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    • The last days of Google+ has seen a couple of surprising twists of relevance to social media more generally (as well as Cake).

      Firstly, far from fleeing the Titanic (Google+ ), people are returning in droves. Which is puzzling because it dies shortly.

      Secondly, within the angst on the platform, a great deal of intellectual effort is being brought to bear on the 'big issues' of social media, unflattering comparisons of variants that have emerged in the market and, just recently, frank discussions about how the market might be restructured with government intervention. Sure, surface level discussions are happening all the time, but this time folk have been out there weighing up what is on offer or just over the horizon, so the discussion has become very pointedly about control and aggregation rather than shape and beauty. Bottom line consensus shifts on a daily basis, and the clock is ticking, but some interesting ideas are coming forward. If you are interested in the debate, you can pick up some of the threads at:

      Thirdly, while a lot of effort is being devoted to trying to maintain maintain relationships in new locations, an equally concerted effort is being made to harvest intellectual property invested in the failed platform. Those who have posted consistently over a long period have discovered that they have the equivalent of a number of paperbacks or photo-books. However, among the feast-goers there are a couple of groups starving. Those who have interacted with minimal technology (a smart phone) are finding it impossible to salvage their own work - including a frightening number of artists - the urban poor and those fleeing domestic or international strife (eg, artists in west India or refugee artists fleeing Syria archiving work only in G+). Even those who have eaten at the feast may be in for a nasty surprise. Those who archived their work before February may find that some official archives simply consist of links to live content which will be deleted progressively after April.

      Finally, while poking around in the soft underbelly of the beast a realization is starting to take shape. Some of the earliest technology developed to power big modern communication companies is still in active use. Variants of Usenet still drive basic data management and communication strategies. I hear you say, 'if it works, why not keep using it'. And maybe that is part of the problem.

      As for me, i have posted this here rather than there, because Cake is clean and Victoria pops up in my inbox every so often to tell me interesting things.

    • This ⬆️ and your sharing of the trauma experienced by people losing Google+ is quite powerful, @Catalyst .

      Some of the comments I read were sad beyond belief because there were still people who thought that maybe Google would spin it off to another company.

      @Scobleizer shared on Cake last month the reasons why that won’t happen:

      There are definitely a lot of alternative platforms to choose from and I clicked on a lot of links in the discussion to check them out.

      But my eyes hurt after awhile. Ugly typeface, horrible threading. MeWe has promise I’ve heard, however, a lot of your friends may choose not to land there because of the owner’s outspoken Libertarian views.

      One of the commenters in the thread summed up perfectly the frustration felt by many:

      Reading this discussion of MeWe, PlusPora and other alternatives, I'm thinking I'm not interested in investing my energy in another proprietary or niche platform unless (1) my friends are ALREADY there (2) It has some potential for mass appeal or (3) there's something else really fantastic about it. MeWe, PlusPora etc. don't seem to hit all those buttons.

      Can Cake provide that sense of community?


      If you want to know if a Google Plus refugee lives on Cake, all you have to do is type @ and the user name they used on G+; if they do exist on Cake, their name will pop up as a call out and they’ll be notified you mentioned them.

      Annoyingly, you can’t use search to find someone on Cake. Typing their name in a post is the only way. Once you publish the post, click on their name to go to their profile and view all of their conversations and responses. (Maybe @Vilen has other ideas 💡 for Google+ refugees to easily find their friends on Cake.)


    • Unless a platform allows for open broadcasting it simply is not an acceptable alternative to G+. It is true that there were walled gardens on G+ but the Genius of G+ was the ability to both target audiences and to broadcast openly. Like Cake, G+ allowed the audience to choose who they listened to but without showing the broadcaster who was tuning in and who was not.

      The last time I checked (and things may have changed) MeWe did not support the PUBLIC exchange of ideas. MeWe only provided a walled garden approach to communities.

      In December 2012, I started a community on G+ that was targeted to a niche audience. I did not expect that community to accomplish much. But because it was public and because those who visited it did not have to immediately become members, the community thrived and became a go to place for assistance with that interest which we shared.

      There are many people in the last few months, who have commented that there is no other place on the internet that provides the kind of platform that G+ provided. Even Cake falls short in some of the features that attracted the members of that community but it has the best potential of what I have seen.

    • Fascinating, Catslyst. Thanks for pointing to those discussions.

      I definitely prefer open, discoverable by Google search, to walled garden as @Shewmaker described it. I have very serious misgivings about secret groups that can promote anti-vaccination propaganda or whatever.

    • Thanks mate.

      I think a lot of content producers are still struggling with some of these issues (and some of the site providers are reacting with promises of changes to colors and font type/sizes). While not insensitive to look an feel issues, I am not particularly interested in site skins or customizations so will not be looking in on the proposed YouMe design changes next week.

      I think that the debate is moving in a different direction - about fundamental change to the market.

    • In anti-trust terms, the existing social media landscape show a strong tendency to vertical integration.

      Is this a problem? Imagine a gas operation where exploration, extraction, transport, refinement and retail sales are conducted by the same entity. All sorts of problems arise with this type of business model - mainly around taxation avoidance, skew costings and the high risk of market failure. Other competitors and consumers in the market are impacted, and content producers are impacted by higher prices, low quality and poor service.

      These problems do not just arise in the gas market; they can pop up anywhere from banks, railways, bakers and candle stick makers.

      How is this relevant to our social media landscape? The present landscape is dominated by a couple of aggregated services - a bit like the gas industry. Basically, they consist of storage services, identity services and broadcast services. At present, the services have been jammed in together, and this is the problem. By vertically integrating these services, an owner is able to cost lead to remove natural competition in the first two services and take all the profit from the third.

      The debate that is emerging picks up each of these issues and starts to provide insights into what might happen in a relatively short period.

      Firstly, there is a growing realization that content producers who piggyback on the free hosting offered in social media get what they pay for - free storage services. And nothing else. There are no guarantees and we are now finding in a number of cases that despite public assurances to regulators, providers are not delivering. In the last couple of months we have heard of many cases of where data has been destroyed accidently, maliciously or deliberately.

      Secondly, service ownership of identity markers disempowers content producers and places them in a vulnerable position vis-a-vis owners. This is a not-dissimilar problem with telephone numbers. This is the most likely target for government intervention and it will split the services aggregation model into three.

      Finally, broadcasting power allows the vertically integrated owner to take all/significant revenue out of the market as the content producer (the key element in generating revenue) is unable to bargain for a fair share of profit.

      Many of the problems that emerge in vertically integrated markets bedevil social media. Some of the unique issues also find their genesis in the problems fostered by vertical integration (e.g. the real name dispute -> emergence of multiple fake accounts -> agile spam).

      The signs of impending market collapse are adding up as companies scramble to monetize. Government intervention is being planned in a number of jurisdictions. Which is why this debate is all the more important now.

      (Disclosure: since starting to pen this, i have been asked to prepare a paper to the Risk Policy Institute which will be used to brief Attorneys General.)

    • I think a lot of content producers are still struggling with some of these issues (and some of the site providers are reacting with promises of changes to colors and font type/sizes

      Design isn’t something that should be slapped together and then gutted when it isn’t working. If you look at the design of Twitter, there are limits to it that impact the user experience as well as their running of ads: you can block advertiser’s accounts like any other account on Twitter(!).

      I actually like the Twitter-alternative Mastodon over Twitter, because of the better design choices made: 500 characters, having a “Show More” button to hide sensitive content and images, cleaner threading. But it’s relatively unknown so I spend 10x more time on the inferior designed Twitter.

      It will be interesting to see the impact that design has on new home selection for Google+ refugees.