An hour into Google PlusPosted: June 29, 2011
Google has released their long awaited foray into social media using an invite only system. Invites went to a select group on Tuesday and a bit wider on Wednesday. I was lucky enough to know someone and get an invite before they stopped allowing invites due to crushing demand. Thanks to JaneDoh13 (Sarah) and Good old Twitter, I managed an invite before the tap was turned off.
I’ve been very reclusive in my Facebook use for sometime. Things I want to share with my friends are not always something I want to share with my family, things that are of interest to people in tech mean nothing to my non-tech friends, and Facebook never made it easy to manage groups and post accordingly. Every several months, I ended up pruning people I hadn’t talked with in a long time so I could keep the target narrow when I posted. My other problem with Facebook was simply their repeated introduction of new features that required a privacy audit every single time they released something and defaulted to “share with the world”. I’m generally a pretty private person and though I understand the “service” is free, they are making money of their users. I’ve simply felt that the cost of sharing on Facebook was simply getting far too high to bother with.
Anyways, my intial impression with G+ was very positive. The interface is very clean and intuitive. Though I had no idea what “sparks” or “circles” were, I never felt like I was going to get lost or screw something up during the setup as I explored. Eventually, I’m sure there will be ads, but right now, it is very clean.
Circles is a major advancement over Facebook. You start with a default set of groups (family, friends, acquaintances, and following) and you can add more as you see fit. Before it gets too busy, I plan to plan out a structure that will work for me and it seems flexible enough to do so. When I post or share something, I can now post to a specific group, multiple groups or everyone easily. You could create groups and do the same in FB, but it seemed like you were being penalized given the amount of setup required and the cludgy interface to post to a group. Adding people to circles is pretty easy with a snappy drag and drop interface. And, you can add people to multiple circles. Your contacts never see what circles they are in, so you can sort accordingly without hurting feelings.
Following is very cool. Much like Twitter, I can follow people that I’m interested in learning about and from. This often involves developers and CEOs of companies, authors, comedians and others that I’m not likely to meet, but like to hear about and from. What is great, is that they can post information to their friends and families on the same service without having to worry about sharing with a huge groups of strangers. Assuming I have followers at some point, it’s nice to know that I can talk about my kid with family members without posting to the tech crowd that likely doesn’t care and sees it as noise.
Sparks are very cool. I can pick topics by interest and see a feed of news and blogs right in the interface. This has the potential to severely limit how many tabs I keep open while I’m working and just rely on keeping G+ open to take for a news spin. Sharing is also integrated into the feed to make sharing breaking news links, cool web apps, or Reddit stuff fast and easy.
There is a built in chat similar to gmail. I don’t often keep chat or IM programs open anymore as it seems to be too easy to have work interrupted, but gmail’s chat works well, so I’ll assume the same here.
There is a tab for photos with selections to see photos from your circles, your phone or your uploaded pics. The display is nicely done and everything looks remarkably crisp. They don’t show tiny thumbnails and that may be the difference. It could also be that the photos from my circle are just very good.
A profile tab allows you to create a brief and clean profile that seems less high school than the FB profile. Nothing too special, but nicely displayed and easily searchable. The most impressive thing here is the linking to other sites including Twitter, FB, Linkedin and numerous others allowing for creation of a centralized profile across the web (or one stop shopping for stalkers and axe murderers. Of course, with a single click, you can limit your profile’s viewability).
I also installed the G+ Android app on my phone and it delivers very well. Again the interface is clean and well organized, encouraging you to explore without ever feeling like you won’t be able to find your way back. It seems to load very quickly and while it has the functionality of the site, it has been completely tuned for the smartphone. So far, my favorite feature has to be the ability to automatically upload photos and videos taken with your phone to your G+ account, where they wait for you in a PRIVATE folder until you’re ready to share them. I don;t have to synch my phone to get my stuff on the web and I don’t have to worry about managing shares on a small interface. Awesome. Also, you can tweak settings to only upload when using wi-fi and when roaming if you want.
So while my initial response is very positive, there are a few things that may impact my use. I have yet to read the terms of service and while I expect that anything uploaded is either owned or granted an unlimited, lifetime licence to monetize, I will actually read through it and see what G+ “costs” to use. I can see both sides of the data collection argument, and while privacy is a concern, I do trust Google more than I so Facebook. I don’t know why, I just do. And, I said I trust them “MORE”, not that I trust them outright.
The other potential detractor would be why it is so hard to get a social network off the ground in the first place: Critical Mass. It’s still pretty quiet there right now with a search for “Edmonton” only showing just over 130 profiles. G+ will need to find a balance between scale and quality and then open the gates all the way. They will likely need to provide some guidance when people like my Dad join up to get them started without posting everything as public (Early adopters are probably more into the tech and likely not to need as much, if any help figuring it out). I don’t think scale will be too much of a problem and I expect the web to blow up with ways to connect with the service over the next few weeks.
Anyways, that’s only about an hour spent with the product. I’ll write a bit more about it over the next couple of days as I play with the features a little more.
Posting without proofreading and after a long day.
PS If you’d like an Google Plus invite, you can fill in the form here: http://tooq.ca/about/ and just put ‘Google+ Invite’ in the “how can we help?” box. I’ll try and get as many as I can out.
 I also forgot to mention “data liberation”. You can download all your data, posts, streams, everything, whenever you want and keep a copy. Impossible on FB. [/edit]