Speaking on stage at SXSW, the head of Google+ and Google’s social efforts, Vic Gundotra, made some digs at Facebook’s ads being intrusive, Twitter messing with third-party developers and shared some activity stats that didn’t really clarify if Google+ is a “ghost town” or not. But he wasn’t afraid to joke about it.
Gundotra was interviewed Guy Kawasaki, who hit a number of tough questions all the while with a smile and a joke. Below is my live blog of the session. Expect some typos, but I have tried to clean things up a bit.
I’m supposed to live blog, but this will be posted later, because AT&T seems to be deliberately blocking me from starting a hotspot. Weird. Wrong. Anger. And Verizon, well, everyone’s trying to use them — sluggish.
Guy comes out in dapper looking hat, welcoming us. “Let’s start with the basics,” he says. “What exactly is Google+?”
Vic says there’s a simple answer and a more colorful one.
“Google+ is a social layer across all of Google’s services,” he says.
Google has habit of making the extraordinary ordinary, he says. He talks about zooming in on Google Maps from space to earth, wasn’t that amazing? Some Googlers off to my right clap.
Some things Google could do better. What if Google could understand not just pages but people. Google ooked at its services that were widely popular, YouTube, Search…
Buzz, says Guy, to laughs….
It’s A Unifying Layer
Vic continues, if you wanted to highlight and share content across Google’s services, it was all different. It became obvious to us that we could build a unifying social layer across properties.
Of Ducks & Rabbits
Now we’re getting a picture of a duck. But if you show it to kids at Easter, they see a bunny. Hey! I see it now [I'll try to upload it later]. And people have expected one thing from social sites, walled off, but when they see Google+, that “We’re not bulding a duck, a rabbit, they get it.” It’s a layer across services.
Now talking about a friend of his. What if you knew only one bit of info about someone. If you were going to highlight what your friends have to say, and one is a vegetarian, would you optimize searches for that for you? Of course you would.
How About That Evil Thing?
Guy: But where do you draw the line “Are you still not doing any evil?”
Vic: With one click, people can leave Google. “If we break the user’s trust, we can lose to competitors very easily.” That’s why Circles [in Google+] was built, to allow for better privacy. We think personalization can be very good.
Is Google+ Used?
Guy wants metrics.
Vic asks how many use it in the audience. “You all must be Casper The Friendly Ghost” he jokes, you know, because Google is a ghost town, as it got called recently in a Wall Street Journal article.
50 Million Active Daily, 100 Million Active Monthly
OK, now we have new metrics, Vic says. How many active in last 30 days? 100 million, and 50 million one day actives. “This is the fastest growing service we’ve ever seen at Google.”
I need to double check if these are new from the already new numbers that Google gave the New York Times in this article.
Guy wants more clarity. In the case of the 100 million, these are people who have come back to Google+ within 30 days and done something at Google+.
“Active” Doesn’t Mean Active Within Google+
Yes, Vic says. But then he starts qualifying. Hmm, talking about the “new Google,” the one with all this social stuff added on now. What they count is someone who signs up for Google+, then if you go to a service that’s optimized for that like YouTube, that counts.
Guy’s not happy, wants to know how many people do stuff just at Google+. Vic says that’s the wrong way to measure, that measuring like that means things that happen at unnamed competitors [cough Facebook] might not even get counted properly for them, if you think that way. Which I’ve either misheard or really, I think he’s saying something that makes no sense.
Guy, what about people who say there’s no one there, like unnamed Forbes columnists.
Vic, I’d say first, make sure you’re using it properly. Are you sharing it publicly?
Bradley Horowitz of Google+ says a whisper is as good as a shout, Vic says.
Why Suggest “Quiet” People?
Guy says he was driving with Robert Scoble, who says Google+ is dumb for telling him to follow people who don’t post publicly.
Vic says if you’re a celebrity like Robert, Google+ probably need better a suggestions algorithm.
Does Social Activity Influence Ad Targeting?
Guy: my behavior on Google+, does that impact ads I see elsewhere on the internet? [i'm loving Guy's questions, by the way]
Vic: it does not today. And there’s a bright line, I think he said, of their ads and that of their competitors [you know, Facebook].
We Don’t Do Intrusive Social Ads [Like Facebook]
Vic goes on: We don’t want to show ads with your personal pics for example, but rather at a time of social intent, say you’re sharing a restaurant, I think he said, that’s a good time to do it.
Commerial intent is something we call search, by the way.
Guy: So you’re saying the Facebook Album ripoff of your albums have ads and you don’t?
Vic says when it comes to social services, people are there to socialize, not to necessarily get commercial pitches.
We have no plans to inject ads into your photo albums, he says, when Guy asks about that specifically.
[My live blogging doesn't capture this whole segment fully, so let me add some more context after the fact.
Gundotra is saying that Google doesn't show ads within Google+ because that's not the right place to be showing them, that it's as intrusive as pitching something to a friend at a baseball game you're both watching -- that was another metaphor he talked about in this segment.
And who does show ads like this? Gundotra, well trained from his years at Microsoft before coming to Google, never names the competitor. But it was clear he's talking about Facebook, and the idea that Facebook is shoving ads in front of people in ways that Google things they don't belong.
Them's fighting words. Facebook would likely counter that Google (1) has so few people that it's not worth showing them ads or (2) will end up showing ads down the line, but is playing a high-road game now.
Google+ & Personalized Search
Guy: does Google+ impact my searches?
Vic: Tells story about a new Canon camera. If you follow a photographer and they makes a comment about it, the comment about that camera shows up right there in your search results. "We think that's a better model."
"It's an incredibly tiny amount," he says of people who turn off personalization. Guy says but it's on by default. Yes, but Vic says easier to turn off than in the past when on by default [which is aboslutely true].
By the way, see our story on Search Engine Land today with a fresh look, and some fresh stats, on personalized search: Pew Report: 65% View Personalized Search As Bad; 73% See It As Privacy Invasion.
No API, Because We Don’t Want To Piss Off Developers [Like Twitter]
Guy, the API situation is borked.
Vic: Yes, agreed, but don’t want to do it. “I’ve seen others …. open up a third party ecosystem … and later change their minds and piss off developers.” He’s talking about Twitter.
Guy, but I want to share from my camera to Google+ like I can on Android to Twitter and Facebook.
Vic, you can do it with the intent model.
Guy explains more he wants to use the native camera to share application to share.
Vic gets it now, says months of testing that needs to happen to make things like that work.
Guy: Before the end of 2012, can I post to Google+ without using Google+, by say using Hootsuite without being in the enterprise program. Some claps for that.
Vic says again, doesn’t want to anger developers by changing things.
Guy says do it anyway.
Vic says OK, we could say it’s open but subject to change.
Guy: they’re Facebook developers, they’re used to that.
Vic: we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Some boos from the audience about that.
[Again, time to make things clear, if they aren't already. Twitter started out with an API that allowed lots of developers to create all sorts of products. Then it began buying some of those products and making them official, and other developers wondered if that meant Twitter was going to abandon them.
In fact, about a year or maybe two ago, Twitter even told developers hey, don't build clients. There are plenty of them. Build somethig unique, different.
There was some bad blood over all that, and Gundotra's referencing it. Of course, Twitter would likely that the reason Google doesn't have an API for Google+ is more to do with Google being lame than looking out for developers, or so I would guess].
Many Followers? Real Time Means Up To Minute & Half “Delay”
Guy: when I post to followers, how real time is that?
Vic talks about how as a kid, they’d make long distance calls, and there would be an echo. With Google+ having an emphasis on real time, people felt the conversation was better. As for Guy’s question, for most people, posts go out in real time, but as you get closer to like a million followers…
Guy jokes he’s almost there, and could there be commas in the count?
Vic says they didn’t anticipate, “hard for us to dream” there would be people who had too many followers in six months.
Vic goes back to real time, when you have that many followers, they have to “fan out” to followers and can take up to one and half minutes to go out.
Google+ & Automatic Spam Detection
Guy asks about spam. Long story about an infinity pool. Now Caddyshack. Is it a turd or candy bar? Hey, I’m literally typing what hes saying….
Finally back to spam. Vic says they’ve made great progress (they have, actually. and ever seen spam on a popular Facebook post? It can be bad there, too).
Vic say there are some cultural issues, I guess in reaction to Guy saying how he doesn’t want to post when Asia is active, as that draws a particular type of spam that might not seem like spam but not apparently useful comments, either.
Anyway, Vic says that there are machine algorithms that are now flagging spam, along with people who report it. We can detect that within seconds and shut that down. But harder with people who are clever, using human spammers.
Have also improved reporting buttons (they have, they’re awesome. But Facebook translates comments, which can be helpful too).
Says most people are respectful of those buttons and don’t abuse them. But even if they do, Google doesn’t use just one signal to figure out abuse and says very good at getting it with very few false positives. And if they do on the odd occasion, the account owner can restore it.
Will Google+ Filter Like Facebook?
Guy: will there ever be a Google+ “EdgeRank,” the way that Facebook doesn’t show everything to your followers.
Vic, we always show everything, and if you want less, you can do it with sliders.
Breaking The Filter Bubble
Time for Q&A.
Question: Will Google show you what it knows about you if you want to adjust the personalization and break out of the filter bubble.
Vic: Sure, and they already do. He describes the advertising profile page, which isn’t the same thing of how Google profiles you for searching. But then again, Google’s personalization algo isn’t that simple, either.
See No, You Don’t Need To Fear The Google Privacy Changes: A Reality Check, which explains more about that ad preferences page.
Q. Can M Be M?
Question: I am M. When can I have my identity back.
Vic: You can use psuedonyms now. Those are better than ordinary M’s. OK, he didn’t say the last part. But it’s a pun, see!
Question: How do you know who is real?
Vic: Right now, have “out of band” rudimentary systems but working on ways to improve it. [Hey, Facebook just asked me for my passport].
Guy: What’s “out of band.”
Vic: You might call someone, work with someone like Britney’s team.
Killing Products Is Hard
Question: What abou the sharebo movement. I think she said sharebo. Because Vic sure doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about, which is that Google Reader people were upset that Google+ moved in. Was Google surprised by that?
Vic: When you make a decision to shutdown a product, it’s very very hard. But if Google doesn’t do its job well, competitors will.
Social Means Better Ad Targeting To Come
Question: If commercial intent is important for showing ads, why are there ads on YouTube?
Vic: Historically, Google services were siloed and separate from each other. So the ability for Google to realize what you’d want in places like YouTube were extremely limited. But now because of Google+, the notion of knowing more about you, if you’re a female in the Bay Area, Google is able to deliver better ads going forward.
Why Do Hangouts?
Question: Hangouts must be expensive to run. Why do them?
Vic: Because we can and Facebook can’t. No! He didn’t say that. He’s saying…..
Group video chat was expensive, complicated and had a big social problem, it was awkward to start one with friends, family or coworkers. That’s what they wanted to solve.
Now he’s telling the long-standing story Google+ told last year when it launched, hey, if your neighbor is hanging out on his porch, then you want to talk. So built hangouts as a way of sitting on your porch casually, to get the whole conversation going.
So far, everyone from President Obama to Corey Fisk (might not have that spelled right), who had MS in 1992, met a photographer who did a photo walk for her, after they met in a Hangout. He did a mobile hangout to help her see what it was like to go outside, as she hadn’t done for years.
“That’s why we pay for it, because if we can connect human beings together, not just connect them in status messages but face-to-face to face, that’s what we’re interested in.”
Socially Annotated Ads
Question: Really long, preceded by a pitch, let’s just get to the answers when it gets interesting….
Vic. Any ad you see in search, if it’s socially annotated, we’re seeing an uplift.
Guy want to know what a social annotation of an ad is.
Vic, say you click the +1 on an ad, then downt the line a friend of yours sees the ad, they see you +1′d it.
“It’s that kind of approach that allows us not to shove ads into your albums,” he says.
The SEO Speaks About Search Referral Withholding
Question: It’s an SEO! Upset about Google withholding search data.
Vic: Says he’s not familiar with the issue.
SEO explains more.
Vic says still not familiar. Says that though, because you’re in secure search, some stuff can’t come out. And there are some bugs and unintended side-effects.
Uh, no, its not any of that. It’s Google deliberately withholding search referral data except from its advertisers. Read this: 2011: The Year Google & Bing Took Away From SEOs & Publishers.
Buy Guy’s Book (Or Get It Free)
And we’re ending with Guy mentioning he’s launching a $2.99 ebook called “What The Plus” which is also free for the short term at http://whattheplus.com. Hey, Guy was a great interviewer. Give him the plug.
And that’s it. Session over.