21 March 2013

Why Google+?!?

According to Mythmere, the real meaty discussions concerning Swords and Wizardry are no longer taking place at the S&W discussion boards but rather at the S&W Google+ page.

More generally, it seems that while I wasn't paying attention (i.e., the past 12+ months), a lot of RPG-related discussion (at least amongst OSR-types) has moved to Google+ and away from fora and blogs.

By Crom’s drooping mustache, why has this happened? 

I'm not terribly familiar with Google+, as I find it even more annoying than facebook (something I did not think was possible). As far as I can tell, Google+ does not facilitate discussion any better than traditional discussion boards do; indeed, if anything, I find it much harder to find relevant discussions (threads) on Google+ pages.

So what is the appeal of Google+? Is it just new and shiny? What am I missing?


  1. Good question! You've got me thinking now, why exactly am I on G+?

    I guess for me it's just a news feed. I only have time to trawl through the blogs every so often, and I only read certain sub-sections of forums, so it's easy to miss stuff. The one thing G+ is good it is providing a stream of news items / conversations.

    Of course, due to its streaming nature, the conversation on G+ is much more transient than that of a forum.

    To be honest, after about 6 months of using G+, I wouldn't say I especially like it. It's just that lots of other D&D people are over there and it's a good way to keep track of what everyone's up to.

  2. I hate google+ but it's true that's where a lot of people have gone.

    I think there are 4 reasons:
    1. actual gaming - constantcon, flailsnails etc is happening over there. You invite people to a video chat and play some DnD. If it weren't for G+ I wouldn't be gaming at all.

    2. herd effect. A few people (but principally Zak Smith) moved over there and started discussions and... now the discussion is over there.

    3. captcha for blog comments. On G+ you type your comment, hit send and it's done. No identifying stuff in pictures or signing in or whatever and losing your comment and having to do it all over again. Result: more comments

    4. addiction. Something about that news feed format that sometimes has new stuff and sometimes doesn't plugs straight into the nervous system and causes repetitive behaviour (quotes pop science rat study). I kicked facebook and twitter but somehow I'm now totally addicted to G+ and I know it's a low dirty trick but it doesn't matter.

  3. I like G+ because I can see what thread has been updated, whereas it's impossible to notice that on blog discussions.

  4. Basically the S&W forums got persistently hit by spam over Xmas [??], and its not not something that's been properly fixed. When the S&W Community was set up it was noted that people had moved there and that there's a lot of active discussion outside of that 'channel'.

  5. I've been playing around with Google + of late, and it's not just the S&W discussion that's more lively over there, but games in general. The Board Games community is very active as well and has turned me onto some games that I had either dismissed or flew under my radar. Plus, compared to Facebook, the signal to noise ratio is much, much better, and several blog authors use the G+ communities feature to advertise updates. I've found several blogs through the communities as well.

    All in all, I'm looking at it as just another avenue for talking about the stuff I'm passionate about, alongside blogs and message boards. I'm also happy to switch more of my social networking activity away from Facebook. I vastly prefer G+'s options for controlling who can see what I post, it's a far more intuitive system that what Facebook has in place.

  6. I like G+ for Hangouts gaming.

    That's about it. Too ephemeral, too chaotic, too hard to find anything you read before if you don't post right after reading to get "in" the thread.

    I check it every now and then for non-scheduled Hangouts games, but not often.

  7. I think it’s a pretty good platform but I would hate to see it replace forums and blogs. Aside from the limitations of having a full on setup like Enworld you risk putting your thoughts in the hands of a company that just drops services that are not making their adsense $$$ back: not that I fault them for it.

  8. This also makes the OSR a whole lot less approachable. It's a funny thing, but G+ is a darknet when compared to blogs or forums.

    You can read blogs and forums without signing in. However, you have to sign up for a G+ account just to see that there is conversations going on!

  9. I for one would never have heard of the OSR if it had started on G+

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I think it can complement the blogs and forums. Each has different uses. I formed a Holmes Basic community on G+, and use it for posting links to other blogs, forum posts, and websites with Holmes Basic content. Basically, shorter more ephemeral comments than I would post on my blog or a forum.

  12. I'd say the big thing is G+ has better usability and integration. On SwordsAndWizardry.com, I have go to the site, navigate to the forum, login, find the threads, then drill down and finally read the message, then click yet again to respond. In G+, I have lots of ways to see when there is a message -- Google Bar at the top of Gmail, emails (which dynamically show additionally comments if you're in Gmail), a G+ app on my cell phone which surfaces an alert when a post is made to a G+ group I want alerts on. It's easy to see when comments are made and I'm typically one click away from responding to a comment.

    Ironically, G+ communities are harder to search and organize I think (or, maybe I haven't grocked how to do it).

  13. Case in point -- to post on this blog I clicked, logged into Blogger, then I had to type in a Captcha, then I must have mistyped it or misread it since I then had to type it in again. Three steps to get my comment through the blog spam protections vs. none of that with G+.

  14. When I connected my Blogger account to G+, I started to see a huge uptick in hits. That makes me look at G+, and really the whole of the Google "complex" as a way of getting your stuff out to a wider range of people. They may just be opening up a post and moving on, but there are still stopping by, and hopefully more than a few are sticking around to read something!

  15. I've been ignoring G+, guess maybe I should migrate over and pay more attention...

  16. It's all about the "new-shiny."

  17. I agree, I think it's the "shiny" effect. It isn't as good a platform -- not in its current incarnation, anyway.

    What's a darknet?

  18. It began because of the ability to play games over hangouts. Then over time it just became convenient to stay around G+ because you could just have random off-topic or off-the-cuff conversations with hundreds of other gamers. Then they added communities, so if I wanted to look for specific conversations about DCC or RIFTS or whatever, I could just go to that community. Communities probably aren't as good as forums in some regards, but it's pretty damn awesome that I can just log into one place and from there just pop into any one of hundreds of different communities. Let's face it - trying to hop around to all the various D&D forums out there (even if you just narrow it down to old-school D&D) is a total pain in the arsecakes. If I want to talk to one particular person, I can just make a post to that person. I can summon people into conversations and get questions answered by the people who know. So for me it's more than just the shiny. I've been on there for over a year, perhaps if you were to make a direct comparison between g+ communities and traditional forums, the communities come up a bit short, but that doesn't take into account all the other stuff g+ does. There's a hell of a lot of functionality packed into one place. Thus, I pretty much always have g+ open.

    (Also, have you ever tried using a traditional forum on your phone? Good luck with that!)

  19. Thanks for all the replies!

    I asked this question over at the RPGsite as well, and Zak S. provided a helpful reply (along with a lot of links):

    So it looks like the main virtue of G+ is the ability to run games via the free video chat system. All the other stuff (discussions, etc.) are spin-offs from that, and while convenient in some respects (mainly, the ease of logging in and staying logged in), the G+ pages generally are inferior to traditional discussion boards for the purpose of exchanging ideas and views.

    One concern I have is the way in which G+ communities (and, I suppose, blogs to some extent) contribute to the fragmentation of the RPG community. When I started discussing RPGs online a decade ago, there were certain 'central hubs' (discussion boards like RPG.net, Enworld, dragonsfoot, the WotC boards, etc.) where I would learn about RPGs and have discussions with people I very much doubt I would ever meet in specialized G+ communities. I'm rather sad to see the traditional fora be displaced (somewhat) by the internet equivalent of 'gated communities'.

  20. Wait, people don't like captchas? Where do you get your names for exotic planets, cities and NPCs, then?

    (Signed, M'tiien of the city Laysca on the world Ionaaj.)

  21. The central appeal of the platform is very much dependant on the user. For me, the ability to cut assholes out is the key feature. I use the free video chat, but not with e-friends. I'm far too shy for that. As far as the ephemral nature of the content goes, that is more of a feature than a bug. It seems to me that most non-content oriented rpg discussions on forums are reptitions of earlier conversations. Cruising through the rpg section of TRPS, I don't see a single thread in the first several pages that I want to read now, much less revisit later. Sure it'll be there a long time, but the same can be said for plastic bags in the landfill. Longevity does not always provide additional value and, in the case of rpg fora, I think a case could be made that hardly any of them have improved with age- quite the opposite, in fact.
    Many, but no means all, of the folks who dislike G+ seem to me to be the sort of posters who are frequently placed on forum ignore lists or the same sort that once referred to blogs as "echo chambers" flustered by the idea that there is a conversation taking place somewhere to which they have not been invited and at which a certain sort of good manners are not only expected but required. Others, are the same sort who are still mad about the existence of things like mobile phones.
    All that aside, I post links to my blog on G+, but otherwise, I rarely speak unless spoken to.

  22. I'm obviously doing it wrong because I never receive notifications of new posts on G+ conversations. So for me blogs and forums are much more useful as tools of discussion.

  23. I'm not sure why G+ is so popular, and honestly, I don't care to find out. If something is said there that is really good, one would hope it would find its way onto a blog.

  24. I'll just note that I linked my blog to G+ today and watched my hits go from approx. 30 a day to 151 and counting. So while I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket, I don't mind ways to get extra eyeballs on my writing.

  25. Yup, I don't have to type a captcha, I get a notification if anyone replies to me, there's a constant feed of new stuff people are saying, and you can play games there.

    Like to get in here I have to type "mooooOpe" and squint at a blurry picture.

  26. Why do you have all those hindrances on your blogs? Any why are you not using a feed reader to follow blogs and blog comments?

    I have a strong suspicion that one of the big reasons so many OSR people moved to g+ is because of Grognardia. If Zak and James go somewhere, a very big part of the gaming scene follows along.

    Now, I totally agree is fragments the community, is harder to grasp and get an overview of. Frankly, I think it sucks compares to blogs.

    But, for Hangouts games it apparently works well. I have used it once, and only with people I already knew. I'm trying to keep my eyes open, but those Constantcon games I heard so much about much be in another time zone or something...


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).