Friday, July 1, 2011

Google+: A Work in Progress

Google has announced its own social-networking service in the form of Google + (or, Google Plus as I seem to keep wanting to type it). Google introduces it this way:
Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.
In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.
We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.
We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests.
While making an obvious crack at Facebook:’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers...
I was one of the lucky few who knew someone who knew someone and got my invite in the system before it was shut down yesterday. (Or is it back up? I am getting conflicting reports.) Many people I have added to my Circles were recommended through my Google contacts. However, there are quite a few that while I can add them to a Circle, because they have not been issued an invite yet, they can only get notification of your shared items by email. That makes me less inclined to share as much with some Circles because I do not want to be one of those people filling up others' inboxes!  I have gotten more mixed information on how people were getting invites: some say they got them by being added to a Circle, others said they had to issue an invite to people whether they had been added to a Circle or not.

Some of the things I like about it thus far, balanced against what I do not like/think needs some more work:

The Google Profile has been updated to fit in with Google+. It gives a cleaner interface (in my opinion) with easily navigable tabs.  There seems to be pretty clear information on what tabs are actually viewable to the public: it states on my Buzz tab that it is only visible to me. I do not like that unlike the actual Buzz page, I only see my items. Also, I wish that they would expand the links sidebar out so that the full link would show, as opposed to being cut off, and that the navigation tabs could be reordered. I think people would be more interested in landing on my About tab first, not my Posts, especially if they are not in a Circle that can see what is there.

You can not only edit the information on your profile piece by piece, but it will tell you exactly who can see it, and how you can change it. Similar to Facebook, especially with that Custom choice, but a welcome one. You don't have to hunt through click after click to figure out your privacy settings for your Google+ profile.

The main page of Google+ has some good and some needs work. Your stream is all the posts by people you follow, and you can filter it by the Circles you have created. Since I am not sure about sharing other people's information I am showing my Family Circle, which only has one person without an invite (Sorry, soon I promise!). Sparks seem similar to Alerts. I created a Spark on "ebooks" and found that the results are almost identical to the ones I receive in Reader.

When you post something in Google+ (called sharing) you have the options of making it public or limiting it to various Circles or Extended Circles, which I presume are the Circles of those you have in your Circles (anyone visualizing covered wagons yet?). People can comment, but there is no way to thread replies; comments are linear to the post. You also cannot feed Twitter or other services in like with Buzz, at least not that I can figure out. I am hoping this is something they plan to bring in. I would like to see some more integration and cohesion with what they already offer. If this is going to end up replacing Buzz, I don't want to lose services I already have.

I will admit first that I am thoroughly under the thumb of our Google overlords, using a lot of its various applications every day. I use Google Buzz, Reader, along with Twitter, a lot more than I do Facebook. However, I cannot really see this replacing Facebook for a couple of reasons.

  • Facebook lets you in from anywhere, with any email address. All of the people I have added to Google+ have had to already have a Google Profile. Can I see everyone drinking the Google Kool-Aid? No.
I can see people trying this out and enjoying the ability to have a smaller network than may currently exist on Facebook. I am not going to add all my high school and college friends into a Circle, that is for sure. I can see using it to connect with and follow colleagues in professional Circles, and, if Buzz folds into it, as my online social-sharing feed.  However, Google is going to have to act fast by allowing invites to go back out, and integrate some of the services people are already looking for with online social networking, or this may go the way of Google Wave. 

Are you one of the chosen few? Are you still waiting? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right -- exploring Google+ is a better use of our time right now than exploring Pushnote.