Migrating Google+ Communities
Google+ Communities have a number of specific considerations for migration, and will also be closed by the April 2, 2019 Google+ shutdown. This page discusses these.
There are over 8 million G+ Communities, though an overwhelming number have few if any members. This still leaves a fair number of larger communities -- 57,000 with 1,000 or more members -- and the potential for numerous smaller-but-vital communities. While it's possible to estimate number, membership, and size distribution (see below), measures of activity and vitality are far more difficult. Exploration suggests a relatively small share of truly active communities, perhaps an upper bound of a few percent, and quite possibly far less, of those with more than 100 members being our estimate as of 26 November 2018.
Regardless, there are many groups faced with the question of how or whether to continue themselves, where, and how.
Help create this guide. We are not experts at moving user groups, though we've had some experiences. This page and this Wiki are best when the people affected contribute to it. If you're a G+ Community owner, moderator, or active participant helping to migrate your group and you have a suggestion or correction to make, please do.
- 1 Organising and Timing
- 2 Preserving Content and Data
- 3 Preserving the Group
- 4 Google+ Community Characteristics and Membership
- 5 Google+ Resources and Communities
- 6 Articles & References
Organising and Timing
Basic practices should resemble those of Recommended Practices, though with a much stronger emphasis on coordinating and communicating with your community.
- Exchange permanent contact information with contacts and groups. For Communities, creating a specific contact registry or mailing list is strongly recommended. Google Forms are a useful, accessible, and simple data capture tool.
- A pinned Community post is easiest to find. Add forwarding information to your Community "About" page.
- Announce yourself on your destination platform(s).
- Add your Community to the G+ Notable Communities Database.
- Talk over and decide on your online/social-media presence after April 2, 2019. Your closest relationships, that is, your immediate community will likely be your biggest influence.
- Think about data: what you want to keep, what you can delete, and how you want to use it.
- If you plan to export posts & comments: Google presently does not offer a Community Export capability, though it has committed to do so by "early March", 2019, with community owners and moderators "able to download additional details from public communities, including author, body, and photos for every community post." As of December 2018, there are third-party tools for making a comprehensive data export, particularly the Friends+Me Google+ Exporter. This seems to work but poses some concerns, see discussion below.
- Assess Google+ alternatives. You should now be making or have made your final selections.
- Develop a goal-directed plan, timeline, and actions to achieve it. Act on it, NOW.
For scheduling, again, the basics of Exodus Planning and Scheduling apply.
The migration phases we suggest are:
- Oct 2018 - Dec 2018: Coordination, planning, and exploring alternatives. Make data export(s) if any.
- Jan 2019 - Feb 2019: Execution. Final data export.
- Mar 2019: Re-establishing community.
- Apr 2019 - ∞: Shutdown, assessment of migration, rebuilding and expanding.
- Be aware that Google reduced the schedule for sunset by four months on 10 December 2018, and effectively again on January 30. It may do so yet again, based on this experience. Schedule uncertainty risk should be part of your planning considerations.
There may be early, late, and middle movers, each option has advantages and disadvantages. We're observing numerous active communities have already either made significant plans or committed to new platforms. Others are still exploring options. Google have advanced the schedule drastically, and may do so again.
We VERY STRONGLY recommend creating some interim out-of-band and common channel for remaining in touch with and keeping track of your community. A mailing list, or Google or Yahoo Groups is an excellent option, giving you full control. A subreddit does not provide a contact list directly but may also be a useful tool.
Preserving Content and Data
Google do not offer a Community archival capacity, though they have now committed to providing one for public communities only. This likely revolves around liability concerns and risks to Google on various points. We recommend you proceed on the assumption that Google will not provide such a tool.
There are third-party tools available.
Friends+Me Google+ Exporter
Alois Bělaška of Loysoft Limited, a UK-based company, has provided a data export tool, the Friends+Me Google+ Exporter. We used this ourselves and do STRONGLY recommend the tool. It exists, generally works, has generally better features and performance than Google's Data Takeout, and there are reports and examples of successful use, and of happy customers of the company with years of use.
A concern is that the Google+ Exporter requires your Google userID and password, giving it full access to all your Google account data and settings. The developer assures us that this is used locally only, see the statement below.
- The application is desktop only, for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. There is no Web-based converter or mobile app.
- The archived data can be saved in JSON format, or exported directly to a WordPress or Blogger site. There are multiple successful exports online. Example.
- Static site generators such as Jekyl, Pelican, and Hugo are not directly supported, but can be populated via the JSON archive. A direct conversion tool to Markdown may be supported, along with other export options. Examples of successfully migrated sites are available.
- Google+ Archiver can also be used for your personal posts and comments, including comments on others' posts. It advertises an improved data structure over Google's present archiver.
- Google+ Archiver does not use the Google+ API, which will be sunset by 8 March 2019. The archiver will not be affected by this.
- The product is free for up to 3,000 posts. A $19.99 license provides unlimited download capabilities. Use is limited to a single computer, though a transfer request can be made by email through support.
- Community Export is available to any member of the community (as of version 1.5.0).
A September, 2013 interview with the developer is here: Interview with Alois Bělaška: Using Friends+Me to Share Your Google+ Posts.
Policies and Data Use
Friends+Me responded to questions on the firm, data access, and technology:
- The Google+ Exporter application is owned and created by Loysoft Limited a UK based company.
- We do not store or use or gather any personal info or password. Everything is stored locally on a user computer.
The application is using Electron framework, meaning Chromium web browser is a core of the application and provides visualization engine for user and node.js for the app execution.
A user of the app is signing in to Google account just so the app can get access to Google+ feed to export. Nothing more, nothing less.
- No information is sent from the application. We just use sentry.io error reporting, so in case the application crashes an anonymized error report is sent.
- There's no 3rd-party audit of the application. We have a good reputation around here and we do not intend to mess it up in any way.
Filip H.S. "FiXato" Slagter's plexodus-tools
Does not support Communities export. Source.
Spencer Salyer's Communities-based exporter, gplus-archiver
TODO Describe. Works with public communities only. It relies on the G+ public API.
TODO: More detail.
Preserving the Group
Google+ Community Characteristics and Membership
There's been little available useful information about Google+ Community numbers, membership, activity, and other characteristics. We've conducted some basic research to fill in the gaps, largely using Google Plus's own sitemaps and Web-scraping on 22-23 November 2018. This provides guidance on the number and membership of communities, but not activity. Analysis is ongoing as of 24 November 2018. See: "Google+ Communities Membership Analysis Preview".
Google's sitemaps list 7,974,281 total communities.
Sampled and Estimated Community Characteristics
A sample of 12,000 randomly selected communities gives the following characteristics, with numbers referring to the sample, not all communities. We expect that relative relationships, percentages, means, percentiles, and rankings should hold, roughly.
- Total public: 10,814 (90.12%)
- Total private: 1,170 ( 9.75%)
- Total open-membership communities: 6,586 (54.88%)
- Total closed-membership membership: 5,414 (45.12%)
- Total membership (public only): 1,331,812
- Mean membership (public only): 128.67
- Total open-community membership: 1,207,115 (90.64%)
- Total closed-community membership: 124,697 ( 9.36%)
- Mean membership for open communities: 183.28
- Mean membership for closed communities: 23.03
Note that membership counts are only available for public communities.
"Open" communities may be joined without moderator approval. "Closed" communities require users "ask to join" and a moderator approve the request.
This gives a percentile distribution, and basis for an extrapolation to the full population.
We can also estimate the size of various "buckets" of communities. Here, a size bucket includes all communities with _at least_ the stated number of members, up to the next largest category -1. So '500+' reflects communities having from 500-999 members. The 10,000+ category goes up to the largest G+ community, around 4 million members. Each ranked community represents about 600 actual communities, with extrapolations based on this used for estimation.
|Community Members||Observed in Sample||Estimated Communities|
Note: Most zero-member communities are private (roughly 9% of the total sample), and may actually have some members. 500k+ and 1m+ estimates are based on CircleCount 16 April 2016 top-200 rankings, re-assessed 25 November 2018.
Non-Public G+ Community Characteristics
These data also give us a basis for estimating the non-public membership, based on "open" and "closed" (free to join, and request required) communities. These are roughly equal in number, 55% open, 45% closed, but closed communities have only about 10% the total membership of open ones. If that relationship holds for public vs. private communities, then the 10% of Google+ Communities which are private likely have only about 1% the membership of public communities.
Assessing G+ Community Activity and Vitality
Again, there are few to no formal tools for doing this, little or no published data, and no forthcoming information from Google itself concerning any aspects of the Google+ sunset since the October 8 announcement, as of late November 2018. We have little to offer other than suggestions.
- Despite much cheerleading, Google+ Communities have largely proved relatively disappointing by way of either engagement on Google+ or for driving attention to external sites. There are exceptions, but this has been the rule.
- Individually inspecting Communities should give an assessment of overall health: are there recent posts, are there comments to posts, are those posts substantive or spam? By late November 2018, a very positive sign is whether a community has an ongoing migration plan announced, generally in its description or as a pinned or Administrative post.
- Community owners and moderators have access to an Insights panel (under the "Manage" button), showing 7 and 30 day statistics for member count, growth, posts, comments, and +1s.
- We've had some success in estimating site activity by running Google searches limited to a specific site, and looking at the returned item count. It is possible to specify a URL path on a site to further restrict such searches. So, the search
site:plus.google.com/communities/112164273001338979772 thiswill provide a count of occurrences of the common English word "this" within the Google+ Mass Migration community. While not a count of posts, the results are an indicator of content magnitude. You can further restrict searches to a specific date range, if you want to compare recent activity from the past year, say. The results are approximate, but may be useful.
More robust measures of health would typically require the ability to compare posting activity across multiple communities, or direct metadata access. This is not available.
In the past, CircleCount have provided some statistics on Google+ profile and community trends. This is no longer available due both to Google discontinuing the Google+ API and increased privacy regulations in Europe and elsewhere. Archived reports may exist. See also the CircleCount G+ Profile page.
We have asked and strongly urge Google to provide information on active, vital communities on Google+, by some credible measure.
Google+ Resources and Communities
There are several communities on Google+ oriented around Community owners and moderators. We are attempting to work with these. Included are:
- Google+ Moderators (~1k members) Official (?) G+ moderators' forum, with Google staff as owners.
- "G+" Community Owners (19k members). Unofficial but active and healthy community.
And of course we're directly associated with the Google+ Mass Migration community.
Articles & References
There are few available guides to moving communities, though the addition of other perspectives can be helpful. Among those we've found:
- Key Points to Keep in Mind Before Migrating Your Online Community (June, 2018). Largely aimed at corporate communities, and doesn't contemplate a platform shutdown, but strongly emphasises social and organisational factors, as well as the re-onboarding experience. E.g., disabling alert emails, etc., to avoid annoyances.