Saturday, January 7, 2012

Google Plus and the Next Frontier


I've been around a while and I have seen a lot of trends come and go as far as online life is concerned. I remember when that whole World Wide Web came about and I used a program called Mosaic 1.0 to look at the 40 or 50 websites that were out there. I would subscribe to the Usenet groups using Free Agent and wait a half hour to download nudie pictures, and somewhere along the lines I remember downloading a program called Mirc so that I could play around in Internet Relay Chat. Seriously I thought I was in the Jetsons times back then, and I was perfectly happy with how the world was going along.
Well later on down the road a program called Netscape came along, and it was bringing more toys to the web browsing experience. My one friend with a Macintosh {dork} was raving about it so I had to try it. Yeah it was new, and then came a program called ICQ which all of my IRC friends were using, and that was the coolest thing in the world. I could actually send instant messages to people and it would make a noise when one of my friends was at the computer. If you are reasonably new to the whole internet game, you are probably thinking that I am one of those relics talking about the days of World War I or something, but no I just haven’t started waxing on about Commodore and Atari yet.
I’ve seen a lot of it come and a lot of it go and I have come to know when it is coming and when it is going. These days it is all about social networking, and let me tell you I have seen all of that disappear and reappear too. I have frolicked in most of it until it bored me and then I simply watched it bore everyone else and go away. Remember that juggernaut known as Myspace? I assure you that when I stopped paying attention to Myspace a lot of people stopped paying attention to me, and thought I was nuts. Now there was something cool about Myspace but it really got old fast, and by “old fast” I mean that the entire system started seeming outdated daily. Other services came along and started just being better from the get go, and chief among them is the Facebook that everyone and their mother uses now.
Social Media has some fringe elements that might stay valid on their own for some time to come {like LinkedIn} and many other BBS style online communities that have popped up and simply follow the leaders as best they can, but it really in the last year came down to two big services and two formats. You have the Facebook and Twitter, both of which I have used and to varying success. I actually started writing this because of the third big player that is going to challenge these two and in the end crush one of them outright, if Google doesn’t get bored with it. You see that is still the caveat that comes with throwing your heart and soul into the new kid in the online world Google + is in the fact that our friends at Google might just one day decide they don’t like supporting Google + anymore and up and dump it. While it is still there let me just explain why Google + will inevitably crush Facebook and compliment Twitter.
You’ll forgive me but I am a Tweeter at heart and I can still have a fun time spending an hour or so before I go to bed funning around on Twitter. It’s basically the format of it, and it is easy access to news, friends, and one liners. As long as they keep that track nobody is going to destroy it, not even Google, and trust me they tried with the whole Google Buzz thing {that they got bored with} and with Google + they decided it was time to take on Facebook. As someone who watches Facebook deal with its own innate fear of becoming irrelevant like Myspace, I have to say that it couldn’t come at a better time. Facebook used to work really good, then came the developmental stages which give everyone fits. You get used to the developments just to find out that you hate the way it works afterwards, and wish it would go back, and the dirty little secret is that it never will. I found myself wondering quite often what was wrong with me, as I watched what little popularity I had fade, and then worse than that started realizing that the worst thing you could do was interact with the people on my Facebook because you would be inundated with their friends opinions. Some of these were good and a lot of them were time wasting babble, and inside jokes and words from the clique.
This didn’t help as Facebook goes through a never ending process of algorithms to edit how other people’s information gets fed to you. Most of the things you would like to see are filtered out and the crap comes shining through a lot of the time. I will never understand why this is so important to Facebook but it is. They finally started feeling the heat from Google + and it’s “follow based” model that mimics Twitter and started the whole Subscription and Fan system. This of course puts another layer of crap in your feed that makes it harder to interact with actual friends and people that will interact back with you and the cycle of the never ending middle school continues. I have yet to find this problem occurring on Google + but who knows what will come later.
If you’re like me and you are seeing the frustration of Facebook then I have a few tips to get you over to Google + with the least amount of withdrawal. You see with the use of Google Chrome there are some interesting little apps that will get your Facebook updates {and your Twitter too} in your feed, and make it so that everything you post on Google + go right over to Facebook and Twitter. The first one I found was called SGPlus {http://sgplus.me/} which after you install it will let you selectively post to Facebook and Twitter at the same time but will also add these feeds to your Google + feed. After I had gotten used to that I also found Plusist {http://plusist.com/} which doesn’t require any interaction on my part, it just simply checks my Google + page every half hour and then posts whatever is new to Facebook and Twitter. It also works as a great way to post to Twitter long things with a link to your Google + article that you posted, and has upped my Twitter interactions by quite a bit. Of course it has come pretty close to adding no value to my Facebook, which has inevitably become valueless to me anyway.
Now of course on Google + they are playing around with adding things to your feed that they think might “interest you” that aren’t in your follows, but this is not in lieu of the people and things you want information from. Instead at the end of the pertinent feed, there is a separate scrawl of “trending” where these things come in, and even though it hasn’t been 100% accurate on what I want to see in my case it has added entertainment value. It’s even added Barack Obama feeds that have been the source of great ridicule that I might have otherwise missed, as well as some good eggs I just might have wanted to follow. All in all though the interactions on Google + are more along the lines of what I had once found to be the case on Facebook, so in the end rather than sitting around wishing for “the good old days” I have moved onward. I really do hope that Google doesn’t get sick of + or at the very least doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel every week, in a manner that will make me sick of it.