Google Plus

I got a Google Plus  invite and started playing with it. Before long I'd spammed a couple dozen friends, acquaintances, business partners, and peers with invites.

My thoughts. Well, let me lead with what's wrong with Facebook:

  1. Nobody is competing with it in ways that force innovation.
  2. At least not innovation for the features I need.
  3. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

I don't have issues with privacy, or copyright, or rollout practices, or targeted advertising, or any of that. I think the transparent society is coming, and Facebook lets us taste it a decade or so early so we can update our antiquated concepts of privacy and copyright. The coming world is one in which everybody walks around with a camera which is connected to a network that instantly copies anything interesting to a million different places at once.

In short, if you have an issue with Facebook's privacy policies, you don't really have an issue with Facebook. You have an issue with the Future. Please don't yell at me about it. I don't like pooping in a glass bathroom either. But in the future, all the bathrooms are made of glass. 

Moving on... 

Facebook has decided, as communicated through their feature set, that real people don't have more than 5,000 friends. Okay, by any back-yard barbecue definition of "friend," real people do not.

But people like me sort of do. SORT of. The social network definition of "friend" is not a back-yard barbecue.

I'm making a living because my work has attracted tens of thousands of fans. As a traveling professional, both in I.T. and as a cartoonist, I've met enough people that I now have thousands of acquaintances. I've shaken hands with, been introduced to, swapped emails with, and argued with hundreds of fellow-professionals, peers in these industries. I do actual business with dozens of these people, who are now effectively business partners of mine. And, like many people, I have a small circle of close friends.

But those contracting rings don't explain the whole story. There are nine people in my immediate family (my siblings, my spouse, my children) Factor the in-laws and I've already lost count. Forty? Factor Sandra's extended family and the number jumps to around 300. Which, coincidentally, is about the number of people I count as "neighbors" here in our neighborhood in Utah. Yes, I recognize most of them. Utah's weird that way. Also, most of them are not Schlock Mercenary fans. How's THAT for weird?

Coming back around to the point, Facebook won't let me define these relationships in a useful way. People can "like" my Facebook Page. They can join the Schlock Mercenary Facebook Group. And there is room for another 2500 of them to ask to be defined as a "friend." But once people have connected in one of these ways, there's no way for me to further categorize them, other than to individulaly indicate that I want to view or hide posts from them.

What Google Plus appears to be offering is the opportunity for me to link to these people in the same way I link to them in real life. Fans (who I love dearly because they make my career possible) go in a massive circle whose aggregated news feed is just too much for me to follow. Cooler still, I don't even need to put them into that circle -- they can just put ME in a circle that they may have called "webcartoonists" or "iCelebrities," or perhaps "Keep Your Enemies Closer." Meanwhile, friends, family, business partners, clients, industry peers, members of the press... these folks can all go in other circles (and can be in more than one) so that (and here's the kicker) I can communicate with each of these groups of people differently.

I'm the same person regardless of where I am or who I'm with, but I do communicate differently to each group. I smile, nod, and am as gracious as possible around fans. I frown, scowl, go pensive, and then grin ferally around business partners. I compliment peers on the work they've done. I politely inquire about the niceties of my extended family. I tell my children to do the dishes. I tell poop jokes with my brother (on Twitter, in front of the fans... but I digress.)

To be sure, I wish Facebook would support all of this. My early adoption of Google Plus accomplishes two things to that end: it lends weight  to the argument that those features are worth implementing by Facebook, and it lets me practice wrapping my brain around what kinds of relationships I actually have with the people in my life. Putting people in circles (and deciding whether new circles needed to be created) was one of the most fascinating bits of introspection I've done. And fortunately, there's some data portability built in. I can download a zip file that contains the circles I've defined.

So... I'm sorry if I spammed you while I was thinking about the relationship you and I share. Or, more likely since there are tens of thousands of you reading this, and I only spammed a few dozen people, I'm sorry you didn't have any inkling at all that I was having these thoughts, because that lack of notification means I wasn't actually thinking about YOU. Either way, I can see some of you bristling a bit. 

Most of you should just choose to keep following me on Twitter. For now, that's where all the poop-jokes go.