Nonplussed

On This Week in Google, Mike Elgan, as is his wont, expounded upon the reasons for Google+’s superiority as an online platform. This is his thing, of course. He’s a really great largely-freelance tech writer and pundit, but be does all his personal online publishing right from Google+. No blog, no Twitter, everything is born in Plustown.

And he makes a compelling case. The fact that Google+ allows for simple filtering of which groups of people can see what activity you engage in, its we-fixed-this-for-you photo capabilities, the hum and din of “communities,” smaller networks within Plus that allow you to interact with non-“friends” — these are all good reasons for choosing to spend one’s time in G+ rather than Facebook or what have you.

Elgan even acknowledges that the problem G+ faces in terms of Facebook is that everyone is on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook. Google+ can’t hope to out-Facebook Facebook, as far as being the place where you share and keep up with family and friends. Not now, anyway.

But Elgan sees a big future for Google+, even predicting that it eclipses Facebook in the next year or so. Mostly, he pins this on two big pillars: Google’s accelerating artificial intelligence in terms of search and the anticipation of a user’s needs and wants, and the platform’s integration with all of Google’s properties.

For the first, Google’s “awareness” of all the things you do and like, and the places you go, and the people you know, allow it to better curate the Google+ experience (in theory). When you launch the app or visit the site, you are more likely to see posts that will be of genuine interest to you.

Here’s the thing with this, though. I’m not seeing it.

(For what it’s worth, here’s where I am on the Plus.)

I’m less and less concerned with the fact that “not everyone” is on Google+. I’m sick to death of Facebook, it’s making me nearly claustrophobic, so a little breathing room from Everybody is a fine thing. But G+’s curation, in my experience, is pathetic. Yes, I see things from those I’ve chosen to encircle, but everything else is almost universally garbage. I had to disable the “hot on Google+” feature because it was just throwing up crap. Even within communities, where one should ostensibly see content and discussions that are specifically tailored to my expressed interests, I either see things like crummy, unfunny memes, hyper-elementary tech support questions, or hyper-advanced nerdery that is beyond even my tolerance. If Google does really know me, they’re just not that into me.

For the second pillar, yeah, I get that. Somewhere in your Internet life, you’re using a Google product. (Oh really, you’re searching with Duck Duck Go? Sure you are.) Whether it’s YouTube or Gmail or video chats or blog comments, Google+ is slowly becoming the plumbing for all of the social aspects of these products and more. You will become a Google+ user and you may barely know it.

(And as for one of the service’s big selling points, its auto-upload and auto-organization and auto-touchup of photos, that’s all great if you are willing to pay for the storage to hold all the photos the father of two adorable toddlers would need. I’m not willing, so I don’t.)

Elgan is right: in so many ways Google+ is a vastly superior rich-media social network experience, in terms of presentation, customization, and feature set, not to mention its creeping ubiquity. But I’m not getting the substantive part of that. I’m not getting quality content from posts or communities, and I can’t/won’t take advantage of its marquee photo features. And its ubiquity, the inability for me to really avoid it if I wanted to, only makes that more frustrating.

Maybe this will change. But I don’t know. When I had an Android device for a short time, Google Now really only ever told me the weather and how far it was to Starbucks. If Google+ really wants me to engage at the expense of the other networks, it’s going to have to try to get to know me a lot better.

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