Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Google+ Story

Yes, I am posting this on Blogger, but for a reason, which I will get to. Please be patient.

I started using G+ shortly after it opened up to general users. Previously I had used that other social network - FB, the 800 pound gorilla - and looked at a couple of others.

FB started out amusing, but the more I used it the more I began to hate it. Their technology decisions are awful, their privacy settings labyrinthine, and the defaults they select when adding new features with privacy impacts are, generally, wrong. But it was where all the cool kids were, so I went there too.

And I really got sick of it. The memes, the game posts, the inability to see all of the posts from my friends on my wall (or feed, or whatever they want to call it next week), and so on. Mostly though, it was far too much like high school. Friend counts that didn't matter, and almost no discussion of anything actually important. Yes, there were occasional posts that mattered, but they were all about events in the lives of immediate family and friends, much less about what was going on in the world.

Then, G+ arrived, and I tried it out of curiosity. Like most, I circled people I knew at first, and worked with that for a while, but as those I knew shared posts from people I didn't, I started circling a few of those, and my circles grew. And I started to learn things; not about G+, but about the world.

I cannot claim to know what Google's developers had in mind when they created G+, but I can see some of what they have wound up with, and the best explanation I've read so far that said G+ was about content curation. Think about that for a moment. G+ lets users with similar interest find each other. They don't have to be friends or know each other, like FB, and they can write full sentences - or many pages - unlike twitter.

And that fits me. I use G+ to hear from people with interesting things to say on topics I care about, and interesting points of view. I have never met most of them, and I probably never will, but here on G+ we interact.

There are people here that share posts on just about every topic imaginable. If you want to know about yak herding, you can search for it (I just did) and find all kinds of stuff.

I follow people who post about astronomy, human rights, technology, teaching, and a couple of generalists who fill my feed with fascinating articles... so many I have to pick and choose which ones I read in depth. G+ makes me smarter and keeps me informed about the topics I choose. It also gives me a place to talk with others who share my interests, and discuss complicated issues.

After a while spent on both G+ and FB, I decided I was done with FB and deleted all of my posts. (And yes, I suspect that they are still there in FB's servers, and that there is nothing I can ever do about that, but such is life.)  I keep the FB account just in case I need it to sign into some system that only uses FB for authentication, but that hasn't happened yet, and the few times I have wandered down that path I stopped when I was informed that I would have to turn FB's platform apps back on.  (Those got turned off a long time ago to avoid a bunch of security concerns, and I am not turning them back on, ever.)

So now I use G+ as my primary social network, and my life is much enriched.

I won't claim that G+ - or Google - is perfect. They've made mistakes, and I am sure they will make others. But the big irritants in FB are not present in G+: I know how its security settings work, and I get so much more out of the experience.  I'm sure I miss a few important posts from friends over on FB that might matter, but honestly there is no way to be sure FB would have shown them to me in any case, given the idiotic scheme they use for determining who sees any given status update.

And yes, Google definitely is a big company, and bad things do happen at big companies. Not always, but sometimes. I am aware of that.

Maybe Diaspora will take off one of these days, or something similar. A social network that avoids big companies controlling the data and yet offers an environment like that of G+ - with its by-the-users content organization and curation - might be the best of all possible worlds.

But so far G+ works for me. None of the fluff, lots of great content. Anyone claiming G+ is a ghost town is probably trying to use it like FB.  And why would you do that, any more than you might use Twitter like you'd use FB?

I mentioned at the beginning that I was posting this to Blogger for a reason. Two, actually. First, I have friends that follow me on Blogger that don't use G+ (at least not yet) and I hope they will see this description and consider giving G+ a try. Second, I have Blogger setup to cross post to G+ automatically, so those who follow me there will see it too.

So that's my G+ story. I hope others find G+ as valuable as I do.