Monday, June 20, 2011

[STATING THE OBVIOUS] What the Social Web needs (or: why Google will succeed)

No, seriously.. if you expect something very well written.. you should wait for a blog or something to cover it and bring it into a consumable form... and yeah I used CAPS LOCK while writing that. (damn, is my kind of humor really so complicated?) :P

Not so long ago, we were the pioneers that faced the digital frontier, the invisible, raw continent that we would shape using 0's and 1's. Everything that we could dream of was possible.
As long as it was possible to squeeze it through 56k modem.

The years have passed and the internet users got spoiled (most of them). They don't have to go on coffee-break while a website is loading anymore. The web got faster and it got harder to keep the attention of users who just consume mini-portions of information and throw up share their wisdom in shortened version with the rest of the internet.

Read this to be prepared for the next part:
...Have you read it? Great! If not... don't complain if you can't follow

The social web has reached it's critical mass and now we know for sure, that social 1.0 has a due date.

But what will come after social 1.0?  Social 2.0. Ok, that was a really lame joke.

But seriously, what can we do to ensure that the next bubble won't pop again? Every business is (at least to a limited amount) dependent of growth. That's what he said.

Lets recapitulate the main issues of the social bubble:
  • The rate at which content is produced is way too high. Users can't follow the stream of information anymore.
  • The inflationary use of socialization made it impossible and/or very difficult to control if a post might "cause trouble". (yeah, sort your 4000 friends into groups, have fun.)
  • Communicating  with everyone basically caused you to communicate with almost no one anymore.
  • You spend more time filtering or skipping content than actually consume content. (kinda like turning off your email-spamfilter for a week)
  • There is almost zero valuable information anymore. The faster the content is consumed, the less quality it has, the less content is produced. 
  • Interaction has been reduced to a "lol" or "dislike" in the comments or a click on the like button.
  • Quality content is hardly ever created anymore. Quality content just gets reshared.
What Google Social won't be

First, let me clarify something: Google will build a Social Layer, something that has a lot of characteristics of a social network, but it is not the same. Not at all. NOT FUCKING AT ALL. (see, I even used caps to clarify that. Using CAPS LOCK. That's how I upset I am. That was a joke, I'm not. And if you say "but does the world need another social network?", I would, after taking a loooooooooooong deep breath, kindly explain, that it is too different to be just "another social network".

If you still expect Google Social to be like any other social network: you seriously won't get happy here. Why? It isn't meant for anything like that. There are too little other users that you might want to join or interact with. If you expect Google Social to be fun for everyone, you might reconsider your choice. It might sound harsh, but it simply is like that. It is not that you wouldn't be welcome, it's just that you will not find many people there that use Google Social like facebook or twitter or myspace. It is not designed for that (see the Section what Google Buzz was designed for) so it will never provide a satisfying environment if you fit in one of the following schemes

Even god has some kind of cruel humor. Just look at the platypus and think about how it feels. If you are not laughing now, you are probably not human.
  • This won't be a facebook killer. (stay on facebook)
  • This won't be the next twitter. (stay on twitter)
  • This won't be a replacement for fucking farmville. (stay on facebook)
  • This won't be the place where you post a 140 char update about the stage of you toe-fungi infection. (stay on twitter)
  • This won't be the place for your "OMG, Sassy sue has totally made out with Brandon" posts. (stay on twitter)
  • This won't be the place for fucking snowball fight game requests in the middle of fucking summer. (stay on facebook)
  • This won't be a place where you post chain posts like:
    "Post this if you are aware of the suffering of dyslexic beavers. If you are a dyslexic beaver, know a dyslexic beaver or are married to a dyslexic beaver copy this to your status. I know that 99.9% of my friends won't post this, but maybe you are one of the 0.1% <3<3<3<3" 
    (stay on facebook)
  • This won't be the place where you post what you are eating. (except it is hilarious, gross, witty or in some other form remarkable) (stay on twitter... or facebook)
  • This won't be the place for seizure inducing hyperactive blinking hello kitty glitter gifs with lots of roses but also with blood and a pentagram and oversized nerdglasses because you are a Skatepunkgothemoglittergirlymetalhipstress (hipstress= female hipster. Yeah, I just made that up.) (stay on myspace.)

A short long History of Time.

Orkut, Google's first ambition towards social networks, follows a classic approach to social networks. Even though Orkut isn't very popular in Europe, it still has a very loyal and active userbase in India and South America. (of course some American/European Techbloggers scream "failure" over this. Because it isn't successful where THEY are living.). Orkut is too successful (yeah it is. Don't argue with me, show me some numbers or fuck off. And "referrers from links" aren't worth shit, the don't proof the actual USAGE of the network, it just proofs that no one wants to read your crap.) to shut it down, yet it is too mainstream to be a game-changer.

Google started a interesting new approach to social interaction called "Google Buzz". The media... of course... took exactly 6 minutes to investigate the capabilities of Buzz and screamed (once again) mindlessly that Google Buzz WILL DEFINITELY replace e-Mails and all that crap (basically they just copy-pasted the Google Wave predictions here) and that it will kill twitter and it is a possible facebook killer and whatnot.


It never wanted to be that. It wasn't made for stupid, meaningless crapgossip with no sense or meaning or value for others. So after the media got it's initial hype (and clicks and ad impressions), people (once again) realized that Google Buzz wasn't quite that what the media promised (of course they assumed Google promised something that wasn't there).. So the usage stalled. And then something happened that let the techbloggers and media scream "FAILURE". The referrals from Buzz and the usage of the "post to Google Buzz" Buttons dropped to zero.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm proud to introduce you to:

The most crazy Bullshit Method to Measure Usage of Social Networks.

Lets assume, that you heard of Google Buzz from a certain site. This site promises you shitloads of naked women, booze and cheeseburgers if you join Google Buzz, because it is awesome and it will even answer the e-Mails for you and whatnot, and you go to Google Buzz... And there are no naked chicks. No booze. No cheeseburgers... Wouldn't you be disappointed? And then you go back to what you usually do all day long: Read this website that promised you something completely wrong... Would you, after you left Buzz disappointed, still use the "Post to Buzz" button on that site? Would you continue using Buzz after trying for days, but no naked chicks showed up? Wouldn't you give up?
So, the referrals and shares drop to zero. (for that certain site) That means: No ad impressions, no money.
Of course Google Buzz is obviously a failure.
Obviously NO ONE uses Google Buzz.

Lets jump a year into the future: This certain site just keeps on bashing Google Buzz for not producing Buzz-Button and/or referral clicks (What basically means: Huh, no one who uses Buzz reshares the articles on Buzz that no one uses Buzz and how crappy it is...) I reeeeeally wonder why that might be.

This certain site also has a Buzz account, but all they do is just dump their shit their and expect Buzz users to follow them and cherish the gods that maintain this certain sites without expecting any reaction. Yeah, that's how social media works. ONE WAY. Clever. Someone fully understood the concept.

And after removing the ability to comment on articles of this site without being user of a big blue player in the old-school classic social networking scene and bashing Buzz all the time, this certain site really wonders why there is no love coming from Google Buzz users? Seriously?

What Google Buzz really was designed for

Unlike classic approaches to social networking, Google Buzz was designed for active collaboration on generating high quality content. It was designed for rich social interaction.

It is more or less tied to several other Google services:

  • YouTube
  • Picasaweb
  • Latitude
  • Google Talk
  • Google Reader
  • Blogger
  • Docs

Every single one of these Services are opt-in, that means, they are not mandatory for the usage of Buzz, but they can enrich the experience.
You can connect several Google services directly to Buzz, so that the Activities are streamlined (? correct expression? I don't know, I don't care.) into Buzz's consumption stream. (not recommended, produces too much clutter)
You can attach several different media types from several sources (which usually are auto-detected and embedded) and you can attach location information that provide additional context to the content you post.
For me personally, the ability to go to Google Maps, switch on the Buzz layer and check on the public Buzzposts of people... for example from London, was a major motivator to join Buzz at first. What are people thinking in other parts of this world? I loved to discover Buzzes around the world, but that is not what really kept me here.

There are four basic features that make Buzz unique and show what it was meant for:

  • The length of the content you can post is virtually unlimited and the Textfield is compared to facebook or twitter huge.
  • The length of a comment is virtually unlimited.
  • You can feed complete articles including HTML formatting, links and pictures into Buzz.
  • You can edit your posts (Buzzes and comments) at all times to add new content or correct content

If you read my previous post:
[STATING THE OBVIOUS] The current state of the Social Web (or: why the bubble is about to pop)
You will realize that Buzz is, in fact, of more social value than any other big social network out there.
The huge amount of Friends/Followers, the inflationary socialization, the reduced lifespan, quality and high output-rate of the produced content has lead to a drastic loss of human/social interaction.

By reducing the interaction to "likes"/"favs" and occasional "reshares"/"retweets" of cropped/linked external content, the (real) social factor has vanished.

Google Buzz rewards every minute you put into a thoughtful post. Once you found the right people to follow, you will have a whole new world waiting for you. I NEVER had anywhere a comparable experience of information exchange or passion than here on Google Buzz.

The Problems you'll encounter

Of course, initially you encounter some... difficult people. Buzz is often a refuge for highly intelligent, but complicated people, so you might have a lot of arguments there, that are... well... exhausting.
But when everyone got to know each other (and you blocked one or two... ok 10 or 20 people), when you accept that on Buzz other opinions than your own exist, you'll find Friends here. My Buzz circle has become my second family and I never had such overwhelming positive feedback somewhere else.

But I won't just mention the good sides of Buzz... When you start using Buzz, you are basically lost. Who should you follow? Where can I find people who use Buzz? That was a real issue and it is still a real issue. Usually you instantly generate a social circle on a popular social network, because someone you know said: Woah, check this out, this is cool!
I had no one. Basically it just started in America and everyone was still hyped by Facebook and Twitter. So...
Who to follow?
There are some good starting points I wish I had known earlier like: Going Buzz
But the "Vanilla" experience of Buzz can be harsh and frustrating, because you start with zero and... unlike on other social networks, behavior, manners and respect weight more than anything else.
Buzz is a mature Social Network, meant to be a source of inspiration and productivity.

It is no facebook
It is no twitter
It is something way more rewarding.

Like Buzzer Pablo Chuken said:
Google Buzz has the potential to be the world's biggest forum with a social network approach....

Why Buzz matters for Google's Social Experience
(and why it is way more than that)

Congrats if you made it that far, I'm impressed!

Now you know the basics behind Buzz and that's a key element to understand Google's social strategy.
It isn't really easy to understand the principles behind the social layer Google is building, because it is a completely different approach than anything else you might have seen before. Some key elements might be something that isn't that quite new, but the way Google (probably) will put it together is quite remarkable.

I'll try to explain how it works... (yeah you can bet your ass that it isn't easy... Shit I have no Idea how to put that in words. And don't ask me to draw something...)

There are two basic epicenters Google Social is built around:

  • Management of your real life and your real social circles.
  • The obtaining and sharing of knowledge.

Let's have a look at what I discovered over the last weeks:

Google will provide a social layer that serves as an infrastructure for social interaction.
There are 3 types of services Google will provide

  • a neutral service (Basically storage of personal Data in the cloud that is NOT PUBLIC)
  • an active social service (active collaboration and interaction)
  • an passive social service (no direct interaction but indirectly beneficial)

The neutral service
(Storage of Data)

The neutral service is largely based on existing Google products like:

  • Google Docs
  • Picasa
  • YouTube (somewhat)

It provides the infrastructure to store all data in the cloud. These services (don't know about YouTube though) will get upgrades to seamlessly integrate with Google's ChromeOS.

So, let's say you plug in your Camera and ChromeOS asks you, if you want to sync the Pictures and Videos with Picasa. Yep, Picasa has Video-support. And recently they announced, that videos with less than 15 minutes won't be counted into the free quota, so basically you have unlimited storage for 15 minute clips there.

Google Docs gains HTML5 offline support and... like some of you noticed, there is already a very mature collaboration and discussion system (realtime!!!) part of Google docs. (Social anyone?)

YouTube will still be YouTube.

The Active Social Service
(Chat, mail, call, discuss, share)

Here we have the interesting part... The critical  part that makes the difference..

Google Circles (if they haven't changed the name)
Google Circles is not so much (AFAIK) a social network. Google Circles is a meta-tool built around your contact management in gMail and around your Followers/the people you follow on Buzz.

You can take your existing contacts (that you might have already separated in groups) and split them up in different circles like:
Friends, Family, Colleagues, Interesting People on Buzz, Ex'es and Trolls.
Now you have SEPARATED Social networks, that can overlap for some contacts (Ex'es and Trolls for example) where YOU can easily decide which circle you want to share information with and how you want to interact with them. No one outside one circle will gain access to information specifically published for this certain group of people.
Furthermore: Information can not accidently re-shared into another circle.
Google Circles is (if you don't completely mess up the setup putting every contact in every circle)
Google Circles is together with Google Me the ultimate privacy tool (if you don't fuck it up!!)
(I'll explain Google Me later)

The infrastructure of the active social service consists of:

  • Google Buzz
  • Google Talk
  • Blogger (2nd grade)
  • Picasaweb (2nd grade)
  • Latitude (2nd grade)
  • YouTube (not so much)
  • Google Docs (discussion & collaboration)
  • gMail (using People Widget)
  • Google Voice (speculation, maybe as contact option via gTalk in gMail)
  • something I've forgotten (for sure)

Active social interaction via gMail.... Yeah, I'm talking about eMail. I bet you remember that...
Take a look at the people widget:

You can see that it offers a number of interaction possibilities:
You can call, email, chat and see the latest Buzz-post.
Hmmm? Slowly getting the Idea of how social Google Social really is?

Google Buzz will combine the Activity stream of all Google Products that offer a push to Google Buzz (see the chart)

All these Services are OPT-IN! So: not enabled by default.
For sharing your latitude checkins, you'll have to join Latitude first and then you share your location info just with SPECIFIC PEOPLE unless you explicitly demand that you Latitude check-ins will be public for everyone in your stream.
Same applies to Picasa-Picture uploads, Video uploads and so on.

So, basically the following changes to the Buzz-Experience will occur:

You won't start from scratch.

Everyone with a gMail account and who opted in to Buzz can conveniently start interacting. Thanks to the people widget, the usage of Buzz is more inviting.

You won't have to fight off Trolls

You can either chose to rely on existing social circles or, if you are adventurous, you can discover new people to follow in the wild (only point to solve is.. the who to follow problem, but I bet Google comes up with something.

You don't have to be clever all the time (but it wouldn't be bad)

You don't have necessarily to write very witty thoughtful Buzz-posts inside your social circles.. but it would help humanity if you show a little effort.

Privacy really means privacy not facebook-privacy

You can control every single bit of information including: Disabling resharing of posts entirely, selectively block or admit people/circles to comment. Private data remains private.

The +1 social recommendation engine is coming to Buzz

You will gain the ability to +1 comments and/or posts. These recommendations will highlight the content for other people in your social circles during searches, so they are able to find valuable content (and therefore interesting people to follow) more quickly and vice versa.

The Passive Social Service

The passive social service is not Action/Reaction driven like a "like" or a "reshare" or a Post. There is no immediate reaction. Passive social services are more a source of information on demand.

Passive social services are:

  • Google Latitude
  • Google Places
  • Google Profiles
  • Google PlusOne (+1)
  • Google Books? (speculation, won't cover that here -> no evidence)

Google Latitude enables you to offer passive context information in form of a location for people that you specifically choose.
For example: I've all my Friends in my Latitude list, so when they see that I'm in town, or they happen to pass through my hometown, they can check where I'm currently at and give me a call. (and go for a beer or two or three or four or ... 99 Bottles of beer on the wall)
It is NO privacy nightmare. If you don't put a public latitude badge on your blog, like me (and you get reminders every 2 weeks that there is an public latitude badge and that you shouldn't forget that other people can see it), your location data is perfectly safe, so are your check-ins via latitude (except you explicitly select "post public to the web")

Google Places (former Google Hotpot) is a rating service that is very versatile. You can rate every awesome or shitty experience with whatever you encounter as long as the biz has a places page.
This information is also just on demand available... Either way you check in on a friends Places profile, or you get the places recommendations +1'd in the places search on Google Search. (Maybe even starred on Google Maps in the future, that'd be cool)
Google Places will probably get a +1 button or... maybe a explanation that if you star a place and rate it "best time evar" you +1'd it in the Google search (yeah, it's easy as 1-2-3... just kidding)
On my personal wishlist, there'd also be a places tab on the profiles page...

Google Profiles is practically your official business card. It is currently like buzz and gMail under heavy construction and has a lot of hiccups, but that is where a huge load of the magic will happen. Besides the fact that there is already a plusOne and a Buzz Tab, there'll be a split-up of the Picasaweb tab that will result in a "Photos" and a "Videos" section. Every content there is also under the same restrictions as you set them in Picasa or Buzz... So there will be just the information visible to whom you want to share it with.
Of course you are able to hide every tab and/or unwanted information just the way you want.
Code hints that Google Profiles will gain the same options for publishing content as Google Buzz and maybe Picasa. That doesn't mean that the original Google Products will vanish and get absorbed, no they just get a second hotspot, where content can be generated.

Google +1 is one of the most misunderstood and trolled awesome feature evar. Most people don't get what it is.. they assume it is some kind of second like button. But it isn't that at all. It is a social recommendation engine that visually aids the determination of valuable content in Google search results.
So far, there are not so many Google Services supporting plusOne, but this chart shows the code where I found proof for +1 integration or where I assume that plusOne will be integrated (dotted, speculation)

I have to admit that the +1 management for each individual user are a little rudimentary, but I bet Google is on it and there was already announced that powerful tools like +1 for analytics are incoming!
For all those who doubt the value of the +1 Tab on profiles:
I ALWAYS check the +1 Tab on Profiles before I follow someone. Is the content he +1'd valuable, it is definitively for me a reason to follow him/her.

For a more extensive explanation what +1 is and why the fuck it isn't a like, read this article:
[PROTIPS] Why Google's +1 and likes aren't the same.

Last but not least: Google Me (on the web)

Google Me is nothing magical. It won't save the hunger problem of third-world countries... It is a safetybelt for the average user (needs a little revamp though) to ensure that he doesn't accidently leak unwanted data to the web. So every time Google indexes a new website containing the user's name or email address, a eMail is sent to the user, asking him to check the content. So, if there is unwanted data, there are also instructions provided how the user can request a removal from Google's index. Handy, huh?
So it is just a failsafe mode just in case the user fucks up his privacy data.

A few notes on the side:

The Google Social experience is not a social network like any existing social network. It offers new ways of interacting and cooperating with your existing contacts. There is NO NEED to use Buzz to enjoy it's advantages, but Buzz is definitively an enrichment of the experience.

And if the fucking icon bothers you so much in gMail, use a sticker to cover it and stop whining that you have to use thunderbird again because the icon hurts your eyes.

The Google Social experience basically puts a social layer on the web, bringing all Google Services closer together.

Unlike other social networks, the Google Social Experience is built around you and your real life.

=====================the real article ends here :P=======================

Various stuff:

Evolution of the Cloudpicker

The cloudpicker will probably gain some photo/(maybe even video) editing functions and whatnot... check my older articles for information.

Layout adaptions

I've too little information to provide an extensive overview about what will change and where we will see the real epicenter of Google Social (gMail? iGoogle? Profiles? Something new?)  All I can tell is, that Google Talk will get it's place in the top gBar and maybe notifications (emails, comments?) will also be available in the gBar... Probably on all Google Products and services that use the new gBar.
Profiles will also get some changes (see above)
When I get more information, I'll post it on my blog. For more information (like info on orkut etc..) browse my archive for all my discoveries.

Google Typhoon & Photovine

I've no idea what both is. Maybe it's the same and they just renamed it. Probably the codename "pixy" has something to do with it.

Google Social is built for Business & Leisure

It provides features that enriches you professional and your private life. (but allows you to keep it real separate)

It is NOT a replacement for facebook or twitter!

Due to it's completely different nature, you can't even REMOTELY compare those services.
If you want Justin Bieber 140 Char's trashtalk or be up to date when Weiners get tweeted, if you want to play farmville... Stay classic and stick with facebook and Twitter.
You can use Google social on the side... Or if you are sick of it all and want some mature social interaction, you can join us too.

Discuss on Buzz


Sand said...


Art said...

Great stuff! Your Google posts are always informative, and you have a great sense of humor that makes them easy to read.

Tenkely said...


Thomas Morffew said...


David Knowles said...

Nice article. Lots of speculations. It going to be interesting to see all this come together.

Promethean said...

hahaha "Post this if you are aware of the suffering of dyslexic beavers. If you are a dyslexic beaver, know a dyslexic beaver or are married to a dyslexic beaver copy this to your status. I know that 99.9% of my friends won't post this, but maybe you are one of the 0.1% <3<3<3<3"

I hate that shit

wirehunt said...

Epic read!

Jörg Reinhardt said...

You forgot to mention Google Reader. Is the quasi standard for Blog and News Readers, like gmail is for webmail and it's fully embeddet in the google social experience.

Jörg Reinhardt said...

ahhh, and Blogger, while we're at and on it...

Florian Rohrweck said...

Thank you all soooo much! :D

@Jörg yes and no :D I didn't cover them extensively because I don't have evidence that they will be really merged into the whole system.. I mentioned them though :) I'm still waiting for some code to show up in reader and blogger

But you are right, that they are important parts of the Google system :D

supervan said...

Great stuff!

"Once you found the right people to follow, you will have a whole new world waiting for you. I NEVER had anywhere a comparable experience of information exchange or passion than here on Google Buzz."

Very true.

Fernando said...

discovery things. can cools. or not.

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