Google’s passive approach to social

There’s been a lot of talk about Google’s forced integration of Search+Social and it certainly is a big deal. Personally, I have not found it to be invasive, nor have I found it to be tainting my results in a negative way. I like seeing that there are signals from my social connections around search as they offer pivot points or likely results in a more obvious way.

Outside of search the social methods including those around the core property are really pretty passively being applied. The +1 button is the lamest offender in this approach. Before Google Reader dropped Share in favor of +1, I used to be able to easy share my read items anywhere I wanted thanks to the feed of my shares being made available. These shares would post to Twitter automatically and drove a fairly decent amount of engagement for me over the years. Since moving to the +1, I have two options and they aren’t the same across mobile and desktop web experiences. On the desktop, I can share from Reader using the same keyboard shortcut (Shift+S) or choose to +1 something which prompts for a share onto G+ and via a circle of my choice. On mobile, where I do a fairly intense amount of consumption thanks to an extended commute I can only +1 something and this is where things really, well suck. The +1 via mobile serves solely as a limited bookmark and saves content links onto my Google+ profile on the +1 tab. This mobile +1 limitation applies to any item on Reader or on a publisher site. There simply is no real way to share into Google+ directly from a mobile experience. On Android, you can use intents to open the share prompt and drop things into Google+, but the limitations again are quickly revealed. Unlike many other services, the Google+ mobile application (on iphone or Android) is incapable of traversing the link to provide any sense of context to what’s being shared. This means your post is just a lame mess. I can’t imagine the goal here is to have us save things in lists via +1. When was the last time anyone visited this tab for a contact let alone themselves? It’s an island of content — the least social you can be. There is no feed available for these items and no way to share them through any additional channels which frankly ends up being pretty de-motivating.

Another red headed step child of the Google social experience is Latitude. This has also remained something of a disconnected island within the ecosystem and I question why we should choose to use it. Google recently added the notion of points and a leader-board to check-ins as well as a proactive prompt to remind us to use it (on Android), but it’s hard to see why you would. The leader-board is for your latitude friends only (a sadly small group of early adopters in my case) and there’s no sense of what the points are used for – at all. There are no badges, no connection to merchant locations for offers. The prompts are even a bit aggressive. It’s also interesting to see that while I can share a check-in quite easily into a Google+ circle, a location appended to a post on G+ does not link back through Latitude. One way?

Right now, Google+ allows neither the syndication of my activity stream (ala Path) nor the ability to aggregate activities from the broader web (or even the Google system) like Facebook. As much as I want to use Google+ and enjoy the general engagement there, I find there’s an incredible amount of friction to use it. Social should not be hard.

PS – sharing this post into G+ also takes a few steps … sigh.

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