The Google+ Pages craze and what’s there for us
It's been a bit over a week since Google launched Google+ Pages, and already there's a bit of running around for free software. Let's have a closer look.
This is a bit of Friday night flavoured article, but you did secretly want that, own up :)
Google+ Pages? Who's there?
Many of the big folks, actually:
- GIMP, made a nice start, is likely to keep linking to useful related content.
- Inkscape, likewise is posting useful links and sharing news.
- Scribus, not quite used yet.
- Synfig Studio, just made a start.
- darktable, getting used to to G+.
- Ardour, likewise, just made a start.
Then there are some user groups like Blender Users or GIMP Users. There are also some rather active “national” user groups. Just search for your favorite software to see what turns up. To Blender users I'd also recommend the “Adventures in Blender” page which is very active with news on development and whatnot.
So far projects and user groups are doing what they used to do before: posting project news, “daily inspirations” and suchlike. What makes it different from, say, Facebook, is that as follower of a page you decide when you read it, because it's up to you what circle you added a G+ page to and what circle you are exploring at the moment.
OK, the big question is what the benefits are. As an early adopter of Google+ and the person behind a couple of free software pages (including some of the ones listed above) I think I can share some impressions.
G+ is good when you want to bring up something to public's attention and have some (useful) feedback from your users. It started as a place where geeks were hanging around, so when you need “casting” someone, typing “@NAME" to invite to discussion often brings up the person in question.
I haven't seen a terrible lot of such discussions regarding graphics projects yet, but GNOME designers are beginning to extensively use it for collecting user input (Exhibit A, Exhibit B). It isn't killing mailing lists just yet (who can tell at this point?), but the principle seems to be working.
As with most social networks, sharing stuff is very easy. If you have project news worth revealing, a screenshot or a video of an ultrasexy new feature, adding it is really simple.
Not everything is so cool. Just outlining some bottlenecks:
- Google+ Pages cannot have original designs. If you care about strong branding a lot, it's isn't there yet.
- So far only the person who created a page can contribute to it. This is potentially harmful for ensuring instant contact with community.
- There are no threaded comments (other social networks impose same flat model), hence following long discussions can be hell.
Diaspora is lacking some of these disadvantages, but then it's also not quite ready.
The web isn't becoming social. It has already arrived to being social and took a sit in the front row. In fact, it took all of the hall, the upper circle and the orchestra pit. Next year Blender Foundation is starting its own professional network, and it's another sign that among free graphics software projects Blender is the quickest learner.
In the short-term perspective social networks aren't killing established forums. I mean, can you imagine Blender Artists moving to G+ or (the blasphemy!) Microsoft's Socl?
For maintainers of “news and inspirations” kind of websites such as Blendernation or truly yours LGW the situation is bit different. While there still are some old-school developers around, the newer crop of programmers and artists is actively adopting social networks which makes news writing increasingly pointless. Few websites instantly covered announcement of ColorHug, yet after posting to G+ Richard had to confirm a new preorder every few minutes this Monday. You get the idea.
Given that most of us currently rely on ads for monetization, this means basically repurposing websites for education, analytics and other kinds of long-term quality material, including paid e-courses. It's possible that some projects will become parts of bigger networks. We've already seen some acquisitions in the past (yes, I do mean CG Cookie). The refocus isn't happening tonight or tomorrow (not until all developers learn to write proper release notes :)), but it's on the horizon.
Let me emphasize this once again: it isn't about social networks killing websites. Actually both of them can coexist. Last year folks from ProGIMP.ru reported that they intentionally work on their group in the Russian social network VKontakte (100,000,000+ registered users) to grow their community. Their website currently gets 800K+ pageviews a month and it's growing. So the future looks more like the social getting most of the news sharing and the websites doing the job of long-term quality content storage an presentation.
What do you think?
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