Thursday, November 7, 2013

If you use Google+ you might want to stop posting or commenting on YouTube links

Here are a couple pieces of conventional internet wisdom: Google+ is a ghost town, and YouTube comments are a cesspool. In what appears to be an effort to tackle both of these problems, Google has begun merging these two services. The thought seems to be that forcing a "real name" G+ account on YouTube commenters strips them of their anonymity (thus increasing comment quality) and pushes more bodies into Google's land of plusses and circles. The intentions seem good, but there's some pretty awful collateral damage to active G+ users because Google doesn't seem to understand *context*.

This blog is a role playing game blog. Playing games like D&D and Pathfinder is my hobby, and there's a thriving community of tabletop RPG bloggers who moved from RPG forums as their conversational venue to G+. In this community, blogging is used for "long form" writing and G+ is a "short form" place dedicated to the discussion of other people's blogs, brainstorming, and inspirational link sharing.

Videos, naturally, are a commonly shared item, and this is where the problem with this merger comes in. You see, when the merge happened, Google went through all of the videos you've posted to your G+ feed, scraped up the comments and posted them to YouTube. When it did this, if you'd ever publicly posted a YouTube video on G+, it posted a link to your G+ page on YouTube (you know, the place conventionally called a commentary cesspool). Not only does it post a link to my profile, if I publicly shared a YouTube link on G+ and tagged someone in it, a link to their profile is now in the YouTube comment section of that video as well. That feels icky. These two sites have vastly different user bases and if I'd *known* that this would occur I may have made different decisions in how I chose to post things. My profile ending up on YouTube is one thing, but inadvertently causing someone else's to end up there because of a video I posted to my G+ feed months ago just isn't cool.

Google seems to have exhibited a complete lack of the concept of *context*, which, based on all the touting they'd done of G+'s circles, seems really strange. You see, if I'm on YouTube and I'm watching a video, the page is dedicated to the video. There's a context. And the context is that video. The focus is the video. The comments section is a place where people go to respond to what they've seen in that video (and call one another fags). On YouTube you are "at" the video.

G+ has a completely different context. I am sharing. I have found something, and I am sharing what I have found with a group of people. In all likelyhood, I've been having a conversation with that group of people about a topic and I'm probably choosing to share what I have found because it speaks to a point in our discussion. And what's awesome about G+ is that because it is a feed, and because I know who's in my circles and who has me in their circles, mini-zeitgeists emerge. People in the feed often share things that relate to one another, and make comments on the link they have shared that reinforce that zeitgeist.

Additionally, on G+ because I know that I am posting in a feed, I tend to link my posts together, contextually, and (in a fashion) tell stories. For example, a couple days ago the cartoon Steven Universe premiered on Cartoon Network. It was awesome, has thematic ties in with RPGs and gaming, and I posted a YouTube link to the show's into theme. The intro is great, especially the music (Rebecca Sugar is amazing!), and, as happens, I fell down a bit of a YouTube pit listening to chiptune music. After a while I found another chiptune song and video that I wanted to share on G+, so I did.

Now here's what happened:

On the Steven Universe post I said the following: "Premiered today. Man... this intro track is just solid gold. Rebecca Sugar is so fantastic. #cartoons"  

On the Anamanaguchi track I posted a bit later I said "And it's apparently a "chiptune is the definition of eternity" night for me."

I'm not trying to win any awards for creative commentary, but hopefully it's clear that the way I presented those two videos in my feed is linked. They work off one another. They go together. But what happened after the YouTube/G+ merge? The words I used to describe the videos in the context of _my feed_ were put directly into the YouTube comments on the two videos. This completely strips my words of context, and the words I put on the Anamanaguchi link make me look stupid when viewed from YouTube. "And it's apparently a "chiptune is the definition of eternity" night for me." does not work in both places. That phrase doesn't stand alone, but it wasn't ever meant to.

In the end, the TLDR that everyone on G+ needs to be aware of is:
  • If you publicly post a YouTube video on your G+ feed a link to your profile shows up on that video's YouTube comments
  • If you comment on a YouTube video that someone else publicly posts in their G+ feed, a link to your G+ feed shows up on that video's YouTube comments
  • If you're not a fan of this, and you want to go back and "clean up" those links you've made over the past months/years you can't just delete the post from your G+ feed. You have to delete it from G+ and from YouTube.
  • When you post a link to a YouTube video on G+ you need to be aware that the words you post along with it are going to simultaneously appear in two different communities on the internet with two inherently different audiences.


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