought that windows were for breaking, and boards were for graffiti, even though windows can be graffitied and boards can be broken.

In my mind facebook is for posting musings, typically aimless but sometimes with a little bit of a point.  I can also see the importance of LinkedIn - people there would not be surprised to see a message that a contact is or plans to be out of work and is looking for something interesting.  LinkedIn is for work.

Google+ is trying to be whatever you want it to be at the moment.  It can be used for both facebook and LinkedIn types of posts.  If we do end up needing a toolbox to hold all of our tools, then Google+ has a bright future.  But we might only need a couple.  In support of this latter position, I'll finish by quoting Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino:

"Take these three items, some WD-40, a vice grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."

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