Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What the Media Isn't Telling You About Google+ and YouTube

Last week Google overhauled YouTube's comments. Much of this involved giving YouTube channel owners new tools for moderation. If they choose, channel owners can now look over comments before they are posted and delete them and even block the commenter if necessary. Unfortunately, Google also integrated YouTube's comments with Google+. As a result if one wants to comment on YouTube videos he or she now must have a Google+ account. Several media outlets have reported the outrage of YouTube users at having to get Google+ accounts. Some individuals in the media have even used the controversy as an opportunity to launch, in my humble opinion, unwarranted attacks on Google+ (a perfect example of this a story from the Huffington Post, "YouTube Founder Says What We're All Thinking About Google+"--never mind the majority of people I know don't think the same thing about Google+ that YouTube's co-founder does). While the media has covered the outrage of YouTube users over this situation, they have entirely ignored something else. Quite simply, we Google+ users are angry over the whole situation as well.

Of course, I think most of us can agree that something had to be done about YouTube's comments. The site had long ago become a haven for trolls, a place where one could find racist, sexist, homophobic, and other hateful comments even on innocent cat videos. The situation has always been so bad that most people I know (myself included) simply disable comments on their videos. I can perfectly understand why Google wanted to change YouTube's comments to rein in the many trolls.

Unfortunately, from the standpoint of many Google+ users, in integrating comments for YouTube with Google+, Google has only made the situation worse. Quite simply, the change in YouTube comments has done very little to stop the trolls there and, worse yet, some of the trolls have simply migrated to Google+. While I have been fortunate in not having YouTube trolls comment on any of my posts, I have heard reports from others on  Google+ users of having to deal with them. Some have been lucky in only having one or two trolls comment on their posts. Others have had to deal with several. If Google thought that integrating YouTube's comments with Google+ was going to stop the trolls, it would seem they were wrong. Now they are simply plaguing two sites!

The other reason that Google+ users are angry is that now any comments we make to a YouTube video that has been posted publicly on G+ will automatically be shared to YouTube as well. While comments on publicly posted videos on Google+ are public anyway (literally anyone can read them), there are still some Google+ users who feel that in those comments automatically being posted to YouTube their privacy is being invaded. For many (perhaps most) of those who are angry, however, the issue is not about privacy. It is more about the fact that Google+ and YouTube are entirely different platforms where comments play completely different roles. Googe+ is a community or, perhaps more accurately, several different communities. Comments on videos often lead to discussions between various Google+ users. And often those conversations are less about the video than they are about ourselves or other things. While I do not comment on YouTube, if I did my comment would solely be about the video and would be directed solely to the person who posted the video. I would not expect it to lead to any sort of meaningful conversation. I then rather suspect that the comments we make on videos on G+ and the conversations that ensue probably will not make sense to anyone who reads them on YouTube. They will be entirely out of context.

While Google+ users are angry over YouTube trolls migrating to Google+ and over our comments on Google+ being posted to YouTube, many of us are also not happy about people being required to get Google+ accounts just to comment on YouTube. While I love Google+ and I want people to join Google+, I want them to join it because they want to, not  as a condition for making comments on a completely different site. Beyond that, I have to say that I think requiring people to get a Google+ account just to comment on videos on YouTube is simply not fair. It reminds me of those various sites that require one to have a Facebook account to log in or to make comments. I have never liked that either (particularly as I trust Facebook very little). To me one should not have to have an account with any social media site, whether it is Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or what have you, simply to comment on posts on another site entirely.

Sadly, Google's integration of YouTube's comments with Google+ has also led to widespread accusations that it was simply a ploy to get more people to join Google+. I honestly do not believe this. Quite simply, Google does not have to force people to join Google+. It is currently the second largest social media site and as a Google+ user I can attest that it is very active. On any given day my Google+ stream is generally busier than my Facebook news feed and it is almost as busy as my Twitter feed. While it is possible that this was part of a strategy on the part of Google to get more people to join Google+, I very seriously doubt it, as they really do not have to force people to get Google+ accounts. I suspect is more likely the case that Google knew it had to develop some means to deal with YouTube trolls and chose to use Google+ as the means to do so rather than developing better tools on YouTube itself for doing so.

Regardless of Google's motive for integrating YouTube's comments with Google+, it has had an impact on both sites. Many of us on Google+ have ceased sharing YouTube videos on there. When I want to share a particular song on Google+, I now use Vimeo, DailyMotion, or one of the other video sharing sites. Many of us no longer comment on YouTube videos that are shared publicly on Google+ because we don't want our comments posted to YouTube. In integrating YouTube's comments with Google+, then, they have hurt the amount of discussion that goes on at the site. I seriously doubt this is what Google intended.

It is my hope that Google will reverse their decision to integrate YouTube's comments with Google+. It is quite possible that they will. The media has reported the anger of many YouTube users over Google's decision and I know that on Google+ many G+ users are angry as well. And we G+ users have made our displeasure known to Google. In fact, I dare say that it is the most controversial thing that Google has done in years. I would then say that it would probably be very beneficial for them to undo the integration and develop another, better means for dealing with YouTube trolls.

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