Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. Photo by DangApricot.
Google+ is filled with millions of people -- strangers.
Going to Google+ is not unlike getting off the D train at Stillwell Avenue and going to Coney Island -- the noise, the crowds, the shouting and laughter, the turning wheel, the music, the smell of popcorn oil and Fry-max and hotdogs, and the glaring sun.
Maybe it's because I've been reading in snatches The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson which is about the World's Fair and the Ferris Wheel in Chicago in 1893 and the mass murderer H.H. Holmes (a strange book with nerdy technically-fascinating passages and Titanic-like foreboding.)
So Google+ feels like a giant Ferris wheel that various entrepreneurs are frantically trying to mount and get working without killing anyone (and of course there are workers that die during the building of the White City, and there is the gruesome murderer.)
Google+ is like a giant boardwalk. Like the welcome areas in Second Life -- no, not like them, they are quaint and homey by contrast.
How is it that Google+, which is supposed to be this very granulated and controlled and comfy and homey experience where you only share what you want with whom you want when you want it, instead creating the sense of being a giant greasy and hot boardwalk with hordes of weird people?
Well, because it's extremely open. I mean, Facebook doesn't prepare you for this. Facebook will let in a slew of non-friends on occasion, through something like TechCrunch, which makes you sign in with your FB account now (or Yahoo) to post comments, so that people who "like" you or respond to you suddenly are called "friends" and notify you in your Facebook. Or sometimes a friend will post something on a friend's page and you see some long chat, and sometimes a wall is open for you to post something on -- and you get outside what now seems like that safe circle of Facebook friends. But usually, there's just your list of people -- family, friends, co-workers, and those avatars of Second Life.
Google is way different. If you happen to follow someone like Jeff Jarvis+ or Dan Gilmor+ or Robert Scoble+ -- all those big Silicon Valley influencers -- you will see something different than Twitter. On Twitter, those people talk, and most people never talk back. They don't even fawn with the usual fan-boy sycophancy -- they just re-tweet, because there isn't much space -- or they don't step out of line. To look at re-tweets -- try it some time on popular hashtags -- is to gaze into a maw of mindless masses, retweeting without even a comment. Thousands of people will re-tweet the same thing. They will have nothing to say.
On Google+, hundreds show up in the same way, but now they have more scope or interface or *something* to express their sychophancy -- which more often than not takes the form of what the Russian historian Yuri Afanasyev called "the aggressively subserviant majority" in describing Soviet society. They put up their dukes and fight off anybody who protests the Influencer's pearl of wisdom, which more often than not is merely a "share" of one of the few tech web sites like ReadWriteWeb or Mashable or TechMeme that is run by one of their friends and has said something they like.
Occasionally, there will even be a little debate on these things, and sometimes, people will even concede that they may not have thought of an issue quite that way or may have been hasty in their judgement. More often than not, they bloviate in the usual way. I'm often the only one that ever questions anything. This seems to come as a shock to certain young geeks who populate Google with nothing but "IT" and "Star Trek" and "Austin" or "San Diego" in their profile and who have about 9 opinions that they repeat mindlessly over and over again -- capitalism is evil, except Google or the IT company where they work; the West is evil except when it makes cultural artifacts and gadgets that they love; telecoms are evil except that they are still with AT&T; Washington is evil, except not the Sunlight Foundation or other Silicon Valley-funded lobbyists; pot should be legalized but they don't smoke pot.
The goofiness of Google+ can't be overstated. I mean, I'm staring at videos of Loren Feldman's breakfast at a 1930s retro diner -- real corn beef hash, you know, the real kind -- there's Howard Rhinegold's painted hippie shoe pictures (yes, he's already blocked me but I can still see his feed); and then there's this sort of thing in a post by that language commissar Dan Gillmor, praising the appearance of the magazine High Times in a Philadelphia news kiosk, immediately flushing out that bane of Internet existence, the drug legalization lobbyists and pro-pot nerds. After I explain how I see kids getting high out in front of the high schools every day as I walk around, and how stupid and incompetent they are becoming, and what a waste it is, and they already *live in the regime of legalization of pot* because they get it easily with almost never any consequences, I get the usual pro-pot types, and then this:
Um, be here now, Eric, say it with me now, ommmmm
If he comes back at me again, I'm going to tell him to put his hand out on the computer screen and feel the power, feel the power of the Internet stream, Eric...
It's time to go and see Loren Feldman again, at his best, when he is *in your face* in one of his full-frontal harangues about some tech nerd being dorky. "The Internet is Not About You". Or this one -- great! About the brand pages thing. Hilarious! Google Page Nonsense.
And on and on. A constant entertainment machine, but it's all strangers -- that is, not people you know.
You might spend a day making all these circles. Friends. Enemies. Techs. Virtual Worlds. Virtual Worlds, but non-tech. Whatever. And then...you never use them. You never have some one thing to share that should *only* go to that one little calibrated circle. Or you do. But then...thunk. They never answer. But then, you never answered them when they posted some link from your work site that you already saw on...your work site. Like everyone in that little work circle.
You find that pretty much everything is going in your public stream, and pretty much everybody else seems to be doing the same because they're *trying to collect friends and pluses*. If you stay in your little circle, you might have the thrill of exclusion, but then your pluses never plus, you never get friends, the little red notification box in the upper right hand corner never adds and adds and pluses and pluses. So you go back to public again -- and vast numbers of strangers come after you.
I mean -- there are just tons. If you friended all the people who friend you, you'd have huge lists. But how would you have time to look at the streams? Already you don't. The circle parsing now makes sense only in terms of having a way to look at just part of the stream with say, only work, or only friends, because "tech" has grown too noisy. "Enemies" is unbearable. The only advantage is that "tech" in the "home stream" is so noisy that "enemies" gets pushed down out of the view, and you never scroll that far...
People see you in discussions, plus you, and often friend you. Or..."friend" isn't the name of the thing that happens in Google+. "Follow" isn't the name either. I guess you'll have to say they Goog you? They...G+ you? Plussing is liking, but that act of glomming on to someone you saw in a huge thread under some big influencer in a huge argument -- what would you call that? Coagulating? Sticking like iron filings?
There's this nerdy guy that follows me on Twitter and Google+ that looks like a Second Life griefer.
I'm trying to think whether chatting with all these *strangers*, most of whom I disagree with (they all being followers of the geek religion for the most part as most of the people you see on here now are geeks, despite what they claim), is interesting. Well, it's not. I find it pales in about 10 minutes. It's really not very satisfying. That is, it might be about 5-10 more minutes satisfying that Facebook, which generally lasts only about 5-10 minutes a day for me. I read my friends' news stream -- which lately I've even ditched to reach Summify, which is a service that takes all the links out of your friends' posts with all their crap in it, and strips them out just to the news headlines to those sources, so you get just those in a mailer. Nice. "News without the noise," as they say. Except, then it, too, gets sterile.
I don't like "sharing". Just to test how this process gets so icky, I posted a picture my daughter had taken of the forest when she arrived at the cottage. My real friends liked it. But so did those creepy shadowy people who have friended me on Facebook who never talk. Do you have people like that? That only "like". With their artificial Ken-doll SL avatars gazing out of their profiles, and nothing comprehensible about them...and they "like" and ": )" for days on end, and, well, it's creepy. Like Damien Caldera. Who is Damien Caldera? He's just this guy in SL who friended me and "likes" many things I post. But why? Sometimes I think I'll just delete all those SL people on Facebook and tell them either to friend me on their real names or talk to me in SL. I don't know who *they* are. Why should they know who *I* am and see pictures of my kids?! I'm not interested in sharing pictures with my kids. So...I don't. Facebook isn't for that. Email is. See, most people manage their privacy just fine. They...don't go on Facebook at all for the real stuff. Just a thought!
Right now I'm looking at...the stream by Nithin Prabhakar and this picture of... some place somewhere. India.
Why is this guy in my stream? I have no idea. Did I plus his picture and friend him? Did he plus my comment and circle me? I have no recollection...yet there he is.
Well, then there's this -- didn't have to wait long! Courtesy of Osprey. *Waves*.
Lum Lumley is posting again. Does he post this often on Facebook? I don't think so. Oh, he blocked me there so I haven't seen him lately. Did you know that Lum was called Lum the Mad in a game? That there's an entire game wiki with mainly Lum sayings in it? Inside gamerz' jokes with tag lines like. "I don't agree with what you said." I checked the wiki to see if it had any SL slang like "GOM" or "Is War in Jesse Upon Us?" but it didn't...
By the time I'm noodling deep into Lum's game wiki, I feel like I'm seriously in derilection of my duties. I mean, Second Life, when you spend time on it, at least pays out in rental monies or content sales. But this...this is like eating a huge box of Mallow Cups just because they were there on sale, and you never see them again or chewing the entire pack of Clark's Teaberry.
One of the creepier things about Google+ -- and one that I can't seem to undo -- is that the community manager, or one of the community managers, named Natalie Villalobos has become my friend in my friend circle. Why, I don't know. Is she like that First Friend Tom Anderson at MySpace? I *think* I saw her somewhere and put her in the "Tech" circle, but more often than not, you mistakenly hit "friends" also when you circle because of the glitchy slippery G+ interface. But...I took her out of friends...or tried to take her out of friends...and now I can't get her out. She's stuck. It even says "add to friends" as if she weren't already there. So as a result, I can't make a circle with real friends because she's in there with her goofy community manager stuff and I don't want to be her friend, I just put her in "tech" to see if she had any actual news about the product and issues like real names (she doesn't).
There's definitely a glitch there, and at some point I have to ask her how to undo that...
Philip Rosedale isn't on Google+. He just put out a rare FB post, however, urging people to see his new site and "like" the tasks to help spread the word.
Pop into Second Life to take care of some customers. Funny that the strangers of Second Life, in this cosy little world, feel more real and some of them feel more like friends than these complete strangers -- real people -- on Google+