16 May 2012

Leaving Google+

Ironically many Google employees have even given up on Google+
(though plenty still post annoying "Moved to Google+" profile pics on other social networks)

One of those sneaky tweets that links to Google+ just tricked me into wading back into the swamp that it's become, hopefully for the last time (I say "hopefully" because in all likelihood I'll be forced back onto it at some point — it's already apparently impossible to create a Google Account for any Google services without also landing yourself a Google+ profile and Gmail account and it's very likely that the constant prompting for me to "upgrade" to Google+ will be more annoying than the infamous red notification box). Here's what I saw in my stream:
  • 20 x quotes/quotepics/comics
  • 8 x irrelevant news articles & opeds
  • 1 x PHP code snippet
  • 3 x blatant ads
  • 2 x Google+ fanboi posts (including this little chestnut: "Saying nobody uses Google+ is like a virgin saying sex is boring. They've never actually tried it." — you just failed at life by comparing Google+ to sex my friend).
  • 2 x random photos
That's pretty much 0% signal and 100% noise, and before you jump down my throat about who I'm following, it's a few hundred generally intelligent people (though I note it is convenient that the prevalent defense for Google+ being a ghost town, or worse, a cesspool, is that your experience depends not only on who you're following, but what they choose to share with you — reminds me of the kind of argument you regularly hear from religious apologists).

Google+ Hangouts

My main gripe with Google+ this week though was the complete failure of Google+ Hangouts (which should arguably be an entirely separate product) for Rishidot Research's Open Conversations: Cloud Transparency on Monday. The irony of holding an open/transparency discussion on a close platform aside, we were plagued with technical problems from the outset. First it couldn't find my MacBook Air's camera so I had to move from my laptop to my iMac (which called for heavy furniture to be moved to get a clean background). When I joined we started immediately (albeit late, and sans 2-3 of the half dozen attendees), but it wasn't long before one of the missing attendees joined and repeatedly interrupted the first half of the meeting with audio problems. The final attendee never managed to join, though their name and a blank screen appeared each of the 5-10 times they tried. We then inexplicably lost two attendees, and by the time they managed to re-join I too got a "Network failure for media packets" error:
Then there was "trouble connecting with the plugin", which called for me to refresh the page and then reinstall the plugin:
Eventually I made it back in, only to discover that we had now lost the host(!?!) and before long it was down to just me and one other attendee. We struggled through the last half of the hour but it was only afterwards that we discovered we were talking to ourselves because the live YouTube stream and recording stopped when the host was kicked out. Needless to say, Google+ Hangouts are not ready for the prime time, and if you invite me to join one then don't be surprised if I refer you to this article.

Hotel California

To leave Google+ head over to Google Takeout and download your Circles (I grabbed data for other services too for good measure, and exported this blog separately since my profile is now Google+ integrated). You might want to see who's following you, Actions->Select All and dump them into a circle first, otherwise you'll probably lose that information when you close your account.

When you go to the Google+ "downgrade" page and select "Delete your entire Google profile" you'll get a sufficiently complicated warning as to scare most people back into submission, but the most concerning part for me was this unhelpful help advising "Other Google products which require a profile will be impacted":

Fortunately for YouTube and Blogger at least you can check and revert your decision to use a Google+ profile respectively, but you'll immediately be told to "Connect to Google+" once you unplug:
After that it's just a case of checking "I understand that deleting this service can't be undone and the data I delete can't be restored." and clicking "Remove selected services" (what "selected services"? I just want to be rid of Google+!). I'll let you know how that goes once my friends on Google+ have had a chance to read this.


  1. Hangout's seem very stable, surprising Google hasn't played up the usefulness. Understand lack of relevance in the stream, I find Facebook just as irrelevant. Tumblr seems to be nailing relevant streams, and not just for irreverent posts.

  2. I'd be a lot happier with Hangouts if they were a separate product, perhaps integrated into Google Talk. It's not entirely clear to me why they had to strap it to Google+ (except to force more people to join).

  3. your words comparing religious apologists to those who say the "G+ experience" depends on who you're following really showed the world that you clearly have no real idea how to use Google+. you do get what you put into it. interesting content is not spoon-fed to you, which is clearly what you're looking for.

    this was a master class in social network ignorance.

  4. Looking at my FB stream I see:

    15 status updates about people eating sandwiches, watching TV or other mundane things
    4 reposts of news items
    3 posts from people I barely know sending birthday/anniversary/other greetings to other people I don't know at all
    2 posts about people who have uploaded new profile pics
    4 blatent adverts
    2 food porn posts
    4 congratulatory posts about some football match
    9 quotepics/comics
    4 posts of pics from someone I don't knows wedding

    And this is AFTER I have spent months whittling out the game statuses and invites and other general crap.

    On Twitter I see:

    7 Blatent adverts
    18 random comments which were really part of a personal conversation
    14 comments about events in the posters life such as "I enjoy watching The Voice" or "I hate my bank"

    In both cases, 100% noise, 0% signal. It's one reason I've stopped using FB and Twitter regularly: it's possible to get a better signal to noise ratio than this but it takes a greater and more constant effort.

    My G+ stream is still probably 40-60% noise, but I get a pretty good level of signal and find it much easier to tune it, but I don't often need to do so.

    The level of signal you get in your G+ stream is directly proportional to your general level of understanding of, and competence with, social networking tools.

    If you don't like the platform, so be it: don't use it. It's your personal preference. No-one cares if you don't use G+.

    But the fact you feel the need to make excuses and blame the G+ platform and community for your dislike for it it shows you have far more in common with the closed-minded, indoctrinated, and selectively critical religious zealots you describe than the millions of G+ users who, for the most part are happy to mind their own business and get on with their lives without being critical of how others run theirs.

    As Rick says, it's a master-class in ignorance.

  5. For social media experts, calling my post a "master-class in ignorance" is a little anti-social.

    I generally use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and Twitter to keep in touch with professional contacts. Google+ is positioned (rather condescendingly by Google+ fanbois) as a source for higher quality information than found on rival social networks, and yet the experience of many/most is that it too is primarily noise (only noise from people you don't necessarily know or care about).

    As for the claim that I "clearly have no real idea how to use Google+", as a Googler during its development I have been using it a lot longer than most, in an environment where even Google Buzz was a resounding success no less.

    In any case Microsoft's social network so.cl (http://so.cl) has just launched today so it will likely take a lot of the fire/attention from Google+ now.

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