So. Google+. This strange new social media outlet that could easily be the love child of Facebook and Twitter. For those of you already in the beta, you can find me here: Brooke Johnson Google+
First things first, Google+ has circles. Circles are amazing little things, all round and stuff. You fill them with people.
The place where Google+ will succeed is the public/private boundary. Twitter is available to everyone, or only people you approve. Facebook is available to everyone, unless you mess with the settings for about three hours, and then you can make it private. It’s a bit of an either/or thing. You can’t really have posts targeted toward everyone, then some posts targeted toward just family or just friends.
In Google+, circles reign supreme.
Friends: Your real friends, the ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with. Family: Your close and extended family, with as many or as few in-laws as you want. Acquaintances: A good place to stick people you’ve met but aren’t particularly close to. Following: People you don’t know personally, but whose posts you find interesting.
The people you connect with on Google+ can go into these circles. One person can fit in multiple circles. You can also create new circles. I plan to have a Funkmaster Flex circle composed of our Dungeons & Dragons party. I will have a Writers circle once more people are on Google+.
What I love about Twitter is the ability to follow other people without them having to approve you (except for private accounts), as you do with Facebook “friends”. Circles function in the same way. A person may add you to one of their circles, but you don’t have to add them.
Circles are organized in the Google+ sidebar. You can read updates from one group or all groups. This is similar to Twitter’s list feature.
But the really cool thing about circles is the ability to tailor your posts to a specific circle. Facebook sort of has this with groups. When you post in a group, only people in that group will see your posts. With circles, you do the same thing. When you type an update for Google+, it asks who you would like to see the post. You have the option to choose from the circles you have created; you can tag specific persons with +[name]; you can limit posts to show only to the people in your circles; you can limit posts to show only to the people in the circles of people in your circles; or you can make the post public.
Right now, everything I post is public. I don’t really have a reason to post to specific circles yet. But the idea is that you want to post a video that you don’t think you parents would particularly approve of, so you limit the post to all circles other than your family. Or perhaps you have a link that only pertains to writers, so you post to that circle only. I have a friend who posts a lot of political links, petitions, and the like. I hate those posts. I hate politics. So I am not in his Freethinkers circle, where he targets those posts. I can still see some of his posts, those that pertain to me, without having to see the other posts.
So, we’ve established that circles are the bomb-diggity. But that’s not the only thing Google+ has going for it.
Yesterday, I used the Hangout feature with my political friend mentioned above. Basically, Hangout is Skype. You can talk face-to-face with someone else on Google+ if you have a webcam or a microphone. There is also chat available in the sidebar. You can talk with multiple people at the same time—up to how many, I’m not sure. You can choose to hang out with specific circles, certain people, or you can make the Hangout public.
My political friend pointed out that this sort of feature will be great for writer critique groups, or any other social club based on the internet. I agree.
Google+ also has features we’re familiar with in regard to Facebook. You can upload photos and videos and share links through your status updates. You can organize photos into albums if you so wish. Google+ has a +1 feature which is similar to the “like” on Facebook, and you can find it hanging around blog posts and certain websites. When you +1 a post somewhere on the internet, it can be added to your +1’s tab on your Google+ profile, basically sharing which posts you’ve read and enjoyed recently.
The about tab on the Google+ profile is simple. You can choose to fill out certain portions and not others. You can link to websites from your profile, and there is a “send email” feature that others will see. Rather than send a message, like in Facebook, or a DM, like in Twitter, people can send an email directly to you through your profile without seeing your address. I have not tested this feature yet, so I don’t know if the sender’s email shows up to the recipient, or how exactly that works. I’ll be sure to update this post once I know.
And that’s about it!
The only thing I can’t figure out is how Google+ organizes the order of posts in the Stream. Sometimes, it’s chronological with newest first, and then sometimes it’s just random. So hopefully there will soon be a feature where you can adjust how the Stream is organized. I would also like a proper share feature--how you can share links to Facebook and Twitter without having to copy/paste the link.
If you have any questions, I’ll be sure to do my best to answer.