'Inside Google+' Webcast light on social insights

Hour-long Webcast on Google's social network shares few social data points or analytics.

Today's live Webcast "Inside Google+" was trumpeted as an opportunity to hear how social insights gleaned from the company's newest social network Google+ is informing the search giant. But as far as social "sharing" goes, the event didn't quite deliver.

Google+

The afternoon event featured a conversation between Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, the sponsor of the highly popular Web 2.0 conferences, and Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of product, a key executive in developing and launching Google+. An early social media proponent, Horowitz oversaw Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr and Delicious before defecting to Google in 2008.

Promos for the Webcast promised to address questions like "What Google is learning from Google+ interaction data" and "How will they use this social data?" In yet another dangler: "Is social data really critical to Google's mission of organizing the world's information, or is it more relevant to their business model of advertising?" Those questions may have been too heady for today's one-on-one.

As far as social "sharing" goes, the takeaways were light--not surprising given that much of the data Google+ is pulling is proprietary. But for an hour-long live Webcast tied to this high-profile social media property and a data-driven conference (O'Reilly's upcoming "Strata Summit" in New York City), "Inside Google+" was a swift, thoughtful, amiable and sometimes enlightening riff between the two Web brainiacs.

Here are some of the top takeaways:

• First off, Bradley Horowitz really wants people to understand: Google+ is a work-in-progress. (In Google speak, it's called a "limited field trial.") Before we "open up to the world," Horowitz said, the invite-only social network is meant to be "limited in scope" and "feature set."

• "We really are just getting started," Horowitz emphasized.

• Google's +1 buttons are appearing across the web billions of times a day. "It's not just the engagement"--it's the rate of engagement" that is astonishing, Horowitz said. "There's a level of vitality in our service," he said. "It's really fast."

• Team Google+ is working hard to reel in important users who can't yet access the network: enterprise customers, teenagers, and consumer brands like Starbucks.

• Yes, Google realizes the nascent service can be "frustrating for the users who are in there," yet not every friend, colleague, or family member is able to join Google+ right now

Adds Horowitz: "We want minors to come in, give their real age, and have a great experience...when it's ready."

Inside Google, Horowitz says, there is a "deep concern for the user experience..."

On anonymity vs. real names:

• Critics--"We hear you loud and clear," Horowitz maintains.

"There's no moral opposition" to anonymity, Horowitz said. I certainly understand and appreciate the ability to go incognito... I've run Blogger and Flickr...I get it." Horowitz himself has been using the alias "elatable" for at least a decade.

"If you're going to go incognito, you've got to do it right," he said.

Still, he acknowledges, Google+ erred when blocking blogger Violet Blue for supposedly not using her real name. (It is...)

Horowitz commented, "That's our bad. We're sorry. It's a process that needs improving."

• O'Reilly likes the fact that Google+ is highly integrated with his workflow and he underscored that Google+ is generating a huge amount of comments: more than other services he's used for years. "Clearly a lot of people are paying attention," Horowitz added.

Will Google+ add threading to comments? This idea was tossed around some. "Maybe it's more natural not to have threading, "O'Reilly pondered. Horowitz replied, "I think threading is probably a good idea."

• Eventually, Google+ will open up to third-party developers.

• Google+ isn't going open source anytime soon. "That's a potential weakness for you guys," O'Reilly noted. Later Horowitz mentioned Team Google+ has been making strides toward "interoperability."

• Yes, the "noisy stream problem" is being addressed too.

• Indeed: There's spam on Google+

• In regards to the Google+ "Share" box, Horowitz said "There are some exciting things coming...literally in days."

 

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