Google+ Only August

I am the mad scientist of social media.

Back at the end of July, in another one of my social media experiments, I’d sort of made a resolution to myself to only use only Google+ in August and see what it got me. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, just sort of did it. The impetus for the whole thing is that I’m really starting to loathe the whole Facebook experience. Not the connections or people I’ve made there, but the user experience and interface is just lousy – and Facebook doesn’t really seem too interested in improving that in either its webpage or mobile app.

Google on the other hand is continuing to improve and innovate to the extent that I’ve read articles on the web of instances in which people have dumped their flickr accounts for Google+, left Facebook – essentially trying to have Google+ be the one ‘go-to’ social media source for them. This has always appealed to me as well – I’ve always been on a quest to find that ‘swiss army knife’ of a social media app. One ring (or plus, heh) to rule them all.

For quite some time while still checking into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I haven’t been doing it though the native apps, I’ve been using Flipboard which provides a much better experience. It has most of the features of the native apps and none of the hideous design or clunky usability features. The drawback of course is that those companies aren’t going to port all their goodies to 3rd party apps obviously, so some key elements – namely notifications – don’t exist in Flipboard. Even with that being the case I was happier with it than the native mobile apps and had decided that though I was going to go Google+ only for August as my experiment – I would still allow myself to read/view the streams from my other apps, just not comment or post there. (FYI, you can also read a lot of other feeds, including Google+ through Fliboard, check it out.) Call it lurking if you want, but I still wanted some of the content/links/stories that can be found on those other sites, but I wanted to see if I could use Google+ only for the bulk of my online interaction and see if it filled my needs.

Most people’s primary complaint about Google+ when trying it out (and the subject of lots of articles and bloggery) is that “there’s no one here” or “it’s a ghost town” – to some extent this is true.

G to the Plus, Yo!

It’s not that no one is using Google+ – there’s 100 million users there as of April – it’s just that people have spent years cultivating their community over at Facebook and the subconscious assumption is that on jumping over to Google+, one will have the same kind of experience and level of engagement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – yet. You simply can’t take all your Facebook contacts with you to Google+, believe me, I’ve tried, but what the past few weeks have taught me is that you might not need to right away.

What this experiment has done is get me to start circling/following people I don’t actually know, based on interest – something that seems MUCH weirder on Facebook and something I only used to do, really, on Twitter. Google+ has built a user experience and interface that really encourages and facilitates this yet still gives you the security/confidence and easy ability to only share more intimate posts with select people/groups when you want to – all in one app.

Since I’ve taken this ‘stranger plunge’ so to speak, the level of quality conversation and engagement I’ve experienced on Google+ has gone up radically and overall the whole thing has become much more satisfying.

I won’t lie, I’ve gradually been pulled back into Facebook – backsliding – partly because I was tagged in photo and felt compelled to comment on it, but also, I’ve missed the conversation there with some people and groups that I really enjoy. Really, it’s the people and conversation that are good – but simply because there are more established connections there. I hope over time that my Google+ experience will grow to equal, or even surpass that of Facebook.

Say it with me, Facebook is ugly.

One thing being away from Facebook – at least the native app/page – has caused to resurface from the depths is my contempt for the overall Facebook user interface. It’s just hideous, period. As a person who makes my living designing things, after a while, I just get pissed off that they simply don’t realize this – or if they do, they don’t care. Currently, Facebook seems more focused on monetizing the business model than they are with improving the user experience. Ads, promoted posts, suggested pages – it’s a very “hey, we’ve got some blank screen space here – we’ve got to figure out a way for that to earn money”. They’re totally trashing the joint.

Hey, Facebook people. Did you know there’s NO ads over on Google+? None. As in zero.

Over the years, Facebook has rolled out tweaks to their overall design in small doses here and there. Sure, the Facebook of today looks radically different than when it started out, but this is the result of YEARS of little, sometimes indistinguishable changes. In my opinion, they practically need to clean house and start over from scratch. Also, quit making changes to how my profile appears to other people (Timeline). I don’t care about that. Make it so it’s not like pounding my toe with a hammer every time I try and use it.

I hope that Google can continue to innovate and improve without resorting to a full on shilling of every inch of white space, because although I’ve begun to realize that I probably never will fully leave Facebook – due more to other’s unwillingness to do so than anything else – I will be visiting less and less.

I haven’t been on twitter in ages. I think that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Google+ Circles, Good – Facebook Lists, Bad.

For those of you that have never checked it out, one of the (multitude of) things that Google+ does infinitely better than Facebook is allow you to manage your streams and the content in them using ‘Circles’.

Facebook has ‘Lists’ that you can create to sort people into categories. This works ok. Their mechanism/UI for managing and adding or removing people from these Lists is very clunky and un-user friendly. In addition, they have default lists that they give you such as ‘Family’ or ones based on where you’ve worked or where you went to school, and you can’t get rid of these, even if you want to. Lame.

Google allows you to create Circles – which are essentially lists, but their system of management is much better and a whole lot prettier and easier to navigate. They present you with some default Circles to start, but if you don’t like those, you don’t have to keep them.

I don’t do a lot of compartmentalizing of my friends/contacts, but in each application I do create separate lists for ‘actual people’ vs. ‘brands, companies, products’ etc, as I like to sometimes just see what actual ‘people’ are saying, vs. who wants to sell me something or tell me about their awesome widget.

Overall the Google+ Circles apparatus allows for a monumentally better user experience. Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

Offtober.

So it’s that time of year again. The time of year when I get tired of Social Media.

I don’t know why I get tired of it, or what I get tired of. At some point I just start to find it exhausting. People like my wife always just tells me to lay off some, but for some reason, I seem to be an all in or all out kind of guy, but you probably knew that.

There’s the pending launch of the iPhone 5, which I have no desire to hear people talk about indefinitely. Some of my Facebook friends are complaining that people are posting rather graphic images of child or animal abuse in an attempt to shock people into action or advocacy – a ploy I find all most as heinous as the crimes themselves. I’ve no friends doing this – yet. But I’d rather not deal with it right now. Most of my Facebook friends that aren’t doing that are complaining about Facebook changing, and that, well, that’s just stupid and makes me want to hit myself on the head with a hammer.

Google+ is the elite treehouse of my tech geek friends, and even though open to the public now so you no longer need to know the secret handshake, not a single one of my complaining Facebook friends seems to have considered jumping ship, probably just because of the ever-present human nature fear of change. The status quo sucks, but it’s much safer to sit and complain about it than venture into the unknown. Hence my Google+ feed seems to be predominately tech stories and comics that are over my head. It’s like being the only non-engineer at an all-engineer cocktail party.

I vacillate between wanting all Social Media all the time, to wanting none of it and while I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me gripe about it, the very nature of Social Media is that I get to sit and gripe about it and if you’re ‘hooked in’ to me, you get to hear it.

Maybe I’m just tired of hearing other people’s material. Good or bad, happy or sad. My headspace, both virtual and real is full. So I’m checkin’ out for a bit to clear the baffles.

Takin’ a month off everything but email and this blog. I’ll probably throw the occasional photo up on flickr too. I’m hoping that may induce me to actually write more here, but I won’t be the least bit surprised if it doesn’t. A month may seem kinda arbitrary to some of you, especially since some of you probably only check in once a month, but to a hard-core junkie like me, a month is a long time. Plus when the idea popped into my head this morning, it just sounded good.

So yeah. Offtober.

See ya in Onvember.

Pluses and Minuses.

Ya know, the interesting thing I find is people comparing the launch of Google+ to Facebook and Twitter and comparing stats with regards to users in X amount of time and such. Google+ has had the benefit of 5+ years of Facebook and social media successes and failures to build on. Launching this service now can’t be compared to the launch of a Twitter or Facebook as when they launched, not nearly as many people were social media aware or savvy. To me the comparison is really sort of pointless.

A very large part of the reason Google+ took off like it did is because Twitter, Facebook and the like were already there to facilitate a ridiculously fast dissemination of info and user uptake.

I mean, I’m pretty sure most of us found out about it via another SM platform/tool.

Ironic. Dontcha think?

Oh, and I’m on Google+ here.

My love affair/hate on with blogs and Social Media.

Or How Facebook and Twitter hijacked my post.

So here I am writing a blog entry.

Blog entry. Blog entry. Blog entry.

I make fun because earlier this week I’d decided to ditch the blog all together due to the very fact that I always felt like I needed to be writing a blog entry.

I’ve really been sort of re-examining my whole online agenda.

I started putting stuff I wrote up on the Internet way back before the word ‘blog’ had even come about. Not trying to cop any sort of street cred here, just a fact. I used to do it back when you actually had to load a whole new HTML page up for each of your entries, and if you were really a glutton for punishment (or a total loser with loads of free time – comments to yourself), you’d build an archives section to chronicle your mediocrity. This was back when WebCrawler was the browser du jour on the interweb. Remember that?

I started writing stuff to complain. Cause I was pissed off about stuff and I thought even though no one wanted to hear my shit in person, for some reason, everyone on the Internet would. It’s always been a place to vent. To be politically incorrect under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ and the ‘it’s my blog and I’ll offend who I want to’ mentality. Anarchy rules. 

But really, after awhile, you can only be mad at so much stuff. That and EVERYONE ELSE on the planet eventually got a blog and the singular uniqueness of it went away.

Now I’m all into the Social Media thing. The twitter, the Facebook (which I swore up and down I’d never use), flickr, etc. etc.

It’s a double edged sword the The Social Media (and blog) thing. At some point it becomes kind of a drag. People start to make certain assumptions or try and read into your statements and statuses. It’s a bit unnerving. You start to wonder if you should censor yourself because your boss/parents/significant other/sibling/best friend/local supermarket clerk might be reading. That’s when you really know you’re losing your mind – when you start to think “what if some random person you meet in a bar reads this? What if I offend them?” As if your blog has this ‘massive’ reach and audience. Meanwhile way back in your archives, your second post was entitled “Why I Hate The World: A treatise on how everyone but me is a complete idiot.” That was back when you were hard. Back before you had mandatory sensitivity awareness training at work. Weren’t too concerned about these offensive issues then, were you?

It’s a hard thing when you start to realize just who IS reading your stuff and the ramifications that opening your filthy mouth on the interweb can have. I’ll not lie to you. I have censored what I write here at various times for various reasons and invariably, every time, after the fact, I’ve felt like a total ass. No one knows I was an ass, but I do, and I have to live with my ass-self and it’s not much fun. When I censor what I write – for me – it pretty much goes against all the reasoning I had for starting to write in the first place. I justify it by saying things like “well it’s better than not having written at all” or “at least you’re keeping in touch with everyone”. Load. Of. Crap.

I feel like a boss/relative/friend/dog washer should accept me for who I am. Sure they can disagree with my opinion, or perhaps think I use ‘fuck’ too often, but I’d like to think that we all could be that way. The reality – we all know – is that it’s not. Unfortunately, bosses take none to kindly to tales of ‘lost weekends filled with bong hits and loose women’ or blog posts with titles like “How to stick it to the man: Making the most of your fake sick day”. Those are usually much more interesting reading to most folks though vs. “Did some yardwork this weekend…”

I pretty much fluctuate daily between being all over the (Social Media) sites to pulling the plug on all of it. Sometimes I think it’s a waste of my time. I feel a bit guilty as it is a way to stay in touch with far off family members and friends, but we all seem to get so caught up in it we forget there was a time (only maybe 5/6 years ago?) when we managed without all this crap.

I know, I’m complaining yet again. But it IS my blog after all, and your the sucker reading it. Offended?

It’s become cliche, the argument that we’ve all ‘lost touch with our real-world relationships’, forsaken them for the online ones. Really, most the people I interact with in Social Media circles are within my geographic proximity. I seek them out that way. I figure the prospect of actually ‘meeting in person’ at some point is that much more interesting. I really don’t have a whole lot of interest in conversation with someone from Utah. I mean, I’m sure we could find something to talk about but…

Just today I went through my Facebook friends list and dumped a bunch of people that I hadn’t talked to since we ‘friended’. I mean, really, what’s the point? These are people that – were it not for Facebook – the chances of me ever talking to again were pretty much nil. Was my life that empty without them? And once we found each other, were we so ecstatic that we corresponded regularly, sharing intimate details of our lives and providing invaluable inspiration for each other? No. We sat and lurked and checked each other’s pages for details and goings on without ever having to interact on even on the most elementary level. If you were sitting, watching the details of someone’s life on a day-to-day basis from, say, your car in front of their house – it ain’t called being ‘Friends’. It’s something else all together.

It started with a generic message. “So and so has sent you added you as a friend”.You know, in Facebook, when you add that long, lost buddy that you’ve missed, it gives you the option to send a personalized message at the same time. Most of the people that have friended me have neglected to utilize this feature (hence some were dumped), and really after they friended me (the social equivalent of ‘tagging’ you with a radio collar) that was the last I heard from them, save bullshit statuses and inane fucking Facebook games and ‘Gifts’.

I mean, what does it say about you when you:

1. Friend someone.
2. Don’t have the common decency or balls to actually write anything personal.
3. Never correspond directly.
4. ‘Gift’ the person with a cyber-yellow raincoat.

 What the fuck does that mean?

I guess I’ll let it go for now. I mean the reality is that I’m on all these sites and apps and I do enjoy most of the interactions with folks I’ve found, but aspects of it still completely astound me.

For all it’s faults, I still think overall that Social Media is a good thing. It has allowed me to ‘met’ people that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have, who probably wouldn’t even have given me the time of day in the real world. However, when presented with a few witticisms and a profile that I’ve padded with some inaccuracies and half-truths, I seem all that much more appealing in the on-line forum. Thanks to spell check, an online thesaurus and outright plagiarism, I can come across as a highly developed, very erudite individual – not the backcountry hick living in the woods that I really am. Ah the marvel of modern technology!

One of the people I’ve duped into belief of my charade is a woman I’m ‘friends’ with on twitter. Aside from producing some fantastic artwork, she’s intelligent, well spoken and extremely interesting all the time. ‘Course maybe she has a thesaurus too. @Venison (such a great word, the sound of it combined with what it represents and the stigmas attached illicit so many different feelings/responses), said something the other day that I thought hit the nail on the head.  “These “develop a brand” people are the same ones who took something as interesting as blogging, and RUINED it with crap.” 

Blogs used to be about people bitching. People arguing. People emoting. At the very least interesting discourse. Now it seems they’re about driving traffic. Building the brand. Click thru. ROI. Big companies run by old men trying to get a foothold of credibility with a sector that in the past has done nothing but use the medium to speak to what’s wrong with these very companies.

Really this is part of my contention with Social Media. The co-opting of it by companies, corporations, marketers – what-have-you – has essentially negated the very essence of what it once was. It truly has become ‘new media’ in the sense that like all the previous forms of media (radio, tv, etc.), it started out as one thing and has morphed into something else. Someone, somewhere said – hey, we can use this to make a buck. It was all downhill from there. What bothers me as well is that you’ll find a lot of Social Media advocates out there, blasting out hundreds of tweets a day about how great it all is and the subtext is that they’re also sending out links to whatever it is they’re shilling. Even if they’re not selling anything, they’re selling themselves. The person AS brand. 17,000 followers, but really not that much interesting to say (I know, I’ve followed some of ’em). It’s the Internet equivalent of high school. People are following them, because they want OTHER people to see that they are following them. Social Media cred by association. Virtual 6 degrees of @KevinBacon.

Maybe it was an inevitability. I mean, all of us could only tweet about this morning’s coffee and our smelly co-workers for so long, but to me at least it seemed a little more genuine. It was truly more ‘conversational’. I sign on each morning and chat with the same people. It’s like they’re co-workers, sorta.

Now it’s like striking up a conversation with someone, then having another someone bust in and try and sell you web development just cause he heard the two of you talking about the Internet (of course you were talking about Internet porn, but he doesn’t get that). It’s made the Social Media world the equivalent of the hotel bar at an insurance convention.

Perhaps I’m just bitter ’cause I don’t have many followers. I have follower envy. Does Cialis work for that?

I think I’m just lamenting the transition from one era to the next. Social Media is exciting, yes, and the potential and prospects are interesting. Still, part of me will always be fond of the ‘early days’ of Social Media when it was more about people and less about product. Of course I’m sure people said this about Apple, too.

Remember AOL? Remember when it first came out and everyone would troll the chat rooms talking to anonymous folk? The times you’d go in the lesbian chat room and feign sensitivity to try and score bi-sexual chicks? Don’t scowl at me. Yeah, like me and my friends were the only ones that did it. Man up and admit it. Somewhere AOL lost sight. They inundated you with free sign up cd-roms every fucking week (at least we had coasters) and endless new versions until finally someone said enough and came up with something else. In essence, Social Media is the something else. Twitter is like a big chat room, only there’s no set topic and you get to pick who can/can’t come into yours.

Oh Social Media, how I love to follow you. Where you’re going I don’t know, but I’m ready. Even though I trash talk you now, I know something new and fun will be coming around the bend and I’m in for the long haul. Besides, I’ve paid up the hosting for my blog ’till the end of the year anyway.

And, hey, can we stop off on the way in the lesbian chat rooms?

: : : :

Funny. When I started out this post I was gonna blather for like a paragraph about the blog and then get on to the inane, matter of fact stuff. Got a little carried away.

Other than my Social (Media) Issues as outlined above, things at the Ranch are well. Our dishwasher has died, so now we’ll have to hire someone else to do that, let the interview process begin.

I’ve started trying to take better care of myself. Eating less crap, exercising every day. Lyn is too. We’re doing good, feeling good. I think, time/logistics permitting, I may even try and enter some mountain bike races this season. Of course now that I’ve actually put it in writing, all hell will break loose.

We’ll be travelling to Halifax in March to get Colin and Olivia’s US paperwork/passports and I’ve also been asked by Goose Lane author/Dal Prof Darryl Whetter to give a presentation on Graphic Design to his Creative Process class. I’ll get to use visuals and PowerPoint and everything – I just need to figure out what the hell I’m doing between now and then so I can try and explain it accurately. I’m not sure if I’m going to divulge to them my secret ‘throw darts at the wall’ method for selecting stock art, or not. Trade secret.