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Should You Be in Control of Your Social Streams?

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Written by on July 15, 2013

A couple of days ago I noticed that Google+ had started adding posts that my friends had +1'd to my stream. This is problematic for so many reasons, so I shared the post below on Google+, with which people both agreed and disagreed.

And this opened a much bigger discussion about who should be in control of your stream. I will discuss why this is important in this article, but first take a read of my post.

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Get your freaking +1s out of my stream...

If you ask people what they find most annoying about Facebook, it's lack of relevancy. Especially in the early years when every time a friend of yours liked or interacted with something, you would see that in your stream (and you still mostly do).

For instance, a friend of yours would like a picture of one of their friends newborn baby, which would then show up in your stream. But you don't care about a picture of someone's baby when you have no idea who they are.

What Facebook failed to understand was the difference between a like and a share. A like is a thumbs up. A way for you to say that this was valuable to you as an individual.

A share, however, is much more. It's when something is both valuable to you as an individual and to your friends.

In other words, a like is a way for me to say that this is great, but it's not relevant to other people around me. So let's keep this between us. Whereas a share is saying this is great and it is relevant to everyone else as well. Let's spread it!

It's a very simple concept that Facebook has never understood, and one of the reasons why we like Google+ today.

But today I am starting to see other people's +1s in my stream. Below, for instance, is one from +Visnja Zeljeznjak (who BTW is a great person).

But when Visjna +1'd this post, she said: "I like that post, but it's NOT RELEVANT for my followers". To which Google+ is now saying "Screw you, Visnja. We are going to share it anyway because we want to boost our engagement stats."

This is Facebook all over again. Facebook never understood that when we decide not to share something, that post should never show up in other people's streams.

Google+ I love you guys. I think Google+ is the best social network that we have. But stop making it worse. First, by changing the format (and deemphasizing in-post links) which made it almost useless for longer posts like this one. Then by adding auto-awesome which turned our stream into a constantly blinking animated gif, and now by adding posts to my stream that other people have decided not to share.

Google, we expect you to be better than this. If we want crap and irrelevant posts in our streams, there are plenty of other places that we can go.

We love Google+ because of the value it creates, not the noise!

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You might agree or disagree with my post, but that's not really what's interesting. What's interesting is why you might agree or disagree.

When it comes to information, we have always had two different forms of content:

  1. Content that we decided to consume, when we wanted to consume it, and how we wanted to consume it.
  2. Content that others decided that we could consume, when and how we could consume it.

Think of Spotify versus Radio. With Spotify, you decide what music to listen to. You decide when to listen to it, where to listen, and in most cases also how to listen to it. You are always in control.

With radio, however, you can only decide when to listen to the radio as a whole, but you don't control what you are going to hear, or when a specific song is played. You have no control over what is being presented to you.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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