Can we expect Google Groups?

This week a very interesting presentation by Paul Adams of Google was published on Slideshare called The Real Life Social Network. He nailed some trends in social media on real behavior. It was all over the blogosphere already. It reminds me of my presentation on virtual gated communities at Reboot 11 in 2008. One of the things I was thinking about back then was the way we would create groups with different levels of privacy. It will be very interesting if the presented visions of Adams are translated into a new social approach by Google, just like the rumor that was spread this week by former CTO of Google. Interesting to see how Google are trying to use another angle to confront facebook, with a differentiation in groups. Another thought I had is still valid: can we have interoperability in these groups between different providers?

Paul Adams shows in more than 200 slides a lot of hard research data to prove his three important guidelines for designing social systems:

  • design for different groups; we divide colleagues from friends, from family, etc. Design systems that fit multiple groups.
  • design for different levels of friend-intimacy; strong ties and weak ties are well known distinctions already, he adds also the temporary ties, all the people we meet online, have a functional contact with and are gone afterwards. Like the client service guy you chat with for one occasion.
  • design tools that support how people look to others. A lot of people don’t know what the impact is of publishing in social networks.

In my Reboot presentation I focused on a possible trend that in the future we will close our social communities more and more to specific groups because that would be the only way to feel free enough to be yourself. In the end this is maybe not happening as fast as I expected two years ago, the grouping within communities as with the Twitter list-function however is just one step away from exclusive groups. There will be always a tension with an open and growing social service.

I am curious if and how Google will think of a solution for this tension. And of course if they are capable to create something simple so that we want to use it. And very important is the necessary interoperability. Using my existing lists, and categorization of friends in Facebook for example could give it a kickstart.

Google is not all to lucky with introducing social stuff. The big question is if the urge to make different groups is becoming more important than the power of viral distribution. In the web of people it is essential for Google  to find a way to deal with the shift from searching to asking for recommendations. With Facebook buying Nextstop the battle for the new search is just begun…

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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