Google+ First ThoughtsJuly 5, 2011
As described in a previous post I currently have a professional/personal split to my social media using Facebook for family and friends and Twitter (and this blog) for work related stuff. Both platforms have different content and although the more personal end of my Twitter posts also finds its way onto Facebook it’s not a regular enough occurrence to justify using something like Posterous to post to both platforms. Talk of Google Circles set me wondering whether I’d be able to rationalise some of my activity to a single platform. Circles is Google’s way of categorising online contacts so by default you have ‘friends’, ‘work’, ‘family’, ‘aquaintances’ etc. Posts/pictures/videos and so on can be shared with all or only specific circles and this has the potential to greatly simplify a work/personal split. Conversely you can choose to post to all of your circles and also to ‘extended circles’ – the circles of everyone in your circles.
After a few days of dabbling it looks like Google+ is going to be great for this once it gets a sunstantial user base. Organising contacts into circles is a breeze, in fact the interface is intuitive and a lot of fun. Google have clearly nailed creating a pleasurable, as well as effective interface in the same way that Apple products (apart from the execrable iTunes) have. How many Google+ users haven’t created a circle just to delete it? There’s a nice privacy solution too, you can choose how much of your personal and contact information is available to each circle independently so friends and family get personal mobile number and email, work contacts get the work mobile and email. Easy and very very useful indeed for those of us with a split digital personality.
The stream screen in Google+ is much like the Facebook equivalent, posts from contacts in circles and also extended circles, it works well, tried and tested, nothing new here so far. Sparks I’ve only just started on – it allows you to specify areas of interest and provides a stream of links related to it, this is something I need to play with some more, currently I’m trying with audio post production, media, technology keywords. It picks up web links well, so far all related to the keywords I’ve put in but it’d be nice if it could pick up related Google+ posts too. I guess this is the flip side of having posts directed only to specific circles and is an inevitable consequence of some of the stuff I really like about the platform. In Tweetdeck I have several search columns permanently set up and it’s been a great way of not only finding content but also of making new contacts with related interests. So it’s not going to replace Twitter for me BUT I’d be very interested in how Twitter feeds could be integrated into the Google+ environment. Actually a Flickr-style link between platforms would be most welcome (if you’re listening Google). All this I’m sure will come with time as the platform matures.
Actually integration is I think going to be the key to Google+ success – not only integrating different digital identities, which I think it is going to be great at, but also its integration into the rest of the Google world. Google+ on an Android phone is a great experience from the word go, easy and almost no setup involved. So so so much better than Facebook apps I have on iOS and Android. Integration with other apps such as Picasa is instant – again no setup. This lack of setup and the quality and breadth of Google’s offerings makes it very easy to get on board.
There’s an additional tool I came across yesterday which Facebook could really learn from. ‘Data Liberation’ is Google’s method for backing up and exporting all of your content.
I like it. A lot.
Google’s collaborative tools such as Google Docs are all tightly integrated and although previously I wouldn’t have used my gmail account for work Circles make it possible to utilise all of this stuff both to speed up and facilitate my professional online life but I can also use the same tools and interface for personal as well.
Early days yet and not a vast user base but Google+ gets a thumbs up from me so far and the drip drip effect of membership loopholes opening and closing suggests that others will come aboard to see what all the fuss is about soon. Hope to see you on there.