the Mighty Mighty Trey Ratcliff
He was more popular than David Beckam, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna!
the Mighty Mighty Trey Ratcliff
He was more popular than David Beckam, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna!
He was more popular tham Tommy "Gun" Hawk?? How is that possible?
Hey Trey! And… Cupcakes?
What a topic. What a conversation this’ll be. Google+ in it’s earliest days was the internet’s greatest speakeasy. It was a private club and we had the secret handshake and the password. We didn’t have an in because we were already insta-famous or well-connected. We each got our invites like golden tickets in Wonka bars on the street. An overheard conversation. A friend passed on a link. An article mentioned Google was wading into the social biz. Internet nerds got word through some kind of early-adopter alert system… I got a call, from my big brother, while getting soaked, lugging my guitar and amps through a torrential downpour, into an IRL club to play a show for three people. He thought it might help my career if I got on a new social network early, “Maybe you could be one of the first musicians on there.”
My love story with Google+ has been chronicled in songs, and books, and keynotes, and posts and TED Talks. It’s origin story got intertwined with mine in a mobius-strip of a digital-Cinderella-story. Girl from the woods, in-the-middle-of-nowhere, sings for a million people on a new social network. It was all true. And all as remarkably accidental and unexpected as it sounds.
For me it was all about Hangouts. Ten-way video chat with whoever shows up. Thinking back on it now I realize how adorably innocent and naive it was. Hangouts, especially right at the beginning, was a sweet and totally revolutionary cultural exchange. The first night I opened one I sang for people on multiple continents at once. I strummed while watching the sunrise in Norway, when it was early evening where I was playing. I made friends and fans one-by-one, then eventually, with their help, we streamed it and gave the private club windows for thousands to look in. Before I knew it I was getting flown out to meet with Google. When does that kind of thing ever happen?
It was that innocent. Were we a bunch of people who were genuinely excited to discover each other and I think we wrote a little tiny chapter of internet history together. Trey’s photos. My Hangouts. Moritz’s code. Vic’s posts. Ron Garan’s view from space. Cliff’s live paintings. Alida's stories. Carter’s fiery discussions. Everyone clicking “join” when a Hangout popped into their stream. We shaped the culture of Google+. We built our own little utopian soap bubble. I didn’t realize it at the time, but something like that was fragile and precious by nature. How could it withstand being opened up to the entire public and a giant corporation with too many chefs in the kitchen and too many different visions. Some wanting to build something brand new, some wanting to compete with Facebook and some who never wanted to get into this social thing in the first place.
It was gorgeous and I loved every second of it. But yeah, what was the question? Hangouts. Hangouts and the people I met in them. That was the best thing. Ever. Hands. Down.
Ps. I had a camera going during that first Hangout. I actually caught the moment my life changed. But I was such a noob I didn’t know how to screen-cap. So I just have this footage of a video of me. Reacting.
Gino! So so true. I never stopped to think about it that way but it was a meritocracy and that did give a chance for female voices to grow and thrive. Yay for ladies! And yeah, there's no where else where that feels as true online to me, yet.
It just goes to show that even with unlimited funds, talent and motivation even the best ideas sometimes just can’t get traction.
I have my own list of loves and frustrations when it comes to Google+, most of which are centered around Hangouts. Hangouts in many ways served as the springboard we used on my podcast to make the leap from audio-only to live streaming. Google made assembling a webinar-like event brain-dead simple but it was definitely not without it’s issues… for example the rapid pace of “innovation” when they rolled out new features caused us to lose several shows — some episodes were lost DURING the show, meaning they failed to record. But the negatives were small in comparison to the great tool Hangouts was (is).
I think it’s very hard these days for photographers to put their trust in any single online tool. Especially after all of the noise Google put behind G+, I was sure it was the Facebook-killer, and with Google’s deep pockets, the service would be around forever… like Gmail. But, just like that, what *was* a promising new platform has gone the way of Wave and so many others. When you’ve been hurt so many times before, trust becomes harder and harder to elicit.
Dang bro. Did G+ get a new number when you broke up? That sounds pretty harsh.
Maybe I need a coffee! :) I wasn't intending to be harsh at all, sorry if it came off that way! I loved using the service. And wish it would continue! My point was that it's hard for photographers to trust and use services that seem permanent and promising, only to have them killed off, or aquired and neutered.
It makes believing the marketing hyperbole that much harder for the next start-up. "Trust us! Give us all your photos!", then boom... the dreaded "we got aquired and are ceasing operations next month". e.g. Astro Mail, I LOVED that email client... then it got bought by Slack and now it's back to the drawing board. I realize the short lifecycle is the price of admission in tech, but still, over the years it makes it hard to get excited about new innovations, spend time and effort building up a presence, or incorporating it into your daily workflow only to have it yanked away. It makes me feel a little like Charlie Brown. But the geek in me keeps falling for it!
Is it better to have loved and lost? Or to never have loved at all. —Alfred Lord Tennyson
My understanding is Google invested $585 million to get + off the ground. 😳
@Daria , that love you felt for Google+ is still felt by various communities today who have built up years worth of photos, stories and friends there.
WOW! Over 1/2 billion invested! I wonder what would would have taken to make it a success? Or was it simply impossible at that particular time given Facebooks momentum.
Yeah man. I get you.
There was a point where 2 or 3 times a year I'd get someone saying, "You aren't on "X" yet? Its the new FB." I'd rush out to grab my early adopter cool name and inside a year I'd never use it again because it just wasn't relevant in any way.
It seems like G+ was in fact, to your point, the last time I bought all-the-way in.
I caught G+ at a bar with another guy and now I'm Jon Favreau in Swingers. I just cant get back on that pony like I really mean it anymore.
Right on, Daria.
Exactly right on the head.
Every single bit of that ... so true.
Or was it simply impossible at that particular time given Facebooks momentum.
I wrote a story about that with eBay because I had a ringside seat to Yahoo and Amazon trying to crush them with unlimited resources and reach, and they got nowhere.
Daria, you are kind of the perfect example of what the platform could do for creatives! And how cool was it that a few years later, you and I were having breakfast with Ron Garan, the astronaut, in Austin, Texas? G+ made so many good connections possible.
I think G+'s big advantage was they helped people to connect over passions much better than Facebook. FB always seemed (and mostly still is) about friends and family. But, on FB, you're still kinda "stuck" with friends from your high school that you may or may not like anymore, and who most assuredly do not share whatever passions you develop later in life.
G+ was always, to me, a very positive place. Compare that with all the energy-vampires on Facebook. I don't need that in my life. I think it's much more healthy for creative people to be around other positive, giving souls.
I was always excited to open my G+ feed and see what fresh goodies had been served up by people I followed. It's the total opposite of Facebook. I think staring at your FB feed is the exact same as staring into the refrigerator when you're not even hungry.
But yeah, those Google Hangouts, what a killer feature. I loved doing those live shows and meeting all kinds of new photographers and stuff. That tech on top of G+ was a real game-changer!
Here's one of those hangouts we did that @Gino was referring to above with Kim Dotcom and lots of other photographers at
Half a Bill invested,
Users who look back and almost unanimously feel like it was the one platform that they felt personally invested in it and loyal to it.
All the name recognition that being Google brings.
All for nothing.
There's a serious study that needs to be done investigating how this happened.
I don't want to hear "None of my friends/family were on it." Everybody uses Google and/or uses Gmail. There's NO WAY that Google can look itself in the mirror and explain how they blew this hand so badly.
Was it hubris?
Did the people at Google (Vic?) simply believe that being Google would be enough?
Was it lack of boots-on-the-ground recognition of what was happening, for good and bad, on their own platform?
I didn't know one person on G+ that didn't think it was the real deal. Everyone felt like Google wouldn't let it fail.
How did Google get dealt 4 Aces and still lose this hand?
Gino, it's a fascinating question and I'd love to have some insight. One thing that bothered me was Trey's screenshot of the most followed people in the early going and how many friends they had:
It makes me wonder how much the top Googlers—Larry, Vic, Sergey and Matt—really used it when their leading competitor was. It seemed to me that they used it like Twitter for mass broadcasts and then just stopped in 2015 when they still had good engagement in their broadcasts. Mashable wrote this a few months after it launched:
Whoa! That article brings in even more questions with the benefit of Hindsight.
Google publicly stated that G+ was to be a major face for the company, even plastering the name Google on it in a big way, and they massively funded it. But, somehow, those who stood to benefit the most from it's success didn't even bother to use it, or at least act like they were using it.
To me this speaks to my original thought. Hubris.
They thought they didn't even have to try. People will use our new platform because we are Google and we just dropped a 1/2 Billion with a "B" on it.
If we are really being honest with each other, we will admit that there remains a certain set at the top that considers Social Media in general to be a tool that is used to influence the unwashed masses. It's for the mob. Not for the senate.
I think Google brass never used it because they weren't using social media in general.
The next question is, would it have made a difference if they had?
I know the press made a big deal about Google management not using it, but I never was worried about that. A lot of those managers are just not "public" kinda people like us, who bloviate nonstop and are constantly creating photos and stuff to share. Many of those execs can't really use social media like us because the press and Wall Street hangs on every word.
I was flummoxed why I could get more of my Facebook friends and family over to Google+. It was clearly superior in almost every way and I had every logical argument laid out. Still, not many came over. They were comfortable on Facebook and they weren't "power users" in that they didn't really see the faults that Facebook had. Facebook has fixed a lot of those faults by now, thank goodness, but I think one thing that sours most of us is how people love to use it to complain about everything.
And back on a positive note, another great thing about Google+ photos that were different/better:
1) The photos were huge and looked cleaner in the G+ interface
2) There were no advertisements
3) There were "View Counts" so you could see which ones seemed to be most popular. I still haven't figured out why Facebook doesn't show view counts.
4) It was blazing fast!
but I think one thing that sours most of us is how people love to use it to complain about everything.
Trey, I listened to a debate on NPR during Trevor Noah's early days about whether he would make it. One of the media veterans said something I've never been able to forget: audiences want to see blood. This was something, they said, that tortured Jon Stewart but he eventually had to cave to get the ratings he needed. No one wants to be made fun of, but they want to see Tina Fey draw blood with her parody of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.
Do you think we're seeing some of that on Twitter and Facebook? The burns, the justice served to the company that did a perceived evil, they tend to go viral there, no?
For people like you and Daria, who are so incredibly positive, it sounds like Google+ was a big draw because it was so positive. I'm just wondering if a larger audience wanted more edge.
Trey, "I think staring at your FB feed is the exact same as staring into the refrigerator when you're not even hungry." is now my all time favorite explaination of Facebook. So so perfect! I totally relate, G+ was kinda a thrill to open up every day. I never knew what gorgeous photo would be floating down the stream, or whether someone ridiculously famous or outrageously interesting was going to comment on something, and then those "Join Hangout" buttons popping up at all hours of the day and night made every mintute into a possible meet-cute or adventure. Facebook is just, ugh. I don't open it at all any more.
And yes, brunch with you, Uncle Ron The Astronaut (which is what I call him now, by the way, we should get him on this thread! We were just texting about G+ yesterday!) and Vic at The Driskill in Austin Texas on my birthday was mindblowing. There's so many stories. That's actually another one of G+'s magical-fairy-dust-features: It made stuff happen in real life! Friendships, parties, concerts, relationships, fandoms, opportunities, connections, photowalks, and totally hilarious stories. No other social network has so effortlessly translated into real life experiences like that, at least not that I know of and not for me. I think it was again a side-effect from Hangouts. When I would meet people in person who I'd hung out with often, they already felt like close friends. We'd go in for a hug without even thinking about it. When I got to play shows around the world my Hangout friends would be my personal tour guides! Tel Aviv. Scotland. Chicago. London. LA. It was crazy.
Speaking of funny stories... Trey, remember when we went around that Zeitgiest cocktail reception arm-in-arm introducing ourselves as completely different people to everyone we met?! I think you told one lady you were a goat farmer. And you tried to talk me into saying hi to Malcolm Gladwell but I was too nerd-struck. And then you totally walked up to Azaelia Banks and told her, "I don't know who you are, but you're fabulous!" Yeah, so many priceless moments online and IRL.
Ps. I just found these pics on Google+, their trusty search bar still works! Just made me realize I gotta go download all my photos and stuff offa there!
That's an interesting thought, kinda like, "a person is smart, people are stupid". Maybe something about Google+ – the face-to-face of Hangouts, the long beta period when most of us joined – created a much more personal, human connection between people, whereas FB and Twitter are more like mob-mentality, and because of that things over there can get really outta hand really fast. I loved the optimism of the vibe we created there. I guess as creators it's always something we can cultivate in our own communities through the work we do and how we communicate with our audiences, but that inherent sweetness was super special.
This is probably a crazy thought, but I wonder if Larry and Sergey did their moonshot-or-bust thing with Google+ and when it didn't turn out to be a moonshot, they lost interest. It didn't turn out to be a place where the stars would promote movies, but it did turn out to have some great local communities.
Do you think they could be persuaded to sell it to someone who has more modest aspirations for it? SmugMug bought Flickr and I don't think anyone saw that coming.