Director, Social Media Products at Actiance
Facebook Blue is spreading.
Check out Vincos Blog tracking world map of social networks. It shows a trend over the past few years that Facebook is becoming THE de facto social network globally. The only countries where Facebook is not the number one social network by activity are places where geo-political issues prevent the open network access like China, Iran, and Russia.
Another exception? South Korea. Will South Korea be the harbinger of life after Facebook?
What does this mean to the enterprise?
It means that the enterprise must get ready to provide Facebook-like collaboration networks. Thanks to how Facebook has educated 1 billion social networking users, friending to subscribe to status updates, liking a page to keep up with product updates, and commenting on a post in real-time have all become the fabric of how we network with our friends all over the world.
Unlike previous generations trained to work with email, tomorrow’s workers will demand a way to collaborate in real-time while on the move, just as they have come to expect from the Facebook user experience. They know what it feels like to use the right tool to communicate without getting bogged down by multiple copies of the same data.
But I don’t see Facebook replacing other forms of communication like email or IM, especially for professional communication. Why? That’s because Facebook is primarily used as a personal social network.
Although Facebook would like to maximize users’ sharing of their updates, people still think of Facebook as a personal messaging network. Even though Facebook offers features that can be used for business purposes, social norms influence how users are actually using Facebook. People just don’t use it for professional networking and business collaboration. I am sure Facebook is well aware of this, and think Facebook has an option to branch into the a lucrative enterprise collaboration space under another brand.
Another point to ponder is whether or not Facebook is at its peak. It’s difficult to imagine the geo-political situation changing in China, Iran, or Russia anytime soon. That means Facebook has claimed the number one spot in most countries. This leaves only one possibility for Facebook: a diminishing active user base.
If you look at the Vincos’ world map of social networks, you’ll notice that there is one notable exception to the increasing influence of Facebook. It is South Korea, where Facebook ceded its number one spot to QZone. (I can’t explain why Chinese QZone will generate the most activity; perhaps some South Korean readers can shed some light on this?) So Facebook may have to battle other social networks to stay relevant.
|I may need to wear a shirt like this in the office.|
Most readers of this blog are savvy social media users. I would include myself in that category. Well, I would have until last Sunday.
Yes, I will come out and admit it for once. I got suckered into clicking on a Twitter malware link that was forwarded to me by one of my ‘trusted’ venture friends. Now that I got that off my chest (and demonstrated that I could be just as naive as thousands of users out in the Internet), I think I can talk about this incident somewhat objectively.
It turns out that this particular malware spreads by getting a Twitter user to click on the shortened t.co URL that’s sent via private message. When an unsuspecting recipient clicks on the link, it automatically sends the same tweet to all of the recipient’s followers as a private message. Very sneaky.
It was quite an embarrassing moment when I realized what just happened (I even had to update the new Twitter app to follow the link on my iPhone). Thanks to a couple of my co-workers and good Twitter citizen @DevonAlderton, I came to my senses only after a few hours had passed. Once a few seconds of disillusionment of my malware ‘detect-o-meter’ had passed, I regained my composure to delete all of my private tweets to all my followers (thank goodness I don’t have Kim Kardashian’s follower base) and took remedial action to shore up my defenses.
This is part 2 of my thoughts on Google+. In the last post, I discussed the innovative features in Google+ project that will likely spur other social networking sites to adapt and change. In this post, I want to touch on some challenges that Google+ has to deal with to become a viable Facebook and Twitter alternative.
|There is a reason why group is missing from above;
because Google+ has no group
Absence of Group
There is no group in Google+. At least the group in the sense that we all understand from Facebook and LinkedIn.
Let me explain. When we think of a group, we think of them as clique where we share information with everyone in the group and members in the group to be able to respond to other members post. In other words, group exists as an entity. Group mailing alias, Facebook group and LinkedIn interest groups are good examples. A group gets created by members, and everyone either joins or leaves the group, shares or does not share updates in the group. Whatever update gets posted on group page is expected to be shared with everyone else in the group because group members can access the group page.
It almost sounds redundant to explain group in this way. It is because we grew so accustomed to group membership and group sharing to happen in a symmetric way. What I share in a group is visible to all other members in the group, and what everyone else shares in the group is visible to me. Group is a separate entity that people can join or leave.
Not so in Google+. In Google+ we create our own “circle” to categorize people into different buckets. But my circles won’t be visible to you, your circle is not visible to me. All I know is you have categorized me somehow, but I have no idea whether you put me on your ‘tech junkies’ circle or ‘NPR listeners’ circle. Circle only exists in someone’s perspective. There is no separate entity called group. I cannot join a group to share things in the group and expect to get a feedback from other members of the group.
This creates subtle but not so intuitive situation. I could be sharing updates with my ‘tech junkies’, but as recipient you will not have any idea of what context I am sharing them. If you receive technology news from ‘tech junkies’ group, you’ll know that people are talking about technology.
In real life, this out-of-context sharing almost never happens. Depending on time and place, people talk about different things. We humans are automatically aware of our surroundings and know what is appropriate and what is not. When we get a message without context of group, about the only context that’s available in cyber world, we don’t know how to react to the message because who else received the message and in what context.
Because Google+ is not honoring this physical contextual paradigm, I see a big challenge in overcoming the lack of groups. And I’m not the only one noticing this challenge.
Missing Webpage Paradigm
A related point to absence of group is missing Webpage paradigm. There is no Wall page in Google+. You cannot visit someone else’s Wall and leave a message to the user like in Facebook.
|Saidur (Cy) Hossain got it right;
there is no Profile Wall in Google+
(His Google+ crash course in 49 slides is worth a view)
This is because Google+ is built on sharing messages based on your personal category called “circle”. It is almost like sending group email based on your own alias, and not having a webpage to have contextual conversation.
In the world of Facebook once you visit someone’s Wall page on Facebook, you are looking at everything about that user within privacy control allowed by the user. When you are on user’s Wall page (aka Profile Wall), you expect to see everything about the user and the page is dedicated place for the user. From this context, you immediately know that the message that you leave on the Wall is meant for the Wall’s owner. There is no question because you are posting a message on user’s Wall.
In Google+, there is no such context. There is no such page. When you visit Google+ page of a user, it may look like that user’s page, but in fact it doesn’t provide the features that you would expect from the user’s web page. Things that we come to expect such as what the user has been up to recently and leaving a message for the user are not available. To leave a message for the user in Google+, you have go back to your home page and type a message addressed to that user. This is like saying you can visit someone at his/her place, but you have to come back to your home and call them to talk about what you saw at the place. Bizarre.
This lack of webpage that represents a person creates a strange dissonance. Because there is no physical webpage to keep track of all conversations on a topic (lack of group webpage), it discourages people from sharing and commenting to a message and collaborating on a topic.
Partly because of all the hypes built by limited invite only release, Google+ is already starting to see many users who are bending and flexing the Terms. There are many thousands, if not more, business pages already created on Google+. Although Google came out and made public announcement discouraging people from creating business pages, people are already reserving the account names and getting the early start in setting up their presence in Google+. As of writing this article, Mashable and Ford, the two of early starters, already have 124,580 and 10,232 followers already (as of 7/27, it looks as though Mashable site has been shutdown by Google+).
It’s not just business folks jumping on the early-starter bandwagon. Hackers and other anonymous users with fake identities are creating Google+ accounts as well.
Challenge with this rapid expansion and everyone joining at once is rather subtle one. Google must be thrilled to see such enthusiastic responses from user communities, but at the same time trying to monitor and control the type of early adopters to maintain the quality of content posted.
After all social network, such as Google+, gets their content from users, and only way to quality control the content is to control the type of users and identities that are created in the network.
But at the same time Google must be careful not to over-enforce the policy. With the past weekend incident over shutting down many number of accounts, including early business accounts, anonymous and fake identity accounts, it looks like Google may be swinging too far to clamp down the illegitimate usage. Challenge for Google will be to strike the balance between fast growth and maintaining the quality of content shared on the network.
Despite all the challenges, Google+ looks like it has a real shot at becoming a major social network. It has clean and innovative UI/UX elements that makes it easy for new users to interact, and very clear privacy control on what you will share with whom. It also has clear mobile and location strategy to make it a compelling solution in the future. Plus, I would not discount the fact that most of us already have tons of Google product accounts that can be integrated into Google+ Project.
One thing is clear. Now users have one more place where they can connect with people. And that is good news for anyone who wants to connect with Lady Gaga.
It has already been close to a month since the launch of Google+, and I feel obliged to express my thoughts around Google+ on this blog. After all it’s only fair that I give a due time and attention to what Google created, the company that changed the way I use the web. Especially how Google fumbled earlier social attempts with Google Buzz, Wave and Orkut, they must have learned from those lessons.
I’m happy to report that they have. Let me talk about those few points that I think make Google+ shine on this blog post. In following blog post I will talk about some challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.
One very clever and elegant solution to organize people that you subscribe to is Google+ Circle. It is clever because it extends from multiple UI paradigms that are already familiar to most users: Drag-and-drop and semantics of the word “circle”. By combining the two, it created deceptively simple user experience in organizing subscription sources into manageable lists. It reminds me of how Apple approached their UI by borrowing heavily from physical metaphors such as multi-touch screen navigation and finger swiping gesture. Perhaps this is not a surprise because Andy Hertzfeld was one of the key designers who created the UI.
Hangout is a video chat client. But to describe Hangout as yet another video chat is missing the bigger picture. What Google+ is after is creating a tele-presence experience with people who might be miles away. One way Google does this today is by allowing people to share YouTube video and watch it simultaneously as if they were sitting next to you looking at the same screen. By providing chat window and be able to inject your own commentaries while video is playing, Google wants users to not only share content using status updates and comments, but share them in real time when you and the participants are both available to “hangout”.
One application of Hangout is a public conferencing forum. In fact tinychat.com has been meeting that need for public video chat forum, much like how IRC was in early 1990′s. Hangout has all building blocks to become the next IRC with video conferencing capability. What will be interesting is to see how Google+ users will evolve Hangout feature.
A possible use case might be celebrity hosting a Hangout session to endorse the movie as it’s shown in below YouTube clip of Ashton Kutcher hanging out with his fans on tinychat (btw, he’s also the investor of tinychat).
Google+ Mobile: Nearby
Another cool feature that I want to underline is found in Google+ mobile application. It’s Google’s interpretation of location meeting social network application, and it has great potential to change the way Google+ mobile users think about location. It’s called Nearby.
Although Google+ doesn’t make a hoopla about Nearby on its overview page, it has great potential to change the way we think about Google+ and extend the way we interact with it.
The idea is simple. As a Google+ mobile user, you not only get the updates from people that you follow, but also can get updates from people who happened to be nearby from your current location. It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but when you think about Google’s focus on Places and how it’s investing heavily to reclaim the lost ground on local businesses away from Groupon, it starts to make sense.
By having user’s location information and controlling how users can consume the data, Google can play an important role serving relevant local contents to users, such as nearby restaurants with good user review or local business deals that are on now.
In the next blog post I will touch on a few challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.
What do you guys think of Google+? Do you believe Google+ will be a long-term success in becoming relevant among Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? Please share your comments.
If you are a long time Facebook user, you’ll remember the site’s humble beginnings as a network for college students. Facebook used to operate around the networks to which you belonged. A Facebook user could choose a school network, a work network, even a regional network to share private information.
To most of you, all this network-centric sharing would be a distant memory. And so it was with me. I have long forgotten the steady evolutionary history of Facebook and even the fact that I entered my network as FaceTime Communications (the former name of my current company, Actiance).
|Voila, my FaceTime past on Facebook.
Removing it was not as simple as clicking on ‘Edit’
The only memento for me was my Facebook Profile Info page displaying my network as FaceTime Communications. Although we’ve gotten free publicity from Apple’s iPhone FaceTime launch, I didn’t want to send the wrong signal that I’m in any way affiliated with Apple.
So, I began my search around the Facebook Profile Edit page to remove this piece of my history from Facebook.
First, I did what any normal user would do. Click on the ‘Edit’ link shown next to Networks on the Profile Info page. Hmmm… no luck. It directed me to the basic information page which lists current location, hometown, gender, birthday, sexual orientation, language, and a free text area for a short bio.
Well, the link must’ve been misplaced. Then, I started searching through all Profile Edit pages: profile picture, featured people, education, work, philosophy, etc.
|Networks is not your profile; it’s your account setting.
How intuitive is that? Not very.
To my bewilderment, none had Network Edit capability. OK, time to break out the big guns. I googled “facebook network edit,” and there I found it. It turned out that Network Edit was available under the Networks tab of the Account Settings page.
Who would have thought? I’m sure Facebook is not intentionally making it more difficult to edit or delete personal information. But, it sure feels like Facebook is not really valuing the user’s time and his or her data. They could have spent a few minutes to link ‘Edit’ next to Networks on the Profile Info page. Instead, they’re making the user search for ways to edit their *own* information.
Note to Facebook users: be careful what you enter on Facebook. You might not be able to readily find an Edit button to remove information you entered.
I’m sure there are other examples like these from Facebook. How well do you think Facebook is handling our private data? Please chime in.
I was having lunch with my co-workers yesterday and talking about some websites that were still using static HTML to render their content. While describing them, I said they looked like they were from the 1990s. Then, I quickly realized that it was only 1995 when Netscape popularized websites, and most websites were developed after 1996. That was just 16 years ago.
Since the birth of the graphical World Wide Web, the technology that allows people to communicate with each other and to share information has been evolving at a dizzying pace. Pagers have been replaced by mobile phones, mobile phones by BlackBerrys, and BlackBerrys by touchscreen iPhones. Email, which quickly became the de facto electronic communications standard, evolved to become webmail, then mobile messaging, and recently, to microblogging messages called tweets.
|Abusing the power of email to the max.
How many of these group emails do you get a day?
(Don’t worry, I know better not to send this particular one,
but I’ve done my own share of group replies)
But businesses still rely on face-to-face meetings, phone calls, conference calls, and emails to get work done. As most of the US economy has shifted towards service industries, most of us derive value from communicating or collaborating with other workers. Although some rock-star programmers might be reluctant to admit it, we spend the better part of our day communicating and collaborating, not coding.
It’s safe to say that most businesses would be brought to their knees if a mail server were down and emails not delivered. We’ve become so dependent on email for almost all communications activities that we do, it’s fair to say that our day revolves around email.
The problem with email is that it’s meant to be a private exchange of information between two parties. It’s built on the postal service analogy. There is a sender and there is a recipient. A message travels from one person to another. The message is not public and is not meant for sharing with other people. In fact, sending too many mails and asking them to reshare is prohibited by law (chain letter anyone?). Well, the same applies to email.
But, we are using email mostly for non-intended use cases. Take a look at your inbox and see how many emails were sent as a group mail. Or, look at the emails that you sent with multiple recipients. We are all using email to collaborate and communicate.
Enter social media. Social networking started under a totally different paradigm. Everything is public. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter changed the way we think about information and how we can collaborate when information is free. When information is free, ideas are immediately tested and evolve into better ideas. When information is available, everyone can access it, rather than having multiple copies sent to one’s private inbox.
In too many organizations, there are enormous challenges of not sharing enough information. Many times, information is locked in someone’s Inbox, creating a strange practice like archiving emails, which is supposed to be a private information-sharing channel. That’s because there hasn’t been a public or group-sharing platform.
Already, there are mature enterprise social networks in the market. IBM Connections, Jive, Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and others are in the market to address this emerging communications and collaboration paradigm shift. These networks help enterprises control information flow and access, yet allow employees to discover, access, and collaborate, per the specified policy.
|There is no foolproof system -
be mindful of what you’re sharing.
Social networking as a collaboration platform is a must. All organizations will have to adopt this new communications paradigm in order to reduce the cost of sharing information and to stay competitive in the 21st century.
Who knows? This may well mean that all static HTML websites might be social networking sites with AJAX in the next few years. Well, college course websites might be exceptions.
What do you think? Do you see the adoption of enterprise social networking as an indispensable collaboration platform? Let us know what you think.
There have been lots of discussions around energy recently in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, especially about clean-burning coal technology and its hopes and reality.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear clean coal, I know I have to pay extra attention to actual scientific claims to differentiate marketing and political spins from scientific facts. I get a similar feeling when watching late-night TV ads, such as the one for the “no-exercise weight loss” drug. Something just smells fishy.
Well, that’s what I felt when I heard the words “privacy,” “safety,” and “Facebook” uttered in the same sentence.
The whole premise of Facebook and social media revolves around sharing. However, there’s an inherent risk: sharing information with someone with whom you didn’t intend. In fact, it happens quite often. Think about a disgruntled ex-employee who causes harm using inside information. Although information is shared in good faith, it can cause damage if you share too much information without some level of protection.
|Behold, victims of hacked Facebook accounts.
See for yourself at youropenbook.org.
It should be noted that using Facebook, likewise, is inherently risky business. You can always share too much without proper protection. The only mechanism that protects us from someone using that information against us is mutual trust. We all value trust and that’s what’s keeping these social interactions possible in Facebook.
But, there are always cases where people fall victim to information piracy because of not knowing whom to trust or how much to trust. That’s a real problem.
When we meet people in real life, we rely on our senses to see, hear, read, and touch people around us and, ultimately, assessing just how trustworthy they are. Yet in Facebook, it’s not as clear-cut. It’s too easy for individuals with ill intentions to mask their true identities and pretend to be someone else. All they need is a fake Facebook account and copy-and-pasted picture to impersonate someone.
This problem manifests itself in multiple forms in Facebook.
Another problem is the proliferation of malware in Facebook applications. Facebook has written an application developer’s guide to encourage good behavior, but there are too many individuals exploiting this “social trust.” As the number of people who abuse this trust grows, Facebook will ultimately become less reliable and will have to deal with less sharing as a consequence.
Yet another issue is unclear privacy policies. As I wrote in my last blog entry, the FTC determined that Google must be held accountable to third-party privacy audits. Adding a new feature without clear privacy guidelines is a bad thing, and the FTC has shown its willingness to go after such underhanded tactics.
The ball is entirely in Facebook’s court now. Will Facebook burn cleaner coal for the rest of the social media industry? Or will it continue to pollute social media with unregulated social pollutants?
What do you think? Please tell us how Facebook can build a more socially responsible environment for all of us.
|Google Is Vowing Not To Repeat Buzz’s Mistakes,
And It Shows How Google Has Designed/Launched ‘+1′;
Note The ‘Publicly’ and ‘Undo’.
Well, that was yesterday’s interpretation. No more bending the privacy rule to bootstrap the newly launched service. Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google’s bungled attempt to launch Buzz by automatically signing up all Gmail users, now all social networking sites will think twice before stretching the privacy rule and determining the default options.
The other day, the FTC made its first ruling against the floundering social networking site, Google Buzz, to enforce a third-party privacy audit every two years for the next 20 years.
What’s interesting is that FTC’s complaint includes finer points on how not to design an interface. The 8-page FTC complaint points out that “the controls that would allow the user to change the defaults were confusing and difficult.” Translation: no more deceptive tactics like making the Default setting to share more and burying the Privacy Settings link deep within the site.
We are already seeing some signs of Google taking this lesson to the forefront of their Google +1 design (Google’s interpretation of Facebook’s Like “thumbs-up” button). Here’s what Google is doing differently with +1:
1. Silent launch
Chances are you have not heard of Google +1. That’s not too surprising. Google has not made a lot of noise about its new social search enhancement. They are underplaying its significance and released it as an experimental feature, which is an opt-in only service for now. Compare this with the big splash Google made with Buzz.
2. Clear user feedback that everything is shared by default
Google is providing clear feedback to users that any link a user endorses will be shared with everyone else. Whenever a user clicks the ‘+1′ button, Google displays this privacy setting for you.
|Google Is Hiding ‘+1′ Tab From Public View By Default;
It Looks Like Google Learned The Lesson From Buzz
3. ‘+1′ tab is not shown to everyone by default
Once you opt in to try Google +1, you will start seeing the ‘+1′ tab showing up on your Google profile page. And, it’s not shown to everyone else by default. This default value is clearly shown to the user when s/he opens the ‘+1′ tab.
So, don’t give up on Google and their social search. This time around, it looks like you’ll also get better privacy controls with the help of the FTC. That will certainly be welcome news to all users.
What do you think? What do you think of the FTC’s complaint? Have they gone far enough, and do you think Google’s taking enough action? Let us know.
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