Google+ Forefather Paul Adams Works at Facebook

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-07-04 Print this article Print

The programmer responsible for laying the foundation for Google+ -- particularly the complex Circles method of social graphing -- now works for Facebook.

This recalls news from nearly a year ago, but it begs a refresher course after Paul Adams responded to questions about his influence on a Google+ thread.

Here's the current backdrop: Adams updated his status on Google+ by writing "test" June 30. Soon after, folks following him were commenting about how much they liked Google+.

Shore Communications analyst John Blossom wrote: "Welcome, Paul, I know that you've moved on from Google but I hope that you are very, very proud at this moment. This is all about what your vision made possible."

What does Blossom mean by that? A year ago, when news about Google+ (it was called a few things then) trickled out of the blogosphere, Adams, who had worked on Google Buzz, issued a paper called The Real Life Social Network v2. Here it is:

We forgive you now if you choose not to read these 216 pages. The gist of this paper presented a solution to Facebook, where the premise is that humans have one big social circle.

Adams argued that people have multiple social circles and therefore need to have multiple privacy walls. Online social profiles and networks we create, he argued, don't rightly sync with our real-world networks.

Fast forward to June 28, when Google launched Google+ as a more nuanced approach to social software.

In particular, Circles allow users to categorize others as family, friends, acquaintances, and people that users wish to follow. + users may also build their own networks of Circles.

The idea is that people can choose to separate what they post for their friends to see from what they choose to share with their bosses and colleagues. This is the separation Adams articulated a year ago.

On +, I asked Adams, who in a move that defines the very notion of irony left Google for Facebook at the start of 2011: "This nuanced + approach seems an awful lot like the basis of your big treatise from when you worked at Google. ... Care to comment?"

He didn't ... that day, though others picked up on the meme and Adams finally broke his silence July 3 on his personal blog.

"Since Google+ launched last week, many people have been asking me my opinion about it. Unfortunately I can't talk about specifics (hello, non-disclosure agreements) but I can talk broadly about the state of the world."

That broad talk? It echoes the philosophies he so meticulously espoused in his paper for Google. Adams asks the big questions:

  1. Our offline relationships are very complex. Should we try and replicate the attributes and structure of those relationships online, or will online communication need to be different?
  2. If we do try and replicate the attributes of our relationships, will people take the time and effort to build and curate relationships online, or will they fall back to offline interactions to deal with the nuances?

Adams doesn't claim to know the answer to either question. Some folks will curate. Others won't and prefer the lazy Facebook one-to-many broadcast blasts it's become famous for.

All of which makes me wonder, since Adams is still thinking about this, whether Adams is working on reconstructing the Facebook social graph to be more like Google+ Circles.

What would we call that? Facebook Plus?

Seriously though, Adams gets real deep when he notes:

When we meet people, for the first time, or for the ten thousandth time, there are far too many signals for the conscious brain to take in, analyze, and compute what to do. So our non-conscious brain does the analysis for us, and delivers a feeling, which determines how we react and how we behave. It's our non-conscious brain that will be deciding which social network succeeds and which one fails. It's going to take most, if not all, of our lifetime to figure out what is happening in the non-conscious brain. This is just the beginning.

It could be Adams is working on some predictive social networking models. Maybe Facebook is going to use sentiment analysis to determine how to group people. Blossom suggested Adams is working on improving group management at Facebook. Adams did not comment.

Imagine a social network, which is static until we augment it, whose graph changed based on cues or signals its users leave. So the software notes that Mandy and Mindy are engaging in a flame war online, then changes their "friend" status to something else.

Of course, that assumes Mandy and Mindy have bared their beefs online. It won't translate from offline to online without some sort of input. Just spitballing what the future of social networking might entail. |

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