My Personal Social Media Habits

The evolution of my social media life 2002-present

Today I have spent the large part of the day going back through my LiveJournal history to pull out articles with the potential to edit them all into a book of essays.  But as I was going back through time I started to notice how adding new social media systems completely transformed my online habits.

In 2002 I joined LiveJournal as a means of keeping in touch with friends.  I did some casual blogging and wrote a few articles here and there, but for the most part it was filled with ridiculous bullshit, memes, and off the cuff comments about pretty much everything.  In the peak of my LiveJournaling I might have hit something like 6-8 posts per day.  Most of them short, and ephemeral.  I think my favorite series was “chair dance of the day” where I would post the song that was rocking my socks off in my cubicle while I droned on in the daily grind as a government documents cataloger.

In March of 2008 I joined Facebook.  My LiveJournal stats started plummeting.  But that was because all of the daily minutiae and casual conversations with friends migrated over there.  From 2008-2012 my posts on LiveJournal not only got less frequent, but they became substantially longer in each instance.  I basically began writing lengthier, more thoughtful work on LJ once I removed the more frequent friendly conversations.

There was an experimental phase that I went through in 2008/2009 when I was crossposting twitter feeds into LiveJournal.  Going back through my archive today I can’t imagine why I would have done that.  It’s like spamming someone with a block of text messages.  I imagine that I quit doing that because I felt the same way when I looked at it then.  It doesn’t fit right.

I remember once lamenting how little I used my LJ to my Facebook friends.  But the fact of the matter is that I was totally using LJ.  Just using it better.

Last February I made the move of separating out the content about library science and technology into a specific blog for itself.  The primary reason for this was so that I could get better tracking and stats on my posts and given that a major number of library people were using WordPress it totally made sense to do that.

When Google+ opened up I jumped right onto that as well.  But again, I’ve discovered that the content that I post there is sometimes wildly different than the content that I post on Facebook or Twitter.  There I tend to look at more professional folks and some cool content curators.  But for the most part the things that I’m sharing are more directly focused on my public career.

I think this is something that most social media users are not necessarily looking at comprehensively, but more subconsciously.  Different social media systems encourage different kinds of content sharing, and as such the readership of each of your social media groups is also going to vary wildly.  I have more crossover in terms of Twitter followers and Google+ users, than I do with the crossover between Facebook and LiveJournal.

For me separating out this content has been a really great step.  It allows me to share the right stuff with the right people, and to actually remain connected to everyone that I care about personally and professionally.  But until today it hadn’t really sunk in how different my presence is online in each of these different services, and especially how my use has changed over the last 10 years.

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How I Use Social Media

I, like many many other people, am plugged into a ripe half-dozen social media sites.  Each of them has different functionality that makes it vary just ever so slightly from its cousins, and as a matter of course I have evolved in using them.  So here is a cluster of the sites that I use on a regular basis and the way in which I use it.

Facebook

I have the most connections on Facebook. But I made a conscious choice early on to only accept Facebook friends who I either a) actually knew in person and felt comfortable with or b) had clear intentions that I would be meeting them at some time in the future and trusted them.  These restrictions have meant that I have massaged my Facebook profile to be just crazy enough to still fit in with my crazy friends, but polished enough that my co-workers on Facebook would not be inadvertently treated to things that they ought not to see.  I feel comfortable sharing photos that I’ve taken, links to things that I’m reading online and silly status updates.  I occasionally get a little political, and sometimes share some spiritual stuff there.

Twitter

Twitter was a service that I had practically abandoned until I got the iPad.  Flipboard has TOTALLY changed that.  Flipboard converts all those tweets into a collection of valuable articles that I’m actually engaged in reading.  So, I resubscribed a bunch of friends and co-workers that I had ditched before, and started jumping on feeds for news sites and celebrities that I respect.  Now, via Flipboard, I am reading and retweeting articles that I would never have seen before.  So I am basically using it as a link sharer.  Zite is anther iPad app that makes Retweeting easy and I am using it all the time.  You’ll see me tweeting in bursts over the course of a couple of hours at a time.  It’s cause I’m reading probably a hundred articles from the iPad and I’m on a brain jag.

Google+

The experience on Google+ has been much more professionally oriented for me.  I’ve added about 200 people to my “Librarians” circle and I’ve got a growing collection of people that I follow across a bunch of different tech and geek sites.  It’s a place where I have been able to discuss issues around library science, philosophy, technology and get actual feedback from people who have proven to be incredibly reputable and active. I find myself really trusting the people I’m working with on Google+ to give me answers to questions that are thoughtful and maybe even provide links or citations.  It’s very cerebral interaction.  No offense to my Facebook people, but my friends are not always my colleagues.  That’s okay too.  They don’t have to be.

LiveJournal

Again, LiveJournal is a service that I kind of abandoned for a while, and then when I took my trip to Asia I just dove right back in like nothing ever happened.  But I discovered that my writing style had dramatically changed.  I had gotten into more thoughtful blogging, with links and citations as well as images.  Perhaps it’s just that I had been writing for like a month solid, but maybe it’s a product of the fact that I had been involved in blogging since 2002 and I had just matured as a person and a writer over that time.  But LJ was always a personal space, and it still is.  It’s a place for public confession and public soapboxing.  I have no compulsion about making bold statements over on my LJ about politics, sexuality, religion, the occult, and whatever else happens to strike my fancy.  It’s been less frequent since my Asian extravaganza.  But I’ve been shifting gears of late.  So, LJ hasn’t been on the forefront of my thoughts.

WordPress

This blog was established with clearly defined outlines.  It is a place for me to write about professionally related topics of interest like books, technology, libraries, conferences, and other things that I feel will be of general use to folks in the information professions.  I may occasionally diverge, but not too far from that plan.  I’m also pretty glued to my stats page and looking at what it is that people are actually interested in reading about.  Sadly, my book reviews aren’t as gripping as talking about how much I hate memes and parsing out the intricacies of terms of service agreements.  We’ll see if those trends hold, but I’m thinking that the shine will wear off of Google+ enough to thrust me into discussing other things.

Yahoo Groups

I’ve pretty much given up on Yahoo Groups, and many listserves as well.  In fact, I’m not even logging into my Yahoo email for much of anything any more either.  I’m debating just killing it.  My gmail is much cleaner and doesn’t get the hundreds of messages a day that I get there.  But email groups just don’t mean anything to me any more.  It’s like getting a daily newsletter.  Things function better in Facebook where you can get your updates as a quiet little number hanging out there.  And if the group gets crazy you can just drop them with the push of a button.  No maze of links to go through.

Klout

I don’t really use Klout for any kind of public thing, like I do with everything else.  But I do find it fascinating in a Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator kind of way.  It’s kind of fun to watch the little score jump around like the Dow Jones telling me how popular I am online and who I’m “influencing.”  I’m no internet celebrity, nor do I fancy that I will ever be such a person.  This won’t be from lack of putting myself out there.  But I’m content just being me, online.  Though vanity will always drag me back to look at that Klout score.

Alternion

A friend recently remarked to me that I was too scattered online, and that he wanted one place to stay caught up with all the myriad things that I do.  A kind of “Meta-Eric” if you will.  After being totally flattered, that someone would actually try to hunt down all of the disparate pieces of me online I wondered if it would be possible to actually see all of those bits in one place.  Enter Alternion.  This is a beta level social media dashboard client, with API access to over 220 different social media applications.  You just start going through their MASSIVE list of sites to which you post your random crap and you can begin to synchronize your life into one handy place.  They’re currently just test-driving the service, and it’s a little buggy. But the developers are really great and they love getting feedback on how to improve things.  It doesn’t do everything, because not everyone is interested in opening up their API yet (I’m looking at you Google+!).  But it does do a tremendous amount of things that is pretty damn impressive.  I’ve added the tab to my standard FireFox windows.  I’m actually kind of rooting for this service.  I’m hoping to see my friends updates rolling by like a stock ticker all day.

Just a couple of quick observations.

Apps have changed the relevance of some services over others, as evidenced by my upsurge in Twitter usage via Flipboard and Zite.  These apps make the social media service more relevant, not less.  I hope that in time these apps become web based and accessible to anyone, and not just iPad users.  I mean, the iPad is great for some things, but it’s a pain in the ass in many other ways.

Aggregation sites like Alternion are going to need to become more common.  This patchwork landscape we’ve built up is bizarre and leads to a lot of identity fragmentation.  I know that for some people that’s necessary, and I admit that it’s been useful for me to parse out my life in this way.  However, I feel even stronger that I’ll want something for a unified access feed that I can link to something like my about.me landing page.  I think that’s going to be extremely important in the future when we’re marketing ourselves for jobs.

Open v. Closed Systems

So, Paul Tassi took several hundred people’s criticisms of his article to heart and decided to play in the Google+ waters a little harder than before to see what all the fuss is about, and ultimately found that it’s not as dead as it seemed to him originally.  The difference is not just the number of people you have in your circles, but rather why you have them in your circles.

At this stage of the game, G+ is really still a fairly elitist system, with the invitations still playing a factor in the sign up process.  Once the system is open to everyone and their mother, the user experience will definitely change.  So, you can’t really use it like Facebook yet.  All of your friends and family aren’t on there, so you won’t be seeing their posts of their babies and the updates about the night at the club.  There just aren’t enough users to get there.  But it will change over time.  Right now however, the millions of people who are using it are using it to connect fairly professionally.  Programmers, librarians, authors, publishers, home-schoolers; these are the people that I’m seeing. Not my aunts and uncles.

I mentioned in a previous post that Facebook, with its mutual handshake, is a venue where I’m more selective about who I add.  Many of the people whose blogs I read or whose Twitter I follow are not the people I have friended on Facebook.  It feels oddly more intimate in that I feel I should actually have met you at least once before I add you, or that I have the potential to meet you personally to want to add you there.  On Google+ I do not have that same compulsion.  The field is wide open and I’m following people on G+ that I would never have friended on Facebook.  In fact, the vast majority of people that I’m reading on G+ are people I have never met, and may never meet.  And I’m totally okay with that.

That’s really the difference in these two systems.  Facebook is a closed system.  The mutual authentication means that you both recognize each other.  People are more likely to only friend those people who they know, and only retain those that they like.  I can’t tell you the number of family members I have dropped from Facebook because I couldn’t stand to see another anti-abortion video, or another flag waving, jingoistic, save the troops meme.  Eventually the content that your Facebook friends share will become a kind of echo chamber, with things floating between the same people.  I know that I have occasionally seen the same lefty liberal article piled up with five different friends names and comments under it.

Google+ on the other hand is a much more open system.  You’re not focused on your “in real life” friends, but rather adding people who you’d like to follow, people of similar interests, or professional contacts within your field.  And the things that come across your stream are much more diverse as a result of that.  I haven’t bothered to even look in the “sparks” section, because I never need to.  There’s so much interesting stuff just feeding directly into my stream that I don’t need to go hunting for new content.

Here’s an app analogy: Facebook is to Google+ as Flipboard is to Zite.  These are iPad apps that are content aggregation systems.  Flipboard allows you to select web feeds that you know and love and creates a little web magazine out of them.  It kind of looks like Time magazine.  Zite on the other hand allows you to select subject matter that you like, and finds the content across a whole host of different blogs and websites, and then delivers them in a magazine format not unlike the New Yorker.  Now, Flipboard I love because it is one stop shopping for all my favorite sites, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.  But Zite is far more interesting because I’ll discover things there I never would have found if I were looking in the same old familiar places.

I think that Facebook and Google+ will not really be battling it out in terms of content, because they offer completely different experiences.  The question that it boils down to is do you listen to your friends, or do you listen to respected strangers.  I think there’s room for both.

Granular Sharing

I swear that one day I will stop talking about Google+.

One of the things that struck me the other day as I was writing the post about LiveJournal was the realization that LJ had recognized early on in the social media scene that people want choices when they’re sharing certain information.  LiveJournal developed communities of people around a certain interest, and those entries could be public or private depending on the community.  Many of the snark communities are private until you become a member, and all the entries on it are blocked until you are approved by a moderator.  Within your personal journals you are able to make any entry totally public, available to your friends, available to a customized group of friends, or even available to no one but yourself.

To my knowledge there is no other blogging software that exists that has this level of customizable sharing.  And actually, to my knowledge there is no other social media platform until Google+ came along that allowed that kind of granular level of sharing.

Now, some people have asked me if I’ve made use of the customizable sharing of Google+.  The answer is not really very much, because I live a fairly public life.  That said, I like having the option of keeping things a little closer to home than not.  There are plenty of things that I would prefer to keep private, and yet feel comfortable talking about those things with a select group of friends.  This could be health issues, religious question, questions that I feel are only appropriate if asked of people within my field of work just to name a few.

There are some people in my life with whom I would divulge anything.  My mother for instance.  I cannot keep a secret from her, nor would I ever want to.  Also I have a select group of friends with whom I feel comfortable confiding things that I don’t want to announce to the world.

When I was more active on LiveJournal I made very heavy use of this.  One of the common things that I would keep private were conversations about my job. There come times in every job that try your soul, and when I was in that dark place about 6 years ago I needed to share those troubles with people I trusted.  To do that I went to my LiveJournal community and confided in a select group of trusted friends.  The resulting conversations led me to try to start my own business, to see if I could make a go of it on my own.  Ultimately the home business did not pan out (hello tanking economy!), but the support that I got from my friends at LiveJournal was all the incentive I needed to get encouragement in my troubled time.

Its moments like this that are why we need to have granular sharing that is functional and intuitive in social media. Even if it is only an option.

While these functions sort of exist in Facebook, they are really pushing you to share absolutely everything with everyone.  As part of my control freaky nature I have often disabled people from tagging me in pictures and I don’t allow anyone to write on my wall.  My one exception is to turn on wall writing for my birthday, only because everyone and their mother will write happy birthday on your wall.  It’s kind of cool, but I don’t want my wall turning into what happened on MySpace where people post ridiculous glittering unicorn .gifs and sexy shirtless dudes.  That’s just not something I really want to see on my Facebook Page, because I feel it’s supposed to represent who I am. Also, because things that get posted to your wall get reshared across all your friends, and I have coworkers on there, I try and control my message on Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever realizes that they’re saying what they do in a public forum.  I mean, it’s incredible how much people will share without a thought in the world as to who may read it.

I’m even more controlling when it comes to blogs.  I chose WordPress for this content because a lot of other library bloggers are on here, and that creates a great ping-back community when we cross link to each other.  Plus the dashboard is pretty awesome.  But the downside is that everything is public.  There are no secrets here, nor is there any way to make something secret here.  This is the place to publish, and by publish they really mean it.  They want your stuff to go out to the entire world, and make it available via whatever means necessary. Blogger and TypePad are the same in that respect, once it’s live, it’s live for the world to see.  No secrets.  For professional writing this makes sense.

But LiveJournal, at least as it’s been used in America, has always been a place for the personal.  It’s been where people go to bear their soul, and do silly quizzes at each other.  I also feel like it’s grown up a lot since I began using it.  Maybe it’s just me, and the way I use LiveJournal who has grown up.  To me it actually has the feel of a journal, the kind that one would keep as a paper diary, only in an electronic format.  The privacy settings allow it to retain that feeling, by being able to limit a post to only yourself, or to a limited group.  You’re not announcing something to the world as a whole, but rather to a small group of known friends.

Someone asked me if I was going to migrate my content off of LJ to protect it in case the company crashes.  I think that any content migration would have to be something that would respect the variant levels of privacy that I set in there.  So, no, there is no real way to maintain the integrity of the LJ blog in a content migration. There’s no way I would be able to recreate the individual user access that I have in there among the friends that used that service, and still do today.

The reality of all of this is that the people I have in each of my social networks are totally different.  There are some people who are on all of them with me, and some who are only on one or another.  There are some people I am more comfortable sharing with on LJ, some on Facebook, Some on Google+ and some here on WordPress.  Each venue has its own unique vibe, and the content that I post in each of those places varies, and that depends upon who’s in there.  So here’s a snapshot of who’s in where.

  • WordPress: Totally Public – WordPress is my professional voice.  It’s my soapbox for library and tech things.  I tend to write here about three times a week.
  • LiveJournal: Semi-Public – LiveJournal is my personal voice.  It’s where I share the more intimate details of my life, to varying degrees of openness.  I also have a second LJ for some occasional creative writing projects.  Writing comes in fits and starts on both accounts, sometimes I’m on a tear and go every day, and sometimes it’s nothing for a month.  Depends on my mood really.
  • Facebook: Friends and Colleagues – Facebook is kind of a free for all.  Its made up of people that I personally know, or plan to meet someday.  It’s kind of a blend of personal and professional.  I post some of the pictures from the crazy street performances I do with the faeries and talk about some professional and political things as well.  None of it, however, is anything that I would be embarrassed to show my mother.  Facebook is an every day affair.
  • Google+: Random Happy Mutants – Google+ is kind of a sandbox.  I have a lot of strangers in there, but all of them fit into neat little compartments of librarians, authors, comic book people, bears and Pagans.  If someone by chance adds me who I have no idea who they are I will look at who they are and who we share in common and put them in the appropriate group.  For those who don’t fit I put them in “the whole wide world” unless they are posting things I really can’t look at while I’m at work, like hot shirtless dudes.  I check G+ multiple times a day.
  • Twitter: Colleagues Only – Twitter I am on, but hardly use for anything.  I follow very few people, and all I post are relays from the WordPress.  Mostly because library people Twitter, and I push stuff out for them.  I never look at twitter any more.

So that’s where I’m at with social media.  It does consume an inordinate amount of time, but its time that I appreciate.  I feel like I’m truly connecting with people, that I’m learning things, and that I’m sharing things that are meaningful, fun, and occasionally funny.  I like having the option to share privately, and occasionally I do.  It’s not always, but sometimes it’s important to have that around.

Circles vs. Groups

I can’t locate the comment or where it was made, but someone said that they can get the same functionality out of Google+ Circles that they get out of Facebook groups. This is not true in several ways.

Circles categories are uniquely user driven and the name or function of that circle is hidden to those who are in it. Facebook Groups on the other hand have a clearly defined openly visible membership, and anyone can be added to a group by someone else without their permission. FB Groups are meant to be publicly known so you can find them, like meetup groups. G+ Circles are meant to be privately known so they are useful ways to manage the content you selectively push to people, like email distribution lists.

Going back to permissions, one of the downsides of FB Groups is that you can be added without your permission to a group that someone else selects for you. This can be awkward if you get added to a group with which you don’t want to be affiliated. The downside to G+ Circles is that there are no public circles for you to join of your own volition. The conversation is about you pushing content to a group of people you know, versus getting content from a group of people with whom you have weak or temporary ties.

Thoughts on Google+

Thanks to my husband I’ve been able to join the ranks of the elite using Google+ (abb. G+) in the beta trials. And I’ve been sending them a lot of feedback about some of the features that I think still require a little tweaking (or sometimes a lot of tweaking). But I’ve been thinking mostly about the way that this functions vs Facebook and the strategic method behind how one shares information on it, and how it will be changing the way we use the internet together.

As a piece of background context I want to share this very important slideshow that goes straight to the heart of the functionality of Google+. Paul Adams is a former Google User Experience guy, and in his presentation Bridging the Gap Between Our Online and Offline Social Network he looks at the sociological research regarding how people group themselves, the bonds they form, and the different social categories into which we divide the people that we know.  This is critically important, because this is the exact structure that Google+ is utilizing.  Go watch that presentation in full screen so you can read the tiny little notes and then come back and look at this commentary to see where it meets and fails to meet these expectations of social interaction.

Now, here’s my experience.

Circles

The core of the interactive relationships on G+ focus on “Circles.”  These are the people with whom you interact in the different spheres of your life.  G+ begins you off with Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following.  That gives you a core of preliminary space to play with, and on top of that you can drag and drop people into a blank circle and create a name for it.  In my case I created circles of people that I know through the bear community, radical faeries, librarians (being cool librarians I don’t directly work with), Pagans who I know and read online, and staff (who I work with directly). These are radically disparate groups.  I still haven’t created separate circles for folks from grad school, undergrad, back home, etc. Maybe later.

Snapshot of my circles in Google+

Snapshot of my circles in Google+, names removed to protect the innocent

The great thing about this is that I can share among these different groups different kinds of information that I find relevant to their lives.  If I know I’m going out to bear happy hour I can share that with the bear circle, while the librarians, staff, and faeries are not given that info.  This helps avoid the drama of sharing provocative photos, misconstrued status updates, and not oversharing with everyone in your life.  Though what Facebook has done to my online sharing habits is opened up information sharing to people I wouldn’t have expected would be interested in reading my comments.  Where I would have put someone in the “faeries” circle here in G+, on Facebook they see all of my updates, including my incredibly wonky library stuff, and sometimes they really dig it.  So one of the habits I may take up with G+ is putting a lot of things onto my “public” posts, and just seeing where they land.  There is also a very important “block” feature for those people who you may still have in your Gmail contacts list, but with whom you never wish to interact again.  I have already blocked a few unsavory folks, and I’m glad that’s an option.

One of the current flaws in the Circles feature though goes directly to the intended purpose of Circles, which is understanding the complexity of the relationships between people.  Right now under the “find and invite” page you’re given a list of names and photos of people and it says “people who you may know on Google+”.  What it doesn’t say is HOW I would know those people.  One of the good things about Facebook is that you can instantly see the network of people who are connected to that person and you can instantly recognize to which group they belong.  You just take one glance at the mutual friends list and blam, you know.  If it’s a matter of privacy about who is connected to whom, G+ should just say that this person may go in this circle.  It knows who’s in there, and it’s clear that that’s where it’s drawing from.  So why not give me a hover over and light up a circle?  I’ve sent this as a recommendation.

One of the big drawbacks at this stage of the trial is that your social connections are very low.  There aren’t that many people in the trial, and so it lacks the robustness of the stream that you get from Facebook.  This is just a matter of time to be sure.  But with a dearth of updates, it makes it less useful as a means of connection.  Rather than opening up invitations to only cut them off again, they should have instead turned to their sociological research and given people a limited number of invitations, say 10, and then those users would have sent those invites strategically to their closest friends.  This would have made for a more productive beta, as it would have scaled a little more slowly and capitalized on strong ties.  As it stands I only have my husband, a few librarians I read online, and the staff at BoingBoing among my active stream.  I know that this will change, but it makes it a little boring at the start.

Sparks

Snapshot of my Sparks page.

Snapshot of my Sparks page.

The Sparks feature I haven’t used much.  I like it conceptually, because it does what Google does best, but in a more random kind of way.  You can basically subscribe to thematic topics, and have those just sitting around for when you’re bored.  Unlike Google Reader, there is absolutely no pressure to sit down and scroll through thousands of blog posts.  It just pulls a chunk of news from various different sites around the web and pops them in there.  You can also put a URL into your sparks list, and it will sort of pull like a feed reader, but it doesn’t work so well that way.  My guess is that it’s only pulling articles from those sites based on activity and the floating rank that ebbs and flows based on the algorithms of what is being regularly shared and accessed from those sites at any given moment.

The problem with the Sparks page is mostly cosmetic.  At this time you can’t rearrange your sparks in the side bar, and you can’t swap out the “featured” sparks in the fancy windows in the middle of the page.  I would like a widget to make a new “featured” sparks screen icon, like these pretty ones here for what my interests actually are.  I don’t mind having featured things, but they should align to my actual interests.  I don’t care about soccer or sports cars, but I do care about libraries and GLBT news.  I’m sure that this will also change and I’ve sent feedback about this too.

Hangout

Hangout is super cool and is only going to get cooler.  Hangout allows you to do multi-user live video chat where people can pop in and out based on the settings that you allow for the video chat room.  I spent a few good hours talking with my colleague Andy Woodworth who writes Agnostic, Maybe here on WordPress, just to test drive it.  You should see his comments about the 10 person video chat that he had going.  That was awesome just reading about it.  Yesterday I also had a hangout session during a party, where friends on the west coast joined friends on the east coast over Google Hangout.  That was very cool, and I think they’ve got something really great there.  One of the other features that makes Google Hangout interesting is that you can also play YouTube videos in there, share them with the group and talk about them together.  And with the talk of Google acquiring Hulu, you may soon be able to watch your favorite television shows together with your friends.  If there was a way to share content from your computer directly through here it would be even more killer, because then I could play music for a virtual party or share personal films with a select group of people without having to upload them to some place online.  Screen sharing basically.  It could also make tutoring even more effective because you could connect with one of your teachers directly.  Say a teacher has a student in a circle and they go into hangout together to talk about the homework.  That’s awesome.

While I didn’t record my experiences with Hangout, the good folks at BoingBoing did, so take a gander at this:

Photos

Snapshot of my Photos on Google+

Snapshot of my Photos on Google+

The photos feature nearly freaked me out completely yesterday.  See, I installed the G+ mobile app on my phone and I wasn’t sure about this “instant upload” feature.  So I said “yes” to instant upload. Then I started taking pictures of an art book that I wanted to share on here, which after the fact I decided against.  But as I was taking the pictures with my phone they automatically loaded into G+!  I nearly had a heart attack, because some of the pictures featured erotic imagery from Danish bookplates, and they were instantly uploaded to my G+ account.  Thankfully it doesn’t publicly state that those pictures are available for everyone to look at instantly.  You have to choose from among your mobile uploads which will be visible and to whom.  So crisis averted, no heart attack required.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why anyone would want to do that, especially given the prevalence of sexting these days.  I came up with two good reasons: 1) Live Events.  One of the things that has always been the case is that concert venues hate it when fans take pictures.  It’s inscrutable to me why this is the case, but it is.  I was at a show last year to see Amanda Palmer at the 9:30 Club and I was trying to get a stage picture when a guard came up and threatened to take my phone away from me.  Some folks actually did have their phones confiscated.  Later on in the evening Amanda and Jason Webley got up and said something along the lines of take a picture of this URL so you can sign up for concert information.  Some folks said they had their phones taken away and she was pissed.  Photos were allowed at her show.  So she told the venue to give them back.  Under other circumstances these folks may not have gotten their phones back, or have been made to delete the photos before they would be given the device back.  But if they were using instant upload, the photos would have been online anyway, ready to share with their friends.

And then I thought of something even more important: 2) Police Actions. One of the things that people are constantly dealing with on a global scale are police who threaten people who take video or photographs of brutality to be used against them.  In May a Rochester woman was arrested because she videotaped a police officer in her front yard.  The video made it onto the internet and it became a huge news story.  The same can be said about the photographs and videos arising from the Arab Spring.  The images of people in Tahrir Square became internationally recognized, and subsequent movements in other countries flowed onto the internet as well.  With a feature like instant upload these pictures get from phones to the web faster, and can get out to the public from there.  So in this case it is expediting the publishing of photos as evidence, to heighten public scrutiny.  Brilliant.

Huddle

I don’t have anything to say about huddle yet, because I don’t have enough of my strong tie contacts in G+ to make use of it.  I can see the value of it though and I am really looking forward to being able to make use of it.

Conclusions

Google+ is kind of languishing in a little wasteland right now due to the limited connections that people can actually have with people. Thankfully, Google is taking their time to iron out the kinks, which is necessary, and good. Though, until there is a massive influx of users, the ability to use the site is not that great.  But once the site starts to gain a critical mass it will be a glorious cascade of awesomeness.  Many of the features are very good, and need just a little bit of tweaking to make them even better.  The best part is that it respects the fact that users come from different backgrounds and socialize in different groups, and that not everyone needs to know about your wild drinking party or the work you do in with elementary school children, or especially that you do both at different points in your life.  Lives are complex and our social networks need to understand that.  I think Google+ is really a step in the right direction.  It’s taking us in new directions in sharing of content online, both with our friends and with the world.  And that just makes things even more fun.