As Google+ goes into its second week of life, how’s the service doing? I could quote some numbers. I will, below! But I wanted to do a personal take contrasting it against another social site that I find essential. Not Facebook. Twitter.
Me & Facebook
Yes, I have a personal Facebook account. But I do very little there. For whatever reason, I never started using an application-based interface to Facebook, as I do with Twitter. That means I have to go over to Facebook and look through my news stream, and it’s too much of a bother.
Also, Facebook largely lost my personal attention back at the end of 2009, when yet the latest in privacy changes made me consider closing my account entirely. In the end, I created a like page for myself, as I explained more in my post from last year, Why I’m Not Deleting My Facebook Account (Yet).
Occasionally, I post links to things I’ve written to on that page. But for the most part, I just don’t attend to it as much as I probably should.
Me & Twitter
In contrast to Facebook, I’m constantly sharing through my Twitter account. Maybe it’s that the things I want to share fit the “short burst” mentality of Twitter. Maybe it just fits me better. Perhaps because I started using it quickly on through an app, I like it better. An app means I can have Twitter constantly open on one side of my screen, distinct from my browser.
(Yes, I know that I could have Facebook stream into many of the same apps that handle Twitter. Personally, I find that distracting).
Whatever the reason, Twitter is my main social network. So with Google+ now in the mix, it’s Twitter that I’m measuring it up against. How’s that going?
I thought I’d start with a visual. Here’s a snapshot of the last ten things I saw on Twitter when I looked at 1:07pm Pacific Time today, versus the last ten items I saw on Google Plus:
You can click to enlarge that image. What I’ve tried to is shown Google+ if it were to be exactly like my Twitter stream, to understand some of the diversity I might (or might not) be getting. In reality, a typical screen “page” of my Google+ stream will only show about three or four items, because with comments and other material such as image embeds, each individual item gets very long.
Diversity Of Content
For me, getting a diverse mix of content is a sign of a healthy social network. As I wrote before in One Week In, Google+ Users Are Growing Followers, Getting Traffic, if all I’m seeing is Robert Scoble, something’s not right!
Maybe that something is me. After all, Twitter is a mature social network that anyone can join, including major news outlets. Over the years, I’ve grown to following nearly 2,000 people, companies and news sources. I’m following far fewer on Google+, especially because there are far fewer there.
It’s true. Fewer sources do mean less activity and diversity. But then again, I am following over 400 people already. So, there should be some activity in my Google+ stream. How’s it looking?
On Twitter, my top ten items all came within one minute — and there were more within that same minute, if I’d gone down further.On Google+, the top ten items stretched across a seven minute period.
For me, Google+ is currently less active that Twitter. My gut feeling is that this is due to there still being less activity on Google+ as a new network than because I’m not following enough people.
Another sign of this is that when I did this test, my own post on Google+ about a Panda image on Bing was still showing for me. I’d tweeted a similar item to Twitter at the same time. That had long dropped out of my Twitter feed.
It’s not all about activity, however. What’s the quality of what I’m seeing?
In my Twitter sample, there was nothing that I’d felt was particularly essential or that would have made me click through. On my Google+ side, the first two items did capture my attention. The post from Matt Cutts even got me to click and read the story.
So Google+ is better on quality? It’s not so easy as that. I’m used to having my Twitter feed flow by constantly on the side of my screen. While there’s plenty of “noise,” I’m also constantly finding plenty of “signal” there, as well. Meanwhile, Google+ produces some of its own noise.
Sharing & Quoting & Repeating
I’d previously seen Matt’s post earlier in the day. Because I’d commented on it, that caused it to get kicked back up into my Google+ stream.
This wouldn’t have happened with Twitter. If I’d made a comment — effectively by doing an @reply to Matt — that wouldn’t kick his original tweet back up.
That’s probably for the best, because that type of thing can get annoying fast. It’s already annoying when a similar thing happens, when people “Share” an item.
Here’s a close-up of one of the items from Google+ in my comparison above:
Here, Kate Gardiner has shared an item originally shared by Mark Glaser. If this were Twitter — and she was using Twitter’s native retweet feature — this wouldn’t have carried her name at all. It would have been shown to me as if it was coming from Mark.
Google+ has no retweet concept like this. Sharing an item is effectively sharing an entirely new item. It creates a new post, which can have its own comments — and turns into a mess.
Several people might share the same original item. If you follow all the same people, that means you see it over and over again in your stream. Each of those items may have their own comments, so it’s hard to follow what everyone is saying about the subject in general.
In some cases, you might want to share an item in a way to add your own thoughts (similar to how “quoting” works with Twitter). But I suspect that Google+ might be better if “Share” worked as “Retweet” does on Twitter, with maybe an option when you click share to get either “Share Original” or “Share As New Post” choices.
The Commenting, Oh My!
Where Google+ has been downright amazing to me is the speed and volume of commenting that some posts can get. I can post something on Twitter and get a few replies. A post on Google+ often pulls 10, 20 or more comments within minutes of it going live.
Indeed, one of the biggest problems now is that there are so many comments on some posts that Google really needs to provide a threading option, plus it needs to “collapse” them more in your stream where there are many of them.
Keeps Me Going Back
When I used Google Buzz, I quickly found that it took too much time to be active in both places. And I also found that Google Buzz itself quickly lost activity. So, I routed my Twitter posts over to Google Buzz, and that was that.
So far with Google+, I’ve continued to be active there (my account is here). In part, that’s because unlike with Buzz, there’s enough activity to keep me going back. It’s also activity that I’m not finding on Twitter. Of course, that’s also because a lot of the activity is about Google+. People seem to be posting about Google+ on Google+ itself, which makes a lot of sense.
Certainly, I know I’m doing that. I’m not sharing some Google+ specific items on Twitter, because it doesn’t make sense to when so many on Twitter either don’t have access to Google+ or may not care about it.
I’m also aware that people may be following me in both places. That means I’m trying to think about what makes the most sense to share in both places, rather than one versus another. I don’t worry about this too much, but I do give it some thought.
Google+ & The Middle Ground
The self-referential nature of Google+ is slowly but surely dying down, however. One thing I’ve been using it for, that Twitter isn’t helpful for, are those times when I want to make a comment about something, perhaps spark a discussion, and those 140 characters simply aren’t enough.
It’s a nice middle ground between the micro-blogging that Twitter offers and the more time consuming effort of creating a formal blog post — and it has the benefit of potentially generating tons of feedback and consolidating that feedback for future reference.
That’s one reason why I can see it being compelling to people like Kevin Rose, who has declared Google+ will be his new blog. While my reaction to that was that no one should see Google+ as a blog replacement, as an in-between for Twitter and blogging, it’s compelling.
Of course, it would be even more compelling if it had Facebook’s question feature, but it’s early days yet.
Circles Are Exhausting
As for the Google+ Circles feature, which lets you can organize people into particular groups, that’s now become work to me.
When I first saw Google+ in testing months ago, I though the idea of a new network using the circles concept would be a great “reset” for me and others who felt they’d “done it wrong” in friending on Facebook. Since its launch, I’ve seen many people remark that it is indeed a good reset.
But you know, what I follow on Twitter is a nice collection of people and sources I trust, that I’ve built up over the years. I don’t have the time or energy to try and match that manually on Google+, nor are they all there.
When I go into the Find & Invite feature in Google+, I find plenty of relevant people to add. But what circles to put them in? I have about 15 circles that I created on my first day with Google Plus. Now they’re actually working as a barrier to adding new people. What if I put someone in the wrong circle, in case I want to share circles like Twitter lists to the public in the future, if this is allowed?
Should I just toss everyone into “Other” so that I’ve got them, and then I can organize them if I want to later?
Something that was supposed to help me is turning out to be a pain in the ass. I probably will just start dumping everyone into an “Other” circle thinking that if I need to make smaller circles, I can do that later. But, of course, I never will. It’s not like I did that on Facebook when lists came out.
On Twitter, I do still use lists. But the difference is that I’m not trying to create a new social network from scratch. Instead, because I already follow so many people, I tend to add new people when I see someone else retweeting something interesting by them, or if they call out to me with something interesting, or occasionally if one of Twitter’s suggestions at the site catches my eye.
Right now, what I need more than anything from Google is for it to automagically recreate all the people I already follow on Twitter. Since that’s not going to happen, I really need it to let me easily find people by subject areas. People in technology, in search, in other areas – I want to browse and easily select these groups. Maybe it will come, and certainly if we could publicly share circles, it would help. But I really need it now.
Watch & See
Overall, as I keep saying, it’s still very early days for Google Plus. I’m pretty cynical by nature, plus I watched Google Buzz rise and then fall despite the initial attention. Google+ does feel like it has way more legs. Google says it has millions of users so far. It’s even got me going back to the site because there’s no desktop app despite the fact I don’t do this with Facebook. I’m forming new habits, and some that will benefit Google’s time-on-site goals.
But there’s so much more that still needs to come. The hookup of Google +1 to Google+ is feeling overdue. How long is it going to take for that iPhone app to get approved. When will I be able to reshare an item or share a link using the mobile app? Can’t the name please be changed to Google Plus, at least, so we don’t have all these absurd punctuation collisions.
I want more, more more — which, I suppose, is a good thing for the future of Google+.
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