Mindsets Social Web

Ello, good-bye. Stick to @Path or settle for Facebook.

Ello seems to have captured everyone’s attention with the promise of a better social network that addresses the challenges facing Facebook for many users. I don’t have access to Ello yet but based on what I can glean from the Ello site, it isn’t anything to get excited about. Here is an extract from my article on htxt titled “Is Ello the answer to Facebook privacy concerns, or is there another Path?“:

The hype around Ello reminds me of another social network that promised relief from Facebook’s unblinking gaze: Path. Like Ello, Path doesn’t use personal data to inform ads on its network. Path has no ads and, instead, relies on paid premium features to generate revenue to fund its operations. Unlike Ello, Path is private by design. If you are looking for a social network which is not being indexed by search engines and where you can share your personal stuff with a select group of friends with meaningful control over who can see your stuff, then Path is your better bet.

Ello isn’t really solving a problem that hasn’t been solved. Path is a far better bet for privacy conscious users. The real challenge isn’t finding an alternative to Facebook, it is persuading enough people to switch to the Facebook alternative to make the alternative a viable social network. Ello may be a far superior experience (I don’t have my invitation yet so I don’t have first-hand experience with Ello) but it will fail to gain enough traction to make a dent in Facebook’s userbase for one simple reason: everyone is using Facebook and it works well for them.

If anything, Ello inspires more faith in the Path vision:

Read the full article for more.

Mindsets Social Web

Our hyperconnected social Web can be a desperately lonely place

I think it is possible to be so connected online and be lonely at the same time. We connect to so many people, call so many people “friends” who probably aren’t. Although we have hundreds or thousands of “friends”, can we meaningfully share our intimate moments, fears and challenges when they could betray insecurities when we have to be seen to be courageous and confident to survive?

We have more and more ways to share our lives. How many of those channels really allow us to be authentically vulnerable and terrified by the challenges we face before we find the strength to persevere? This is one of the costs of the social Web we don’t quite realise yet because we are so caught up in connecting and “friending”.

Social Web

The future of my personal sharing habits

I’ve been rethinking the value of a centralised and hosted social network like Facebook and Google+ for personal sharing lately. Maybe the kids are on to something with messaging apps as their main way to share stuff with each other? I have this sense that networks like Facebook and Google+ (although Google+ is a little odd) could be intermediary steps towards something different.

For a while, a distributed social network seemed to be the way to go but Diaspora didn’t gain much traction at all. The large networks have hug appeal because of the network effect but the flip side is a degree of abuse we have come to accept in the form of personalised marketing and increasingly public privacy settings. Facebook is rapidly becoming a next generation MySpace with more and more “sponsored stories” in my News Feed. I still really like Google+, it is pretty clean and there are no ads (yet) but it still lacks meaningful personal sharing with friends and family so I treat it more like Twitter.

I’ve been using Path more often and although almost none of my friends and family are using it with any degree of reliability (or at all), I’m enjoying the interaction with a couple people who are using it and that interaction has me thinking that until my day to day friends and family use Path (if ever), Path could well be more of the network where I make new friends. Path being mobile and beautifully designed makes it an easy choice to share stuff and engage, even if the extent of my engagement is pretty limited.

Maybe it’s a phase I am going through at the moment (a safe guess, I do this periodically) but I find myself sharing less on Facebook (at one point I was sharing pretty actively with friends and family, as opposed to publicly). I use Google+ relatively often and at least as often as Facebook. I also use Google+ Photos as my primary photo backup and sharing resource so there’s that.

Twitter still isn’t a social network for personal stuff for me, so much, but the idea of focusing on Twitter for general stuff appeals to me. Certainly, I think I am finally starting to appreciate Twitter’s relative simplicity after about 6.5 years even as it starts to become more Facebook News Feed like.

For now, I like the idea of a relatively lightweight, mobile social layer for personal sharing. I started thinking about iCloud even being that social layer for me but being Mac/iOS specific is pretty limiting. That being said, Path is limited to iOS, Android and Windows Phone (I think). Both iCloud and Path would need to be used in conjunction with Facebook for the time being to have value from the perspective of the majority of my connected friends and family so wondering why to bother with anything other than Facebook happens frequently too.

This is all pretty convoluted and probably a lot more complicated that it should be. That, in itself, is a sign that simplification is much needed and the logical choice would be to just cut back on everything but Facebook and Twitter. But is placing even more reliance on Facebook such a good idea? I guess the same thing applies to Google+, Path or anything I don’t really have much control over. Here comes that circular ride again. Ugh!

This is beginning to feel like a grand social experiment in a really big and colourful maze. There could even be a big button somewhere which we can press to be fed.

Social Web Useful stuff

While we are wondering why ordinary users should use Google+

Forbes has an interesting article in which is raises the seemingly perennial question about Google+: why should “ordinary” users care about Google+? The point that no-one is using Google+ isn’t really a good one, however you measure Google+ users, there are a substantial number of people using the service. The challenge is more the composition of those users.

The Google+ social service at keeps getting better and while it is pretty clear that this is not going to be an interoperable social service linking in with Twitter, Facebook and whatever else comes along (the dream of a federated and social Web seems to have left for more distant shores), it is still has enough appeal to keep attracting interest, at least. That said, Facebook is still where our friends and family tend to be (my wife has no interest in Google+, my mother mostly comments on all the notifications she receives from the profile I set up for her a while back but doesn’t visit the service much). That sort level of interest is typical of most of my friends and family members who don’t see a reason to use something other than Facebook.

This is why Google+ has almost no value to me as a personal, friends-and-family social service but the way Google seems to be tying everything into Google+ may bring more and more people into the circle as time goes on, without them really intending to become users in the first place.

The first clue is the new Hangouts app which is Google’s new unified communications app. It runs on iOS (very nice app that looks great on my iPhone and iPad), Android and in Chrome. It also seems to work just fine on in Safari and, possibly, Firefox (I haven’t tried the yet). Hangouts has replaced Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (yes, didn’t really use that either) and Hangouts (v1). The catch is that you have to have a Google+ profile to use Hangouts. This, alone, could push Google Talk users to activate their Google+ profiles if they haven’t done so already.

The next clue is how other services like the Android development tools use Circles to distribute beta or limited release software builds and how the new Maps will use Circles to enable users to filter, say, nearby restaurant options much like Foursquare users can filter nearby spots based on where their friends have checked in.

The point is that although a lot of the attention on Google+ has focused on and its potential for a Facebook and/or Twitter alternative, it is increasingly the connective tissue between Google’s products and services as well as the fabric from which many of those products and services are created. I can see a time coming when your choice is to use Google services (powered by your Google+ profile and identity) or to use something else. That time probably isn’t all that far away either.

In many respects, Google is becoming a lot like Facebook with a distributed walled estate and that is a tragedy. This is the trend on the social Web and the determining factors for which services you use may include which services (email, calendaring, collaboration, chat, photo sharing and so on) you want to use and your social experience could depend increasingly on those choices.