Google+ a “sociologically simple and elegant solution”?

According to one reviewer, Google+ takes advantage of sociological principles with its circles:

You also don’t have to ask anybody to be your “friend”. Nor do you have to reply to anybody’s “friend request”. You simple put people into the discrete/discreet spheres they already inhabit in your life…

Now, if you had asked me which company I considered least likely to come up with such a sociologically simple and elegant solution, I might well have answered: Google.

Its founders and honchos worship algorithms more than Mark Zuckerberg does. (I used to exploit this geekiness as “color” in my profiles of Google from that era.) Google then seemed to live down to our worst fears by making several seriously awkward attempts at “social” (called Buzz and Wave and so forth).

But these calamities seem to have been blessings. Google seems to have been humbled into honesty and introspection. It then seems to have done the unthinkable and consulted not only engineers but … sociologists (yuck). And now it has come back with … this.

Why exactly do algorithms and sociological principles have to be in opposition to each other? It is a matter of what informs these algorithms: brute efficiency, sociological principles, something else…

Ultimately, couldn’t we also argue that the sociological validity of Google+ will be demonstrated by whether it catches on or not? Facebook may not be elegant or “correct” but people have found it useful and at least worthwhile to join(even if some loath it). Perhaps this is too pragmatic of an answer (if it works, it is successful) but this seems to make sense with social media.

This reminds me as well of the idea expressed in The Facebook Effect (quick review here) that Facebook wishes to reach a point where people are willing to share their information with lots of people they may not know. If this is still the goal, Google+ then is more conservative in that people can restrict information by circle. I suspect it will be a while before a majority of people are willing to go the route suggested by Facebook but perhaps Facebook is being more “progressive” in the long run by trying to push people in a new direction.

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