Google makes social media interesting again

Google puts their focus on people.

I found myself wondering if Google might be the first company to actually get social media by focusing on the word social and realizing something was lacking in a big way in the world of social networks and technology generally. This was after having watched Andrew Keen’s interview about Google+ with Vic Gundotra (Google’s VP Social) and Bradley Horowitz (VP Product).

(See: Why Google Is Now A Social Company.)

Within the first ten minutes of the interview, as they gave a high level explanation of Google+, they spoke of communication and nuance. They talked about the differences between how people communicate in the real world, face to face, and how they do so online. They spoke about how they want to bridge that gap.

I don’t expect they will any time soon but the simple recognition that there is a big difference, and that online communication is a beggar’s version of real world communication, suggests a number of things, including an implicit acknowledgement that Google has made a big internal change in how they view technology and what is important. (In my last post I referred to how Google had never been a non-tech audience friendly company.)

It also suggests they have an advantage no other online company has: recognition that the time for baubles and wishful thinking is over. It’s time to acknowledge the limitations of digital technology and deliver the goods, as in a true digital model of real world communication, such as its nuances.

Consider all the senses that are in play when communicating in the real world and then consider what is available with technology: sight and sound, both of which are limited.

When I speak to someone in person I have so much more information flooding into my brain and being processed. I see their eyes, facial expressions, their body language and the full environment surrounding them that conditions all of that. I even smell them. I can touch them.

Why are they speaking so quietly? Is it because it is an intimate conversation? You might think so unless you’re able to turn around and see the two people sleeping behind you.

What happens when someone has a camera in front of him? If you’re taking a picture, they pose. In other words, they don’t present themselves; they present how they would like to be perceived.

Almost everyone behaves differently in front of a video camera – some are embarrassed, some act up and some, even professionals, become a presentation. Few people are their usual selves.

What digital communication delivers is a simulacra of the real thing. Communications involves so many things and to date technology has just scratched the surface. Communications isn’t just about exchanging messages; it’s also how those messages are presented.

Appearances to the contrary, technology around social media has been stalled for quite some time. This is partly why we spend so much time discussing the business end of it – market share, revenue models and so on. It has become pretty tedious simply following updated versions of products that add a few more doo-dads and greater capacity.

Google is the first, that I am aware of, that is talking about fundamentally changing not just social media but technology itself. That a company so engineer driven and so artifact focused would announce this kind of change in their approach – in the way they actually view technology, putting the emphasis on people and how we behave rather than the technology – is remarkable.

It also signals a fundamental shift with some absolutely amazing potential.

Suddenly, communications is interesting again.

(Thanks to Jeff Roach for directing me to the interview.)

About the other fiction of Disrupted Lives

I had an idea about this ebook I put together, Disrupted Lives and Other commotions. I decided against it for a number of reasons but it keeps popping up in some of my tweets and Facebook updates. Let me describe the idea.

The ebook is made up of seven stories. So it is fiction (with the exception of the afterward). Putting it together, I became intrigued with the notion of extending the fiction beyond the book. I was fascinated by the idea of making the feedback, interviews, marketing — everything that usually surrounds a book — fiction.

It is a joke, yes, but not entirely. I love the idea of fiction intruding on reality and the two becoming difficult to distinguish. I’ve always been fascinated by reality and fantasy intermingling.

Part of the joke aspect is, of course, how wildly improbable and obviously made up it is.

And so I simply started making things up. (See the post, Astonishing feedback on upcoming ebook.) I thought, “What if I make up people who don’t exist? What if I use people who do exist but wouldn’t say the things I would have them saying in a million years? What about creating interviews that never happen in reality?”

It’s a Borges-like idea. I recall reading an interview with him and he referred to one of his stories. I don’t recall which one. But he said he decided that he didn’t want to put all the work into writing a novel so he decided to pretend the novel already existed and write a review of it instead.

I like stuff like that. For some reason, I find the idea — the playfulness and creativity of it — hugely entertaining.

In this case, I like the idea of a work of fiction entering the world in a fictitious way, the fiction extending and spreading. The artifact is composed of fiction. But the existence of the artifact, in this case Disrupted Lives, is also fiction. Yet it’s also real.

I don’t know what any of it means. But it seems fun. So don’t be surprised if you see the odd post or tweet or Facebook update that seem highly unlikely. Though I’ve decided not to pursue the idea, I’ve been finding the idea is resistant to my resistance.

Oh, and if you feel inclined, you can download the book here.

Have you thoughtwrestled yet?

Oh, don’t look baffled by the word. The internet — the world, for that matter — is made up of new words and phrases that try to communicate their intent in their name. This one, Thoughtwrestling, is a pretty good one I think. It communicates what the blog it names is about: wrestling with ideas. Where do they come from? How do I find them? What do I do with them?

In the past week or so, there have been some pretty good posts. Here are some of the ones that have caught my eye for one reason or another (in no particular order):

Extreme Skills Makeover – Work Edition
Some people, “… feel as if they have fallen so far behind in keeping up with their skills that they will never catch up.” It’s not as hard as they think. (post by Susan Murphy)

Thoughtwrestling Interview – WhiteFeather
An artist discusses her art and, in doing so, the creative process of pulling the unrelated together and thus forming something new. (post by Mark Dykeman)

Is your inner Obi-Wan, Spock or Indy holding you back?
“Sometimes, it’s not external challenges, but the knots in your own  way of viewing the world that gets between you and wrestling your great ideas into reality.” (post by KatFrench)

Develop the creative infrastructure for thoughtwrestling
“You can also train your mind to do better.  You can build your own creative infrastructure to support thoughtwrestling.” (post by Mark Dykeman)

That last one is today’s post. I think on the whole the blog is pretty informative and helpful, particularly when you consider it’s an infant. It has been up for just a little under two weeks, I think.

Mind you, you can’t trust me — you need to decide for yourself. I could simply be a shill. I am, after all, one of the blog’s contributors.

As for my own posts here … I do have one but it’s lengthy and I’m taking a moment to decide if it would work better as two posts. As usual, I’m undecided. :-)

Self-interview: Bill, why do you write?

I write because no one listens to me when I talk.

That was the sound byte answer. But it’s true. When I talk I sound like an idiot. So people tune out, as I would too. When I write, however, I can usually bamboozle people into thinking I not only know what I’m talking about but that I can convey it to the world mellifluously.

Imagination is a big part of it too. I can pretend people are reading what I write whereas if I talk I see their eyes glaze over and attention wander. Very disquieting. And discouraging.

Imagination also plays a part in that, when I write, I can use big, polysyllabic words as if I not only know what they mean but also know how they’re pronounced.

I can write about anything and, if I’m doing it even moderately well, I can be perceived as an expert, whether I know anything about the subject or not. I can write about world politics, an economic collapse, evolving and emerging technologies – you name it – and I can come across as if I’m the guy world leaders need to talk to when they’re in a fix. The Internet is a big help in this. I can find terminology almost anywhere that most people haven’t come across and it reinforces the notion that, “This guy really knows what he’s talking about!”

Shall we discuss taxonomic ontological metrics? (Actually, I just made that one up.)

Of course, writing also helps me avoid doing things I don’t want to do. I’ve been writing a lot recently because there’s a load of laundry begging to be cleaned.

Writing, however, cannot help you where walking the dog is concerned. This is probably because dogs, for the most part, are illiterate.