Google+ does it for me … big time!

I was ready for a move away from Twitter and my usage had dropped even before G+. I had already made the decision some months ago to do more in Facebook with “real” friends and family. Then G+ came along and I found that I could do what I wanted to do all along.

Which was …
a) to be able to write posts that were not cryptic or had such silly abbreviations, or had such bad English that the only thing it made you look was either incredibly clever, or silly, or both depending upon who was reading it;
b) to get involved in meaningful (sometimes) dialogue with people I didn’t know but who shared an interest with me, maybe it was just G+ itself at first but now it’s broadening to photography and I suspect in time to travel, walking and genealogy interests who will get circles of their own too [NB most of those I engaged with on twitter were people I DID know – they’re all in  my acquaintance circle now – who are a very diverse group of people who I’ve “collected” mainly from work encounters] ;
c) to engage with family and REAL friends in a more closed (dare I even say safe) environment using photos and videos as the trigger for engagement.

As a consequence, I was then able …
d) to reduce my time on Fb to that of just a quick glance to see what friends were up to, comment and perhaps send them an invite to G+;
e) to make my contributions on twitter to be either i) trivial and light-hearted banter – yes, I know … but social can mean that too, or ii) informative in the sense of sharing links, publicising blog posts, etc, or iii) just being friendly.

Either way my twitter follows will shrink over time I suspect (as will my tweets), and my Fb friends have already shrunk in terms of the ones that appear on my newsfeed. In passing, I guess it’ll be the API that determines the success of Google+. If it allows thoughtful integration of streams without adding to the noise then I’ll be a happy bunny.

Google+ does it for me big time!

Further thoughts re. Google+

What do I like?
It’s all becoming a little clearer :-). Tweets appear in Buzz, but don’t appear in streams – is this what I want? Quite possibly given the drivel that I tweet at 11:00pm on a Saturday evening. With the commitment to provide developers with an API this may be possible in the future, eg #G+Family would be a good way to send a tweet to your family Circle. So then I got to thinking about some other issues.

Q. Do circles force me to be more serious in what I share?
A. Probably yes, as I have to consciously decide which stream to share my thoughts in. This is most definitely a “good thing” and means I can begin to drop identities – I have four Twitter personas as it is!

Q. Is there a use for this in a work context?
A. Most definitely yes. I can set up discrete, or even overlapping circles, for different workgroups and can then conduct discussions within a semi-protected environment. Of course the usual email rules apply – don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say face-to-face with a person who you may be referring to – so this becomes a useful and easy collaborative tool. [NB This is particularly true until Google fix the backdoor that allows people in one of your Circles to broadcast Publicly something from within that Circle.] Rather like Posterous is an easy way into blogging, so G+ streams could be seen to be an easy way into collaborative discussion.

Q. What should I do with Buzz? How visible is Buzz to others in my various Circles?
A. Not sure. Something to look into I suppose. Buzz is a bit of an enigma. I just don’t get it, and I think Streams will in time replace it. I can’t remember (until now) when I last looked at Buzz. G+ has encouraged (by the tab on my Profile) me to look at it, and I can see it contains all my tweets. Perhaps I need to look again and see what else I wish to push into Buzz. Perhaps. Perhaps.

Q. Do I like the “no-limit” on characters in a status (like this one)?
A. Most definitely. Leads to better construction of arguments and de-trivialises status updates. [To be fair, Yammer does this too, but much as I like the idea behind Yammer, G+ kills it off … stone dead.]

Q. What do I think about the four little icons to add items to a stream?
A. Really neat. Makes a status post, almost a blog post. Which when you combine with Circles makes this potentially a blogging platform for everyone. However as @amcunningham has already asserted … it’s not currently a blogging platform, and although I use Blogger/Blogspot it’s not my blogging platform of choice. Perhaps G+ will now encourage Google to give Blogger a make-over. Now that would be welcome!

Conclusion. I really like G+ to date. Bit difficult to assess how it will work out in practice as I can not invite those I would like to join Circles. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the Google App family will be integrated, esp. Docs and Sheets. I’m also intrigued to see whether Blogspot/Blogger will get a much needed work-over. I must now try and send a message to my Family Circle and see what they receive. I understand they should get an email … we’ll see!!

Some further observations.
The mobile version of G+ appears to have less functionality than the Win/MacOS version – is that a good thing? Is that correct? Bit confusing that I can’t edit my profile on my iPad, but can on the #MBP. Also my profile on the iPad looks completely different to the one on the #MBP. Have I missed something, somewhere? [Apparently, the view you have on M.G+ of yourself is not the same as the Public view, but there’s no way of testing that, as there is on the Win/MacOS versions.]

Fascinating. I’ve only just bought some more Google storage (it didn’t break the bank) and then this comes along … it means that any pictures less than 2048 x 2048 pixels will not count against my storage limit of 1Gb (for all Google Apps) if I upload through G+, but if I continue to upload through Picasa then I can have larger pictures but they will count towards the 1Gb because they won’t be resized automatically. An incentive to use G+ possibly???? What am I going to do with all the storage I’ve just bought … don’t answer that!

I do like the showcasing potential for photos – this could be a real advantage over Flickr which is a bit cold and austere in it’s presentation of pictures. This allows a more personal presentation … it links so closely to your profile and it’s more social.

A little bit more … now i’ve had time to read the help documents connected to Picasweb (and quench my excitement). The way Picasaweb is integrated into Profile looks really good, but it does raise an issue of Album privacy; of whether you need to revise your settings for existing albums if people you’ve shared them with can then share them with others. In practice, I suspect this doesn’t make much of a difference because the previous privacy setting meant that the album was only visible to someone with the URL – this of course could be shared “unofficially”, so perhaps in practice … no change.

So … wonder what Vimeo (and other content hosting providers) are going to do to make it easy to link videos hosted on their sites appear nicely in G+. That will be where G+ wins because developers will be able to hook “stuff” in to G+

I’m more excited about G+ than anything I’ve been using for a long time. Google may not be open, but it’s a darn sight more approachable than Fb is!!

Can’t wait to see G+ in the wild and be able to put some of these thoughts into practice. For instance, I think this could kill-off Facebook Groups as a concept for voluntary organisations. If you don’t want to promote yourselves, but do want to share stuff, G+ seems a good way of doing it – especially if the future points to greater integration with the other Google Apps … which it will. Always seemed a bit wierd to see a Group on Facebook which is in itself a very person orientated site. Now a Circle can be created and shared with it’s members without the need for a public presentation … neat!

I like Sparks. I can add a search term (eg West Ham United) and follow the news feeds that come up; sort of RSS feed “on the fly”. Of course there are more serious uses of this facility :-).

So … you set up Circles to match the Groups in your Gmail Contact list and those that have not taken up G+, still get an email when you post to Circle. I really like this. For those organisations where the culture is slow to change and there is socialmedia phobia, they can at least benefit from the broadcast of a message, and the truth is that if you want to change the culture, then you put a little teaser on the bottom which is a G+ invite to them to get the “full experience” 🙂

Excellent Google – it’s neat, practical and useful. Well done!

[PS Not so sure about “hangouts” and “huddles” (if I could find them that is!)- perhaps that’s a generational thing.]

Google+ has landed …

Well something had to wake me up! It arrived this morning, courtesy of an invite from Paul Hobson which worked! I guess it’s connected to having your Google language set to English(US) – yes it rankles but it has its benefits. Anyway, I’m up and running and have given it the once over.

I like Circles – they look a much better alternative to Facebook Groups in two use cases (at least):

  1. For closely defined groups that you want to keep reasonably leak-proof for people you trust (ie family and REAL friends) or who have a coherence of their own (ie a volunteer group, charity, etc), it could really work as a virtual meeting-point and archive of activity.
  2. For corporates frightened of Facebook and never having taken to Yammer, then Circles could be the answer as you can define your own circles and again (and I haven’t checked the security model in detail yet) retain an element of firewall to the circle. [I’ll report back on that in a later post.]

In addition to Circles, I do like the way Google+ is presented; the way your profile is shown, the way you can edit it and the detail you can change so that you can really present yourself, the way you want to be [I haven’t quite worked-out the various communication symbols yet … but I will by the end of the day!]. I also like the presentation on the iPad – the mobile version – it’s really clean and passes usability tests (for me). Finally (and here I’m speaking as a Chrome and iGoogle user) the integration with the rest of the Google stuff on the desktop is really good. In my Chrome taskbar, I now have a David+ tab, and a notifications button, and the same is true of iGoogle – a new tab has appeared.

You can see the future on the Google desktop therefore – this is what it will look like. I think, just possibly, Google may have got this right – perhaps the time and effort in getting it wrong with Wave and Buzz might have not been so bad a thing after all.

Finally, the integration with Picasaweb is also very good and I wait to test the video chat functionality – this could be the real killer functionality. I think Facebook have got a real competitor this time, and for corporates (as long as the security model is granular) there may be a good entry-level collaboration suite to add to the increasing Google in the Cloud offering.