My Mom craves Google+

On Google+ the other day, I was reading a long discussion thread about what “normal” people would think about Google and Facebook and privacy and circles, and my mom called.

My mom sells houses in the Philadelphia area, and she asked me for a Google+ invitation, because her real estate colleagues were discussing it at work. Most real estate business comes from referrals, so agents use Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in touch with former clients.

When I asked her about why she’d be interested in Google+ compared to Facebook, she said: “”They were thinking that Google would be better than Facebook because it would be easier to categorize people.” In particular, she is concerned about what she shared with whom. “People don’t have to know politically where I’m coming from, you have to be very cautious about what you say.” She doesn’t want to talk about politics with her potential customers looking on.

This is a counterexample to Robert Scoble’s hypothesis that “Mom and Dad” don’t care about choosing who you share with and are perfectly fine with Facebook as it is. Yishan Wong, formerly of Facebook, posted a sophisticated variant of this opinion on Quora, saying that on Facebook people assume they are talking to their friends, and if someone is not included in the conversation, they should have the social graces to stay out of it. But that’s not how my mom saw it, she didn’t assume that if she talked about Barack Obama, that everybody who didn’t happen to be her political buddies would stay out of it. She assumed controversial topics would start arguments, and people who weren’t in the conversation would make judgements, and that wasn’t a good thing.

My Mom is not in the tech world, has never heard of TechCrunch, has no idea who Robert Scoble is. Using “women” in general as a proxy for nongeeks is a bad idea, by my mom in specific is a nongeek. The Facebook sharing dilemma is part of her life, and she’s looking forward to Google+ to help solve it. Facebook’s List UI to control sharing would be too complicated for her to use, and it will be very interesting to see if she finds circles easy to handle.

The techie stereotype that people don’t care and won’t bother is condescending – it will be interesting to see how my mom and other nontechies react when they get hold of Google+.

9 thoughts on “My Mom craves Google+”

  1. I admit that I read some of these discussions (eg linked above). While some of their reasoning is useful/persuasive, it strikes me that many folks (1) made sweeping generalizations about the public attitudes about privacy and the use of social media and (2) didn’t seem to cite any solid evidence, e.g., survey data. Well, perhaps they allude to FB or Google analytics (?). Rather speculative conversations from people who are technically-minded, eh?

    For what it’s worth, I’d guess that what probably matters most to Facebook Inc. is how FB or competitors will be used by high school and college students. Aren’t they still the FB core/future? Even if not, why is G+ field testing with this rather techie group? Granted, techies are crucial for setting a trend on many products, like Search, but are they representative of the public re: social media? Seems like G is more interested in (tech) media coverage than product development (?).

  2. Yeah, stereotypes techies have about nontechies. Yishan Wong’s post referenced Google’s UI testing, but that was heavily subject to confirmation bias based on the ideas he expressed. Facebook has a huge mass audience – 700million by last count, and adults were the fastest growing groups. Facebook is concerned about its dominance, not just kids. And yes, if Google wants representative feedback they should open more broadly. My speculation is that they are gunshy after the privacy debacles with Buzz.

  3. I have to agree here, my mom likes to be friends with lots of people on Facebook from her neighborhood. However, she has NOT ONCE posted a status update because she didn’t want to whole neighborhood to know what she’s up to all the time.

    She likes the idea of Circles because she can post about her day and only her family will see it (eg, me, my wife, my brothers, etc), or she can post about neighborhood issues and only people from the neighborhood will see it.

    Google = Genius. Google+ = Genius + Design/UI/UX Win.

  4. Aaron an important point shown by your mom’s experience is that Facebook’s model was based on a concept of college friends – a set of people who know a lot about each other and are happy to share. It’s not based on more adult socializing where people have family, different groups of friends and interests, and community ties. If anything, mature women like your mom and my mom, who are enmeshed in their communities, have a lot to contribute to the design of social software.

  5. You bring up some very interesting perspectives that I happen to experience/agree with. There is an underlying current that FB was designed for a crowd that meant to share everything with everyone and didn’t care or realize the consequences. I equate it to a social pendulum. FB pushed the pendulum far enough that everyone realized what this was all about, what could be created and gained, and educated a lot of people on the dangers and what to watch out for. What Aaron and you said are so true about people staying out of or jumping in on conversations. That’s something that drove me away from FB, that people have these “public” conversations and assume everyone else will just scroll on by and ignore it. Too much noise that I can’t filter. Hopefully pushing people to really think about who they are sharing with will help people on the receiving end keep the signal:noise ratio down. I hope.

  6. I wouldn’t say the technical crowd is sitting back stroking their goatees and opining about the non-tech masses. Most of us spend a fair amount of time playing IT Support for our non-technical family and friends, and we get to hear all about their concerns and preferences for various products, FB and G+ included.

    I’m guessing the G+ rollout naturally begins with techies because that group is eager to get on board and will help get the G+ community rolling quickly. Also, they will help groom the product into a more mature state by reporting flaws and providing useful feedback. We can work with the product in an unfinished state, whereas the more general public might find it lacking initially and just bail.

    Facebook’s core is its advertisers, not its users. They want more of whatever demographic group gets them the most ad revenue.

  7. A more interesting post would be the feedback from your Mom, regarding Google+. If, in fact, it is much easier and is suitable solution. That would be telling for Google+’s future. Do follow up!

  8. Will do! She’s an earlybird on the US East Coast so I think she missed this evening’s open signup.

    There are a couple of parts to the question. The first is does she and others in her non-techy circles know about and want to try Google+, and do they have the Facebook sharing problem that G+ is designed to address. The answer is clearly yes. The second is will she actually find Google a usable tool to address those concerns. We’ll see!

  9. I despise the cult of personality around any pundits, political or techie. I’m also utterly unsurprised that one of the latter would be wildly incorrect about people outside his blinders.

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