19 September 2014

First look at Google+

GooglePlusGoogle+ is Google‘s new experiment in the world of social networks. I say ‘experiment’ because it is only in limited release; you have to wait for someone to be able to invite you, and then you have to accept the invitation during one of the brief, unpredictable periods when new members are being accepted. I also call it an ‘experiment’ because Google have tried something similar before. It was called Google Wave and it didn’t catch on. Google Wave was removed from circulation.

It is inevitable that Google+ will be compared to Facebook and Twitter, and I will be doing the same. I’ve been using both for some years now, and have watched them evolve and become more useful. Google+ is only a beginner, and will become more useful as it grows, adds more features and tweaks, and more people get into it.

I’ve been on Google+ for an hour or so now; long enough for some first impressions:

Looks

So far I like it. It looks clean and easy to understand. Perhaps that will change as new features are added and it gets more complicated, but for the time being I prefer being there than in Facebook.

Friends

In Google+ you add people to circles. The ability to do this, and to differentiate circles, is built into the product and is very friendly and intuitive. Circles are like lists in Facebook and Twitter. You can categorise people according to whether they are friends, family, acquaintances or people you follow; or you can add your own categories. I have already added ‘genealogists’ and ‘Australia’, as many of the people in my circles are genealogists and/or Australians and some of the things I post are only relevant to them. No point asking a Canadian genealogist about what was on ABCTV in Australian last night.

Google+ Circles

Messages

Google+ looks much like Facebook when you get into it. You get a feed of all the news from the people in your circles, in descending chronological order from the most recent down. Where Google+ is different is that it is very easy to filter the stream by circle, so that you see only the messages in your Family circle, or your Genealogists circle:

GooglePlus homepage

If I am displaying all circles and I want to post something, I am asked who I want to share it with:

GooglePlus postAnd it won’t let me post it without selecting someone. So if I’m going to make it public I can’t make a mistake. But if I then post again it assumes what I said last time – Public. So watch out for that.

I think the difference here is that people now use Facebook for their friends and Twitter for everyone. You know that if you use Twitter all the world can see it. So you make the decision before you go in. With Google+ you have to make the decision each time you post something. I think that could be confusing, and perhaps dangerous.

It’s new, though, and so am I, so I’ll withhold my final judgement for the time being.

Photos

Uploading photos is appallingly slow compared to Facebook. I upload photos to Facebook on a regular basis, often from my phone. It’s relatively quick and I can share them without worrying that they are too big for my blogging software. So I’ve tried to upload photos to Google+ of the HMB Endeavour from a recent trip to Cairns. I started it off and went to do some things. I wish I’d recorded when I started it, because it’s still only half way through. Maybe the quality is better, but who’s going to care?

Again, perhaps this is a startup thing, and it will improve as it gets bigger and more experienced. I haven’t uploaded photos to Picasa Web for a long time so I can’t really make that comparison.

When it eventually finished uploading I saw there was a photo I had selected by mistake, and I can’t work out how to remove it. Perhaps I have to go to Picasa Web to do that.

I’ve gone to Picasa Web and it’s changed now that I’m on Google+:

Picasa messageYou can see my Endeavour album here. It seems I can edit the album in Picasa Web but not in Google+. Perhaps that will change. I will leave the odd photo there so you can see it. Leave a comment if you pick the odd one!

Organisations

As social beings we don’t just deal with people as individuals; we deal with organisations as well. Facebook and Twitter both allow organisations to connect with us, sharing their news and new features.

Google+ isn’t yet at this stage, so it unfair to judge. When it is ready for organisations there will be a whole new layer of complexity. Or maybe not!

The default circles include one called ‘Following’. Following is what you do to organisations in Facebook and Twitter, so perhaps Google+ has already distinguished them for us. If the people/organisations we ‘follow’ are in separate circles from family, friends, and genealogists then perhaps the distinction will be enough to keep the separate functions of Google+ in our minds. When we want to ‘read the news’ we open the ‘Following’ circle, and when we want to chat to friends we open the Friends circle. If we want to interact with the organisation we can.

Well, those are my first impressions of Google+. What have yours been?

What do you think? Leave a reply here.