Google Plus after a week – at best, a “may be”


I am certainly not one of the folks who jump in with both feet at every new technology that shows up on the radar. I like to stay back and watch others play with a little, read their reviews and then slowly dip my toes to see if it works for me.  I was totally planning to take the same approach with Google Plus. And that is when Dennis Howlett told me he thinks it is pretty cool, and that I should try it. I take Dennis seriously all the time, and decided to give it a try. I also got a second invite from my id to do some sandbox work without annoying my real friends.

First problem was to get signed in. This thing wouldn’t let me in unless someone invited me. And Alex Williams was kind enough to send me one. Signing in was not a big issue at all – I clicked on a few buttons and filled in my name etc and I was ready to go.

First up – Google wanted me to share Picassa albums. If I said no – google won’t let me sign up. Not a good thing in my opinion, but personally not a big deal since I use Kodak Gallery for my photos.  Lets just say the first step left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course you can limit access to your photos by playing with security settings – but why bother if I just didnt want to share my albums to begin with?

It looks to me that I can follow any one without their consent by adding them to my circle – like twitter, and unlike facebook.  Circles are not difficult to get – kind of similar to groups in facebook, or lists in twitter. Unlike twitter – no one else will know if I put you in the “dumb morons” circle.

Google plus privacy settings are going through what facebook settings went through in the past. It is straight forward to limit who can see your posts,  but kind of convoluted to prevent further sharing by people in your circle.

If you are a user of other services from google like mail or calendar, all those things are easily accessible. So that is a definite plus.

Facebook is obviously watching Google plus carefully – they have also announced skype group chats including video.  In a way – Facebook with 750 million users can probably outsmart google plus even if they just ape every cool thing google plus does. At the end, google plus is the one who has to catch up – and facebook which has a huge number of users across the globe, should be able to make use of its strong incumbent status to advantage.

For a company whose name is synonymous with search, google does not allow users to search in google plus. Isn’t that kind of backwards? It is like playbook not allowing you to use calendar and email without tethering a blackberry to it. Is that some kind of new thinking ? it could also simply be me not seeing how to use search in the limited time I test drove this.

Of course you can email people with Gmail – but why wouldn’t this allow me to send a message directly to one person in my circle? Is that kind of hard to build? Of course you can create a post and filter it to make sure only one person sees it. But that is not good design, is it?

Google had wave and buzz both of which had several geeks interested. Some companies even went so far as to build prototypes to integrate with it. Well, we know what happened – neither captured popular attention. Wave is officially dead too. So with this history, Google has a lot of baggage to shed before general public uses Google plus. This was also one of the reasons I shied away from this before Dennis nudged me to try. Google is not apple – it does not have the cool factor to pull off something just by brand name.

I saw something on twitter that google plus might soon get an IPhone and IPad app. In 2011 July, why would they go to pre-beta or whatever it is called without a mobile app?

There are no third party hello world apps there – no games, no nothing. I don’t miss it – but knowing how many people are in facebook strictly because of farmville, it is kind of hard for me to imagine there is nothing in Google plus to match. Or is it a way to tell the world “we are so cool that we don’t need to do everything facebook does?”. Why wouldn’t Google bring in google apps in here right upfront?Especially if they have enterprise ambitions.

I could see a way to get hotmail and yahoo contacts to Google plus, I couldn’t see a way to download from facebook. I am pretty sure I could get twitter feeds to integrate with Buzz. So why not with google plus? Or is it hidden somewhere? That surprised me a lot.

I did not particularly like sparks – I could not find a way of using what I have already set up on google reader via sparks. Why would I do it in two places? Not cool.

Hangouts is a pretty neat idea – but then facebook will reproduce it via skype integration, so no added edge there.

Bottom line : What is the point of a pre-beta when you can guess 9 out of 10 people will provide the feedback that all these things are expected as a minimum?

Probably because it is in trial version – there is no nuisance from advertisements. I guess that would change. As long as it doesn’t get in my face, I can live with it. However, I have an uneasy feeling about google keeping an eye on who I am friends with 🙂

I saw some well respected analyst friends of mine terming Google plus as “disruptive” and “enterprise class”.  Most of the reasoning seem to be along the lines of how pundits told us how Wave  will change how business processes work in future . After all I have described above, I find it hard to agree .  Well, if they mean it as a future dream – sure, that is possible. At the moment, it is not enterprise worthy in my opinion. Forget “facebook for enterprise” for now – it needs to mature a lot more. And for long term viability in enterprise – facebook equivalency is just tablestakes. If facebook for enterprise is the vision – i would give facebook the most chance of making it, and not google plus.  Duh !

There is however one potential use case where Google can make a difference – as the one place that unifies all kinds of information an enterprise user needs, on the cloud, with appropriate security settings. It is not easy to pull off – but if they do, they can probably make a killing.  Well, either that or some one else will integrate everything including Google Plus. If Google is smart – no reason to think other wise – they would not let this opportunity pass by.

Last thought – just like “old generation” enterprisey companies find it hard to understand the business model of  “new generation” consumery companies , I think the new guys have the same problem in reverse too.

As for me – at the moment, I am going to park Google plus. I will test drive again after some time to see if  something has changed. But meanwhile, I will be following its progress from what rest of the world says.

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15 thoughts on “Google Plus after a week – at best, a “may be”

  1. Pingback: IBM'ers poles apart on Google Plus | ZDNet

  2. Vijay,

    great points and very valuable for anyone who has had bad experience with FB or even google itself. G+ seems to be a better tool for the moment, but google is an advertising company and i don’t see how they would stay nonintrusive once they lock you in as they obviously are trying to do (with Picasa, google email account, and who knows what else). knowing about your social circles more than anyone from those circles sounds very creepy, too.
    i also agree with your point that G+ is not enterprise ready. despite competing with Microsoft Office, google has not managed to make a dent in confidential, secure, and behind-the-firewall type of data, which is pretty much everything enterprises care about. even with internal google search engines, enterprises are not democracies but strong hierarchies that may allow some noise at the marketing or customer relationship level, but are very much opposed to sharing anything which involves legal, financial, and competitive information.
    G+ is convenient, sometimes works, is new and is trying hard to get the eyeballs back for search, blogspot, Chrome, email, etc, but i wouldn’t necessarily want to file my income tax return or do any banking on it as i don’t know who is my fiduciary or how easy it would be to share my info with whomever is asking.

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  3. VIjay, it is beta and I think Market hyped it becuse it is from Google.

    Agreed to the dot with your statement “one place that unifies all kinds of information an enterprise user needs, on the cloud, with appropriate security settings.”
    Lets see how Google shapes it up. Anyways for now, I am checking how the streaming works in my Circle.

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  4. Well you’d think that since I was a booster to pre-beta Google (originally based on academic papers) while the founders were still in the dorm and made arguments to the firms that eventually funded them– pro-bono, I’d be on the invite list, but apparently either I am not sufficiently socially relevant, or considered competition, both of which may be true these days–been there done that.

    So I can’t comment on the specifics this time around and frankly have other things I should be doing anyway, but I can offer a couple of thoughts.

    1) The big issue with Google today is with data management, including who controls privacy, and standards, particularly in the enterprise. I think that’s what got them under the scope of anti-trust folks. If they are considered a monopoly in one market like consumer search, then by my long-term understanding of U.S. anti-trust law, it’s illegal to use that to extend to other markets– the problem MS faced.

    So for me an endorsement would require near zero control on their part, and 100% control on the part of the user, including privacy. Their business model makes that difficult, which I recognized at the time it was developed, but it was the best path available at the time. As some of our other friends are finding out, it’s not terribly easy to change business models on multi-billion dollar businesses mid-stream, nor is it particularly easy to converge the consumer ad model with the enterprise model in the same suite of tools.

    2) I agree with Dennis that V’s comment on new companies not getting the enterprise requires a great deal more detail, and I am at least equally confident that any such argument can be blown out of the water, but we’ll see:-) My experience has shown that in order to pierce the enterprise market, new companies typically require vastly superior understanding of customer needs than incumbents, but in any event understanding is an individual brain issue, having little to do with size or age of company. Of course some individuals benefit from internal knowledge systems more than others, but we all see where innovation comes from– it’s coming from old and new.

    Let’s hope Google gets their APIs right and leverages scale advantage to give customers more control over data instead of the vendor.

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    • Mark, I think the “newtech doesn’t get the enterprise” angle is, of course, a generalization, but I think those that do are the exception, not the norm. Those who are the exception will do *very* well, though.

      A few factors come into play that support this case:

      – More than a few newtech companies “declare” themselves to be enterprise software players, but basically are delivering “features” or peripheral, easy-to-support functionality rather then deep, comprehensive business applications with innate intellectual property in the processes themselves

      – Many (most?) newtech companies ignore the “hard stuff” like integrated authentication, a less tech-savvy workforce, occasionally connected users, granular security access, integration with legacy apps and other business processes, and availability/mission criticality

      – Many of them assume a “one size fits all” model, totally ignorant of the incredible variety of business and processes that enterprises represent

      – Most of them haven’t a clue how enterprises buy and deploy technology, nor do they comprehend the implications of a technology change to 10,000 desktops and the training/education impact of changing behaviors for 10,000 users

      The few who do “get it” and who are doing more than just “peripheral” stuff, will indeed succeed wildly once they get some traction. Those who don’t will probably give up on the enterprise and blame the customer.

      Cheers,

      Rick

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      • Fair enough Rick,

        Rick– A good response, albeit one that still has a bias towards the very type of environment that many customers are screaming about, if not in the CIO office, then CFO and board. It’s the old increased complexity strategy.

        However, the debate is on understanding, while most of your response is about resources. For example, it’s one thing to understand an install on 10,000 desktops, quite a different story to be able to achieve same.

        Quite a lot of consultants apparently have good understanding of the enterprise (not least of whom are senior ex-consultants of leading enterprise firms – I was a business consultant before I became a programmer), but lack the IP.

        Even the largest consultants are re-sellers- one reason why the IBM services model was created is that the old model reliant on just IBM IP wasn’t enough, and they have more than anyone. So I don’t disagree on that issue. Co-licensing in the enterprise is common covering thousands of patents, even between those who sue each other over other IP. Incestual mess, but a fact of life due to the way enterprise IT evolved.

        For most new companies who understand it well, they also understand that it’s sometimes easier to disrupt such a system, particularly when shut out of the market by incumbents, which is why the cloud is seeing the highest growth rates.

        An excellent response, but doesn’t change my point, rather in some ways enhances it– the enterprise is so locked up by complexity that new companies must understand the customer much better in order to pierce the market–salesforce.com being a good example, that followed my virtual franchise a few years earlier. I do concede that understanding and ability to execute are also vastly different issues, which is one reason why co-licensing and partnering is so common. Thanks, MM

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  5. Solid analysis. I suspect G+ did a controlled release precisely because some of those core features are not available – mobile photo uploads from apple devices, third party gaming, etc.
    I’m being honest – selfishly I want this to succeed as I like the feel and direction of G+ as my universal soc net. But there’s no question that critical stuff is missing and this could go south really fast.

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  6. Good analysis. 1 (literally) to your observations. I sort of like the complete integration though. Forcing Picasa account was a bummer but not the blogger account. Not sure where is the enterprisey in this. No iPhone app yet is annoying, no native integration with camera:-(. Started playing around this week. Like many of us, I use FB for friends and family, so sort of still lonely there until many join there to give it a fair try. Someone asked, why go through the learning curve if it’s just a replacement for FB? Let’s watch, I have a strange feeling that this is going the Wave route. And oh, I first wanted to try it because it is invite only, sort of wanting the forbidden fruit:-)

    Cheers.. KK

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  7. Oh Vijay – there is so much you’ve missed. Google Plus isn’t something you can jump into and upon which make a snap decision. To some of your main points:

    1. There is a developer API.
    2. There are already Chrome extensions in place. If you want to use Chrome and yes, it is forcing me back there but I don’t really mind.
    3. Sparks makes fast organising of information on interest topics much easier than flipping between Reader and ANO app.
    4. Does it matter where my photos reside? It’s a feature FFS not an app in itself.
    5. The quality of interaction and signal to noise ratio in Circles is way higher than on Twitter/FB. That may change but only if I allow it. It smashes the 140 character problem. I can mute conversations that clutter the stream – really useful.
    6. Circles allows me to easily restrict to whom I broadcast depending on interest topics.
    7. Hangout gives me up to 10 people with which I can vid/conf – Skype wants me to pay for that.
    8. It’s in controlled release for a reason. To get feedback from people who are using it. They figure those with a high value social graph will ‘get’ this better than most.
    9. The way I am seeing it at the moment, G+ has way more utility than FB which has been dead to me for over a year.
    10. Your point about new guys not getting enterprise makes no sense without further explanation but I am betting I can demolish any argument you put up.

    Google is getting feedback on this at a scale I’ve never seen before. I’m giving this plenty of time to get right in ways I was not prepared to do with Wave, Office 365 and Streamwork. Why? Because I see enormous utility IF they do a stack of things I need.

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    • Dennis,

      I am surprised that you’d be OK with Google forcing you to do “all Google, all the time” for apps and integration. this is a key missing point for me.

      I have other views of sparks as you do, It is nothing more than a Google Alerts via a different platform since it is missing the same features that Alerts is missing: discovery and search, semantics, and automation tools.

      I still see the concept of circles as a broadcaster only model, in spite of what many have said — as long as they cannot be shared and acted upon by groups, you decide who gets to see what and tell them to see it — broadcasting 1.0 at its best. sure, you can make limited decisions on how to aggregate information, but without extensive management tools to (as Sameer put so well in his post) differentiate between personas, I am at a loss as to how to manage circles for people who do more than one thing. having multiple circles with repeated people is a poor solution, puts the burden on me to constantly be managing them.

      AFAIK, and I would love to be proven wrong here, the Developer API is not ready – but it is in the works. This is a serious lack of judgment on Google’s part, and shows that they are not ready to let the world take on their platform. Yes, I know it is in not GA — but why make so much noise about a pre-Alpha product?

      Anyways, I am always looking for new and innovative, but I am not going to give any vendor kudos for doing a me-too version with more shiny beads hanging from it. Google has not proven what they can do, only that they can do something fast.

      let’s hope it works into the future.

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      • Correct me if I’m wrong but Google didn’t really make so much noise about a pre-Alpha product – the market did. In fact I feel like they’ve only tried to throttle it. Which, to the point of Vijay’s original points – I would ask the opposite – Why do so many companies spend resources to develop a developer API, a mobile app, etc without finding out first if they even need them? If they were to just copy a 1 to 1 version of facebook then what are they really trying to prove?

        The point here is that no on really knows what needs to be done to make the facebook killer – only the market does. Google follows a real “lean” approach – i.e. reduce churn while testing your product market fit – and I think they’ve done this very well.

        At the end of the day are all of the people that are commenting about the utility of Google+ for personal or business reasons? I’m still confused…

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    • Hi, Dennis.

      A few quick thoughts:

      1) Any type of dependency on Chrome (real or imagined) along with plug-ins makes G+ almost instantly enterprise (IT) unfriendly

      2) Signal/noise ratio on Twitter was better at the start, too. Only a by-product of the homogeneity of the early adopters

      3) Facebook groups, while not as easy to use (yet) as Circles, also controls broadcast visibility

      4) The “freeness” of group video chat in Hangout is, of course, easily addressible by the competition should they choose to. Maybe one of those alleged examples of Google leveraging its monopolistic position to force a competitor out of business? Who knows.

      5) I think the issue of newtechs not “getting” the enterprise is worthy of a whole new discussion thread. Why don’t you start one on your blog and we’ll chime in.

      Cheers,

      Rick

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    • Dennis, thanks for your perspective. Here are my replies. I also posted a response in your zdnet blog.

      1. There is no API I could find. I remember Wave and Buzz had APIs as soon as they were announced. If you know about the API, please point me to it. I would love to check out.

      2. Why Chrome extensions? Do majority of users use Chrome? I tried firefox and IE – and it was not very good. Expecially if G+ needs to be enterprisey – Chrome might not be the sole platform to get them there.

      3. Sparks – there are no apps any way to flip to. So no extra benefit now compared to reader. If they migrate reader, then I will use Sparks.

      4. Yes it does matter where photos reside. Especially for organizations

      5. Signal to ratio is a weak argument at best – it appears good today because all the people in it are the big social media experts and geeks. Once the rest of the world joins in, it can only go down – not up. Twitter and facebook all showed us this. of course there are clunky filters – but then so does facebook.

      6. From broadcast control – I can do the same in facebook. What is new here?

      7. Agreed on hangouts being free is excellent- but not at all a big deal for facebook to match it with skype. If they don’t, I doubt that is a big enough reason by itself, to get people to jump in G+

      8. You can give raw APIs to developers and they will get excited. Giving this to high social graph peeps proves very little. it is a homogeneous group whose input can be closely approximated from a focus group. In any case – wouldn’t most people notice all the deficiencies upfront that I mentioned? Is it better to hear same feedback from ten thousand people than from 10 people?

      9. No idea why FB is dead to you. Works for me pretty well. So I think it must be a personal preference. Nothing wrong with that.

      10. There is no tangible proof there that G+ will work for enterprise – what about scale, security, integration with enterprise apps, data privacy etc? Did Google say they are chasing enterprise market? If it is a vision – it is all fine, and we can just wait to see it play out as G+ matures. Nothing wrong with having a vision 🙂

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