The Social Bridges to Creating Open Standards for Privacy & Innovation (The Real Value of #GooglePlus) #LeonhardEuler
If there is anything we've learned from the arrival of Google+ it is this: "social media" is a behavior. Not a channel. Not a feature. Not a product. A behavior.
Case in point: Google has created some of the coolest social utilities on the planet, from Google Maps, to Google Earth, to Google Goggles, to Places, to video chat and more recently, Wallet. It also created Buzz and other programs that more or less flopped by today's commercial standards. But the social networking damn broke, so to speak, when Google decided that in order to be social, it needed to understand the value of personal interactions. Once it did, once it got a taste of what it meant to be transparent, vulnerable and authentic (dare we say through those intricate little Circles)... Well, everything changed.
Let's forget, for a moment, about the alarming growth rate of G+, or its pending world domination of all things personal and professional, and think about what this really means to us as individals, groups and business of all types and sizes.
Understanding intelligence beyond computation.
In 1735, Swiss mathematician and physicist, Leonhard Euler, identified a significant challenge in mathematics and algorithmic creation to develop what became known as The Seven Bridges of Konigsberg.
Under the guise of logic, what Euler described throughout his treatise were actually the emotional levers or emotional intelligence in human decision-making and solutions to complexity, culled through human experience. Similar to the notion of identifying the "shortest distance between two points", he addressed the complexity that we face in our everyday interactions, and how we must adapt to deepen those connections through various nodes.
More important, while we might be able to compute those interrelations to varying degrees, no core algrithmic data set reflects the rate of exchange or the dimensions of how we interact... It is a constant evolution of process, refinement, and enlightenment. In other words, it is adaptive.
Now, let's bring this back full circle (pun intended).
Google, arguably, is a master of code. But, as Euler pointed out centuries ago, there are limitations to code, along with barriers to our normative computations of human complexity. But in understanding the emotional levers resident in art, commerce and science - as well as those interrelationships - Google can now master its own domain: the empowerment of people.
Circles are bridges to meaningful data exchanges.
Let's also be clear: Google has no trouble turning a profit. Its revenue from search and display alone are steady as ever. One might argue that this is a good thing. And here's why.
Google now has a legitimate opportunity to transition its business to one that supports user-generated data and people-powered media.
There is no better indication of this shift than Facebook's move to offer up Sponsored Stories. The basic premise of Sponsored Stories is to serve "branded content" that appropriates content generated by users that takes the form of banners and other types of "social ads". It's a nice idea... except for the fact that it is a complete manipulation of the user base and a complete violation of their trust.
It's no secret that Facebook is under increasing pressure as a "public" company to bolster its ad revenues. And it can't compete with Google in this arena. To boot, more and more people are hesitant to share their personal information - including photos, videos and music - for fear that what they share is no longer their own. This is not to suggest that Facebook is suffering from attrition (not yet at least), but more to say that the way people use Facebook is already changing.
So, back to the point.
The feather in Google's cap is data. But it is also your data. Our data. And as long as we are able to share content on our terms, it is very likely that we can share data on our terms. Which also means that we will be compelled to tell better stories, create our own media and embark on similar forays within science, education and government.
Remember all those cool Google utlities?
What amounted to cool things we can all do, things we could do, are now a means to exchange information with a purpose. Your social and professional Circles hope that you do. They rely upon these exchanges. They're thirsty for them.
Enter a new privacy layer. One, no less, that has many faces, and one that, quite possibly, is open for collaboration and user participation.
What privacy might mean to us going forward.
The idea that there are or can be open standards for privacy seems, well, oxymoronic. There is also an element of protection that we must adhere to: what we seek is the same as what we don't necessarily want to reveal.
And then there are other factors to consider, such as Google's various iterations of a partnership with the U.S. government. This has undoubtedly drawn ire from many folks, and for good reason. However, there might be a bigger picture to paint here, which is that we, you know, as the people, can become Big Brother.
Think about it: the Internet, and specifically the social web, has become a watchdog movement to a large extent. We scratch each other's back. We have to. We have no choice. There are only so many hours in the day and so many people who can serve as mediators within a virtual landscape so vast and across a web that sleeplessly spins its yarn well past hemispheres and geographical boundaries. Lest we forget that these are systems created as byproducts of human evolution.
Then consider this: the only way to get even with the systems we hold in question, is to become aligned within them.
This boils down to a power of knowledge. Collective intelligence. Knowledge federation. Value co-creation.
So, to no great suprise, privacy must become an imperative of the people. It's crucial to Google's own prosperity. And going forward, web ubiquity might make our interactions so seamless that it won't be "Google" that we use to commence or sustain these exchanges, but something else more self-created, self-possessed and perhaps even more iconic. The Ego, for example, may very well become a healthier social currency shared amongst groups.
Be that as it may, Google, right now, is a force that just might catalyze this shift... If it hasn't already.
As for us, this will all boil down to the social bridges we create.
Identifying the social bridges (hint: they're moving targets...).
Looking at some of the early behaviors exhibited in G+, it seems that we've become reacquainted with intimacy in social spaces. We're feeling comfortable again. We're intellectually curious. We're having more fun. We're getting to know each other a little bit better. We're forging stronger connections.
Granted, many of us comprise extended circles of "superusers" that probably spend a little too much time geeking out on the nuances of a new social platform (I'll readily admit to that). But there is a silver lining in all of this: we're simultaneously conducting 1-1 interactions as part of our "group diet". That's a long-standing truth about civilization, and a missing piece in the social networking puzzle arguably since its inception. It's predicted on co-habitation... And it's been around since man starting walking the Earth.
You see, G+ is seeking refinement and redefintion, as we all are. This is not about a validation for all of Google's many innovations or achievements in unlocking the secret doors to online commerce. Google has already won that game. No, this is where Google finally got it right.
The bridges are these; they are actions found in true interconnectivity, but more so, there are constant states of refinement:
Exposing knowledge gaps.
Connecting hidden networks.
Building nodes & connectors.
Establishing group identity.
Reinforcing individual indentity.
There are many more, and again, note that they are all behavioral - they are neither manifestations of code, nor are they specifically the utilities of our future. The takeaway is that there are many more bridges to cross than the seven Euler was faced with in his exploration, just as there were before he got to the problem, and all the problems that came after it.
In order to face complex problems, we must embrace complexity with open arms and realize that the solutions we create will inevitably lead to more problems. But that is the essence of human nature and the rhetoric we explore within it and alongside if it.
And for now, dare I say, Google is getting the bigger picture.
This quote from computer scientist, Jaron Lanier, seems to sum it all up with a twist of irony:
"I think complexity is mostly sort of crummy stuff that is there because it's too expensive to change the interface."
And there it is... We are the interface ;)