My friend Jeremy recently asked me what Google Plus (aka Google+, G+) was. I have the feeling that he’s not the only one of my friends unfamiliar with this new social network, so I wanted to make a post explaining what Google+ is, what you can do with it, and why it shouldn’t be just another platform for you to explain what you and your girlfriend are doing.
In a nutshell, Google+ is another social network. But it’s a social network that allows much more control over who sees your content. Don’t confuse this with saying that Google+ is a private social network. Journalist Dan Gillmor recently posted an interview with an official from Google where the official explained some ways that Google works and declined to answer other questions. But if you’re on the Internet and complaining about privacy, you should probably understand that you’re leaving data almost everywhere you go. The complaint isn’t whether your data is private, but to what extent. If you don’t want anybody to see your data, you might as well cancel your Internet plan right now.
How can I use Google+?
The biggest difference between Google+ and other social networks is the Circles feature. You can put whoever you want into however many Circles you want. A Circle is more or less a Facebook Group, though the Group concept never really seemed to catch on. Google gives you a set of circles, but you can delete them and create your own. For example, I have a group of Coworkers, a group of people I know from Bradley (teachers, coworkers, colleagues), and of course, wrestling fans.
What this means is I can share certain content with some people, while not bothering other people with it. For instance, I know not all of my friends care to see my wrestling posts. What I can do is share only those posts with people in my Wrestling circle.
Circles also lets you customize your stream. I have a circle of Designers, so if I want to see only a stream on design, I can choose to look at only that stream. Google Plus is great for letting you sort through content, a solution that Facebook Groups and Twitter Lists may not have nailed down.
Gillmor also says G+ is better for conversations. Unlike Twitter’s 140-character limit, G+ lets you post as much as you want.
So far, businesses have been told not to start Plus accounts. Right now, they are for individuals only.
Why should I use Google+?
Google Plus, like any other social network, only works if people have something interesting to say. Personally, I don’t care to see what people are eating or where they took their girlfriend on a date. I want to know opinions about what people think on a topic. I want to get useful links. The World Wide Web is huge, and social networking allows me to see more of the Web than I’d know about it if I were to look for it on my own.
If you don’t see a reason for it, I wouldn’t recommend you get it. However, if you think you might like to use it someday, have someone invite you to get an account and see what it’s about.
Google+ should also not be linked with your other social media accounts. Find something different to say on each network so that people you’re more connected with don’t see you seeing the same thing all the time.
I want to know more.
Mashable has your Complete Guide to Google+.
So with that all being said, since Google+ is still only about a month old…how are you using it? What differences are you finding between Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Do you have a preference?
Let me know with a comment.
The thing I have used G+ most for is the Huddle feature. Huddle is essentially Google’s chat feature (originally just in GMail, but now fully integrated) for groups. It’s mobile-only right now, and it’s almost like bringing back the IRC or chatroom days. You get some people in your Circles and put them in a Huddle together. When somebody posts, everyone gets to read it and can respond.
This is great for planning and coordinating on the go. What first started out as “Hey, wanna grab breakfast” between myself and two friends (one of them is the artistic director for the theatre I work at frequently) has turned into a great way to coordinate some things for the theatre. And since we all are on the Android bandwagon (some more than others), when someone wants to contribute or has a question, we are all involved instantly.
I have also tried the Hangout feature (I think it’s computer-only for now), which is essentially group video chat. It’s Telepresence for the masses. I got a few friends together, we just did a quick chat. Someone left and grabbed some food, it was fun. I could see this as a great tool for not only personal video chat (battling Skype), but also as a cheap teleconference solution. Combine a Hangout with Google Docs and you have most everything WebEx can do (aside from recording and actual desktop sharing — for now), but in the somewhat-benevolent umbrella of Google.
For actual social use, Facebook is still king. However, when you’re tired of liking kitten videos, etc., G+ has a bit more of what you may want as a communication tool.
That sounds cool. I haven’t gotten that involved yet, so I might have to try that out sometime.
Unfortunately, I’m thinking about making the switch to the iPhone, so I may not be able to take full advantage of it. We’ll see.