Why yo momma won’t use Google+ (and why that thrills me to no end)

OK, I’ve been putting many hours into Google+. In just the few days that it’s been released I’ve followed 2,723 people, written many dozens of posts there, and have thoroughly used the product. I’ve also tried to get some normal users into the product, starting with my wife (we argued for 45 minutes about it) and I’ve come to some conclusions. Here’s the biggie:

Your mom won’t use Google+.

How can I state that so clearly? Easy. Most “average users” are locked into Facebook and aren’t willing to consider a new social tool until they hear about it from their friends. Since most of the people who are on Google+ so far are geeks, insiders, social media stars, journalists, and other people (Google admitted tonight they are only accepting people who have strong social graphs so that they can both make sure everyone has a good first experience as well as test out some of the technology before opening it up to a wider audience) the chances normal people (metaphorically speaking, your mom) won’t hear about Google+ from normal users for quite a while.

By then I’m sure Facebook will react (ie, copy) Google+’s best features (Facebook already has called a press conference for next week where they are going to announce something “awesome”). This will mean that normal users, who aren’t really going to get involved at this point in Google+’s life, won’t feel the need to switch.

So, what is Google+ for then?

It’s for us!

Come on now, we geeks and early adopters and social media gurus need a place to talk free of folks who think Justin Bieber is the second coming of Christ. That’s what we have in Google+ right now. Do we really want to mess that up?

Plus, let’s just be honest here. There are pieces of Google+ that are mighty geeky.

Let’s start with how to bold and italicize text. Do you have a pretty editing window like, say, exists on Quora? No way.

To bold text you surround that text with asterisks. *Like this* GEEKY ALERT! Italicize? Put underscores around the text. Strikeout? Put hyphens around it.

And that’s just the little thing. Let’s talk about the big thing. Circles. Now, heavy and passionate users of social media, like myself, really love things like lists and groups. Why? Because we want to spend hundreds of hours making sure our social graphs are really organized.

Normal people do NOT do this. They just want to friend their 20 real-life friends and 30 family folks and be done with it. Average/normal users want the system just to bring them fun stuff without doing any work.

See, if you put the average Silicon Valley geek in front of a TV and tell him to sit on the couch and watch TV for four hours they won’t know what to do. They will start building databases of their favorite shows, start figuring out how to optimize their DVRs so they can fast-forward through commercials faster, and stuff like that.

Normal/average users? They just want to watch TV and drink beer.

So, you getting where I’m going with this? Google+ is for the passionate users of tech. If you just want to sit back and have the system do all the work (which means it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for most people) then Facebook is gonna be where you stay, especially since your friends are gonna lock you in for quite some time. But if you want to really be able to choose who you listen to, then Google+ is much better.

Oh, and that’s not even considering the new “Hangout” videochat feature. Damn that thing is cool. You can have 10 people call into a room and it lets you all talk to each other. I haven’t used Skype since that shipped.

Anyway, it’s clear Google has turned a corner. They have now proven to everyone that they can do social and get on the playing field.

But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mom to use it and that’s just fine with me.

That all is a long way of saying that I really love Google+ and I don’t care what the average user thinks of it. I’m getting a ton of utility out of it and I am having a blast with it. Hope to see you there soon, but please leave yo momma over on Facebook, OK?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

338 thoughts on “Why yo momma won’t use Google+ (and why that thrills me to no end)

  1. Don’t agree at all. This is just a dumbass Chevy Nova facebook that designed exactly for your momma. Simpler, bigger type, less features, no business edge and stupid ‘hangout’ terminology.

    Thi place was designed for family and friends and the teens who are neglecting Facebook and looking for a more intelligent Instagram to share the kittens.

    My guess is that Google would be appalled that the geeks have moved into their brand new space. We’re the last people they need in order to make this place the FB killer they hoped it will be.

  2. Have you had neighbors killed, relatives beaten by mobs, and your person assaulted with rocks? I have. I pay good money to get away from that scene, and now I have to deal with black people saying white people “stink” on Twitter. Sorry, to be blunt it kind of kills the experience. Also: you KNOW I’m onto something here. 

  3. I agree with you at this moment in time, but I’m sure at some point it’ll be more friendly to “average users” like my mom. Naturally, Google wants as many users as possible. It may not be anytime soon, and it may not even be with this particular product, but Google will outlive Facebook.

  4. A like button does not make a social network. This is buzz/wave all over again. Cool tech that will be dropped soon. Plus, it won’t work on my google apps account unless I log out and us my unused gmail account

    1. I agree with you about Apps accounts. I hate having to login to an unused Gmail account (which I have forwarding to my Apps account) to use it.

  5. For now, I think you described it perfectly. The earlier adopters are geeks and social media stars. But, will we be able to say the same thing long term? The first users on Twitter were the geek types also, and I remember there being a lot of talk about how it wasn’t useful for the average user (a major reason I didn’t start using Twitter sooner and I am kicking myself now). But now, everybody and their MOTHER is using Twitter. Will we be changing our tune about Google+ in a few months?

    On another note, it’s flattering to see that Google feels that I’m one of those people who have “strong social graphs.”

  6. As a momma with a stronger social graph and geekiness than “normal” people, I like trying a new social tool.  I’ll probably have more time to share over the holiday weekend. Time to try things is big limiting factor in relatively normal lives. I hope its adoption becomes deeper and wider before the next conference I attend.

    Are Google+ invitations working again? I have a few hundred to give out.

  7. I don’t know, you could say that twitter was a ‘geeks-only’ service and look at it now, it’s everywhere. I think is just about the people behind the tool. The geek world move twitter to the place it have now and google is betting that we’re going to do the same with G+.

  8. my mom used it and she loves it coz she has always been asking me for the *who you want to listen feature*

  9. But Google is not a company that has built value by building things exclusively for tech geeks. The very concept–and utility–of something as core as search is that you don’t need to know things like domains, URLs, and paths. The Google search box doesn’t care whether you type in (to use a somewhat popular example from the normals) “Facebook”, “Facebook login”, or “facebook.com”–it gets you to the right place. (The concept is taken to its logical extension with the Chrome omnibox.) And Google’s revenue model is built around search ads with the knowledge that normal people don’t care whether they get the top organic result or a paid result, they just click on whatever looks like the best match for their search.

    It’s crass to think that the value of Google+ is that it’s built for the tech elite. If that is Google’s goal, it’s already a failure of product vision.

  10. He wasn’t referring to you, because you’re the one reading the post.  His post is referring to YOUR mama.  Does she, in any manner of speaking, have “root”?

    …probably not ;)

  11. My mom’s not on a computer. But, in reading the user feedback, people asking for things like nested circles….what ever happened to keep it simple? I’m also trying to figure out how I got access. It wasn’t until after I was in a day that I heard it’s still for “special people”. Oh boy!

    Ok, Hootsuite, where is the integration?

  12. Remember it’s still in beta for a reason; ‘moms’ might like it in the end.

    The key change from FB is that by being able to target the specific groups, and forcing you to do it, it can promote real conversation. Real as opposed to being a soap box. Real because you include 3 like-minded friends on a post instead of 300 friends, and those 3 friends can see that it’s only them 3. This in turn lets them feel more free to talk.
    I like to think of it as a conversation aggregator, and I just hope that the service encourages others to use it in this same way.

  13.  I am itching to try Google+, I am interested to see how it works for someone who is more of a follower then a leader. I watched the latest TWIG live while they were showing off Circles and my second thought after wow that is neat, is there is going to be a lot of hair brushes brought if this becomes popular. Over all I agree with the article, its was hard enough to get my family to use Facebook, my husband in fact is a lost cause and to tell you the truth, I am glad, like Robert it is nice to have a space of your own. 

  14. Dear Silicon Valley.  I am one of those geeks.  Can we talk about fixing my location situation?  Thank you.

  15. no one is listening anymore, too much crap on people’s feed, people stop commenting and liking…

    1. I think this is what could be the best part of Google+.  It will encourage people not to over-share.  Facebook automates over-sharing and Twitter is built for it.  The nature of Google+ could potentially create a space for everyone sharing just the right things with just the right people.

    2. can you imagine some secret ,social network is being built as I type  -trust me on this-There’s celebrities getting into
      the social space -dumping all kinds of money into it and are still in stealth mode. They get this news, and must be crushed. Oh. Well. You should have known better. Create another nitch for Pete’s sake.

  16. I’m sure the moms would want to use it if their kids are on it. Moms don’t use SNS because they like the sites, they use it to find out what their kids (and other moms) are doing. All SNS begin to take off with collage kids first, whether your momma will like it is just beside the point.

  17. Is that a slam on beer, in there? Because WE WON’T STAND FOR THAT SORT OF THING, ROBERT!

  18. no dude. Buzz on Roberts G+ page. Go there and see what i’m talking about. It’s the tab on the far right..———–> buzz -it’s like a micro bloggy thingy.

  19. In Innovation they call it “jobs” “outcomes” “unmet needs” in relation to jobs you have technological jobs, obviously this new technology offers great features, especially “hangouts” the ability to filter circle of friends is also a great idea. Then you have “emotional jobs” the idea that people can now be more in tune with what they want to hear from who, and why, throw in the what and Google offers you the how.

    But here’s the biggest job of them all, “functional jobs” and this is where mainstream will make it or break it with Google +, just as this post says, most FB’ers are not willing to make the effort to methodically put their social graph in some filtration mode so that it’s generative to them.

    That’s because there’s this “confusion” that always accompanies new technology, that’s because technology seems to forget about “function” and go right for the emotion. 

    Help people get the function right that aligns with the emotion of the technology and you may have an alternative for the mainstreamers.

  20. Great post. While I agree with you that it will take a while before people are willing to move from Facebook (I remember having friends I had a hard time getting to Facebook from Myspace.) isn’t part of the goal of designing Google+ to break into the realm that has been pretty much dominated by Facebook? It would be wonderful if it stayed elite to the geeks and what not…but this rings of what some of us were saying about Facebook when it went away from being just for college students.

  21. Do fell like saying a hearty thank you to all Google workers out there for G+. Thank you for that article above as well!.
    Ok got a question for someone.. On my Google profile why wasn’t “Posts” and “Buzz” (which are ..posts) turned into the same thing? Will that eventually happen? Does Google have a reason for this that I’m missing? Don’t understand how these two things are to differ from each other.  

  22. Holy crap, dude, you nailed it!  I have one piece of bad news for you, though, my Mom *will* be on Google+.  She’ll hack in if she has to, my Mom is a total uber:nerd!

  23. I was a little ambivalent when I saw the title (I’m not a fan of some joking colloquialisms), but great write up Robert.I had a few friends on Facebook question my interest in Google+, mainly stating, “I”m already on Facebook. How many of these things (social networks) can people do at once?” I replied that I understand the reluctance or disinterest in jumping into yet another social pool, if you will, but I see Google+ as something larger than Color, Instagram, or other one-off sites or apps.

    I proudly acknowledge being a nerd. I’m an early adopter. I am a heavy Google user, which accounts for my frustration for not getting a Google+ invite.Put those things together and I am a perfect candidate for Google+.  Add to that, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and would gladly shut that down if Google+ suited my social needs. I don’t need to be spread so thin, and the prospect of using Hangout and Circles is pretty exciting.

    One thing that frustrates me is that you cannot use you Google Apps account to access certain e Google services, such as Google+. Of course, I have a Gmail account, but I use my Google Apps-driven account more frequently. It’s not a deal breaker, though. I will be sure to connect with you once I get into Google+.  Cheers!

    1. Not sure if no one is scrolling through the comments or what…go towards the top – Robert gave out his email address so anyone that wants an invitation could request one…

  24. Not only won’t my Mom (or my wife) use Google+, neither will my destined-to-be-a-computer-geek son who has had a gmail account for 4 years!

    Google FAIL: my 12 yr old was invited to Google+ – when he updated his profile with his real birthdate, Google DISABLED his email! Seems that you can’t have a Google “account” unless you are 13, but instead of just disallowing the account creation, they disabled his email address he has had since he was 8! This is an example of why Google can’t do SOCIAL. They are a bunch of enginerds.

  25. I don’t think you are right because:
    1) Facebook was not the easiest thing to use in itself…people had to teach their Moms to learn facebook too.
    2) The kind of features you say geeky, are there only for geeks. Non geeks won’t notice they exist – which is perfect.
    3) The improved quality of your “Friends” stream, over default Facebook stream, will make up for the fact that you needed to learn it.
    4) Most of the differences between Google+ and Facebook are not tack on features – the underlying concepts are different – and it is not going to be easy for Facebook to copy them. Take Circles, for example: making it work for 700 million people will be really hard – they will run into all sorts of problems with infrastructure, trying to keep all data consistent etc.

    There are only two things which we can say: Google+ feedback is better than anyone expected (including Google and Facebook). Just look at GOOG share price. And with typical Google’s iteration speed, it is going to be awesome as a product. Secondly, Facebook will also start improving at the same pace, which is not what they are currently doing. 

    Who is going to be the winner 5 years from now? Its as good as asking the value of Nasdaq index 5 years in the future.

  26. Great post – It’s true – my mom won’t ever be a fan of Google+, but a hefty handful of us tech folks don’t like it either. Wrote a short piece on how Google+ is like a one night stand, and the fun facebook fistycuffs! http://blog.urge.io/post/7118768208/the-aftermath-of-google-ding-ding - it’s out there on HackerNews too
    Still such mixed opinions on Google+ but I can’t say I’m too thrilled with it in general. Is it true they’re taking the limit off invites now? 

    1. what, exactly, do you not like about it?  Feature for feature, I haven’t been able to find a single thing that I think FB does better.  Google+ has better photos, more coherent and robust privacy options, a much better mobile app, integrated audio/video group chat, stream filters, and a much more elegant interface.

      I just decided to actually read your blog post, assuming it would answer my question, but it doesn’t really… You point out a few features that you like, but your overall conclusion is negative.  It seems like a lot of “reviewers” have similar opinions.  Most of you point out a few features you like, and then point out that it’s not revolutionary.  From technical perspectives, Facebook wasn’t revolutionary.  Neither was Windows.  Neither was the iPod.  Nor was Google’s search engine.  They were all just incremental, but solid, advances to existing products that took off.

      Google+, IMO, is similar.  It simply does what Facebook does, but better, and with a lot more potential to seamlessly integrate with the other stuff we do online, and if it doesn’t catch on simply because it’s not a revolutionary enough change over an entrenched entity, then that’d be a huge shame for all of us who use Facebook out of necessity, but are aware of it’s enormous flaws.
      If that happens, it’ll likely be because of reviewers and bloggers who are more interested in predicting it’s prospects of killing Facebook than in actually giving an unbiased review of the product.

  27. Facebook will copy Google+ feature?? What’s the unique feature in Google+ you have found so far? If you say Hangout, then Skype will slap you. If you say Circles, Facebook will kick you.

    1. Hangout has one thing that Skype doesn’t have – the ability to videoconference with 3 to 10 people for free. As I’ve noted elsewhere, this may be the thing that gets my college-age daughter and her friends on Google+.

      With Google Circles vs. Facebook lists or groups or whatever they’re called this week, the difference is in the UI. So perhaps this might spur Facebook to make their process easier – that doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook will implement “Squares,” however.

      1. Skype may provide the service for free at any moment. Pricing difference is not a unique feature. Also Facebook treats everyone as friends and allows us to create lists for more closed groups whereas Google+ want’s us to categorize our contact list. Mark Zuckerberg earlier said that nobody wants to create lists and they are working to make the process easier.

  28. Your mom won’t use Google+.

    Please don’t use mothers (or women in general) as a shortcut for “clueless internet user”.  It’s a sexist (and sometimes ageist, in the case of “so easy your grandma could use it”) meme.  You never see father/grandfather used for this.

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