Paul Adams, lead for User Research for Social at Google, shared a presentation a few days back that was picked up by Venture Beat among others. I am sharing it here along with my own thoughts as I think it deserves a closer look.
- Paul currently works on Buzz and YouTube
- Google is rumored to be working on Google Me, a rival network to Facebook
- A single umbrella group of “Friends” in an online network doesn’t mirror real-life and leads to problems. Support multiple independent groups of friends.
- Focusing on technology is a wrong strategy. Focus should instead be on Motivation and Goals.
- Design needs are different for different relationship types – strong ties, weak ties, and temporary ties. One solution doesn’t fit all.
- Different communication channels are needed for different types of relationships.
- Role of influencers is over-estimated. Also need to focus on network of person being influenced. Influence works most within close ties.
- Network should support multiple facets of identity and also anonymity.
- We think people care less about privacy because they misunderstand complicated privacy settings.
- People underestimate the size of their audience and persistent nature of their conversations online.
- There is no mention of any geeky stuff here – Open ID, standards, protocols, etc. It is refreshing to see truly social insights coming from Google.
- For each of the problems identified with current online social networks, Paul uses Facebook as an example. Most of them also apply to Google’s Orkut, but Paul chooses to ignore Orkut as if it doesn’t exist.
- While its heartening to see these insights from Google, their real challenge is for the Product Managers and Head of Social to take what they’ve got and build on this vision.
- Google needs many more Paul Adams.
- The critical insight is how Paul (and by extension, Google) thinks that there can be no one size fits all approach to social networking. Facebook users already experience the problems Paul describes by mixing close friends, acquaintances, and online strangers together in common conversations.
- Taking this forward, Google may well be saying that Buzz is a network designed for your acquaintances and weak ties. And if Google Me were indeed under development, looks like it will be a network designed for close ties – family and close friends – which is how Facebook initially started.