The Windmills of Your Mind

It’s not been very big or very splashy as far as announcements go, but Google has announced its latest attack on the social networking space in the form of Google+. I’m assuming this is to be pronounced Google-Plus, but I rather like the idea of calling it Google-And 🙂

I’ve oft been known to talk about identity and when I do I am oft known to quote Mark Zuckerberg:

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

A statement that often attracts a bad reaction, but actually a statement that I agree with. What I don’t agree with is Zuckerberg’s further statement:

“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.”

As Michael Zimmer explains in detail (saving me the effort), this simply isn’t true. There is no need for Jung to start turning in his grave, we all like to present ourselves in different ways to different people. This seems to be the market that Google are very sensibly chasing down – the market that Mark does not want!

I’ve tended to refer to this as managing ‘personas’ but Google has got me thinking. Do we really actively manage our personas, or do we do something that is actually more passive – joining selective groups?

Having a ‘persona’ suggests that I actively think about how I want to present myself to people and what I want to release to people and put steps in place to structure and manage this. I’m not sure how much we do this. I think it is a more passive thing, and a more immediate thing – a simple ‘I don’t want x or group y to see z’ made as we go along.

The Google Circles concept is more akin to that passive approach. Rather than managing a persona I self-select and define by joining a group or even by being added to a group by someone else.

This difference in approach is akin to the endless discussion in FAM circles about group management, attribute release and user consent. The REFEDs list has been busy recently with people discussing the user consent model (persona management by the individual) vs group attribute management for ‘sets’ of service provider types (the more passive group model). Given our experience of the reluctance of users to manage their identities – I can help but think the group management process will win out. The mistake on Google’s part? The limited release. If you want to start building ‘circles’ you need the people you want to join up with in their with you from day one, or you will quickly become disenfranchised. This limited release will lead to ineffective group management from the outset – and disenfranchisement will follow hot on the heels. The interface for Google+ looks interesting and pleasing, I hope it doesn’t become another Wave.