In my last blog post, I highlighted my uses for Facebook and Twitter. Today, I’ll explore Google+ and explain why it’s so valuable to me and all my hats (husband/father, teacher, writer, coworker, friend). I mentioned before that sharing on Facebook is always an over share. If a friend asks how I liked his homemade beer, I don’t really want my students that follow me on Facebook to read that discussion. If a relative asks how potty training is going, I don’t need my coworkers or writing network hearing about all the places that poop can fly. Facebook is very good at keeping people in contact, but the more people you know and more networks you join, there needs to be some boundaries. Enter Google+ and circles.
For starters, why Google+? That has nothing to do with people, sharing, or networking. My best guess is this. In the top left corner, before the Gmail, docs, and calendar links there is +username. In essence, it is Google+me, and Google+you, and Google+people. Google has always been about information, but the Internet is no longer just about information, it’s about people, and connecting, and rights (I’m not sure I agree with what I just said, but that’s how people are viewing it. I’m just the messenger.). So there we have it: information+people=a more complete and powerful Internet. The thought is pretty staggering if you sit and consider all the ramifications of what that means. Anyways, let’s get on with it. Here’s a a screenshot of the user interface once you log in:
I blotted the names in the suggestions list because I don’t know 2 of them, and the third isn’t on Google+. The interface is clean and organized. My apologies to the people who most recently shared as they are on the screen shot. The Google+ profiles are also very tidy and easy to read. Here’s my Google+ profile page:
Again, nice and clean. The real deal breaker for G+ though is the use of circles. Here’s a few of my circles:
You can sort your contacts into circles simply by dragging their name and dropping them into a circle. My profile page above will look different to different circles because of the amount of information I allow to be shared with each circle. People can be in multiple circles as well. But the idea of circles is what allows me to be family, friend, teacher, coworker, and writer. I have the freedom to establish boundaries and appropriate relationships. There is a lot of talk in school districts about interacting with students online, especially through social networking sites. I wonder if Google+ can begin to change this mindset, though there will always be jerks who abuse their role and ruin it for those of us who want the best for our students. I digress.
With circles, I can post pictures of my trip to Tiny Town with my family, and only allow my family circle to see it (okay, my friends would probably be privy to it as well). If I post a tidbit of writing, I can send it just to my writers circle or post it as public. I can still network online with people, but now I can have control over who and what. It’s a beautiful thing.
As a writer, Google+ is more beneficial to me than Facebook (in terms of productivity) because I use Google Docs, Calendar, and Gmail. If you look in the screenshots, I have access to all of those in the black bar running across the top of the screen. I’ve read that Google Apps will eventually be integrated into the Google+ experience. For example, I could be writing a poem and want to share it with my workshop group. Now I have to enter their email addresses and hope that email doesn’t end up in their spam bucket. With Google+, I can potentially create a post in Google Docs and share it with my Google+ circle.They can comment, discuss, etc. and email is never involved. It can all happen right there. My writing group can also start a hangout, video chat, on those days when we are supposed to meet but we are snowed in.
The final uniquely copied attribute of Google + is the button. Facebook has likes, Twitter has retweets, and Google+ has +1. With Google+, you can really surf the web and +1 whatever you like. You can then view those +1′s on your Google+ account and share them with others. There may be some benefits to +1 over likes, but I’m not sure I really care about it at this point.
Truth be told, I probably won’t completely abandon Facebook, though changing it to simply a fan page for writing resources is right around the corner. But as more people join Google+, my personal interactions (not personable, I’m always personable. Right? Okay, maybe not. Again, I digress.). I am ecstatic about the opportunities that Google+ presents in all facets of life.
With all of that said, Google+ has some areas of opportunity. I would like my blog to automatically post to my profile, along with my Twitter stream. There are extensions being produced that allow for such interaction between accounts, but there is also some malware being created to capitalize on the Google+ craze. So I’ll sit back for a little while and see how the extensions develop. They can’t be as bad and as invasive as Facebook apps can they?
This is my brief introduction to Google+. I really do like the platform and look forward to using it as another tool in the writers toolbox. What have your experiences with Google+ been in comparison to Facebook and/or Twitter? Does Google+ have a place in social networking or is it just trying to be that kid on the playground demanding somebody play with him?