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Is Surrogate Blogging via Google Plus a Good Idea?

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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+:

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.

Article Comments

  1. Les Booth says:

    Jeff, I agree on two fronts:

    1) Don’t jump on the boat before it’s proven float in a storm
    2) Work with an whole basket of eggs

    1) Jumpin’ ‘s for frogs and they quite often end up as food…. Google is great. I use it as a major element of my digital presence and presentation. But it’s NOT the only egg. Google has shown itself to be more than worthy of testing its new tools. But it also shows a limited amount concern for the value it’s users put on the tools they produce. Google’s sanguinary ways lead both to new heights of potential and to the depths of being ‘dumped-for-another-hot-idea’ low. So, before I would jump to the flashy new ( and I must admit, ‘twinkle-in-my-clouded-eye’ ) tool G+, I want to see how well it floats in a storm; is valued at Google and serves with my other stable of dependable steeds.

    2) Eggs break easily, but the mess can make one heck of a meal …. if you don’t mind the grind of shells in your teeth ! …. I like playing my game with more than one tool. I don’t blindly trust that I didn’t misplace something or that everyone I want to talk to (ie, sell on my way-o-thinkin’) is looking in ONE place. That’s why my ferriswheel of communication fortune spins on a number of lots. I take the POV as a syndication of M.A.S.H. does: even if I’m out of fresh content, what I have, if spread far and wide, keep the home fires burning. Thus… there is no way I’m going to put all of ANY of my eggs in ONE basket. I’ve already had more than a few cracks and couple very smashed up disasters. Time tells. Experience teaches. Pain wises. And when you’re sand dial has few grains atop than below .. you make hay while the sun shines.

    I say, let those who want to jump to G+ for their total mix, do so. Someone has to be the guinea pig. And often, the early adopters freed the predators that quickly follow and scavengers that clean up the carcases of failed attempts. Those who make it work .. will be few. And that’s OK. Despite the extensive size of the G+ realm, it is NOT limitless. There will be a carrying capacity – moderated by the sheer lack of being able to read it all.

    Then it comes back to this. The tortoise won over the hare because he remained steady on his coarse … and one other big point -oft times missed: the tortoise didn’t drink the rabbit’s Cool-Ade. !!!

    There isn’t yet a One-Stop-Communication-Tool … and not likely to be for a long time. Variety is still the spice of life. Whether you’re in the ‘real-world’ or the virtual. The actors are all still humans. And we have a rather lengthy history of fickleness. Not the best platform for betting on stability. That’s why the Stock Market and Insurance business are all about RISK; betting AGAINST the odds.

    What’s Over-the-Hedge just might not be what it’s cracked up to be. It’s canary watching time.

    Oh .. one other thing. About that statement of whether or not people know of or care about, the original intent of the creators of the web … well, I was there for a good deal of it. I devote a good amount of effort keeping that history alive, correct and in perspective. Unless those who DO know it or are correctly aware, don’t keep the reminders (also known as ‘sign-posts’) available … it WILL be lost. And far too soon. With, I add, some very seriously nasty results.

    When was the last time you found the needed rest stop with some sign to guide you?

    Beyond The Ripples … he serendipitous path leading to the unknown yet to be – may the ripples never cease!

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Les –

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that diving into any new technology (hardware, software, or Web-based service) with reckless abandon is never a good idea. There are as many who take the risk and pay the price as those that reap the rewards for being bleeding-edge adopters. The result is a wash.

      If you are a risk taker and want to gamble, handing over the stewardship of your Web presence to someone else, then don’t be surprised if it does not work out the way you had hoped.

  2. Hey Jeff,
    Well done. I will be honored to provide the first comment on the blog version 😉

    I see two relevant overarching themes. The first is what I have taken to calling ‘refinement’ recently. In the context of this conversation refinement would describe how thoroughly an idea has been developed and explained such that it is readily consumable by third parties. In most cases this will correlate with length, though not always. Someone who want to thoroughly develop an idea will be best served by writing a full length book. Somewhat less refined would be a well developed/researched blog post. Shorter media like G+, and particularly tweets, require significantly more work on the part of the reader to fill in the blanks, correctly apply context, look up the necessary background information, etc.

    Long form will persist for those people who intend to produce a more refined product. However, there have surely been many people blogging whose content is better served by a less refined venue once it avails itself to them.

    The second theme is the degree to which a given individual benefits from owning/controlling his content. As you note, marketing a blog so as to attract readers to a unique web property is challenging. For many people the cost/benefit of that proposition does not work out. However, for the individual who intends to create a coherent narrative, the intermingled ‘news feed’ format simply does not work. I have found that a big part of attracting readers to a blog is demonstrating that the content is appropriate for the blog format…that there are consistent themes developed over time that justify return visits.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Gregory –

      You missed being first by just a few hours. Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to provide your insights.

      I agree that there are substantive differences regarding content quality and the venue with which it is best to share. Long-form content, for instance thought pieces, are often refined and should not be distributed via channels that are meant for quick digestion and are gleaned by people whose attention spans are conditioned by the format to be short. Whereas some amazingly-pithy microposts can be found on Twitter, I tend to view that channel as a Stream of content mist, a place I go to catch a quick glimpse of something I might find more mentally nutritious and has a link to a longer-form thought piece.

      Twitter, FB, and now Google+ can be perfectly appropriate and very effective places to share select pieces of content. Your concept of levels of refinement describe a good way to fit the content to the proper channel. For quick thoughts, use a real-time mist channel; for ideas that are beginning to germinate but have not fully developed, Google+ or FB may be more appropriate; but for fully-formed thoughts and concepts, a blog post, journal article, or book are the proper channels in which to share.

      Of course, as I point out in my post, and you reiterate, the issue of control and ownership will always remain a question when using a channel other than a site that you personally own. The ambient engagement may be higher within social silos like Google+ and FB than in a personal blog, but that does not mean that it is the best place to share. Given sufficient effort and time, the quality of engagement via a personal blog can be more rewarding.

  3. Robert says:

    Interesting. I appreciate that you’re still thinking/talking about silos versus islands.

  4. Andrew Carpenter says:

    This is great.
    Use blogs to display relics; show off the trophies from the discussions and display your articles with a little more organization than the RT G+ allows for.

  5. Andrew Carpenter says:

    It has just occurred to me that if social media accounts could be linked to a blog (a home for content) then articles could be fully mirrored or excerpts (extractions) linked to the corresponding posts. One of the benefits that I see with this would be that the comments sections could both be viewed from either place. You could choose to view all or one or the other but they would ultimately be mirrored on both the social media post and the poster home. I know Google is working on integrating Blogger with G+ but I don’t know how far they’re planning on going with that. It would be nice if they provided a way to easily extract the high-speed, high-engagement content from G+ and tuck it away on a blog and vice versa. ‘Mirrors’ or ‘Extractions’ like this would be super-powerful and useful because it’s like being able to publish data in more than one format, place, and context all at the same time. It really makes things flexible and efficient.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      I agree. Although I don’t think mirroring content is the solution as Google used to and maybe still does penalize duplicate content. Instead, I like your idea of extracting high-engagement content from G+. What if G+ became the de facto comment engine for blogs and upstart social services?

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