Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bloggers, Google+ Circles, Socialism and Kropotkin

Last night I finished reading Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, a book I chose to read purely so I could throw late-nineteenth century communist-libertarianism into discussions and blog posts. Last night I also attended a London Bloggers meetup, fifty or so people gathered in a central London pub basement to network, discuss social media, google+ and almost win a new Dell laptop.

London meetup bloggers
I'm not that good at networking events, last night I racked up chatting to eleven people and nodding or otherwise acknowledging the existance of six other people.
One topic of discussion was Google+, google's recently launched competitor to Facebook. Its fertile new territory where right now, lush prairies with early adoptors and cool people grazing freely. Its going to take a while to find old-school friends on there and months before your parents will be signing up.

Its probably the future, just like Facebook was once when we were all still on MySpace, and FriendsReunited and Friendster before that.

One rather neat thing Google+ has going for it right now is that I can access it at work, rather than it being blocked like other social networks are. Like back when BeBo was the only social network site that local council workers could access.

In a similar way, Google+ isn't blocked in Iran like Facebook is. There are a lot of Iranian folk on those lush prairies.

Keeping friends in tupperware
Google+ uses the concept of circles rather than a friendslists, and borrows the same sort of broadcasting/following thing as twitter. You start off with default empty circles which you can populate with 'friends' 'family' 'acquaintances' 'following', you can also have people in more than one circle. And then when you post status update like things you can decide which circles of people can see them. Then on the other side people only see they updates that you're put up if they've selected you to be in their circles. Also people can't see which of your circles you've put them in, only that they are in a circle.

Its still hard for me to get my head around, but essentially, you only broadcast things to people and groups you select, and they only receive it if they're listening.

When I first starting populating my circles it was using the default titles 'friends' 'family' 'acquaintances' 'following'. It just didn't feel satisfying, one size didn't fits all, so I tried sorting friends and acquaintances into different circles, 'music people' and 'internet people'. I tried having a circles for 'ex-girlfriends', 'potentials' and 'bargepole'.

That kind of worked, but looking at who was side by side in the each circle was just, unrealistic. Circles can be anything, so I tried again with more granularity 'London music people', 'Glasgow scenester of the noughties', 'London bloggers'. This felt better, cos it was a closer map of reality, circles were more like people who'd be stood together in the pub.

You could just recreate your facebook experience, with a bit of faffing about you can export your entire Facebook friendslist to Google+ and just have them all one default 'friends' circle.

Do you want you social network to accurately map reality, or some fiction putting round pegs in square holes?

Invoking Kropotkin
I didn't even realise it was a weakness of Facebook that you only had one friendslist, and although you could tinker with privacy settings for individual people, blocking those you don't like, it was still just one broadcast channel.

Same with Twitter I guess, its just one broadcast channel, all your followers get your updates.

But with Google+ circles its almost like every status update requires mutual consent, so you don't have random strangers (or the ghost of socialism) monitoring your every comment, unless you want that. So there's less risk of getting spammed every time you mention iPad or Kropotkin.

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