Google has a new social network. It's making a run for all the Facebookers out there. I am one of them, and I've had two of my friends invite me to Google Plus, so fine. Whatever. I'll join in and spend some time dropping people into circles and getting annoyed by my lack of ability to figure out how to actually use the site, and even more annoyed by the little number that keeps appearing on my Gmail account. This little number indicates my "notifications" from Google Plus. Maybe someone added me to their circle! Maybe someone commented on my post! Who knows? I'd better go check!
A great many of my Facebook friends spend time complaining about the interface and how it keeps changing with every upgrade. Everyone carps for a long while, then we all get used to it and get aggravated when the next change comes around and takes away the thing we now like but endlessly ranted about when it first appeared. I dislike having to figure out how to use the new functions and find my way around again each time there's a change, but in general, it suits my needs (needs I didn't even have two years ago, and never imagined) and I don't have to do much heavy mental lifting to figure it out. Today, with G+, someone suggested that I read a nifty "users guide"so I could learn to effectively use all the functions. I am so not doing homework to figure out how to use something that is a time suck in the first place. Sorry. Not happening. Especially when it's in beta -- why learn it when they're going to change it all. I have never been a "early adopter" of new technology.
There's as Very Big Deal out there about privacy, and many people bemoan the fact that Facebook information is about as private as a Fourth of July Parade. Google +, jumping on this bandwagon then, is all about keeping things Private For Your Safety. With their new circles, G+ people can post things to only certain groups and keep their boss from seeing pictures of their drunken underpants-on-the-head pole dance at their cousin's wedding.
Here's a thought: don't post the stupid picture. Or untag it as fast as you can. Or, better yet, quit getting blackout drunk at weddings because you're too old for that kind of nonsense anyway. Even smarter? Don't "friend" your boss. (What are we going to do now -- "circle" someone?) Don't post things you don't want haunting you forever, because no matter how high you set your security, someone is going to be able to find your rant on pot legalization or the benefits of socialism or why fascism isn't such a bad idea for ruling some people. It will be out there, in pixels, on some server, till the apocalypse.
I realize that the kind of privacy violation that real computer people are worried about with Facebook is the selling of personal info. What things do you post about? What sites do you "like?" Who do you talk to and what kinds of things do they like? How could all of this translate into targeted advertising, or, more malevolently, into an FBI file or an employment file 10 years from now? Without realizing it, most people on Facebook give pretty much anybody who pays Facebook the right to use your pictures and probably your words to advertise their products or events. This is definitely dirty pool, but I have to wonder what people expected? Facebook is free -- but they're making tons of money. Where do people think this revenue is coming from?
Google is absolutely no stranger to this kind of electronic snooping -- they've been giving me targeted ads based on my email content for years. So the idea that G+ is going to reduce our exposure this way seems rather foolish to me. Maybe they won't use our pictures, but I'm fairly positive they'll use our information any way they can to make a buck.
Google Plus might make it, I think, and drain away a lot of Facebook's business. Or not. They have a reasonable hit rate with taking tested ideas and making them all sleek and trendy in a new way. However, until they manage to make it easy enough to use without having to read the user manual first, they're not going to woo folks like me, and all those further along on "early-middle-late-and-almost-never adopter" of new technologies scale.
Like I've mentioned before, I'm really waiting for they day when my technology works like the computer on Star Trek. I don't know how they're going to get Majel Barrett's voice to do all the talking, but I'm sure they can figure something out. In the mean time, I can see that little red number on my gmail account, telling me that there's something going on there on Google Plus, and I should check it out....