Will Google+ be Another Brick in the Tower of Babel?

So I had this random thought and posted it to Google+.  The conversation was one of those rare good conversations that occur on social media sites. So good in fact, that I thought I’d post it here for anyone not on Google+ yet or have no desire to make the switch.

PC Sweeney -Thought… With the significant fracturing of the social media that should be bringing us together, building communities, and having the potential to create a more perfect society and/or better social spaces are we recreating another tower of Babble? When we all join a different social media space will we be able to communicate with anyone?

PC Sweeney – I currently speak Google+, Facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube, flickr, vimeo, wordpress, goodreads, librarything, blogger, picassa, bucketlist, and a few others….

Eric Riley – This is why there needs to be real social media federation. You should be able to select the social site you prefer, for whatever reason and be able to connect with people from other sites with no barrier.

Unfortunately most websites prefer to see their users as a commodity rather than a person. Facebook is trying to pull some serious dick moves to prevent people from leaving, like not being able to export your data, closing ads for other sites, not allowing api access, and not allowing a user to delete their profile. It’s petty, childlike behavior.

As federation building protocols like xmpp becomes more ubiquitous we’ll see how certain social sites want to play. Google has said thy want to allow federation VIA G+ but its not in here yet. My guess is that this is a result of this still being trial phase, and that it will be implemented eventually.

Ellen Carey – I’m all for federation. I can (and usually will) learn to “speak” any social media you put in front of me. But trying to keep up with the content on all of them can hinder, rather than help, true communication as my attention gets stretched ever thinner – especially when we make a lot of noise contributing what amounts to the same content through multiple channels. At the same time, many of the people I want to connect with are disinclined toward the level and range of social media fluency that interests me, and are unlikely to leave their familiar Facebook for Google+ (for example). It would be great if we could prevent our communities from being splintered by what is a cool new tool to some, and yet another overwhelming thing to learn to others.

Jennifer Meyer – A great question for sure. It’s funny but I think we sort of lose sight of what the technology is – at least I’m guilty of this. But really it’s just a tool. It gets used as any other tool and is only as effective as its user. If as a human being I interact on social media with the same personal blind spots as I do in “real live” then I’ll limit my communication regardless of what platform I’m using. Despite the possibilities we are still “stuck” inside our own little sphere.

Would social media really be more productive at bringing others together for social change with a federation?? I don’t know; bet it would depend on the paradigm of the society when the federation formed. What is the goal of social interaction? To find differences and celebrate, or to find similarities and celebrate? Neither is wrong in fact I’ll bet we need both – but do we purposely go out and look for differences??

Ellen Carey – Great points. I agree: we need both. And I think many (most?) of us seek out and celebrate the similarities rather than the differences – through social media as well as F2F.

As far as tools go, I’m always thinking about the less tech savvy people I know who are overwhelmed by the learning curve for each new thing. Their inability to keep pace with the rapid introduction of new technologies can isolate them when fellow community members like me move on to newly-formed communities based on new tools. It can also disenchant them with social media in general, and I have very mixed feelings about that problem. On the one hand, I think we all need to take it upon ourselves to keep up with the pace of change. On the other, I don’t want to leave anyone behind, and I don’t think it’s reasonable for me to expect everyone to be as geeky about becoming fluent as I am. How do we consider the very real challenges of access to information and community, in such a rapidly changing landscape, for the significant number of people who are not digital natives? The idea of federation is on appealing solution in theory. I’m not sure how it would work in practice.

Jennifer Meyer – Ellen well thought! One phrase came to mind as I was reading that. Access points. And isn’t that awesome that librarians do that? Perhaps part of our future is going to be creating and disseminating access points for that social community – whatever that might be. It will become critical that we acknowledge those challenges in a similar way to ADA considerations. Particularly when it might be lack of digital access that prevents people from learning those new technologies.

Ellen Carey – Absolutely! I love the idea of librarians developing access points to communities. And I like the analogy to ADA considerations. I am still (always) wrestling with the question of what is reasonable to expect of those who have digital access, but lack the desire to develop a level of fluency in the digital world.

Could Google+ Ruin Your Online Personal Brand?

So I got a google+ invite (just bragging)! While I was exploring this new social media and talking to friends and happily putting them all in all of their specifically labeled circles, I started thinking about the amount of metadata that we are creating for each other and about each other. I started thinking about twitter lists, facebook groups, and other classifications in the multitude of social media platforms that we, our company, or our brand, is being put into against our will and without our control.

I understand that people have had these concerns with FB already because they are already doing some of it in a way. But I think that Google is slightly different because people “like” a company on FB or “friend” me and its pretty much exclusive to FB, whereas people “Google” me to find all of my online persona or a company’s online presence. These groups and pages in FB don’t have an effect on people’s search results for me within FB. But, my friends’ classification of me could have a strong impact on what search terms are used to find me or have a strong impact on my public online identity.

Here is another difference, I think. FB uses my groups and likes data to send me more specific and better targeted ads and recommendations. I’m the only one who is really affected by this data because I see the ads and recommendations when I’m online. I see the results of people’s classifications of me. And, for the most part, I’m the only one who does. However, Google can more effectively use this “circle” data to influence the search results for me. Results that anyone can see, that influence how people find me, and that the public can associate with my online brand identity.

This is because these lists and groups generate a massive amount of metadata about our online persona. I originally thought about Google+’s collection of this data specifically because they are in the search, metadata, and ad business. My first thought was how my friends’ classification of me in circles would affect search results for my public online identity (PC Sweeney) that I spent a lot of time constructing. Would it be completely upended because people started putting me in the “douchebag” circle? Would it be possible that whenever someone searched for “assholes” I would rise to the top of the search results because that’s how people had classified me? Or, would I simply continue to be put in the “librarian” circle? Or even… dare I say it? That searches for “awesome” would bring me to the top of Google searches?

But, ok… Let’s just say that I’m put in the asshole circle, twitter list, and facebook list (because that’s more fun). How will that affect my job search or my career advancement? People potentially could see my online brand through search results, and people’s classification of me that I am branded as an asshole. My boss, or future boss could learn about this and it could ruin my career.

While, I think this would be mostly funny, I wonder about larger companies that have been branded by these lists such as BP, PG&E or Walmart. How can they control it? I don’t think they can either. They could try to avoid social media all together to try to limit their classifications. But then what about FB Places or Yelp that automatically generated a social media space for that company? Avoiding social media would be wrong too.

So what is the solution? In the future, starting now, it is going to be more and more important to not be an asshole and more important to just be awesome.

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