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ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry
ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಹಕ್ಕುಗಳು, ಶುದ್ಧ ಸಸ್ಯಾಹಾರ, ಪರಿಸರ, ಆರೋಗ್ಯ ಇವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ವೀಗನಿಸಂ ಎಂಬ ತತ್ವದಲ್ಲಿ ನಂಬಿಕೆ ಇಟ್ಟಿರುವ ಒಬ್ಬ ಸರಳ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ ನಾನು.
ನನ್ನ ಇತರ ಆಸಕ್ತಿಗಳೆಂದರೆ ನೀತಿಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ನೀತಿಸಂಹಿತೆಗಳು, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಆರೋಗ್ಯ, ಆವಿಷ್ಕಾರಗಳು, ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಭಾಷೆ, ಭಾಷಾನೀತಿಗಳು ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ.

I am a simple Kannadiga following veganism, that cares about animal rights, pure vegetarianism, environment and health.
My other interest include ethics, public healthcare, public policies, innovation, science & technology, Kannada language and linguistic policies.
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Friday, July 1, 2011

Evolution, War and More – Social Networking Sites

1 Jul 2011 - Part 1, before joining Google+
9 Jul 2011 - Part 2, additional thoughts after joining and experiencing Google+


Part 1 - Facebook's flaws, new ideas for social networking sites, thoughts on Google+ while waiting

As we are witnessing yet another attempt from Google in social networking arena in the form of Google+ numerous people are writing what they think about this new development. Here are my thoughts too!

Where was Google all these days?

First of all, I don't know why this is being projected as first such attempt by Google. Orkut is Google’s, isn’t it? Someone reminded me about Google buzz too, sorry I haven’t used it. Anyway, let’s leave that marketing stuff and proceed.

Am I looking forward to Google+? Will I continue in Facebook?

I am definitely waiting for Google+; I still haven't got invitation though. I am often annoyed with not-so-well-designed Facebook. However, since most others are in Facebook, I am also stuck there for networking purposes, without much choice. I might not leave it very soon, as I am still stuck with Orkut too.

How is Facebook doing overall?

I can clearly feel that most people avoid posting/sharing all the stuff they really want to. Why? Just because they don't want everyone in their friends list to see them and/or be judged. Thus, Facebook is slowly becoming a place with mostly incomplete as well as junk information.

As a proof, I still remember in Orkut people used to scrap very openly and I was very uncomfortable with that. Finally, I ended up putting a self-scrap on top of my page (which exists even today!) asking people to personally message me as far as possible. Many people found my message funny and/or weird. However, in Facebook I didn’t have to go for such antics because most people had joined my club already. Only very plain things are now written openly, everything else happens through private messaging or in closed group pages.

On Google+

Circles - is it ground breaking thought?
I don't think so. If we see email groups (google, yahoo...) that were very active earlier and still breathing pretty well, sharing with limited people is the main thing. Facebook never offered that. What Google now did is to combine this feature within social networking site.

What is the future of Google Groups?
I don't think it makes sense to have 2 separate kinds of groups, one within Google Groups and one on Google+; hopefully there will be a meaningful integration.

Will Gmail be closely tied with Google+?
It would be really nice if it is... Again, like Google Groups, why to maintain 2 separate services when goal is pretty much same - communication!

Similar question as above about Picasa too...

What are Facebook’s drawbacks and is Google+ going to be any different?

1.       Underutilized Friend list concept: Facebook does have concept of friends list, but a terribly under-utilized one.
a.       If we want to reach out to people in a specific Friends List, well Facebook doesn’t provide an option.

b.      We can't set privacy setting based on Friends List, this would have solved many problems of privacy – as we are seeing now Google+ is using this as main theme

I really hope one person can belong to multiple circles in Google+! The drag and drop feature made me worry about this... Remember, Facebook friends list provides this ability.

New Conspiracy theory: I wonder what were Facebook owners thinking when they introduced concept of Friends List. OR.... here is a conspiracy theoryJ May be Facebook provided only basic stuff so far and was waiting all these days for Google to spend good money on +, hehe. May be Facebook is already ready with the enhancements, kept hidden as a silent weapon. They might just implement the additional features now so that Google+ bites the dust.

2.       Who is who for whom and who can see that list?
This is another very interesting point. In Facebook, if I need to add another person as my friend, I need his permission because being a friend means that I can see his wall, photos etc. This is an overly simplified scenario that Facebook has considered.

Let’s say Person X wants to add Y in his network because X likes Y or might have some small personal/business interests. But person Y is not really interested in having X in his list and clutter it as there are many people like X in his life. But at the same time, Y has no objection if person X keeps him in his own list. Facebook does not have a solution for this.

Now, if I understand it correctly, in Google+ we don't need permission to add someone in our contact list. I believe this will not grant us any extra rights to view their posts or photos. We can see that additional information only when other person grants right in a generic fashion or on case by case basis (as in Picasa).

However, I have following questions:

a)      Is other person notified when I add him in my contact list? This is debatable. May be the person who is adding should have an option to do so if he wishes to notify the one being added.

b)      Will public and/or my friends be able to see who all is present in my contact list including the one way contact and hiding my own internal categorization? In Facebook others have ability to see my Friends List and I feel it is crazy. Why do others have to know in which list I have kept/categorized someone? Hope Google+ maintains this as private information.

c)       However, while looking at our own or someone’s friends list, if you can group them based on common factors that is already public information, it might be handy.

Remember, in Facebook if you see person Y in person X’s friends list, it also means that vice versa is true. But in Google+ that need not be true. If my understanding is correct, I believe it’s a big difference.

3.       Why a separate Fan page?
Let’s say I am a doctor and many of my patients want to keep me in their contact list/network; not because they want to message me or see my wall/photos, but to see quick contact information or some advices I post. For that, do I need a separate Fan Page? Can't I have something within regular page itself where such people can stay in some circle where they have limited access to my information? I hope Google+ is designed this way.

4.       Limitations related to Group communication

a.       Similar to Friends List issue, a group member cannot send message to rest of the group members in Facebook, not even with owner's permission (and not even owner can do this, as I read in some complaints forums)

b.      Facebook's newsfeed is cluttered with group postings, and there is no way to disable group feed to flood newsfeed. I hope Google+ has answers to this.

5.       Abused ‘Like’ terminology

a.       Why there is only 'Like' and no 'Dislike'? Unfortunately, Google+ also has only 1+ and no 1- BUT WHY???? It totally beats me.

b.      In any case +1 is a better way of expression as it is confusing whether to click 'Like' button or not when someone shares a sad or disturbing piece of information. Even now it is tricky - by putting +1 do I mean I appreciated/thanked the author or appreciated the content. Hmm, stuff to think about, I guess.

c.       Let’s say a store or a person has a Fan page in Facebook, if you just want to ask a question, you need to first 'Like' it. What the hell? I don't even know it properly and I have to like it? Matter is worse when we want to share a complaint. I feel 'Like' is a very strong word and I don't like being forced to like something without strong reason.

6.       Facebook doesn't have posting categories and filters so that we can see meaningful information based on our time availability. Unfortunately, I am not hearing such a thing in Google+ also. For more details, you can have a look at the cause I created in Facebook. In short, the concept goes like this - while posting one selects a category (ex: personal updates, general discussion OR fun stuff) and while viewing you select only what he wants (ex: only personal updates if you are extra busy person, may be general discussions if you have little more time OR include fun stuff too if you have time to relax and enjoy)

7.       History is practically lost
Looking at old messages/posts is quite difficult in Facebook. The 'Older posts' link drives you crazy at times. Do they think we live only in present and past is irrelevant? Hopefully Google+ has a better solution for this. I am at least expecting a strong 'search' feature which is their favorite anyway.

8.       Read/Unread confusion
I am sure you would have gone through this feeling: Wait, didn’t I read this already yesterday? Did I read all or did I miss something? How do I differentiate the items that I have already seen or read the next time I login?

This is another key drawback in current social networking sites when compared with traditional email system. Since generally all content is pre-open, it is difficult to find out if something is really read just because it was presented on the page. But I really hope to have some kind of hide/minimize option for users if they wish not to see certain message in future. Facebook does have some hiding options, but nowhere to my satisfaction level. A careful set of options might save lot of time for smart users, I firmly believe.

Can we trust Google to do better?
I am a fan of Google with mixed feelings. I believe they have some arrogance in them that makes them provide a great product with some deliberate annoyance built in. It feels as if they challenge me "Well, we know you want XYZ feature and we did not provide it deliberately, but we are sure you can't resist our product because it has 10 other things that you like!!" Classic example being Gmail not having sort option as they think search is superior. So, I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Conclusion
Overall, I think Google is in a better position compared to Facebook to provide a comprehensive solution, by integrating Gmail, Google Groups, Picasa etc. and moreover their superior search tool with social networking to provide an ultimate experience. I really hope Google does it right this time with Google+

Disclaimer: My experience with social networking sites is limited to Orkut and Facebook. Also, I am still a caveman when it comes to accessing internet through mobile, so my focus is only with respect to good old computers. Considering all this, I am sure this is a slightly limited viewpoint; however I hope you found this interesting and thought provoking.



Part 2 – Joined Google+ alright…

9 July 2011

So, did Google+ thrill me? Or did it at least meet my expectations?

It thrilled me a bit, but unfortunately did not meet my expectations. Read further for more details.

Issues related to adding contacts

- On the right hand side, the ‘Suggestions’ section does not clearly indicate whether the contact is a Google+ user or not.
- When we add a non-Google+ user to our circle, they don’t get any email notification; not sure if this is a bug or if this is the way they designed it.

Stream – is it better than Facebook’s newsfeed?

- No search option; this is extremely disappointing :-(

- Under the stream section, I think they could have provided check boxes instead of radio buttons.

Weaker Email Notification

Google+ has weaker email notification system than Facebook with multiple flaws:

a) Email notifications are sent only to primary email address in Google account. This cannot be changed. This is a big problem for people who don’t want their primary gmail box cluttered with Google+ notifications but yet wish to have the notifications.

b) We never get emails on our own posts; I think it is important that we have easy access to what we wrote in past, for the purpose of evidence too at times (this is a flaw in Facebook too).

c) The quality of the emails is lower; facebook’s emails are more complete though bit bulkier.

d) They could have meaningfully integrated gmail with this, but unfortunately they did not. A smart design would have eliminated issue a) too.

No Groups yet

As I mentioned earlier, hopefully Google Groups will be meaningfully enhanced and integrated here. Moreover, I hope Google Groups does not follow same path as Picasa.

Transformation of Picasa

Most do not view this transformation as a welcome change; I am also very much concerned about this, but decided to wait for some more time.
In case you already do not know, Picasa now has changed in such a way that your albums can be shared by others without your permission and people can tag your photos, leaving you with a feeling of having lesser control over your own album. Google strongly justifies this move, but numerous people are protesting this. But if you want Google+ you got to accept this change, else stay out – that’s the message from Google.

Conclusion

Google+ has a cool UI and with Circles concept it has definitely addressed one of the fundamental and serious privacy flaws Facebook has; however feature wise it is a long way from making demanding users like me! I haven’t gone too deep into Spark and haven’t got a chance to use Hangouts yet, but that doesn’t bother me too much as its not top in my priority list.

I have made some of the suggestions to Google through their forum and also posted this link for their reading pleasure; got some quick replies for some of the posts too; it looks like they are open to consider people’s viewpoint this time. I really hope Google does take up some of the innovative points mentioned in Part 1 and implement the same.

I still think Google+ can evolve further and provide an amazing product suiting almost everyone’s needs; I just hope they will do so.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not a big fan of social networking, so there were quite a few points which I did not understand. But the number of possibilities you have thought about is appreciable :) I think Google or Facebook can think of hiring you ;)
- Ramaprakash Bayadi

halemane said...

Provoking points. Thank u.

Naresh M Bhat said...

nice.. looks a like good thought process has gone to it.

VRJ HGD said...

1. facebooks gonna launch a surprise feature this wednesday. hope it improves the friend list blunder
2. a.yes the other person is notified when user ads him to contact list.But the name of the circle is known only to the user
b.public friends cant see the discrete circles user have creates for himself. All u see is total number of ppl in the users circle and the other peoples circles in which the user has been added
3. I see friends and Page to be a complicated thing which was convenient till Google + arrived. On google, distinction is easier. Google is also gonna introduce the page feature soon. Circles cant act as a stand alone tool.
4. Hehe, facebook has always encouraged to use a page than group...After all page is their invention
5. a. Lets face it,FB is a commercial entity. it wants users base to expand. If a person has more dislikes compared to likes just imagine his state. In 3 idiots way "poora balaatkaar kar dega" :P
b. This is cent % true. One of my friends just tweeted bout her relative who past away. Too emotional, how can u like such things even if u wish to share.
c. Here ur thought of having dislike option makes sense. Things like pages where most of the time u are unaware of products/content that they deal with, dislike has to be present.
6. This is a fantastic idea for a micro social networking platform like Google+ where having contacts doesnt mean everything. But this would defy the very foundation of FB. If a user is given an opton to segrgate news feeds, this would block his impulse and inclination towards other categories. this may hamper the social graph mechanism. fB says, Look we give all feeds like newspapers, just read which u like.
7. the messaging system of FB is reallt wierd
8. nice flaw...

It would be great to have such a nice blog integrated with fb connect.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very well thought out article. You bring up some very interesting points. Thanks for writing this, I hope Google sees it.

ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I have joined Google+ yesterday and will publish more on this after few days.

Anonymous said...

This is just Amazing...lots of thinking on it. but Sir it is possible to set privacy settings on FB to let others(even our friends!) view our friend list or not. But I am really hoping G+ is nice..

Anonymous said...

Google+ privacy issues scare me. Facebook is much easier to use and to understand. I never thought I'd find myself comparing FB positively against anyone, but compared to Google+, FB is a privacy paradise.

To wit: If you share a post to a limited circle and a member of that circle "mentions" another user who is not in that circle, they then get access to that post and the entire conversation, and may themselves "mention" others to give them access. Disabling the re-share option does not prevent the mention from completely eliminating any privacy in your posts to limited circles.

The problem isn't so much that circles are essentially cosmetic labels that don't really affect privacy in any real way, so much as that we're being told that they do.

The deceptive advertising and PR is what scares me.

ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry said...

I am not sure how Facebook can be seen as a privacy paradise when they too don't have limited sharing option. However, the concern you mentioned about Google+'s "mention and share" features is scary, I guess I overlooked that factor, thanks for reminding.

ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry said...

Just a clarification. After checking further, I think I am fine with the "mention and share" feature of G+. It happens only when someone explicitly wishes to do so and trust factor is important and understandable.

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