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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Do I Miss Google Plus? The Answer May Surprise You

Patrick has asked about how people are taking the demise of G+. I'm writing this post partially because it seems too long to dump in his comment section, but also because an accidental button
click led me to lose an in-progress response multiple paragraphs long. Twice.

I'm mostly on Discord now, lurking on about a dozen servers and active on 3 or 4. The ones I'm active on are small, the largest with members numbering around 100. I do not even lurk the big OSR server because I simply can't keep up. I mention this because those servers are my main point of comparison.

I miss G+ but not as much as I'd expected. Frankly, I'd grown tired with a number of aspects of the platform by the end. The crowdedness of G+ made a constant chore of just keeping the platform bearable, and the conversations I was interested in having seemed mostly to have played out. The conversations that were happening felt increasingly dominated by chatter, or like rehashes of last year's topics. I also felt that the culture on G+ (reinforced by the site's UX design) created an emphasis on "making", whether the thing made was a blog post or a game product or what have you. As my life got busier that pressure felt more limiting as I sought more casual avenues for my hobby. Furthermore, as my interests branched out into other RPGs that weren't D&D, I found my community there increasingly unresponsive and occasionally outright hostile.

The gaming experience on Discord has been refreshing. I was initially drawn to G+ by ConstantCon and the promise of easy access to games on a whim. As far as I can tell, those days were already over by the time I signed up. On Discord I have found games in abundance and varied in kind. Tellingly, after years of intermittent, utterly failed attempts to get a Monsterhearts game going on G+, I managed to wind up running one in Discord almost by accident, and have had to take some creative measures just to keep player numbers under control.

The social experience has been superior, straight up. I spend much less time thinking about who to avoid and how to avoid them. My communities feel more intimate and trusting. What I lose in granularity of control over my social circle I make up for in a sense of conviviality. I've also had some really enjoyable exchanges with people I doubt I'd have ever much engaged with on G+. While the language for relationships on the Internet remains fraught as ever, I do believe I have quickly made friends on Discord.

As a queer person I also want to shout out to a couple servers in particular that have provided what feels like a distinctly queer space for RPGs - something I never would have asked for but am so, so happy to have. This is not to say that G+ was hostile, exactly, but I did always have a sense of speaking to a more mixed group, even in cases where I may not have wanted to. Discord, I suppose, offers a sense of movement between intimacies, rather than shouting from a fixed position.

Discord is not perfect. For all my talk about the shallowness of "the conversation" on G+, on Discord it's downright impossible to have a comparable, extended discussion of a given topic. G+ was good at creating space for an exchange of ideas, decentralized, spread out over time, but connected. Part of the reason a lot of blogs went dormant (including this one) is because it was just easier on G+, and it rendered blogs redundant except as dumping grounds for overlong posts (like this one). Without G+ as a hub, many seem to be returning to their blogs. My RSS feed (I use Inoreader) has done a good enough job of keeping me abreast. "Good enough" feels key here. It's not the same, it's perhaps not as excellent, but I am satisfied.

I'll close this with a quick thought on "the conversation" after G+. If we're returning to blogs, we'll probably find ourselves looking for ways to recreate the sense of continuity and connectivity that generated so much energy in our old home. I think it will be increasingly important to regard blogs as key nodes in a network that extends into a variety of platforms and communities. That means we'll need to be mindful of linking back to other posts, and helping our readers follow the conversations we're taking part in.

To answer Patrick's question: Do I miss G+? Sure, of course I do. Rest in peace. Thank god it's gone.


  1. Nice thoughts, Alex. I have found I have had *more* conversations with some people whom I knew only peripherally on G+ -- like you, for example -- since it went down. I have also found the granularity of Discord servers a pleasant surprise so far.

    And I am doing my level best to comment on interesting blog posts even if I don't feel like I have much of anything to add, just to try to make sure we don't all feel like we're talking into the darkness.

  2. I mostly miss just being able to see a wave of RPG stuff coming at me constantly, but I am getting more out of blogging and blogs than I have in years, so there is good and bad to it.

  3. Alex,

    I strongly recommend Typio Form Recovery if you use Chrome; it can store (locally) stuff that you type in comment fields like this one. I feel your pain!

  4. I think knowing that G+ was going away made me feel some kind of pressure to use it more, at the same time that I was trying to set up some kind of presence on a couple other social media platforms. It started feeling like too much.

    I feel sort of relieved to be less involved now, but also like I'm kind of drifting away from everyone online. I have one or two servers that I check into with any regularity; I might message you to ask which ones you find queer friendly, because that does sound kind of nice, now that you mention it.

    1. Do iiiit! We share a couple servers but I'm at TheLastRobot#4001 in case you want to reach me

  5. *squints* is... Is he shouting out my server? Is he calling me a friend??

  6. *squints* is... Is he shouting out my server? Is he calling me a friend??


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