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Google+ makes me happier than Facebook

Google+ splits the difference between Facebook and Twitter, and the result is a new social network that actually works.

For the past week, I've been running a small experiment. I've been mirroring most of my Twitter and Facebook posts to Google+ to see how the different communities respond. The result: Google+ makes me happier.

The disclaimers: This is just me, your mileage may vary. Google+ is a still a new and closed system. These results may look very different in a month. And most importantly, I believe that the quality of a social network service has a lot more to do with who's on it than the technology behind it.

But still, there's something about Google+ that is very soothing to the ego. From Twitter, Google+ borrows the broadcast model of distribution: Anybody can follow the public posts of a Google+ user, just as anyone can follow everything posted into a public Twitter profile. That means people can like you more than you like them. Lovely.

So I can see now that I have more than 2,200 people following me in Google+, or to use G+ terminology, I'm "in their circles." There's no need for me to "encircle" them back, although if any of them want to comment on a Google+ post I make, I'll see the comments in my stream. I can then add the users I like to my own circles to see everything they want to share. (I'm not a Google+ superstar, by the way. There are other tech media personalities with more than ten times my followers.)

You can't have this kind of discussion on Twitter, and I never get it on Facebook, either. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

This asymmetrical relationship model is completely different from Facebook's standard model, where sharing happens only between people who have "friended" each other. Facebook does have a broadcast model with its Fan pages, but it is a real drag to maintain both a personal and a public Facebook persona. In Google, you can easily decide, as you're making an update, if you want it to go to personal followers, the world at large, or both. It works better.

I did set up my own Facebook fan page recently (before Google+ launched) but I find it tedious to manage. And since it has a very small followership, the payback for posting there is not great. Google gives me more.

Google+ does borrow good stuff from Facebook, though, and one-ups Twitter in how it handles conversations that take off. Like almost every other site that allows commenting on posts (blogs, message boards, and so on), each conversation on Google+ gets its own home, so it's easy to have a conversation with just the people who are replying to a post. One of Twitter's biggest failings is the way it doesn't handle conversations that flow out of tweets.

Back to my minor experiment. I set up Twitter a long time ago to mirror my posts to Facebook. This makes it easy for me to reach my readers (on Twitter) as well as my friends (on Facebook) by writing only one tweet. I realize that posts written for the short form of Twitter don't always play perfectly on Facebook, but the strategy works well enough, and sometimes a topic that thuds on Twitter will get some traction among my Facebook friends. Or vice versa.

Since there's as yet no way to automatically port Tweets to Google+, I've been copying and pasting them from my Twitter client to Plus. But as long as that process is manual, I've been taking advantage of the fact that since Google+ doesn't have Twitter's 140-character length limit, I can embellish my tweets before posting them as Google+ updates. I'm making them Google-native.

It's been worth it. Not all my posts on Google+ pay off with feedback, but of those that do, there are things I like.

First, the feedback comes fast. Twitter-fast. Sometimes you get commentary on a post in seconds. But unlike Twitter, the feedback doesn't cease arriving after 30 seconds. The half-life of a post on Google+ is longer than a post on Twitter, and for me about the same as a good Facebook post.That may be due to the smaller size of the audience compared to Twitter, and thus the lower message flow, but for now, it makes for better conversations.

Second, the feedback is, for the most part, some healthy combination of intelligent, useful, supportive, or funny. Twitter feedback is often emotionally shallow (not much room left after a retweet) and Facebook feedback is often personally gratifying but not that professionally useful. Perhaps because Google+ conversations are more public, people take more time to say something that's not just positive to me, but that reflects well on them. They're marketing themselves, maybe unconsciously, and this leads to higher-quality feedback. This happens sometimes on major industry blogs. It would happen more if blog comment systems only allowed in users under their real names, as is policy at Google and Facebook.

I'm not ready to move to Google+ completely, since I still have a larger and professionally valuable follower-base on Twitter, and because everyone in my personal network is on Facebook while few of my non-work friends and family members are on Google+. But I am finding that the effort I put into being part of this community is paying off both personally and professionally, and it's leading me to spend more time on the service and put less effort into the others. Google has finally made a social product that works.

Related, from 2008: The looming crisis: Personal syndication overload