The terrible idea that is Google #Trending

Nicki Minaj. Britney Spears. Whitney Houston. Jennifer Lopez.

These were four of the topics that were trending Google+ the day after launching the new UI which put the trending box on everyone’s home page.

The ‘trending’ box in its current incarnation is a terrible idea for a service like Google+. Here’s why.

1) G+ is not Twitter. It’s not news happening real-time, it’s not news at a glance. When I click a ‘trending’ topic on twitter, I can immediately see what’s going on and why it’s trending. That’s because everyone is tweeting the same thing, a stream of global consciousness. When I do the same thing on G+, I am completely at a loss. I had to go to the google search to find out (for research purposes, of course) why these four were trending that day (one of them was rumoured to be an X-Factor judge, one of them released a best-selling record, one of them filed divorce papers, one of them was dead. in random order.). I could not get that information from G+. What I got instead when I clicked a singer’s name was some video clips, some gushing teenagers and random snippets of news – nothing that could point me in the right direction. It had taken me a painful while to even learn who Nicki Minaj was.
It continues to be that way. Today’s trending topics are ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Instagram’. Generic much? I clicked through and found no reason whatsoever for those trends to appear today, or any other day apart from the day when Facebook bought Instagram – and that was ages ago in terms of internet news. Twitter got over that in a day. And as of writing this, I have no clue why Microsoft would be trending.

2) The information provided is irrelevant for a vast majority of G+ populace. We’re talking Google here, the company which makes its business to know what’s relevant to its users. Why doesn’t Google use its powerful analytics tools to give me the information I need? They know what I’m like, they know where I live, what I want to read about, what I do. I’ve given away all this information in exchange for a useful, relevant product. If I wanted to know what’s trending at all (I never did before) I want to know what’s trending in the areas that I’m interested in. Instead I get Nicki Minaj.
The G+ population is one of the most diverse and easily multi-cultural online populations I have ever seen. In my circles I have people from Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Australia, Germany… Their interests span from e-publishing through human rights to brewing coffee. Why are we all uniformly being given entertainment news from the USA? This is verging on insulting. This is Google saying none of what we do or care about matters in the sea of pop culture. I get ads that are more interesting to me than the Trending topics.

In summary, #Trending is useless for an interest- and discussion-based service like G+. G+ is not working as a news source. Google is not using its vast knowledge of its users to provide a good service. The Trending box must go.