The Google+ Gamble

Photo of Sai
Sai Hossain

· 2/01/2013

This is the story of how I got punched in the face by the internet.

It’s the summer of 2011, a few months after I faced death. I’m working day and night on freelance projects and need to find something to keep me sane.
Meanwhile, Google+ had just come out and it was growing virally – mainly because it was forced upon all Google users & was an outlet for all the frustrated Facebook users to flood to. Either way, growth is growth. Unfortunately, as more people joined, there was more confusion about how Google+ actually worked. So I had an idea. I figured that if I could get a decent sized audience on it early, it will naturally grow as more and more people start using Google+. And so I began working on what I called “The Google+ Start-Up Guide”, a slideshow to explain Google+ to the newbies. I thought if people like my slideshow, maybe I could get a couple hundred to follow me.
So in the little free time I had, I got to work.
In the first 4 days, I outlined the content of the slideshow in a text-editor. This was the hard part. It’s takes heavy concentration and deep thinking to deconstruct a product or concept into its essential elements and then reconstruct it in a way that is digestible to a wide range of audiences. And the occasional attacks from the nieces and nephews didn’t help.
In the last 5 days, I fired up my favorite slideshow program – Photoshop of course – and got to creating the graphics.
Since most of the thinking had been done, it felt more like playing in a sandbox – except I was working in Photoshop. Way better. Of course, in the process of designing you always end up changing up some of the thinking on the content side too.
It’s now the morning of Saturday July 23, 2011. I type up a short message to introduce the slideshow, hit “Share”, and wait.
Ten minutes pass, nothing. Thirty minutes pass, yes! I got one. One hour later, I have a few more shares, awesome. After twenty shares things start slowing down. Just my luck. Two more hours go by with no more than a handful of shares. Then suddenly out of the blue….. Pete Cashmore’s account (Mashable) shares my post.
All hell breaks loose. For the next 24 hours I don’t sleep. The share count keeps climbing, people keep commenting, and I am trying my best to keep up. At the end of the 24 hours my presentation had been shared over one thousand times (over ten thousand now) and I had gained over two thousand followers. For a while it seemed to be stuck at one thousand because I had surpassed the maximum number of shares Google+ could display at the time.
And then an interesting thing happened, people started remixing it. James Lawson Smith even animated it, with an awesome accent as well (with my permission of course):
I was also getting a lot of requests from people to translate the slideshow into their native tongue. So over the next few days I set up a system to help people edit the Photoshop document and upload different versions. I ended up managing a global team of multi-lingual designers to translate the slideshow into 32 languages, some of which I didn’t know existed. Ok… many of which I didn’t know existed.
Needless to say, this was exhilarating. I got to experience first hand the kind of power the internet has and the kind punch it can deliver. Despite what you’ve heard, the world is full of wonderful, helpful people from all walks of life.