Katango joins the fray Tuesday just days after Google threw down the gauntlet with its social-networking play, Google+, only to be countered by new video calling on Facebook that expands the social experience. Katango — on iPhone, iPad, iPod and the Web — organizes its members into groups based on their interests, topics and backgrounds. Facebook Groups and Google Circles do the same but require users to manually join groups. "We think it is a valid way to chop larger social graphics into pieces, based on interests and topics," says Yee Lee, Katango's vice president of product.
I finally found time to cash in on one of my Google+ invites after taking a much needed vacation. My initial assessment? Google has actually figured out how humans work, so mark Google+ as one to watch and ignore the pundits that are telling you it's no threat to Facebook. The real threat from Google is they have finally shown evidence that they understand social and human beings by association.
I asked a question in Google+ that you might also consider: Several people are mentioning they think reciprocal follows (if you follow me, I should follow you) SHOULDN’T be the norm on Google+ . What do YOU think?
Here’s what people said to the above question inside of Google+ (just a sampling of the almost 100 comments I got in the first few hours of posting it).
People mistakenly assume that: 1) any social network that can be boiled down to a graph can be compared and 2) any theory of social networks is transitive to any graph representing connections between people.
Such mistaken views result in broad misinterpretations of social networks and social network sites. Yet, time and time again, I hear problematic assumptions so let me start with some claims:
1. Not all social networks are the same. 2. You cannot assume network transitivity. 3. You cannot assume that properties that hold for one network apply to other networks.
To address this, I want to begin by mapping out three distinct ways of modeling a social network. - Sociological “personal” networks - Behavioral social networks - Publicly articulated social networks.
Despite a positive early reception to the service, the big challenge for Google+ isn’t pleasing users in its first few days, it’s finding a solid place for it in their lives in the long term. What will that place be? At present, it’s difficult to say. Looking at the currently big social networks, they fit into a few core categories:
- Sharing and communicating with friends: Facebook, Hyves, Orkut etc. - Sharing quick thoughts, news and opinions: Twitter - Business-focused networking: LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo etc.
So where does Google+ fit into this? It manages to sit across all these verticals. The big question is, can Google convince a groundswell of people to make the switch from their existing social networks?
Google got to get it right this time (and frankly I think they nailed some of the subtleties that they didn’t in their past avatars). That said, there’s just something about Google+ that doesn’t seem right and — that’s got to do with its relationship model.
Google Plus is a curious amalgam of Facebook and Twitter but more interestingly this is the same model that Friendfeed pioneered (with far slicker tools: “like” and “real-time feed” anyone).
There’s an incentive to build your REAL social network (a la Facebook) that Google+ is trying to foster with Circles, but at the same time they pollute that atmosphere with the follower model, where people you don’t know jump in with comments that you don’t feel like responding to.
That was the problem Friendfeed faced and that’ll be the problem that Google+ will inevitably encounter.
Now, granted the asymmetric model gains traction and followers fast, the question remains: is it sustainable? Time will tell.
It's not just Google that's been thinking about easing the awkwardness of social interactions with your work, school, social, family, and other types of contacts online. A new start-up called Katango promises to automatically detect natural groupings of people on networks like Facebook. Like Google Circles, the management interface for the new Google+ initiative, Katango is a tool for individual users to better understand and segment their own contacts, rather than a group-creation tool where everyone opts in to participating.
At the Facebook news conference, a reporter asked Mark Zuckerberg what he thought of Google+. Zuckerberg responded by saying that lots of companies are going to build things like video chat, but Facebook competitors also have to build up their social graph first. Facebook’s job is to just keep innovating. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, and of course, he’s exactly right—the challenge is to get the user base, and make it easy for them to use your product. Done and done for Facebook. The integration looks great.
Google’s pivot from search to social technologies occurred last week and my early impressions of their new service Google+ are very positive, particularly around their efforts on allowing you to group your contacts.
For Google the challenge is now principally around allowing users to more efficiently filter their contacts and topics. We are in an era where the sheer volume of information available to us is overwhelming unless we have the ability to organize it by importance, creating more efficient use of our time.
Where setting up credible enterprise collaboration environments requires orchestration and permissions filters to be put in place against relevant governance by dedicated resources, our multiple online social spaces in this overcrowded era are much more like places we are forced to go and visit if we want to meet particular people.
At best Google’s entrance into the social graph market will bring more order, structure and findability to our lives. At worse the distopean world described in Evgeny Morozov’s ‘The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom’ just connected a few more dots, as dismally experience by the Belarusian ‘Social Media’ clapping protestors as they were tracked and led away to jail this weekend.
Overall though greater competition at scale in the social graph market has to be a good thing for consumers.
When it comes to representing relationships online, there are two big questions: 1. Our offline relationships are very complex. Should we try and replicate the attributes and structure of those relationships online, or will online communication need to be different? 2. If we do try and replicate the attributes of our relationships, will people take the time and effort to build and curate relationships online, or will they fall back to offline interactions to deal with the nuances?
We’re only at the beginning of trying to answer these questions. Google+ is a well designed product, but it is not “the solution” to the problem of representing complex relationships online. In fact, there probably isn’t “one solution”.
Out of the box, Google+ seems to have got this right - the entire project is geared towards limited and selective sharing.
However, this is where Google+ gets into hot water. There is a lot that can start to go wrong at this point. To get it right, Google+ relies on users being able to fully articulate their social circles, which people actually cannot do. We're simply not wired to be fully cognizant of what social circles we actually move in or who they are made up of. Beyond friends and family, every other social group we belong to is induced by a common purpose.
if users do not define circles, there is nothing to do on Google+ -- absolutely nothing.
Mahendra Palsule right now on Google+ and the interest and social graphs: "Facebook has done a not-so-great job capturing users’ interests. Many people have ‘Liked’ hundreds of pages just because they were asked to do so by their friends. Facebook’s obsession with and overreliance on the social graph has corrupted their interest graph, and this might well be Facebook’s Achilles Heel in the long term. Google Plus takes a different approach. The goal of Sparks is to capture your true interests. It is in a primitive state at present, but I’m talking about the Big Picture here!"