When I signed onto Twitter many years ago, I briefly played around with it and then resigned it to the ‘useless gimmicks’ pile. Only when popularity soared did I begin to discover new uses for the service, and begin to warm to it’s spontaneity that I created more uses for it. Instead of cluttering my blog with tiny updates, I could just offload them to Twitter, to friends and strangers alike. Those that did use Twitter like they would use Facebook, miss the point by a long shot, in my view.
However, I’ve noticed something: Plus is much the same, with it’s one-way follower model, a crucial point. This makes it more of a disruption to Twitter, than to Facebook (which I believe was the original goal). As with anything, it’s only what people put in, that they get more from it.
How so? It’s much easier to follow conversations, the elimination of tedious URL shorteners, embedded media, private messaging to non-lists, and more. The same people I follow both on Plus and Twitter tend to not only have much more rewarding exchanges on Plus, but the quality and quantity of posts also changes.
On Twitter, updates have no choice but to be short and succinct. I recall often spending more time trying to find ways to cut down words and characters whilst not losing the original intent (and often failing to do so). In a way, this forces everybody to be reduce the amount of waffle, but I noticed that some people just spread their waffle over more tweets, more often. So in short, an increase of content quality as a function of reduced message length, doesn’t work so well. People can and will post low-quality content, no matter the medium. It’s not the car, it’s the driver.
Looking at the bigger picture, we already know that there are far more creative uses for Plus: To-Do Lists, Note Taking, Draft storage, Instant Messaging, E-Mail, Mailing Lists, Check-Ins, Newsfeeds, even eventually replacements for Message Boards (have you noticed the similarities once your Circles are sorted by interests?). That’s a huge amount of different websites/applications being replaced by one, the repercussions are certainly nothing to sneeze at.
There are features sorely lacking, such as a GMail-esque search function, remembering where you’ve read up to or multiple link embedding, though I have faith they are still to come. I thoroughly enjoy that the trend so far has been more relaxed, less frequent, but higher quality posts by people.
But we know that for all it’s technical brilliance, popularity will only come if the masses adopt it, not just my fellow geeks (If you’re unable to comprehend that anybody could possibly struggle with the Circles concept, you’re probably in this category). Engineering superiority combined with thorough un-hipness seems to be Google’s trademark.
In the interest of simplification, consolidation, freedom of data and encouraging innovations in social services (not just innovations in reducing privacy), I hope that Plus does become a success.
Whether it does or not, only time will tell.