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Digital Trash? Google+

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Digital Trash? Google+
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Originally published Digital Trash? Google+ on Medium .

Not sure if you remember/care at all, but Google Plus is dead in the water. It will be fished out from the Internetz Lake imminently. Google will incinerate it and add a picture of the ashes to the annals of internet history. It will remain a punchline for another year, maybe, and then it will disappear from our collective conscious just like Napster and Friendster did.

xkcd, of course.

Years and years ago, Google+ was a thing in Edtech. It was a better alternative to Facebook Groups because it allowed people to lurk in learning communities. Also, even back then I refused to be on Facebook, so I ran a few edtech communities and/or MOOCs using Google+. Honestly, I haven’t looked at the platform in years. Everyone knows Google+ died a while ago, but Google still sent me a note recently telling me that I have data there.

Data. Oh, right. What data did I leave behind at Google+? Dunno. I decided I probably needed to find out. So I used Google Takeout to download my Google+ data.

Then I looked at the data…

Seven years ago I did a test page with my Mozilla team. Someone said “test test. Is this working? Where did you get that mask, Laura?”

What mask?

My data included a bunch of contact cards of the people I had organized into Google Circles (which, by the way, was a feature I, for one, appreciated). The contact cards were pretty useless, only names and a Google+ URL. But there were so many, many of them with both first and last names. While scanning the list, I remembered people. My brain shot synapses and I remembered people with whom I had had a single exchange, a tuna sandwich, a moment in life.

But who is Angelica? And why was she repeated in all my circles? Is she more than one Angelica? I only remember a single Angelica, and she existed outside of the internet. Was this her?

There are so many stories in this data — but are they valuable? Do I need to understand them and tell them? I don’t want to be a digital pack rat, but what if this data matters?

And I think of a box I have. It’s a cardboard box full of files. Full of data. The files contain all the notes my childhood friends wrote me in school. From the 5th grade until the end of 12th grade, every scrap of paper someone passed me in the hallway is filed in that box.

That data tells some stories too. The notes tell stories about me, and people who touched my life in some way. The exported archives conceptually match physical letters.

Seems like the data might matter.

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