Tales from the Net

Talk about a hostile environment (part 9 of Google+ and Diversity)

also posted on G+ and on Diaspora*

Google+ in rainbow colorsI feel very let down by Google’s behavior. I had hoped to escape the heavy-handedness that is Facebook, but that is not to be.

I’ll have a presence here; I have to, professionally. But the joy is gone.

— Kathy Gill, Google+ As An Identity Service Is Bait And Switch

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4 Things Diaspora* can learn from Google+

Part 2 of A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

This weekend I received an invitation through Facebook to join Diaspora. I had tried to join Diaspora last year when I learned about their Kickstarter success while writing my book on crowdsourcing, but I couldn’t get in. So of course I was curious and went immediately to sign up.

And then I was puzzled. Diaspora looked just like…Google+. Or did Google+ look just like Diaspora?

— Aliza Sherman, Google+ meet Diaspora – or maybe you know them already?

Yeah really. Dan Tynan, in Will the real anti-Facebook please stand up?, comments that “Given that G+ emerged some seven months after Diaspora went public, I’m guessing Google was taking notes.” Sure, the basic idea of having Aspects (in Diaspora) or Circles (in Google+) to organize your acquaintances isn’t new,* but G+’s web layout sure looks a heckuva lot like Diaspora’s.

What’s that they say about the sincerest form of flattery?

And conveniently enough, a large corporation has just spent millions of dollars on a “field test” that offers plenty of learning for Diaspora*. Thanks, Google!

So last week I started asking people what they thought Diaspora* could learn from Google+. Since then Kathy, Helena, Greg, Amy, Stephen, Gretchen, Dan, Paul, Andreas, David, Cindy, Geeky, powlsy, Drew, Terry, Sylvia, Edward, Anne, Hrafn, Shiyiya, Cavlec, Wiring, Madeleine, @PRC_Amber, @blakereidm, Arvind, Dan, and many others came up with new suggestions and refined the list in discussions on Google+, Dreamwidth, Diaspora, Twitter, earlier draft, and email. Thanks to everybody who got involved! As usual, the majority of the good ideas came from others; all of the clunkers and mistakes are mine.

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A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

Although we’ve been quiet for a while, it’s because we’ve been working hard, head-down.

We’re thrilled to say we’ve built the first stage of a new social web, one better than what’s out there today: a place where each of us owns our own information, where each person controls his or her own privacy, where no-one is a product, and where we all control our own destinies.

— Maxwell, Daniel, Ilya, Sarah, Yosem and Peter, Diaspora* is making a difference

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What Diaspora (and everybody else) can learn from Google+ (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  WORK IN PROGRESS!  FEEDBACK WELCOME!

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Booberday: Google+ and Diversity, part 8

Google+ in rainbow colorsSummary: it’s a “share pictures of your cleavage because of… breast cancer! yeah!” meme. That meta-meme is potent, folks. Got something you want people to do? Claim it’s about preventing or ameliorating or alerting or grieving breast cancer. You are now the untouchable saviour. The end.

— Mary, on Geek Feminism

A surprising number of guys don’t seem to get why so many women found the G+ weekend meme of sharing pictures of cleavage under the guise of “breast cancer awareness” offensive.   Mary’s article is a great roundup, with quotes from Christa Laser, Randall Monroe, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Peggy Orenstein, as well as links out to Twisty on I Blame the Patriarchy and Lauradhel of Hoyden about Town … but even so, there’s plenty of whining about “censorship” and mansplaining about how women who feel objectified are just wrong.  Sigh.

As M. M. Faulkner said six weeks ago on Pay Attention People in Why Women Users are Important for Google+,

Furthermore, although making a joke here or there, posting a somewhat mysogynist photo, or remarking on women’s love of Farmville may seem harmless enough, I think we need to recognize there is a larger picture. What I am speaking of is a collective conscience that forms when people are bombarded with the same images and messages over and over and over. The message for the past week has been ramping up and it seems to be suggesting that we are simply are not as “ready” for Google’s latest social media network. It reminds us, as women, we are in the “wrong place” at Google Plus.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions.  All of the people I’m following steered clear from Booberday, and guys like Randall Monroe and Mohamed Mansour (who worked overnight to get out Filter Stream for Google+) really stepped forward.  But still.

A heck of a lot of women have been talking for months about things that make Google+ a hostile environment to women … and Google’s largely ignored them.

I wonder what, if anything, they’ll do in the aftermath of Booberday?

Check out the previous posts in the series: A Work in Progress, Why it matters, #nymwars!, A tale of two searches, The double bind of oppression, Anxious masculinity under threat, and Still a Ways to Go

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What can Diaspora* learn from Google+?

At last year’s Blue Hat conference, I gave a short talk on What Diaspora* can learn from Microsoft.   Now, I’d like to do the same kind of analysis with Google+.

Ten weeks into the G+ experiment, what are the key learnings for a privacy-friendly distributed social network.  Here’s a few early thoughts.

  • Diaspora’s on the right track.  Google+’s “circle” concept and page layout look like they’re based on Diaspora’s work — and imitation is the sincerest form of flatter.
  • Diaspora’s current functionally + longer posts + easy link sharing + video = enough to get people excited
  • The estimated 40% of people online who prefer “screen names” or pseudonyms are a really good target audience right now.   Geek Feminism’s excellent list of Who Is Harmed By a “Real Names” policy could be the basis of a great go-to-market plan for Diaspora
  • Gender is a text field, but corporations run by cis guys still don’t see it that way

Your thoughts welcome, either about these ideas or new ones!
jon

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Still a Ways to Go: the Suggested Users List (part 7 of Diversity and Google+)

Google+ in rainbow colors

Google Plus launched a “suggested users” list yesterday. I’m not on it, and I bet you aren’t either, particularly if you’re an educator — because, well, there aren’t any educators on the list.

— Audrey Watters, Personal Learning Networks and the Google+ “Suggested Users” list

The Google Suggested User List reads like the typical San Francisco Bay Area tech firm’s view of the World: most of the “interesting and famous people” are white, and if they’re black, they’re male rappers or athletes. Hello, Snoop Dog, Chamillionaire, 50 Cent, Dwight Howard, and Floyd Mayweather!

A couple of weeks go, Google community manager Natalie Villalobos asked for feedback on why people’s friends weren’t staying on G+.   One of the things that came up was that it was often very hard for new users to find people the thought would be interesting to follow and engage with.  There are a lot of creative ways to approach this, for example Ardith Goodwin’s suggestion of a welcoming committee.  Instead, Google+’s decided to take the same approach that worked out spectacularly badly for Twitter two years ago.  Will they fare better?

The early returns aren’t encouraging.  Dave, Robert,  and others immediately criticized the idea of a “suggested users” list and Bradley’s outreach to the Twitter elite.  After Bradley responded in Dave’s comments, and then  shared more details Saturday morningRobert asked to be removed from the list.  Bradley responded again in Robert’s comments.  And the discussion rages on.

Vic Gundotra: We value diversity. Including diversity of opinion

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Anxious Masculinity Under Threat: Google+ and Diversity, part 6

Google+ in rainbow colorsGoogle+’s naming policy isn’t failing because it’s poorly implemented, or because Google’s enforcement team is stupid. It’s failing because what they’re trying to do is (1) impossible, and (2) antisocial.

— Bob Blakley, Google+ Can Be a Social Network Or The Name Police — Not Both, Gartner Blog Network

I wonder what folks at Google thought of Chairman Eric Schmidt’s description of Google+ as an “identity service” which requires people real names? So friendly! So out of sync with what they’ve been telling the media! So … creepy!

It’s hard to see this going over well in the rest of the world, where everybody is sooo eager to share their personal information with a US company so that it’s subject to the PATRIOT Act. And here in the US, Gartner is only the latest to point out how destructive this is for Google+.

Despite its imperfections Google+ was on track for being a grand slam, taking a big chunk of audience from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and yes even Quora.* And now? The joy of the brilliantly-executed launch has dissipated. Passionate early supporters are now so anti-Google that they’re switching to Duck Duck Go and even Bing.

“Data-driven”?

“Operational excellence”?

How embarrassing.

Anxious masculinity under threat

Basically, any situation in which a group of less privileged people makes critiques or observations of the dominant group in a way that threatens to upset the dominance of that group, to change the established order somehow, or to at least make the established order seem less virtuous, normal, and inevitable, is a situation in which the tone argument gets pulled out.

Sheila Marie on “the tone argument”

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Notes from Underground: Darkness and Inflection

“When a corporation acquires great power, the use — or misuse — of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good, or for selfish and destructive means? Now this is a question we must all ask ourselves. Why? Because we are Google.”

Evolution (nymwars remix), Skyloops, remixed by anonymous

It was another week of nymwars, uncertainty, booking train tickets instead of flying, and helping friends deal with difficult emotional situations. Good thing I was inoculated! And a good thing too that DJ Anomaly’s residency at the Atrium continued with Darkness Friday night followed by Inflection on Saturday.

snickerdoodles under black lightThe crowd and music were great both nights, and the food just keeps getting better and better. Jupiter is still bright, and with clear skies and a new moon the viewing was great. The energy was somewhat relaxed, for lack of a better word … a lot of people stayed home preparing for Burning Man, so it wasn’t real crowded on the dance floor. But everybody there seemed to be having a good time. Including me!

sparkling lightsD tells me I was fairly quiet both evenings, lost in my thoughts … stop me if you’ve heard this before: dancing to psytrance, fighting for civil liberties. Back in June 2010 the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights phrased it as “the right to self-identify”. The right isn’t widely recognized yet, but we’re doing a better and better job fighting for it. Who knows how it’ll work out, but Eric Schmidt’s dream of Google+ as a government-friendly identity system (and perhaps a job in the next administration) has met with almost universal opposition in the tech press and more and more people are aware of the threat and looking for ways to respond. That’s a good thing.

Alas, as a result of all this, looking at my goals for the year, I haven’t made a lot of visible progress over the last few months. And in the process I’ve been spending most of my online time in an environment that’s hostile, sexist, and overwhelmingly male. Drat. I hate it when that happens.

Oh well, it is what it is.  And more positively there’s plenty of encouraging stuff as well. So, while things are dark in a lot of ways right now, as I let myself get lost with the music and the vibe take, I found myself thinking that perhaps the nymwars and the rest of summer 2011 also mark an inflection point.

And when I woke up late on Sunday morning, an inflection point still seemed like a good idea to me.   I heart psytrance.

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The double bind of oppression: Google+ and Diversity, part 5

Google+ in rainbow colors

Ever since it launched, I’ve spent most of my online time on Google+, and so far am very impressed from both the software engineering and business strategy perspectives. I think it’s on track to be a big success, so expect me to be talking about it a lot.

— me, in A work in progress, July 16

Google+’s first few weeks were incredibly exciting. It was social network magic, an updated version of my best experiences at places like Usenet, ezboard, tribe and free-association.  My stream was filled with visually gorgeous photos and art, great discussions, and interesting new people.  It’s got incredible potential from an activism perspective.*  Professionally, while it discombobulated the plans for my nascent startup qweries, it also presents huge opportunities.  Exciting!!!

And then the nymwars started.

Privileged much?

“I am a pseudonymous user in many, many [online] services. I appreciate the ability to go incognito and anonymous at times”

— Google VP Bradley “Bro” Horowitz**, quoted in Juan Carlos Perez’ Google Feels the Pain of Users Who Can’t Get on Google+, PC World

Bro’s boss, Vivek “Vicki” Gundotra, doesn’t go by his real name on Google+, so presumably also appreciates the value of pseudonymity.   But you wouldn’t guess it from their actions.

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Why it Matters: Google+ and Diversity, part 2

Google+ in rainbow colors

Over the past 50 hours I’ve lost a lot of friends here, and all of my transgender friends and family and all the older gay activists I was sharing with have all quietly mothballed their accounts. They can’t have their “real” names out there – they work with human rights organizations and do HIV/AIDS activism, etc.

Violet Blue, in a comment thread on Google+

Just a few days before Google+’s doors officially open on July 31, Google’s latest communications from Vic (via Robert) and Bradley on the raft of account suspensions and “common names” policy seem unlikely to put the “identity crisis” to rest.   It’s certainly a positive sign that they’re engaging, and process changes like giving people with names Google doesn’t like a week to change their account name before suspending them are certainly improvements.  That said, the impression they’re giving is that they’re going to try to hold the line with the current policy even knowing that it targets transgender people, human rights activists, people at risk for stalking and harrassment domestic violence survivors, HIV/AIDS victims and caregivers, people with names that sound weird to Americans (or for that matter people in Hong Kong who would rather go by their English names) …

Hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here.

So yes indeed, as I predicted a week ago in A Work in Progress, it’s a crucial time for diversity on Google+.  Given which it seems like a good time to step back and talk a bit about a couple reasons why diversity matters.  For me, it starts with some very intensely personal things.

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Google+ and diversity: A Work in Progress (part 1)

Google+ in rainbow colorsWith over ten million users in just two weeks, and plenty of rave reviews, Google’s latest foray into social networking is off to a great start.  Ever since it launched, I’ve spent most of my online time on Google+, and so far am very impressed from both the software engineering and business strategy perspectives. I think it’s on track to be a big success, so expect me to be talking about it a lot.

Unsurprisingly, I’ll start with diversity.

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