Personal Technology

Google Plus, Scarcity and Sharing

Looking for a signal that our economy has moved from scarcity to abundance? Look no further than the launch of Google+ and compare it to the sister app, Wave, launched less than two years ago.

In October 2009, Google launched a not-quite-ready for prime time product. There was a virtual stampede for invitations, which were doled out slowly and in small amounts. Less than a year later, Google would retire Wave.

It’s June 2011. Google launched G+ on Wednesday; early participants could play but not invite anyone. But by late afternoon Thursday, invitations were running wild, although Google did eventually pull the plug. The Google+ interface suggested I could invite 500 people at a time; that’s what Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk, ReadWriteWeb) says that he did:

looks like I may have maxed out my Plus invites at 500 in about 20 mins, sorry! I’ll send out more later if I can!!

This is an economy of abundance, an abundance that seems to have spilled over into an area we think of as constrained (server storage).

It’s also a form of catch-up, due to the value of network effects and the fact that Google is a laggard in the social platform field.

It is a generally accepted theorem that the real-time web is here to stay; it is a natural evolution from the early days of the telegraph, a tool that dramatically increased the speed of global communication. More people — probably using phones — will be added to the roster of Internet consumers and creators; this means more content, more noise. So the recommendations of our friends and trusted networks will become more important as we navigate an overflowing information space; what is scarce today is time and attention, not information. As Kirkpatrick writes:

Anything that can increase the percentage of social software users who are actively curating dynamic, topical sources is a net win for the web and for the people who use it.

Sharing is a human thing. It does not have a straightforward put-a-set-of-rules in a virtual box technological solution. Google’s algorithms (rules) have successfully help plumb the depths of computer hard drives. But we want to know what our friends think! So Google once again enters the fray. Is third time (Buzz was number two) a charm?

First Thoughts On Google Plus (G+)

There is no comparison to the Wave launch. Things work. The interface is clean, light, inviting. Engineers have anticipated how we might use existing shorthand (from Twitter and Facebook), such as replying in a comment thread by putting @ in front of someone’s name. They turn that @ into a + automagically and the name becomes a link to the Google profile page.

By making it easy to segment our network into circles that mirror the non-computing (analog) world, Google has made it easier for us to customize our messages. But will we be any better at that than network TV? It’s easier to craft a message than anyone can see than it is to craft multiple messages or tell only a few members of our network. Will enough of us embrace the tool to keep the project alive?

As with Twitter, you can “follow” (put in a circle) anyone. But no one can see what you’ve named your circles or who you’ve put in circles. All that is public is that you have added someone to your network (circles).

By making it easy to segment our network into circles that mirror the analog world, Google has also made it easier for us to filter incoming messages. More people read than create content, so this functionality is a very good thing. And Google+ is so much easier to use than Facebook! (The timeline/stream reminds me of FriendFeed.)

You can “hang” with members of your network in a video/text space. Watch out Skype.

This is only the first step in a long process (API connection is missing, for example), but it is a very encouraging one if you want there to be competition in this space.


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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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