This has been a very successful year for me in terms of branding and influence. I owe that sea change to Google+.
So for my Thanksgiving post this year, I am going to talk about my personal experience in social media and what I think it says about how internet interaction is going be based in the future.
Before Google+, I was a part of a small blogosphere and had about 100 people that regularly followed my work. I was posting what I felt was high value content, but not receiving the traffic that I felt that content deserved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was trapped in what I am going to call the OLD SOCIETY of human civilization. So bear with me on a little digression into this and I will return to Google+.
I believe the Internet is going to be rewriting the most basic aspects of human organization over the next 25-50 years. The organization methods from before that time I will be referring to as the OLD SOCIETY and therefore the new modes of organization being the NEW SOCIETY.
In the old society, human interaction is mostly based on the arbitrary variable of physical location. You spend most of your time as a child and young adult in a physical location (school), thus your choices in human relationships are in that limited pool. The majority of the major decisions in your life are made in that small pool. As you go back in time, that pool gets smaller and smaller. Until you see people not really knowing anything beyond their own little tribe in the jungle. That’s us, that’s humanity for all of it’s existence thus far.
Now even in that old society, we can see that some people break out of it; the powerful, wealthy, or those with extreme wanderlust. There are stories of ancient elites bouncing around the Mediterranean engaging in politics or war. Travel is a luxury that some enjoyed, albiet only a shadow of what is possible now, and they were able to see new places and meet new people that way. We called these people “well-traveled” and considered them wise. They had seen the broader world and brought it’s lessons home.
Thus the people who are able to rise to the top in the old society are also arbitrary. They happen to live in Silicon Valley, or New York, or Chicago, or wherever. Or born to wealthy parents with the power to travel.And every small town kid that wants to get out of there and go to the “big city” knows this principle very well. Where you are is very important.
Luck becomes the dominant factor in someone’s success. Now they have to seize the moment, sure. But to be given the moment in the first place requires a lot of luck.
The NEW SOCIETY is different. In the new society, human interaction is organized based on interest. I like physics, you like physics, we become friends. We don’t have to be picked on any jocks that don’t understand our interest. We never get stuck with the jocks because we no longer have to be stuck with them based on pure physical location alone. The internet makes it possible. It allows us to organize ourselves in different ways. And right now we are doing so only at the middle of the journey of life. We are not allowing our young children to benefit from this. They are still stuck in their schools and still forced down that path. But the tide is turning and we are headed for that world. We just need some innovations to keep kids safe and we are on our way.
Now back to Google+
Before Google+, I saw no need for a social network (read Facebook). Because I just viewed the social network as better organizing the OLD SOCIETY. The people with the highest volume Twitter feeds or Facebook pages were already famous. These are the Ashton Kutchers of the old society, elevated to their position by arbitrary variable of location and luck. They command huge followings because of their positions in old media, old politics, old society. Facebook or Twitter becomes their megaphone.
Now at that point, I didn’t think in terms of old/new society. But what I did know is that I had no interest in talking to my high school classmates or hanging on the words of celebrities.
Along came Google+. And because I was invited by a friend, I joined.
What emerged was that I realized Google+ offers a different path and a new way forward. A way towards the new society. A new way of making friends and forming connections to people that is not based on geography or luck.
In just a few months, I have gone from a small presence on a minor blog to a powerful presence within the interest group I care about. And I have done that by being able to reach out to people and say “hey, this is what I am doing”. They can see the projects I am working on and they can choose to stick with me or not. I spend my time talking to the people that I want to talk to. Not struggling to find them. They are coming to me now. Life is good.
Now why is this possible on Google+, but not on Facebook or Twitter?
On Facebook, you are supposed to be talking to people that you already know. The system is designed to create friction for people that don’t know you. The more people that you send a friend request to that don’t friend you back, the more the Facebook algorithms think you are a spammer. They start creating friction for you, error messages asking if you “really know this person?”. They sort your messages out of people’s pages. Facebook delivers what it thinks people want to see based on what they have seen. Don’t take my word for it. Just watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html
On Twitter, you are operationally limited. You are choked for content. There is a tiny character window that limits the volume of material that you can transmit. You have to use links for anything with heft. When you have conversations with people, they are not combined together, they are dispersed in all these different directions. People on the outside cannot follow what the hell is happening without a lot of work on their part, by switching back and forth between people following the flow of the conversation.
In contrast, on Google+ you are supposed to be talking to people you don’t really know. Maybe you have heard of them, but you probably haven’t talked in person. And that is the point. Google+ is an engine for connecting with people based on INTEREST. When you find someone you are interested in talking to, you add them to a circle. They get a notification, they can look at your stuff, and maybe decide to share back to you. There are no friction errors asking if you “really know the person”. There are no limitations on your content.
Furthermore, you can search for people on the basis of their content and add them. You can share circles of people that you have found so that other people can connect with them. Can you imagine Facebook allowing you to instantly add 500 people to your friends list? Hell no. The Google+ system comes with tools to help you locate these new people that you don’t know yet, but want to, and provides seamless tracking of their exploits.
Even further, Google+ has propagation patterns that make collaboration possible between people that aren’t even connected, as demonstrated by Dan Soto earlier today on Google+. Because you are connected to people based on interest, it is more likely that ideas or concepts will combine, that people will connect, than when based on geography or luck. Your friends on Facebook don’t really share your interests 100%, they are unlikely to trigger rippling reshares.
Now Facebook is trying to fight back. They are trying to copy Google+ in many ways. But they ultimately can’t because they are an interface with the OLD SOCIETY and Google+ is the best tool we have for moving towards the NEW SOCIETY. The best tool for organizing your interactions with other people based on interest, not who you already know and not through a tiny little structure. The best tool for moving forward into a digital future where luck is not the primary determinant in who gets heard.
And Facebook is fighting dirty. As Mike Elgan pointed out today on Google+, Facebook looks like they are trying to plant information to discredit Google+ using it’s content controls. Despite enormous gains in marketshare in a tiny timeframe, there are stories propagating about Google+ dying? How is that possible? Furthermore, Anil Dash also posted on Google+ earlier this week (and on his blog as well: http://dashes.com/anil/2011/11/facebook-is-gaslighting-the-web.html) that Facebook is screwing people that are even cooperating with them, trying to take absolute control over the process.
So this year, I thank Google. For making the Internet… better. For helping us move away from the old society and into the new.
The big task now is to not be evil and start copying Facebook!