I’ll never forget the first time I saw Google+. I was working at Google in sales and had been called to NYC with a few representatives from various sales teams globally. My guess is that we were about 40 strong, each with varying levels of interest in social media. But the bottom line was that we were about to see something new.
“The next phase in the Internet’s evolution,” stated Google’s SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra. Vic was always a smooth speaker who seemed to have his entire life together. He’d deliver speeches and handle questions without so much as the faint hint of stress.
That wasn’t the Vic that spoke with us during this New York session. He was video conferencing in from Mountain View, where he’d had nary an hour or two of sleep.
“Larry called an emergency Hangout using Google+ of all the heads of departments late last night,” he sighed. He looked tired and stressed. I didn’t think it was possible.
The product wasn’t called Google+ then. It wasn’t called something I can’t state publicly. Seriously. They made us take a sarcastic oath. We laughed, but I got the feeling they were fairly serious. I mean, we raised our right hands and repeated after Vic.
There were already rumors that Facebook had stolen features from this new Google social network. Facebook called them Groups. Google+ (or whatever it was called then) was calling them Circles internally. So the last thing Google needed was a bunch of loud-mouthed sales people running around the Intertubes, the office, or an advertising agency blabbing incorrectly about [insert G+ codename here]. And as it turns out, a few of the product folk had to convince senior leaders that salespeople were needed on the project at all.
I just felt lucky to be there.
As I watched Vic and others leaders working on “G+,” from Product Manager Christian Oestlien (we’d later share a drink - it became clear he’s critical to Google+) to a few sales managers-turned-product specialists, I felt the energy pulsing through me.
The features were slick, even in alpha. The vision was huge, even for Google. The initial launch would be small (the +1 button, some social updates to Search, an early social network), even though they knew (and said they knew) that the press would crush Google for it. Between the failure that was Google Buzz and the behemoth that is Facebook, even a company as large and beloved as Google was bracing for media backlash.
I didn’t care.
I was part of something potentially awesome. Something great. “A paradigm shift,” Vic repeated several times.
I could see the evolution of my career unfolding. I returned to the sales office jazzed up, ready to educate both teammates and clients as the product slowly rolled out to the public.
But no on cared. Not a single person on my team or the greater team seemed to have any inkling that social was important, or any desire to know more about social media. (This was all taking place in 2011, mind you - not 2005). Then, for reasons too numbered to explain here, I left Google shortly thereafter to build a startup. Suffice to say, it was a risk. I was a top-performer and had seen “the light,” so it was a massively tough choice for me to leave. But the pros of building a startup and creating something myself outweighed the pros of POTENTIALLY making G+ my full-time gig at Google. (Senior leaders assured me I could do so, but I’d need to wait years. Being in my late 20s, I don’t think I have years to wait, then try a startup when I’m also starting a family. I had to make a move.)
WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?
I’m planning on migrating all my long-form publishing from here to Google+ as part of a 30-day experiment, and I wanted you to understand how invested I am in G+ first. The experiment it this: is blogging exclusively on G+ a better approach for me? Given my goals for my writing (adding value, receiving value, starting conversation), it seems to make sense.
It’s not a black or white decision, mind you - there are plenty of pros to using a blog you own, and the debate rages among bloggers. But just look at the comments around my blog here versus the discussion I got going on this very topic on Google+ here.
If you’d like to continue reading my writing during the next month, please add me to a Circle by visiting my profile here and doing so in the top right of that page where it says “Add to Circles.” You should also be able to view all posts that I send out publicly, which will be most of them, without needing to use G+ yourself if you don’t wish to do so.
I love writing, I love people, and I love conversation. All three are occurring pretty steadily over on Google+. Here, I have the writing part. There, I can write, interact with my 12,500 followers and beyond, and use the great conversation features to both send valuable information and stories to others and receive the same back from others I admire, respect, or will meet.
So long for now, Tumblr. It’s been…quiet.