Why I’m A Little Sad For Google+ (And What These Companies Are Doing Wrong)

Report: Google to end forced G+ integration, drastically cut division resources | Ars Technica

Google+ seems to be the red-headed stepchild of social media networks – an image not helped by the fact that its branding is all, well, red. But in any case, Google+ has never received the support and attention that other networks – hell, even LinkedIn – have received over the years. It’s been “that Google thing” and while you would think because it has freaking GOOGLE in the name everyone would be using it, they haven’t. Now, Google is appearing to “pivot” away from Google+, first with G+’s leader leaving the company, and then this news that possibly over 1,000 Google employees will be shifted around. According to the linked story, TechCrunch is calling Google+ the “walking dead.”

Yikes.

There are a lot of great things about Google+ that I like. This commenter on the post says a lot of them. One of the things s/he says I will also say: I do not live on Google+. But for an occasional trip, I can read a lot of interesting people’s interesting thoughts. People like Google’s own Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the inventor of Linux Linux Torvalds, a few podcasters I follow, and some very fascinating groups on roleplaying games, Linux, computer programming, and science fiction. Google+ also has no character limit, so you can write screeds if you wish, and it does seem like a breath of fresh air to get away from the increasingly stale and stultifying Facebook atmosphere and the hectic, sweltering rapid-fire heat of Twitter.

Perhaps the greatest part of Google+ from a publisher standpoint, however, is how well it integrates with Google search. +1 a story you like, and you push that story higher in the search rankings whenever someone searches for the story’s topic. +1 really helps get stories to the top, as they’re usually recommended by your friends (or, at least, in theory they are.) Of course, you can +1 your own stories and help they grow as well. It’s a fantastic idea.

Unfortunately, Google may some serious errors. One of them was the forced integration with the YouTube comments. Look, hateful, dumb, anonymous YouTube comments are an Internet institution. They are worse than even 4chan, and that’s almost an Xbox achievement. And yet people want them to be that way, and they don’t want their real names and faces attached. Destroying that pissed off a massive Internet community, one that’s arguably larger and more entrenched than even Facebook. Not a smart move, Google. Forced integration with other services beyond search was also starting to grind on a lot of people’s nerves.

My personal pet peeve, however, is how Google has been so damn stingy with the personal profile API. Although they allowed some services, such as Buffer (which I highly recommend, by the way) to post to Google+ pages, but so far it hasn’t let anyone else post to Google+ personal profiles. There was, for some time, an Android app called “Jift” that allowed you to simultaneously post to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, but it was pulled after awhile (and it’s style of reading posts from all three services wasn’t that great to begin with.) This forces people to get out of their main app, which usually can post to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously (like, say, Plume), and go into the Google+ app. You know who wants to take that extra step? Nobody. Why not just do it all in one go? That would make it dramatically easier to use Google+, although it would cut down on the number of people actually using the Google+ app.

Which is why Google hates it.

This brings me to what I think all of these companies are doing wrong: they are not providing choices. That’s what a consumer wants, right? A consumer, in most instances, wants a choice to make. And I don’t see why companies can’t do this. You have Google+ forcing itself on YouTube commentators and in other places; you have Facebook now forcing people to get a separate app on their phone to use Facebook messages and soon a separate app for events and possibly even groups as well. You have them changing up user interfaces all the time with no option to go to an older one that some users prefer. It’s this forcing of things that is really starting to annoy people, though I wonder if it will truly bite these companies in the behind, because while annoyed, most people still go along with the changes. Still, how can providing your users more choices ever be a bad thing?

There’s the old saw that “The user isn’t the customer, the user is the product” but I don’t know how much I buy that. Facebook runs on its users and it can’t get anywhere without them, so it can’t annoy them too much (although the line of no return seems to keep receding into the distance day by day.) Google as well, though I’ll be honest I have no freaking clue how Twitter makes money. (They can’t be selling that many promoted accounts and tweets, can they?)

I hope Google+ sticks around. (I really hopes it overcomes Facebook some day, so I can actually escape.) I hope it continues. But we’ll have to see, won’t we?

Social Media Vacay

Everyone tells me I need to be on social media if I want my stuff promoted. I gotta be on there to be heard, to be seen, to get things done.

If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, though, it’s that that may not be necessarily true. Indeed, social media has some serious pitfalls. My favorite ones are flamewars with trolls. It was one of them, in fact, that led me to this policy of taking a social media vacation.

I’ve learned that I cannot resist getting into arguments; I can’t resist trolls. That something I lost, somewhere, aand I need to reclaim that. How? I don’t know. But a prerequisite has to be stepping back from social media. It’s hurting my productivity, hurting my wider social sphere, and ultimately it’s hurting my brain.

So I’m taking a break from Twitter & Facebook. I’ve downloaded an app that only does Twitter DM’s, and I’ll keep using Facebook Messenger so people can get in touch with me. Other than that, just Gmail & this blog. Thanks to the magic of WordPress, I can still write status updates. And thanks to the magic of RSS, I can autopost these to Twitter and Facebook.

I see this as an extension of some cutting I’ve already done in my life. A few months ago I uninstalled Steam and basically eliminated computer games from my life. Now I need to continue the process and get rid of–at least temporarily–another serious distraction.

I’m not sure why I had to blog this, really, other than to tell my friends who are going to start wondering, but if you stumble across this and read this, that’s what this is about. I will still be politically minded; I will still have strong opinions about political philosophy and government. I will still write, though hopefully not on Twitter (I will maintain my vow, I will maintain my vow…) but through other channels.

That’s all I have. If you know me personally, you can still hit me up through messaging. If you don’t, you can always comment here.

Social Media #Fail

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/frashure/status/226381838929780737″]

Part of running social media is that you have to be on top of things. (You can take vacations, but you better believe you have to get back in on them.) Because if you don’t, this happens, and you look like a complete idiot.

The tweet has now been deleted, but still. Considering everyone was talking about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, you should have picked that up real quickly.

Oh, @Cher, You’re Cute When You’re All Venomous and Spiteful

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/cher/status/199871809586348034″]

What I find most humorous about this is that Romney is not a Tea Party candidate whatsoever. The guy is a big government establishment Republican. He has nothing, really, in common with the Tea Party. Heck, he put Obamacare through its trial run in Massachusetts, for crying out loud.

I think the best response was this:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Miss_Wisconsin/status/199872993483177984″]

That is, of course, assuming that Cher had any brain cells to begin with.

Social Media, Privacy, Passwords, and Who Gives A Rat’s Pajamas

There is apparently a new and worrying trend where employers are asking for job candidates’ Facebook account passwords:

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a job, he was stunned when the interviewer asked for something more than his experience and references: his Facebook username and password.

The New York statistician had finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to peruse his Facebook page. Because she couldn’t see his private profile, she asked him for his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application. But other job candidates are confronting the same question, and some can’t afford to say “no.”

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”

Companies that don’t ask for passwords to vet applicants have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to “friend” human-resource managers.

I can see the desire of HR and hiring managers to see the private information on someone’s Facebook account in order to get a better look at this person and see if he or she is a dimwit who can be trusted with corporate secrets and get a better look at their character, but quite frankly this is absurd. It’s akin to asking you for your Gmail password or, as Orin Kerr says in the above excerpt, your house keys.

Doug Mataconis over at Outside the Beltway makes the argument that this isn’t really a big deal and not something to truly worry about, but I disagree entirely. Doug writes:

I’m not sure, though, that new laws are the answer here. In the end, employers have a right to screen the people they hire as they see fit and to refuse to hire them if there’s something in their background that they believe would not be in the employer’s best interest, or which potentially makes the employee untrustworthy. Barring employers from using this particular method to discover more about their prospective employees is just going to mean they’ll find other ways to do it because, like it or not, what you do online will  impact your job prospects:

The problem with this argument is twofold:

  • You don’t have to get access to someone’s personal life to truly screen them for a position, unless you’re talking national security
  • You’ll open up yourself to a lot of liabilities, because many private accounts have protected classes of information, such as religion, ethnicity, orientation, etc. (I’m not an HR expert, so I don’t know the actual classes, but you get the idea.)

His “editor” (co-blogger at this point, really) Dr. James Joyner also chimes in and says he takes the opposite tack, writing:

UPDATE (James Joyner): I addressed this issue over a year ago, taking the opposite position, in a post titled “Want A Job? Give Us Your Facebook Password.”

While I think the prospective employee has a lower expectation of privacy when applying for a government job, especially a particularly sensitive one like military, intelligence, and law enforcement positions, there are limits. And, I’m sorry, “If you don’t like it, don’t apply to work there” has some limits, too.

Should employers Google the names of prospective employees and perhaps check out their public Facebook and Twitter profiles? For many white collar jobs, I think that’s reasonable. But accessing private information seems out of bounds. Indeed, if they can demand to look at the inside of your Facebook account, why not your Gmail account?

Additionally, as noted in the ensuing discussion, employers may inadvertently run afoul of existing employment law with this practice. It’s illegal for employers to ask prospective employees about their marital status, whether they have children, or any number of other issues. Yet, that information will often be immediately available on one’s Facebook page.

Even though I’m a free market libertarian, there is a limit to what I think employers–whether private, non-profit, or government–should be able to do. Granted, they should have a greater ability to screen candidates and chose who they want to, but trying to sneak into someone’s personal life and violate their privacy is just beyond the pale. What next? Hire investigators to find out who we lost our virginity to? Good grief.

I do agree entirely with what Jazz Shaw of Hot Air said and what Doug Mataconis told me on Twitter, with regards to just plain common sense:

Personally, I think this falls back on an old rule of thumb in the internet age. If you need to work for a living or do anything outside of your online life, you simply can’t take anonymity for granted. Don’t put anything out on the web unless you’d be comfortable having your family, your enemies and – yes – even your employer or prospective boss seeing it. Because odds are, sooner or later, they will.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/dmataconis/status/183957664714338304″]

However, I’m not convinced that, in twenty years (or even less) this will even matter. By then, just about everyone is going to have had a social network account and have said something stupid on it. There will also be loads of people who saw this crap happening and decided not to do it. So either way, there isn’t going to any point to checking an employee’s Facebook, because everyone has said it. It’ll be as mundane as saying “I like pie.”

This is how society changes and evolves. It is not a static element; it is fluid and continually fluctuating. The problems of 2012 will likely be non-issues in 2032. It is a very worrying and distressing trend for our time right now.

 

Another, slightly tangential topic that annoys me is the growing number of websites that utilize Facebook to provide comments. I find this to be obnoxious and not worth the point. Ostensibly, the reason for this is to improve the commentating quality, because the comment will be associated with someone’s real name. In practice, however, most people are still assholes. Why? Because a lot of people are just assholes in real life. Forcing them to use their real name and picture (which doesn’t even happen all the time; I’ve seen people make Facebook accounts for their dogs, for chrissakes) doesn’t make their comments come off nicer or more intelligent. I also find it would chill a lot of speech; imagine being a young gay man in a militantly conservative Christian household. You would probably not willingly comment on a lot of issues that affect you deeply, because now your parents can track you. “FlufflyBunny0059?” Not so much.

That’s just obnoxious, though, not truly egregious. They’re not trying to get into your account. I, for one, will never require Facebook commenting on my blog, and in fact, I’m not even sure if you can log in with Facebook (I might have deleted that plugin.) I do know that I keep the Twitter and OpenID login available as options, as well as just commenting pseudonomyously. I feel that choice is the best option for all.

And now, the dumbest Tweet of all time

And it’s not even political or Bieber related. As I write this, there is another shooting incident going on at Virginia Tech. So, what does the local ABC affiliate Tweet?

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ABC7News/status/144841856637861888″]

Yeah. “Hey, are you on a campus where there’s a crazy gunman running around? Let us know with a Tweet and potentially make yourself a target!”

I am probably overreacting; a simple of tweet of “OMG there’s a gunman on #VATech!” will not likely get you shot, but something still seems wrong about this to me.

On another vote, what is up with Virginia Tech and crazy gun sprees? Wasn’t there another one between the 2007 disaster and today? I don’t get it…