What has Facebook done for us? Certainly its provided a forum for some rather unpleasant behaviour. We see reports of that in the news often.

I haven’t been silent regarding my disdain for Facebook.  I dislike the posturing, I dislike the multitudes of Facebook drones buried in their mobile phones on the train and I dislike the attitude of someone who is little older than a kid telling people that other kids should use Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg allegedly).  Facebook has been the center of so much attention in the press, often bad too with stalking, bullying, spamming and exploits being amongst the dangers to the end-user.

With that in mind though, one could be forgiven for imagining that Google+ whilst competing with Facebook will have the same pitfalls and issues – Or will it?  If you look at Google+ on the periphery, you could be forgiven for thinking Google+ is merely another Facebook rebranded.  After having spent a while with the service let look at what is offered.

Facebook – Recent allegations

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Facebook has had its share of bad publicity and whilst its human behaviour not Facebook itself that has created many of these newsworthy issues, one has to wonder if things will or could be any different under a Google+ banner.

A teenager who posted a death threat on Facebook, yesterday became the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1208147/First-cyberbully-jailed-Facebook-death-threats.html

Or :

Callous teenagers used Facebook to trick a schoolgirl into believing she had an online boyfriend – then lied that he had committed suicide and accused her of being responsible.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1363723/Bullies-pose-teenagers-boyfriend-Facebook-tell-hes-committed-suicide.html#ixzz1T8OUa7FVl

are just a sample in recent months as to what Facebook can provide a platform for.  If we add into that disgruntled employers, and other inappropriate behaviour, the picture of the “greatness” of social networking (in respect of Facebook) starts to look less inviting.

From what I’ve seen of Facebook, its users fall into categories of those who use it for posturing purposes, those that compete with others in some sort of popularity contest where the more “friends” you have the better person you are and a few people who merely use it for staying in contact with people they do know, their family.

With that in mind though nobody can argue the success of Facebook, but as history has shown, fads and social networking trends are transient and without loyalty, just look at Myspace or Friends Reunited as examples of mass popularity followed by migration away at a drop of a hat.

In any case, being on Facebook will usually entail you sifting through pointless photographs of one of your “friends” friday night out or have your wall polluted with meaningless babble as a circle of work colleagues discusses subjects you have neither interest nor time for.  Add that to your employer scouring your wall (and in some cases with disastrous consequences) you get to see where my Facebook aversion stems from.

And what of stalking?  If you are a Facebook user can you honestly say you’ve not checked up on an ex-partner to see how they are doing? maybe even laughing if they have put on weight or married the partner from hell?  That’s not healthy behaviour and I would bet many Facebook users have done just that.

So why will Google+ be any different to Facebook?

Real names only?

One of the rumours floating around the Google+ ecosystem is that anyone without a real name in their profile will be deleted.  This spells trouble for my own account where I’m on as “Goblin Openbytes”.

The idea behind this thinking is that people using their real names will go some way to prevent trolling, insulting and vile behaviour.  Admirable intentions but will it make any difference?

Prove my name is not “John Smith” or “Steve Harper” – Just because a name that I choose may sound more “real” than Goblin OpenBytes, doesn’t mean that it is.   I would expect Google’s intentions would do nothing to curb bad behaviour merely place those users with bad behaviour under a profile of a more real sounding name.

As for the “stalking” or the scouring for ex-relationships, I don’t suppose Google+ will make much difference.   Maybe the Facebook migrations may already have that out of their system.

It should be noted that it appears the subject of “real names” is already being reconsidered by Google, so I’ll let you know if “Goblin Openbytes” goes the way of the dodo.

Features of Google+

It is important to stress that Google+ is still very much in its early stages of development, however whilst your stream (think Facebook wall) is already looking a far better way of doing things.

For me, the idea that I can categorize and direct my posts means that I won’t have to look at your pictures of your friday night out with work colleagues and you wont have to look at family trips out which will have no interest to anyone but my immediate family.  Thais a great feature and instantly makes Google+ a place where I can have relevant conversations on my terms.

The hangouts feature where you can set up an impromptu chat room with video and voice, works surprisingly well considering that this is still in its early stages.  Whilst established products like Skype still have a few webcam issues running on a Linux system, Google Hangout has no such issue with its browser-based application which integrated well into both a Gentoo and Ubuntu derived environment on my desktop and netbook respectively.

I did however find disappointment in certain aspects of Google+.  For example when presented with a new social networking service, I think the first thing most people will do is go about adding friends and building up your own connections.  What Google+ didn’t make clear was when I added a person who is not yet subscribed to Google+ they will be spammed with my latest activities and actions on the site via email.  Thats not a very pleasant experience and I found myself apologizing to those who had been hit with unsolicited emails regarding my exploits on Google’s service.

Conclusions

Overall I am very pleased with the service so far.  Integration of media into my posts (embedded video etc) is very well done as it freedom from a restriction of 140 characters as in Twitter or Identi.ca.  Are these services to be removed from my social networking ecosphere? No, not at present with those two services in particular there is a definitive need for short, punchy statements, from a link of interest to highlighting my writings.  I think my current followers on Google+ would tire quickly with the volume of my links of interest and Google+ will serve in cases where I have something to say on a particular link, too long for Twitter/Identi.ca but too short for an article on OpenBytes in its own right.

There are reports of games coming to Google+, presumably akin to Farmville currently on Facebook.  How the integration of these pans out is to be seen, however Google+ does have the advantage in that it has years of Facebook feedback and opinion to refine its own service.

Google is currently on a roll at the moment, with Android being on the lips of many with a smart phone and also its plethora of other popular services, not forgetting GoogleDocs et al, its reasonable to expect that Google+ will be a success.

I am hoping to see an implementation of the Wave tech that unfortunately didn’t seem to stand its ground as a product in its own right and a real-time updating wall (as per Google Wave) would be a unique feature, maybe even some collaboration options within the Google+ stream would be welcome.

I have to also mention that the Android G+ app is working very well all things considered.  I did notice that it was slow on the update of my changes to my stream categorizing (I had created a few different categories) but on the whole its working very well in these early days.

As for combating the vile behaviour that we have read about on Facebook and other social networking services, I think Google is “flogging a dead horse” if it thinks it can in any way combat it.  Bad behaviour needs to be tackled with proactive challenge on behalf of other users and people taking personal responsibility for what they post, both actions being quite reasonable expectations in a civilized society.

I would like to see Google+ evolve in the same way that Identi.ca did from its Twitter comparison, in that environment you were more likely to find genuine like-minded people, have sensible conversations and for the most part away from spam, scams and junk.  Conversely though Identi.ca does not have the user base Twitter has and you may well find yourself cut off from individuals you care about if they do not follow you with a migration.

Tim (Goblin)

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Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com
Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on freenode.net