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ADITYA DEV SOOD
TURTLE NECK

Aditya Dev Sood runs the innovation consulting firm Center for Knowledge Societies (www.cks.in). He can be reached at adityadevsood@gmail.

Google Plus One and social networking against terror

Google Plus is sharper and less complicated than its rivals

couple of weeks ago I was invited to join Google+ (G+), the new social networking site from those geniuses based in Mountain View CA as well as around the corner in Bangalore India. There are several cool features to the offering, which promise to offer relief from the strange malaise that I feel when using Facebook (fb).

The first most important thing to point out is that G+ has disaggregated the fb friendship model into a series of circles of friendship, which do not overlap. So, obviously, you can share intimate information with your close friends, while sharing generic news with your entire social circle. Also, friendship is not commutative, you can include someone in one of your circles without any need for acceptance or reciprocity from that person – a bit like a combination of fb friend and Twitter follow.

The layout seems easier on the eye, somehow, and seem not to offer strong constraints on the size of people's entries – I think of this as 'meso-blogging' as opposed to micro-blogging. Comments and comments on comments indent deeper and deeper into a thread, making it seem more like a rich, involved conversation than a series of ever sharper and antagonistic asides. People seem to be sharing links more, and talking at longer length about those things on G+ than they might on fb, and I think that has much to do with the expectations communicated by the layout and design of the page.

Google’s approach to innovation is not disruptive but incremental. They didn’t invent search, web-based email, documents, online maps, or social networking. But Google entered each space and made it better

While the platform encourages you to use '+' as a prefix to indicate the handle of a user, it also allows you to use '@,' which is both polite and politic, for that is how people have referred to handles for a long time already. But integration with other forms of social media is still tenuous, and you can't use Twitter to send tweets into G+ yet. It turns out that my Gmail account doesn't really overlap with my fb social graph, so I've felt a bit marooned for a while now, as more people slowly come on to the service, find me and add me to their circles. I was able to invite just a few people when I joined.

oogle's approach to innovation is not disruptive but incremental. They didn't invent search, web-based email, documents, online maps, or social networking – other organisations and companies conceptualised and made those software tools work for people. But Google entered each space and made it better, aggregating and mining data in more powerful ways to provide a user experience that was that much higher and more reliable than anyone had been able to achieve in the past. Google+ just feels better than fb, which would suggest that many people will use both platforms and some will eventually prefer the Google offering to any other.

If the fortnight began pleasantly enough with a new social networking tool radiating through society, it was interrupted by the bomb blasts in Mumbai. I was thousands of miles away, in a different time zone, and the best information flowing from the scene came through on Twitter. Within minutes the Twitter timeline switched from actual reporting from the scene to people sharing helpline numbers and offering people safe-haven for the night. Someone created a Google Spreadsheet to aggregate all this information. Within seconds many others, myself included, shared the link to the spreadsheet through different kinds of social media.

Social media has not yet stopped the bombs from blasting, but it does have the power to redress the psychological damage caused by terror. Eventually, social networking can and will spread to those very disaffected groups that threaten the socially networked world. At that moment, the civilising network of humanity would have won over its discontents.

 

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