Tag Archive for social network

Google+

Allow me to begin with a turn of phrase I stumbled upon that I think sums up quite a bit:

Unlike other networks that I have to actually go to, this one is where I already am.

This above all other things is why I am so drawn to Google’s new social network.  I already keep gmail open most of the time, and I use an Android based phone, and I use the Chrome browser wherever I can.  I use calendar and reader and documents and a host of other Google applications already, so it just makes sense to thread a social network into all of that and put it right at the top of the page for every one of them.

Anyway, if you wish to find me there, click this.

When I first started using Facebook, it was built largely around Groups or Networks.  I remember joining the network for my college and later my high school, one for my work and another for the state I lived in (or it might have been geographic region, I forget exactly).  Of course, that was back when your status was just your status and not a feed of previous status or a place to share random information, but I really liked the groups.  Then the groups got pushed the back and then they went away altogether.  They are back now, but totally different.  Either way, what I liked most about them was that I could talk to someone in the same group as me without having to “friend” them and give them access to all of me.  So I was very happy when Facebook introduced Lists, which I immediately used to sort and group my friends, but still, I missed being able to chat with people who share an interest of mine but weren’t my “friends”.  I suppose to a degree the fault is mine because I didn’t seek out Facebook’s Groups after they re-implemented them, but it is also Facebook’s because they trained me not to seek them out by taking them away in the first place and driving me toward a “one feed to rule them all” design.

I digress.  On Google+ I’m enjoying the Circles.  While on some level they are functionally the same as Lists from Facebook, the interface is much easier to use and it is brought to the forefront of the overall design, not hidden in a dark corner like Lists.  And using Circles when sharing is several clicks easier than using Lists for sharing.  That ultimately ends up being the central factor to why I like Google+ over Facebook so much: everything that is hidden under several clicks in Facebook is closer to or on the surface at Google+.

Google+ also feels more like Twitter than Facebook, which is good.  On Twitter I follow a number of comedians and pundits and other random & assorted people, people who I’d probably have to Like their Fan Page on Facebook.  And again, Liking a Page on Facebook just feels more removed than Following a Person on Twitter, even if the result is exactly the same.  So on Google+ I’ve got a Following Circle that I’ve tossed in the people I’d follow on Twitter that I don’t expect to follow me back.  And while I’m no celebrity, there are people who follow me on Twitter that I don’t follow back, and I suspect the same will eventually be true of Google+.

I’m also excited because I like being in the Beta phase of almost anything, especially when the developers are actually listening.  A couple of rounds of fixes have gone in, and lots more are coming.  It just feels good to be part of the process.  I’ve suggested a few things so far and while I don’t claim all the credit because I’m sure others submitted the same requests it is kind of cool to see those things coming to be.  I’ve made numerous suggestions to Facebook other the years and since not a single one has ever been implemented, either I’m absolutely crazy and wanting things no one else does or Facebook doesn’t listen.

Playing over at Google+ has eaten up a lot of my time and will probably continue to do so.  I’ve always been luke warm when it comes to social networks, dabbling a bit here and there, but I think one has finally pulled me all the way in.  Down the rabbit hole I go…

Deciphering the Message

And the Internet was once again safe!  Blizzard backs down!  But did they?  Let’s take a look at the message and see what it’s really saying:

Hello everyone,

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games.

So far we have a standard greeting and then the first sentence and I’m already going to step in…  Once again, RealID is being framed as a tool to make the game better, which we all know (or should know) by now isn’t the real reason for it.  They want to build a social network they can leverage for advertising, just like everyone else, and clean forums, if that even happened, was just a side effect they trotted out for PR.  If they really desired to make the forums a better place, there are at least a dozen things they could have done other than revealing real names.  This sentence exists to set up the wall they are about to blame you from.

We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

And there it is.  Your feedback, your concerns, our forums, and they’ve decided at this time not to use real names.  Notice the clear marketing speech.  Real Names are still on the table, because that is the ultimate goal.  Our feedback and concerns have simply caused them to adjust the time table.  They’ll come back to real names later, when they’ve thought of a less explosive way to work it in.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games.

Again with the framing.  This whole thing is about the forums, right?  Nothing else.  No social network, no advertising money, nothing.  All of this is for YOU, to make the forums awesome for YOU.  Please look at the right hand and ignore what the left one is doing.

We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

See?!?!  Forum stuff!  This was never about anything else, just forum stuff.  Oh, and we decided to implement a unique account ID system that doesn’t reveal your real name, which will give us all the accountability we needed over our current system of letting people troll with any character name they wanted and doesn’t let people find out where you live unless they want to spend a few days or weeks at it instead of 20 minutes.  To me, that someone can find my information on the Internet isn’t an issue, it’s out there, I know that.  To me, it’s a “heat of the moment thing”.  Say I go to the forum and read your post about “The most awesome hunter spec EVAR!!!!” and say, “You are being obtuse.  While this build certainly doesn’t suck, it is also clearly not the best build because it lacks…” and now you are pissed because I called you fat (I didn’t), I would like any revenge you suddenly plan about visiting my house and punching me in the face to show me who’s fat (again, no, obtuse, not obese) to take a while to execute, so that you have a change to realize (and maybe visit dictionary.com) it might not be the best idea (because you are fat, and I’d kick your ass) rather than actually be in your car with the GPS telling you how to get to my house in less than half an hour.

I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II.

Our plans are separate… sure.  Except for the part where they are all tied to the same Real ID and the social network we are building.  The real point of this sentence cannot be fully understood until you read the rest of the paragraph.  So, shall we?

We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

Notice what is missing here?  I’ll give you a hint, it is the focus of this entire uproar.  That’s right, real names.  Yes, the forums won’t display your real name, but in order to use these other features of Real ID you have to have your real name revealed to others.  Maybe I’m an outlier, or maybe a lot of people are too new to MMOs and the concepts of RPGs, but I’ve been part of a community from EverQuest for going on eleven years now.  Originally it was all based around the game server and the IGN/Vault forum for that server, but around 8 years ago we moved off to a privately run message board due to some heavy handed over-moderation.  There are many people in this community I would call my friends.  I would happily use a system with them that allowed for cross-game and cross-realm chat and being able to see all each others characters and for a good sized chunk of those people I don’t know their real names (they could probably find mine, because, you know, my blog isn’t exactly a secret and my name is all over this thing).  We didn’t need real names to build friendships or a community.

Oh, and before I forget, see that last sentence?  Yeah, this isn’t over yet.  Real ID is going to continue to evolve and real names on the forums are being backed off of at this time.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.

And in closing, I want to point out that I almost believe him.  Until this move, I totally believed that Blizzard was run by and run for gamers.  They got us.  They delivered games only when they were ready.  But they aren’t alone anymore.  Activision owns them, and Bobby Kotick has said time and time again, he’s not in gaming for the games, he’s in gaming for the money.  The Blizzard that cared, to whom Every Voice Mattered, doesn’t exist anymore.  The honeymoon is over.  Knowing that Real ID is still there, that the social network and partnership with Facebook are still the plan, that real names are only off the table at this time, that’s why I don’t believe him.  This is just an appeal to the past, “Hey, remember when you loved us?  You should still love us!  We haven’t changed!  Except for some stuff, but I assure you, that stuff isn’t what matters.  What matters is that we make good games, and you love our games, and our games will keep being good… even if you have to jump through hoops and become a part of a giant marketing machine and social network to enjoy them.  We promise, it won’t hurt… most of you.  And hey, those are some good odds.”

For me, I’m still out.  Starcraft II pre-order cancelled.  Diablo III pre-order cancelled.  Cataclysm pre-order cancelled.  There is another shoe or two around here, and I’m going to wait for them to drop before I get back in bed with Blizzard.  That said, I’m still a fan of Blizzard at this time.

Use the Tools Provided

The fundamental problem with Web 2.0 and social networking tools is a lack of blocking and filtering options, and when they exist the reluctance of users to use them.

When I look at a site like Twitter, I think they have done it right and provided the proper tools to manage their brand of social networking, and yet I see so few people using them.  If you were to look at my account, you’d see that I have around 44 people following me (I say around because that can change at any time).  I could easily have 200 followers, but it wouldn’t mean anything.  Every person who follows me, I read their account, if they are say the kinds of things I want to hear I follow them back.  If you follow me and I don’t follow you, it doesn’t mean I won’t follow you in the future, it just means that what I read so far didn’t excite me enough to add you to my main feed, but I’ll check back later to see if that changes.  If, however, I read your account and find what you have to say in poor taste or your account is nothing but advertising, I will block you.  (Keep in mind, I don’t base this on a single tweet, it has to be a long held pattern.)  Blocking on Twitter has the effect that not only do I not see you, but you can’t see me.  More people need to do this.  I see spamming accounts following thousands of people, and unless that is thousands of other spam accounts, it means people aren’t blocking.  And this behavior isn’t limited just to Twitter.  Any social network site that publicly displays how many “friends” or “followers” you have is subject to it.

The problem, of course, is that the number becomes too important.  That number shouldn’t matter.  Why should I care if someone has eleventy billion friends?  The thing I should care about is whether or not the content that person produces is worth reading.  In the end, that’s the thing I consider the biggest failure of Web 2.0.  It is supposed to be about the content, but most sites wind up including some number like views or friends counts that becomes the focus over the content.

I’m not alone here.  Trent Reznor, a person who has embraced social networking but is now turning away from it, had this to say:

We’re in a world where the mainstream social networks want any and all people to boost user numbers for the big selloff and are not concerned with the quality of experience.

The power to make social network sites better is in your hands.  Use the tools provided.

The Handcart We Are Rapidly Pushing to Hell…

… is filled with social site web apps.

Look! One of my friends has installed SuperFunAwesomeWall! To read the cool stuff they have written I need to install it! But wait! Another friend has installed AwesomeFunSuperWall, which is not the same application… and, uh, a third friend installed FunSuperAwesomeWall… and another FunAwesomeSuperWall… okay, what the hell… And I’ve been bitten by a vampire, and a werewolf, and a zombie, and a dog, and I’m in bat country.  I’ve been asked to join an entourage, a pimp squad, and a sports team, no less than three movie applications, and some trivia.  I’ve been Poked, SuperPoked, MegaPoked, SexyPoked, and CanadianPoked, could someone please stop with all the damn poking?  I’ve had myself compared to other people in every possible way, and I now know which superhero (Marvel and DC), L Word character, Simpson, Lost castaway, Friend, drunk, color, type of Irish Republican, chocolate, Spice Girl, assassin, and dead Russian author I am.  Among a great many other things, and while all those things might be true, one thing I can say with absolute certainty that I am is someone who has almost entirely stopped logging in to Facebook.

About the only time I go there anymore is when I get an email that someone new has requested to link up, or on the odd occasion that I remember I have an account and decide I want to check and see if any more people I forgot I used to know have appeared.  The sad thing about most of those apps, besides the fact that they are horribly repetitive, is that most of them are crap.  Seriously, and annoying to boot.

Perhaps its just me… maybe I just don’t get it… but there really doesn’t seem to be much “social” is all these social networking sites.  In fact, the social aspects of direct messaging and message boards seem to be the hardest parts of the sites to find or use as they are drowned out by ads and apps.  One day, I was logged into Facebook using my Heroespowers to try to gain another level when I asked myself, “Why?  Why the fuck am I doing this?”  So I tried to dig through the app to find the community, the social part that should exist beyond spamming all my friends with useless power messages and invitations to install the app and join the spam, and I couldn’t find any.  I searched all my Walls (I had 3 installed in addition to the default one) and the only messages I found were the equivalent of chain letters.  I removed a good 90% of the apps I had installed (I’m a sucker for trivia) and sent out a couple of messages to some friends.  After a few days I realized that using Facebook for anything social beyond finding people to begin with was pointless.  Once we found each other and exchanged contact info, dropping “back” to email or AIM was so much easier than using Facebook.  And more reliable too.

“Why have Facebook email me every time I get a new message when I can just have people email me directly?” I found myself wondering.  I suppose if I were famous, I could use sites like Facebook to have a “public” face that people could talk to while hiding my “true” email address.  But I’m not, and everyone I currently talk to I feel safe giving my real email address to.

Of course, I realize that my gripes with these sites are largely about the efforts they have chosen to make in regards to traffic and ad revenue.  These aren’t pay sites, after all.  But then again, I’d say that overall their efforts are failing.  When was the last time you clicked an ad on Facebook or MySpace or some other social network site?  Just this instant I logged in to Facebook and the ads presented to me as I navigated ignoring all the random spam messages were for AllPosters.com, some weight loss thing, a local college bar, a website to find out who’s searching for me on the Internet, and upromise.  The one thing all five of those have in common is that they are things I wouldn’t click on.  Only one had any interest to me (AllPosers.com) but I already know about the site, have it book marked, and use it every now and then.  However, had it been some game advertisements, TV shows, movies, or something of that nature, I might have clicked on it.  The one thing all of these social networking sites suck at is directing the proper ads to the proper people.  They need a control panel where I can choose to get video game ads but not weight loss ads, to get TV shows but not college loans.

And just so it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on Facebook, I have a MySpace account as well that I use a little more often (its not too horrible at browsing and finding new musical insterests).  Recently that launched their application platform, and its largely full of the same crap as Facebook, with, in my opinion, the only exception being the MetaChat application launched by the people of MetaPlace.  It is fairly nifty, except… its also fairly useless.  Sure, I can now put a chat room on my profile page, but how often do I hang out on my own profile page?  How often do people visit my profile page?  Do I even really want to chat with the random people who cross my profile?  Everyone I want to chat with, I tend to give them my email address, or my AIM account and we chat elsewhere.

Tomorrow… more on social networking and Internet communities…