Answering my own questions since 2001

Checking in on Vine, Google+ and App.net

Since I started using Instagram, there have been times when I’ve wanted to share a short video instead of an image. Because Instagram is so much about mood, atmosphere and tone, I’ve wanted to share a few seconds of the wind along the canal, or the busyness of a Paris subway during rush hour. For those moments, video seemed to be the superior medium.

Along came Vine, from Twitter, which is Instagram for videos of up to six seconds. To use an old term, it’s video micro-blogging for the masses. Twitter seems to have undertaken a minimum viable product approach to Vine, as it has a simple user interface with no editing tools or filters.

You can, however, make cuts on the fly by starting and stopping the video. I’m reminded of how we used to ‘edit’ on camcorders, before we had digital tools. You built your video in consecutive order by pushing the red button–on and off, new scene, on and off. Shooting multiple shots to build a six-second video has seemingly become the default behavior.

This act of assembling shots over time–even if it’s only a minute or two–makes Vine a different beast than Instagram. For most users, I think that Instagram is about capturing a spontaneous and fleeting moment. Meanwhile, the emergent behavior on Vine is to construct a narrative over time. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just more different from Instagram than it might first appear. It’s also much more artificial. In order to cut a video together, Vine users must make a more consciously artistic gesture.

I’m almost always wrong when I make predictions like this, but I see Vine finding a humble but sustainable place in the social media landscape. Perhaps like Vimeo, it will have a small, loyal user base and will occasionally get a burst of mainstream attention.

Ghosttown+

Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) remains a really boring ghost town. It’s more like of those half-constructed sub-divisions built during the recession: there’s a little activity but mostly it’s all quiet and weeds. I’ve genuinely tried hard to engage and be engaging on Google+*, but I’ve failed miserably on both counts.

The two most common defenses of Google+ that I hear are:

  • It’s not about building a rival network. It’s Google’s attempt to capture your social graph to provide better search results and show you more relevant ads. That’s possibly true, and there’s no question that Google+ can positively impact your site’s search engine optimization. However, most of these benefits are felt by Google, not by the end user.
  • Google+ isn’t a social network, it’s an interest network. That’s great, because I’ve never had a place on the Internet to talk about theĀ  Canucks.

Google+ may very well destroy Facebook, but it’s got a ways to go. Consider that publishing and technology titan Tim O’Reilly has been encircled by (meaning he’s being followed by) about 2.2 million people. His posts average about 100 ‘pluses’ (the equivalent of ‘like’s) and about 40 comments. Counting in some shares, too, that means he’s engaging with about 0.0001% of his audience. And I think he’s doing a really good job.

Knowing that people love to use a new medium to talk about that medium, I asked a question about Google+ as interest network yesterday. It was Friday around noon PST, which seemed like a time when plenty of the roughly 6000 people following me might be using the tool. I’ve received one comment, and it wasn’t really an answer to the question I asked.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s a chore for me to go post and interact on Google+. That may change. Google has mountains of money and pretty much unparalleled reach online, so I wouldn’t count them out.

* A tedious footnote: I recently undertook a baroque process to merge my Google+ account with one of my core email addresses. That meant that a year’s worth of posted content and activity disappeared from my account. It was no great loss, but now it looks like I’m a new user. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I’ve been spending roughly half an hour on Google+ a week for the last year.

Paying to Socialize

When I was about 23, Julie and I traveled around Costa Rica. It was early December, and we spent a few days at the beach at a near-empty resort. The beaches were beautiful, the grounds were lovely and there were almost no other guests. That’s what App.net feels like right now–an abandoned country club.

App.net is an audacious, rather generic social network that has one unusual characteristic: people had to pay to use it. This was an audacious and controversial idea, but they achieved their threshold of 10,000 users, and so have embarked on a plan to build an advertising-free social network. I felt pretty conflicted about the idea. On the one hand, I’m quite anti-advertising. But on the other, I don’t like the idea of a kind of posh retreat for the technorati.

It’s all a bit academic at this stage. I’m only following 20 friends thus far, and only one of them has posted to App.net in the past week. I gather that lots of the 10,000 users who supported App.net were endorsing the idea of a commercial-free app with their money.

3 Responses to “Checking in on Vine, Google+ and App.net”

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