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BLOG: Claim: '83% of Google+ users are inactive' Reality? Nope

Sharon Machlis | Aug. 20, 2011
'83 percent of Google+ users are inactive' screams a headline on a well-known tech site. But where does that number come from? How is inactive defined? Is it accurate?

Information designer Ville Kilkku, who commented after me on GigaOm that "without the definition of inactive ... this is pretty much just noise," joined me in trying to squelch buzz about this. But it can be tough to go up against a juicy headline -- especially one that fits into your existing ideas. Fast Company, for example, linked to it with the comment: "it's a trend we higlighted last month called 'Circles fatigue.' " Ah, we believe it so of course it's true.

It was also difficult to resist for a few of those seeking to be experts on all things Google+ itself, whether or not they agree with what the number claimed to say. Dan Schwabel, who is in more than 5,000 people's circles, posted a link to that GigaOm story with the sole comment "Surprised? I am." Steve Rubel, who's been added by more than 23,000 people on Plus, posted the GigaOm piece without comment. Happily a couple of people did complain, with one noting that the numbers are likely "way off" for not including commenters as well as posters, and another speculating that much data like this is in fact "subjective guesswork." One commenter on Google+ even took the time to read comments on the original site (and even cited my complaint). Most, though, responded to that 83% number as if it were true, with one of the first critics complaining "they should talk about the quality of discussions versus noise."

The good news? While this rather questionable statistic has cropped up in places it shouldn't have, it hasn't (yet) gone viral. Perhaps people learned something from the "Internet Explorer users are dumb" fiasco after all?

UPDATE: While Bime did include a caveat about not knowing specifics of the "inactive" statistic in its blog post about the numbers, it did not have a similar caution in an infographic that it invites others to re-post on their Web sites. There's been an interesting back-and-forth discussion about Bime's role in this on Google+ between consultant Matt Ridings and Bime's Kirsty Lee.


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