On making it to What’s Hot on Google+: Autopsy of a viral story.

This morning I woke up at 6.30am to attempt to cover a story for EuroTech. The $25/ $35 computer called the Raspberry Pi was about to be launched. At the time of writing, the post I wrote achieved:

653 +1s



I write for the online tech magazine on a regular basis and enjoy it greatly. In part because I love technology and in part because I’m committed to write something on a daily basis, so might as well do it for a good cause: revealing that European technology is worthy of coverage.

Whoever followed the story knows that the Raspberry Pi servers could not cope with the demand. They had a fall-back plan and served up a static site in a few minutes, restoring access to everyone. Their suppliers were not as well-prepared: both sites crashed badly and about ten minutes after I published my story online I learned that the whole stock had been sold out to those who had actually made it to the servers.

I finished my story at around 7.30am and was following what was happening on Google+ and Twitter. The chatter was initially good-humoured, but it soon turned very bitter. I was shocked by this and wrote a quick blog post but did not publish it because I wanted to see how things would turn out. I thought that if it went away quietly it would have made no sense to bring it up again.

My story (posted on EuroTech’s Google+ page), however, did not die a quick death. People were searching for Raspberry Pi like rabid dogs and by around 10am it had reached a respectable 10 – 15 shares. Then +Max Huijgen shared it around that time and the shares started growing slowly but steadily. By midday our time, however I realised  that we had made it to “What’s Hot” on Google+ and since then the story has just kept going and going all over the site, and till this evening it is still featured on the What’s Hot page, even if it has been pushed down quite a bit.

People kept complaining and at around 12.30 I decided to push the “Post” button on my phone’s WordPress App, and linked to it quickly from my profile on Google+. It drove quite a bit of traffic here, but thankfully nowhere near what RaspberryPi.org was experiencing this morning (you can read my post here).

It had me wondering, though, about what makes a story go viral. I think it was relatively well written, especially when you consider that I churned it out so hastily. I also used the style we have developed at EuroTech (mostly thanks to Max’s expertise) to encourage speed-reading. What I think made the deal, however, was a combination of 3 important factors:

Subject matter that captures the imagination of readers: this is a computer that can perform most normal tasks being sold at 1/20th of the price of a normal computer;

– Timeliness: it is not only a case of being out there first, but of being there with fresh news when people are looking for it;

Connections: the story had already gained some mileage when I shared it, but it really caught on fire when Max (who is in many more circles than I am) re-shared it.

(#60 of 366 X 2012 project)

(P.S. #59 of 366 X 2012 project was published on Media Tapper: WikiTravel: An Online Community Success Story)

What would I like to see more of on Google+?

Google+ LogoOne of Google+’s most, well, let’s say inspiring contributors – +Peter G McDermott – set me thinking recently. He asked me what seems to me a simple question: What would I like to see more of on Google+?

I’m thoroughly in love with the product and the experience, but there are a few things that could make life here that little bit better – and it would be a delight if they could be implemented. I love Circles, and think that they revolutionised the way we interact with people but most of these are related to circles and the way they work.

If you look at the way Google+ evolved from the first months (I was here from quite early on, about a week after its beta launch because that was how long it took me to get my hands on an invite) you can see that a lot of work went into improving our experience with them. Volume sliders, for one, were a stroke of genius because they allow me to create circles that I mute off unless I want to see that content. Circle sharing allowed me to supercharge my Google+ experience by introducing me to many new people at once and by having me added into many more circles (the recent circle share by +Max Huijgenis a clear example).

So what would make the Google+ experience better?

Dynamic Shared Circles
I would like to have a way in which I could share one (or more) of my circles on a permanent basis. This way I could link to it in my profile and update it as I find more users.

Self-Suggested Circle Fits
This is something that many people do in writing on their profile – saying things like “I would fit well in the following circles”, but I think that if we could be given the way to tag ourselves in which circles we’d fit in it would be a good way to identify people when browsing their profiles. It would be cool if I had a “This person would fit well in your Photography, Art and Writing Circles” when I hovered over their names. I can understand how implementing it can be a major headache, but this is Google after all, they have managed to implement things that we did not think were possible many times before.

User Lists
Once we have the self-suggested circle fits implemented, I’d then want a way to list people and/or view a stream based on their categories. I know we have search for that, however I don’t always tag my photo posts with “photography”, or include the word “photo”. This would also be a great way to help new users find people to throw in their circles.

Integration With Groups (& Docs)
It would be really lovely if we could use the social media power of Google+ to collaborate on projects. I would love to be able to have a dynamic circle which would include its own page. On this page we could discuss issues, share documents and interact in all the ways we would usually do on a forum or in a Google group.

Even simply having the ability of sharing a doc with a Circle would be a great start.

There are a couple of workarounds to bookmarking posts (you can either bookmark the individual post in a browser or share it to a private circle which only includes yourself), however having a system in which we could organise and save individual posts would be a very welcome addition.

Interaction History
Finally I would love to have a way in which I could find out all the times I ever interacted with a person. I would like to be able to click on someone’s name and find out when I added them to my circles, what posts of mine they commented on, what posts of theirs I commented on and which third-party posts we both commented on. You could also have all the pictures in which you are both tagged.

So what would YOU want to see more of on Google+?