by Pixeleen Mistral on 17/07/11 at 2:07 am
Exactly who owns my G+ social graph - and why won't Google let me download it anymore?
I was a relatively early Google+ user and spent the last few weeks adding friends to Google+ circles. In doing this I implicitly promoted Google's seriously over-hyped circle-centric Facebook clone by sending invitations to friends. This was probably a mistake - but I was curious to see if Google's algorithm-driven data mining culture could cope with running an MMO -- and an online culture that embraces the meta-game of duel-to-the-death by abuse report.
For those with certain tastes, Google's new game is appealing if you don't mind risking the loss of your identity, e-mail and social graph as part of the gameplay. I'm sure the griefers and vigilantes will have a great time playing. How well this will work for serious business is another story.
After the Google Lively fiasco, I had little confidence Google would get social right - despite promises to be less evil than Facebook. Now that I have personally experienced Google's rough justice - my Gmail and Google+ accounts have been suspended and I am blocked from downloading a copy of my Google+ friends - I am pretty sure that a rousing game of hunt-the-fake account will help make up for the lack of familiar Facebook favorites like Farmville, particularly for those who enjoy a full-contact cross platform MMO.
Unfortunately for Google's ambitions in the social space, the death to fake people game may alienate exactly those real people that Google so desperately needs to succeed against mighty Mark Zuckerberg's privacy loss desensitization operation. How can you be sure who is real online?
The fake people game began in earnest with a Google engineer reportedly suggesting abuse report vigilante action against suspected enemies of the real people in Google+. A wave of account suspension followed.
But does Google have the staff to carefully review the disputed G+ account suspensions? What will stop troublemakers from filing mass frivolous abuse reports against the sort of game god-fearing real people that Google seems to be courting?
For those who have not yet played, my experience may help you decide if you are interested in risking your mail, identity and social graph by playing the Google+ MMO.
This morning I woke to find my Gmail account locked due to unspecified "suspicious activity" on the account. When I logged in this afternoon I found my Google+ profile was suspended, presumably because I have been accused of being a "fake person" and/or some civic minded vigilantes are working their way through Google+ reporting accounts they hope to see banned. I noticed that my old friend Kalel Venkman of the Justice League Unlimited still has a working Google+ profile - presumably because his profile picture looks like superman and he is one of the good guys.
I was able to re-establish control of my mail after visiting the Gmail web site and entering a verification code sent to my cell phone. On Google+, the best I could do was ask that my suspension be reviewed - but there was no place to explain why Google might deem my account real enough to retain. I imagine there are some seriously overworked game moderators stuck in a basement somewhere in the Googleplex trying to decide what to do with a flood of disputed suspension - a flood which is likely to grow as more players join the game.
The parallels between Google+ and sort of game god "justice" seen in Second Life are uncanny. In most MMOs, players can loose their assets at the whim of the platform moderators. In the social space, the most valuable asset imaginable is your contacts list, and I find that I'm now blocked from downloading my formerly thriving social network - despite Google promises of Data Libertation.
Two days ago I had about 120 friends in my G+ circles and was in about 180 other people's circles. Today I can't see anyone who has me in their circle and my friends list is less than half the size it was previously. Does this mean that half of Google+ accounts are really the sort fake people that we are all meant to report to the authorities?
I can see why Google says G+ is not ready for business - imagine the chaos when the anonymous hacktivists decide to mass report G+ account of an organization that drank the "Don't Be Evil" Koolaide and placed an all-in bet on the Google cloud. The sort of federated social network suggested by Open BuddyCloud and Diaspora just keeps looking better and better.