Is Surrogate Blogging via Google Plus a Good Idea?
By Jeff Sayre
I recently came across this discussion on Google Plus (G+) about Kevin Rose’s decision to stop using his personal blog in preference to G+. He is now redirecting all visitors to his blog to his G+ profile. Within G+, well-known tech leaders such as Bill Gross and Paul Allen (not of Microsoft fame) have both indicated that they are seriously considering doing the same thing.
What does this mean for blogging? Is this a bad portent for blogs? Is it wise to use a surrogate platform owned and controlled by a third party for your content creation and sharing platform?
Long-form Versus Short-from Content
Personally, I do not believe that G+ is the proper venue for long-form articles. The thin-columnar design would make it tedious to read posts longer than a few hundred words. It is also not currently possible to place inline graphics within a G+ posts nor “a” tagged referenced HTML links. That makes it impractical to use G+ for the creation and sharing of any long-form content.
As an example, these following major thought pieces of mine would not be practical to post on Google+:
- My five-part Smartup series, Web 3.0: Powering Startups to Become Smartups
- A Flock of Twitters: Decentralized Semantic Microblogging
- Flowing Your Identity Through the Social Web
- The Web is Not (yet) Social
- It’s Time for Blogging to Evolve
The Web of Content Versus Content Islands
Another issue with redirecting a personal URL, a blog for instance, to G+ is that you lose your Google juice. Whereas it might not be a big issue to people like Kevin Rose and Bill Gross who have significant audiences on most (all?) social networks, to a lesser-known entrepreneur such as myself, the loss of PageRank would be a significant blow to my reach.
But there is a more salient issue with redirecting a blog to G+. The draining of your Google juice may not be as bad as the orphaning of all your past content.
With a redirected site, links to your blog posts in old tweets and on other people’s sites would no longer work. This means that people would not have a way to read your past posts and articles. As even some of the largest social-media sites have closed down after awhile, what happens to your content and all your nice, newly minted links if Google decides that G+ is (once again) not the killer app they were hoping for and shuts it down like Google Wave?
But the biggest issue in my opinion is that of giving up control over your content. Although Google+ does have some facility for data portability, as an open source advocate and W3C invited expert on Social Media Federation, I do not relish the idea of giving up control over my content to a 3rd party. The Web-based Internet was created with a grand vision in mind. Concentrating the majority of social activity into a select few social-media nightclubs was not the vision of its founders.
The Web thrives on interconnectedness. If most of the content is created, shared, and discussed on a few social networking islands, then the Web’s potential to become truly social is in jeopardy. In my article Flock of Twitters (linked above), I discuss the difference between the Social Web versus social networks.
Are There Any Upsides?
Those are the downsides to relegating your blog to the back burner. The upside is this. The benefit of social networks over blogs is that an individual can follow many people at once, thus subscribing to numerous content pipes without having to visit numerous, disconnected sites (i.e. blogs). With blogging, each visitor has the option to subscribe to your feed but it is only one feed. That makes it less likely that you’ll have return visitors. RSS is (was?) a fantastic tool, but I have not had any new subscribers to my blog in many, many months.
Perhaps using G+ for shorter-form posts could noticeably increase your reach. It might even motivate people to visit your blog more frequently.
Whereas short-form content may be at home in a venue like G+, I still believe longer-form articles need a better place than G+. But, in the past, I would have posted these thoughts on my blog but instead I have written them in G+ as well. So maybe the times they are a changing.
The Future of Content on the Web
Even if the current trend is toward concentrating content into a few mega silos, the creation and sharing of content will continue to occur in some form and fashion outside of the walled-gardens du jour. Communication paradigms evolve over time, offering new content containers in which to package the same type of content.
For instance, books are still books it’s just that their containers are evolving from ridged one purpose, write once, read many treeware containers, to malleable multi purpose, write many, read many hardware containers. It may be true that what used to be primarily shared via blog posts is now being shared more in the confines of social-media silos, but this will lead to an evolution in the decades-old blogging paradigm.
Whether or not most people are aware of the original intent of the Web’s creators, or for that matter even care, remains to be seen. But as long as there are open source, open Web advocates pushing the boundaries of technology, the prospects for a real Web of Content, a linked Web of Data remain bright.
Note: A short version of these thoughts was original published just on my G+ account. But after thinking about it awhile, I decided to post these thoughts in my blog as well. It is interesting to note that even though I tweeted links to both posts, my G+ post on this topic has received eight comments (not including my replies), whereas this long-form post has so far received zero comments. If engagement is more important than control, then the social media silos will win more converts. It is clear that the current blogging paradigms are quickly becoming outdated. Perhaps this issue will spur innovation in the blogging platforms.