Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scylla and Charybdis

I have a nagging sense that I really should get a Google+ account and see what all the fuss is about. My Twitter stream has been full of lyrical accounts of the advantages of Google+ over Facebook and already there are plenty of articles and guides to using G+ in education and its potential use for collaborative learning in general. But somehow I can't bring myself to put my toe in the water yet.

From what I can see as I press my face against the shop window there are plenty of attractive features in G+ that Facebook so far lacks, especially the ability to divide your friends into circles and create separate and more specific conversation groups. It looks more structured and easier to manage too and of course it integrates so well with all the other Google services that most of us use.

I try out new apps and services all the time but I hesitate with this one. The main reason is that I can't cope with yet another social network just now. I have my networks on Twitter, Facebook and a few other places and if I start with G+ it'll be another one to keep tabs on. If all my contacts mass migrated from Facebook to G+ then maybe but at present it'll mean an even more fragmented social network (plus log-ins passwords etc). I remember joining Google Wave and then wondering what to do with it. For the time being I will observe through the window and see how it goes.

Another point is the battle for world domination taking place between Google, Apple and Facebook. An article by Sebastian Anthony on ExtremeTech this week, Google+ Too many eggs in the Google basket, warns that we should be wary of letting just one company take care of all our digital needs.

"The problem with this rationale, however rosy it may seem, is that you’re simply moving from one internet juggernaut to another. You’re taking your chips from Facebook and investing them in Google+. This might be a satisfactory solution in the short term, but do you have any rational reason to believe that it’s better in the long term? Is Google a nicer company than Facebook? Google’s record with privacy-related issues (Buzz, Street View, Wi-Fi snooping) is just as bad as Facebook’s, if not worse, and it remains under investigation by governments around the world. Google+ certainly shows that Google has learnt from its mistakes — but just remember that Google makes its money by selling you; by knowing where you live, what videos you like watching, and your entire search and surfing history, Google sells targeted advertising to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year. Selling you is of Google’s revenue stream."

They all want our interests, preferences, networks and communication so they can sell it to advertisers and we have to bear this in mind. They're out there to earn money, plain and simple, and we need to play the one off the other no matter how tempting it is to enter their attractive but walled gardens.

Like Odysseus we have to steer a careful path between Scylla and Charybdis.

Image: Work found at / CC BY-SA 3.0

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out :)

    That's the problem with Google+ -- it really is quite good. I spend hours using Google's services every day, and you can be guaranteed that G+ (and chat, and email) will eventually be integrated into it all.