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G+, a theory - Input Junkie
September 7th, 2011
06:24 am

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G+, a theory
Long ago, I ran into the bizarre theory that managing a company competently requires specific knowledge about the sort of thing the company does, and it's not just the specific product or service, but there are different sorts of companies. A company with a lot of little outlets isn't the same sort of thing as a company with a few big outlets, for example.

I think the underlying problem with G+ is that Google was founded on doing things that people like, and the way they identified what people like was by introspection. Google was run by people who didn't like clutter on web pages, so they found a way to do search, and eventually to make money, by giving the information without irrelevant images or animation. This worked because a lot of people don't want visual clutter, and some really hate it.

It isn't a big problem that Google has defenses against those who try to game the page rank system. Figuring out how to not be evil while dealing with the Chinese government isn't Google's core competency, but it doesn't seem to be wildly out of their range.

However, Google is not set up to handle individual likes and dislikes-- they have non-trivial problems with customer service.

My hypothesis is that folks at google introspected, decided for some reason that they'd prefer to be in a real names environment, and don't have the cultural resources for dealing with customers who hate a product of theirs.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/497389.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:thespian
Date:September 7th, 2011 11:47 am (UTC)
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I believe you are correct. A friend who works at google points out that google has actually had people quit over this, I think in part because the google culture ties in so much to an ethos that each person at google truly represents the company. The end result is that a fail on this level feels, to some there, like a personal fail.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 7th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
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More diversity at high enough levels to have some clout would probably solve the problem, but I'd have thought just having people old enough to remember usenet (where there were valued members of communities who were known only by pseudonyms) would be enough.

On the other hand, considering what they did with google groups (allowed inordinate amounts of spam into usenet, and failed to develop trn for the web), maybe they didn't have people old enough to remember, which is another sort of diversity.
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From:readsalot
Date:September 7th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
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Hi! A friend of mine pointed me to this, and I just wanted to point out an article that a different friend referred me to, that says that actually Google wants to be what they call an "identity service", and they just aren't at all interested in people who want to use non-real names. It's at http://www.businessweek.com/technology/google-confirms-it-aims-to-own-your-online-id-08292011.html .

If that's their intention, they should have stated it up front--it probably would have caused less anger.
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 7th, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
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wow. I didn't know they were that up-front about it. Makes me suddenly wary of how much data I'm giving google right now, using their RSS aggregator, for instance. I wonder what my gmail account info says...
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From:nellorat
Date:September 7th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link. That was indeed what I surmised, with a little more emphasis on selling the data to others (the only reason I can think that a realistic looking but false name would be OK: as long as the buyers of the info think it's real). As someone I know says about Facebook, "We're not the customers; we're the product." I'm bothered by this, though probably not as much as I should be. At any rate, one more reason to value LJ.
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 7th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
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Arguably also websearching is (a) a novel kind of activity and (b) ultimately a kind of hierarchical tool-use, as are map-searching, RSS aggregation etc - the user is in the position of a supplicant asking an oracle for information. Managing social media sites, OTOH, is an attempt to fit around people's pre-existing, culturally diverse social interaction expectations. The task is itself more culturally problematic, because of users' expectations. Which I guess is just paraphrasing what you said.

I like "cultural resources" - also notably thin on the ground at Facebook, and yet somehow their market share seems to trump individual scruples.

I'm also a bit puzzled by google, though: I'd've thought that they already had a ton of data on individual users, and they don't seem to have any trouble tracking the customer without having to bother with what the customer actually wants to tell them or how they want to identify themselves, so I'm trying to imagine what's in it for them, in disallowing pseudonymity or trying to circumvent supplier nosiness regarding visible data. I confess I'm not up to date on the latest legislation - is the government outsourcing its online policing to service providers? Would google be somehow liable if somebody got hold of something they shouldn't because they entered an incorrect date on a form?
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From:st_rev
Date:September 7th, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
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Google was run by people who didn't like clutter on web pages, so they found a way to do search, and eventually to make money, by giving the information without irrelevant images or animation. This worked because a lot of people don't want visual clutter, and some really hate it.

It's worth noting that Google started to drift away from this in the last few years, and in the last six months thrown it out entirely, culminating in the new Rainbow! Animated! +1!!!!!1!.

I have been told that there was a lot of internal dissension over the real names issue, that the final decision came down from the top, and people have been leaving the company over it.
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 7th, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
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This post made me go check out my google dashboard, to see what the Empire (is willing to show it) knows about me. And I think I'm reasonably careful about handing out personal info, but oh god, there are so many things on there that I didn't even know they knew. No date of birth, sure, but my credit card number and address are there, maps I've created, contacts. The big one is email, of course, but pretty much every time google provides some new tool that intrigues me I'll go and check it out and leave just one titbit of info on it, and when you scroll down the list... it's a lot.

Nothing smart to say here, just wow.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:September 7th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
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It really looks to me like a business decision, not an engineering one. What Google sells is information about people; they do this by providing lots of nifty services for free to attract people and get them to provide information. (There are certainly worse business models than that!) The more they actually know about people, the greater the value of their information, even if they do respect user privacy within stated limits.

The greatest value of G+ to Google, I think, is the incentive it gives people to stay logged in.
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