Dear +Google+ (and +Leo Deegan),

Dear +Google+ (and +Leo Deegan),

Let me start by saying that I (used to) love G+.
I was there from the very beginning and it suited me just fine back then.
I believe it reached its best around 2 years ago, and since then has only been a disappointment.
It does hurt me to say this, but this latest update currently only puts the nail in the coffin.
+Elizabeth Hahn has already gone through most of what is so wrong with it (in a very soft and sweet way…), so I will not go through the same approach (do read it here though ), but will try to take a step back and understand how you came to make such a terrible, terrible, terrible product… and also what I believe is needed to make it better (some of it is just taking a time machine, so that should not be too difficult, right?).

I think it all starts on a few misconceptions. Let me list them and then get into the details:
1/ People did not like that every Google product was linked with G+
2/ Google+ is for interests, not friends, so should not include too many social aspects
3/ Most people are using Mobile nowadays so let's focus on that
4/ It is all about the user interface
5/ Changing things will bring new users

1/ People did not like that every Google product was linked with G+
OK, so I think that is when +Vic Gundotra started being on the slippery slope at Google.
I sort of agreed with people complaining about everything REQUIRING to be a Google+ user to be made available.
Yet I had no freaking idea how terrible +Google+'s interpretation of this fact would be.
People not WANTING to be forced to Google+ to have access to other features does not (in any single way) mean that Google+ users disliked the direct availability of such features within their social platform of choice.
Quite the contrary I believe.
Hangouts, Events, Photos, YouTube, etc, what a rich way to interact with fellow Google+ users… but I will get to that in an upcoming misconception.
What was so difficult with letting the INTEGRATION live without forcing the use of individual products (Photos/Hangouts/etc) on to all users? I have no clue, and it makes no sense.
After a few disappointments, this became all so clear after the Google Photos update: Is it good on its own? Maybe, and I suppose someone looking for a Flickr replacement might enjoy it… but as a social tool? What a mess.
Posting photos on G+ (which is physically supposed to be impossible as everything goes to Google Photos) does not equal to "uploading photos on Google Photos" and vice versa, where if one creates an album on Google Photos, sharing it on G+ is exactly the same as sharing it on Facebook… I mean… really?
Bottomline: Integration is good, forcing things upon users is bad. Integrating Google features within G+ while letting anyone use these other products as standalone options is therefore the best way to go.

2/ Google+ is for interests, not friends, so should not include too many social aspects
Ah, this one has to be my favorite.
Ever since Google+'s launch, I have been pushing this comparison to defend my enjoyment of Google+ over Facebook:
"If I want to share things with "Friends", I can use Facebook… or most likely email them / call them, but if I want to find people with the same interests as I do, Google+ is where it is at"
I guess you have received many such feedback and you took it for the words that were in the sentence, not for what it means as a whole.
It is BECAUSE we are talking about people you do not necessarily know in real life that all the social features are key to Google+ as opposed to Facebook where they should just be a bonus (I mean, Facebook really is supposed to be about Friends or at least people you know in real life and then add them on there… which means you have their phone number, or email address, or both, allowing you to deal with any social need with them).
So yes, being able to interact with users on Google+ is key to the experience, and ridding the product of this is the best way to kill it (or make it pinterest-like, but we would not want that, would we?).
Here is what the experience looks like in this new update
Hangouts: "Oh no, I do not know this person in real life, I am not going to bother him/her on a separate tool, if only I had a simple way of chatting with them on Google+" –> Lost opportunity
Hangouts on Air: "Damn, people having me in their circles really seem to want more interaction, I should start a live show… but how will I let them know that I started something… if only it were integrated in Google+" –> Lost opportunity
Events: "How great would it be if we could create events to set-up meetups for these people that don't yet actually know each other… nah I am not going to invite them through a third party tool, it would be awkward… if only it was a feature within Google+" –> Lost opportunity
And so on and so forth.
Bottomline: BECAUSE people got in touch on Google+ first and not in real life, they need this simple/natural/integrated way of creating all the interaction, not some third party tool that will come and break their experience.

3/ Most people are using Mobile nowadays so let's focus on that
DAMN I HATE THIS ONE (sorry for the caps).
God (yes, you +Google+ god), why dumb things down, why, why, why.
So many features reported missing (in +Elizabeth Hahn's post but in many other complaints as well) stink the "this interface was made for mobile then ported to desktop" syndrome (hovering on names, +ing posts in two clicks/taps, missing details in "about me", even the death of integration of events and hangouts I suppose…).
Of course, you got us used to that already with the stupid column way of seeing things in our stream, forcing us to either opt for a three-column design (which for some unknown reason switched to two-columns… go figure) or an awkwardly tiny column in the middle of our 20+" (and I am being conservative) screens, but this was just an INTERFACE thing, which at least did not kill the whole EXPERIENCE… which leads me to the fourth misconception.
Bottomline: Desktop experience should always include the nice little bonuses that the keyboard + mouse combo allows, without however letting mobile users in the dark for some features (thinking of mobile "community management" (literally) for example).

4/ It is all about the user interface
Honestly, and with no disrespect: How can you call this the "new G+"?
What it is is a "dumbed down version of what users enjoyed, put in a new interface, that – no matter how pretty it might be – we simply ported from mobile to bigger screens".
You do understand how stupid this all reads, right?
I have read somewhere about G+ developers being very proud of how quickly it all loads (go figure, we have 1/10th of the G+ we used to have, so it must have helped) or how consistent the experience is between desktop and mobile (which is not a "plus" (if you don't mind the pun) since the use of Google+ is certainly not the same across all devices).
A new G+, in 2015, and if what you want is to focus on interests, would not be about the interface (well, it sort of has to be, but that should not be the masterpiece), but about the experience.
Damn, collections and communities, in the way they are currently, could have been invented in the late 1990s (OK, I am pushing this a bit far, but I hope you get my point), not in the late 2010s!
I mean, what point is it to have so many smart people, smart algorithms, deep knowledge of your users if not to make the most of it all when it comes to (re)creating a platform that is based on interests?
This was already part of the frustration when it was all about photos and their albums. It was not yet 2015, so there was hope that by then it would be sorted, but we have all seen since then that it was a lost hope with the latest Google Photos update…
How can a company that came up with the simple-yet-brilliant idea of tags (and then automatic filtering) within emails create a notion of "albums" within Google+? All-the-more when demonstrating its capacity of automatically figuring out what content (in this case Photos, but we have seen through Gmail that it also works with text, maybe even more efficiently) is about?
A photo of the Eiffel tower should not need to be added to one specific album. Is this sorted by the location (Paris)? The technical style of the photo (B&W)? The sort of subject (Architecture)?
I should not have to choose that as someone posting content, it should be up to users trying to find this content to access it in the more intuitive way: If they are looking for my B&W photos, they should find it there, same with architecture.
(I personally stopped using G+ as a daily driver (except for a few communities) when I saw that this was all falling apart, not heading in the right direction, making a mess of all my content)
The same surely applies to all sorts of content, and the experience regarding collections should be the same: At the very least, if I follow one collection from someone (which I absolutely do not feel like doing as I have seen in the past that some people bother with such classification for 10 to 15 posts then entirely forget about – call me unlucky, but the first Featured collection that caught my attention just now was this one, not updated in the past… 49W :/, I should be able, in a click, to find all related collections, and add them in one aggregated view for a specific topic.
Same goes with the lost real estate on desktop: What is stopping you from using the same sort of technology as what Google Now is using, helping in populating content that will be of interest to G+ users to further their experience (Google Now is efficient most of the time)?
Bottomline: Come on Google, you can do better and bring all your smarts to the social+interest game. May the force be with you.

5/ Changing things will bring new users
Finally, and this might be the most frustrating thing yet.
Who is this update for?
– Is it a way to convince new users to join in? If so, I have no clue how you intend this to work… and am looking forward to seeing how efficient it is
– Is it a way to convince existing users to stick around? If so, I think this has only broken more things than before and not fixed a single issue nor added anything to the experience (again, fixing the issues was as simple as heading a few versions back, while adding something to the experience was… not about the interface, nor stripping us users of the tools we enjoy using)
Bottomline: Please, please, please, do not keep on trying to fix things that are not broken to try and gain users you have not – I believe – actually identified. This is just pushing G+ active users away to some other more relevant platforms

Sorry for making this so long to read through, I hope you have.
I just wanted to focus on the big picture, why and how this update does not fit with what G+ is (to me) rather than focus on specific features, I am certain that you have already received many complaints (yes, at this stage it is more about complaints than feedback I believe :/).
My only hope is that G+ can be awesome (again), but this update is not reassuring in any way, and I feel bad saying that I am quite happy that I added a few people I originally met on G+ as "friends" on Facebook, no matter how I dislike the Facebook experience.
I do not think I will be sending individual feedback from specific pages as I really feel like this needs a global overhaul (strategically and in terms of user experience) so I will not encourage any micro-fix that will just let you take us further away from what Google+ is and should be about.
EDIT: Oh, just one simple thing: I just edited a few typos on this post and I need to scroll back up the whole post to click on "DONE", really? Come on, for what is mostly an interface update, this is borderline amateur…

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18 réflexions au sujet de « Dear +Google+ (and +Leo Deegan), »

  1. And events are the main thing I use G+ for (because we need them for Photowalk Paris), yet obviously are not a high priority for Google. And I haven't forgotten how the move to Google photos has hurt me. Actually remember it every time I want to show my work on my tablet, which is quite often 🙁 And on and on, …

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