Google+ Circles Catalyst Speaks Out About Google Defection
If you're interested in the background and social construct behind Google+, you really need to read Paul Adams' post on why he left Google, where he designed what would form the core behind Google+ Circles.
Unlike Facebook, where the default broadcasting is one-to-many, Google+ Circles let users select who they want to friend, follow or connect with to view their links, photos and videos.
As a user experience designer at Google, Adams wrote the Real Life Social Network, which was leaked a year ago while Google was working on +, then called Emerald Sea:
Google is an engineering company, and as a researcher or designer, it's very difficult to have your voice heard at a strategic level. Ultimately I felt that although my research formed a cornerstone of the Google social strategy, and I had correctly predicted how other products in the market would play out, I wasn't being listened to when it came to executing that strategy. My peers listened intently, but persuading the leadership was a losing battle. Google values technology, not social science. I also moved because the culture had changed dramatically in the few years I was at Google. It became much more bureaucratic and political.
This is starting to become a worrisome mantra, as Google has grown so large and political that it has lost its "hacker" culture, as Dhanji R. Prasanna noted.
Of course, Google just reloads with more people who can deal with bureaucracy and being subverted by leadership, but it's downright depressing.
Adams said Google also blocked him from publishing his book, Social Circles, presumably to preserve a competitive advantage that was ultimately lost when The Real Life Social Network went viral. He is writing another book.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this post is that the last part -- the one about what he does at Facebook -- speaks to my theory that he works on Facebook Groups or is rewriting the social graph infrastructure to be more like Google+ Circles.
Actually, it deftly flattens it; Adams works on user-facing ads for Facebook, of all things.
At first blush, this struck me as strange. I tend to view ads as a necessary pestilence for these Internet companies to make money: The cost of my user engagement is ads for movie trailers or processed food products. Not much different from TV, but just as ubiquitous.
But when you consider that Adams has a knack for smoothly translating social relations online, it makes total sense to have someone with his keen skills to make ads both effective, unobtrusive and user-friendly.
If it weren't for the fact that Google allegedly blocked his book, I'd root for the search engine to lure him back. As it is, I don't see it happening.
But I do give kudos to Adams for taking time to update us and clarify things. The speculation was killing me!