I consider myself relatively savvy when it comes to “new media.” New Media is part of my work title and everything. But I have to admit that Google+ is throwing me for a little bit of a loop.
It’s not Google’s fault. In fact, almost every reference I’ve seen to Google+ so far has been positive. I blame myself and my apparent inability to focus on one thing for too long. For example, look at this lovely Welcome screen that Google provides when you get started with Google+.
Do you think I could be bothered with actually going through the sections of this page and reading/watching tutorials? Of course not. I’ve gotten overly confident in my internet competency. And so I jumped right in.
What I’ve Figured Out
Circles. The big “plus” (pun slightly intended), it seems, for Google+ is its Circles. Much like Facebook’s friend lists, Circles allow you to connect with people and categorize them by affinity. By default, Google provides you with Circles like Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. After adding people to your Circles, you can selectively share content with them.
Streams. Content shared by your people (what are we calling people on Google+? Friends? Connections? Circle-rs?) on Google+ is fed into Streams. You can view your entire Stream, which consists of everyone you’ve added to your Circles. Or you can view a Stream for a specific Circle.
In this image (left), you can see the Stream options available to me in my Google+ account. Each of my Circles is listed. Makes perfect sense and is easy to navigate.
The Notifications link at the bottom of the list takes you to a list of Notifications, very similar to Facebook notifications. When people add you to a Circle, comment on your posts, etc., you’ll see this activity chronicled in your Notifications Stream.
That Incoming Stream is still perplexing me a bit. When you click on it, you’ll find this message at the top: “These posts were shared with you by people who aren’t in your circles. Add people you want to follow and share with (and hide stuff you’re not interested in).” I haven’t yet figured out how people are sharing with me if I don’t know them, but I imagine it will come to me. Maybe I’ll find the answer in my Incoming Stream.
Hangouts. If I had a webcam, I’d be able to have live video chats with people in my Circles. I haven’t been able to play with this yet, but it looks promising and fun.
+1. Have you seen those little +1 buttons all over the internet? Me, too, and now they make sense. Web content that is +1ed (I’ve made +1 a verb here, but I’m sure I’m not the first) is posted to Streams and also collected in a +1 tab on people’s profiles.
What is Eluding Me
Sparks. Google tells me that I can “use Sparks to get a constant feed of stuff you’re really into, and share it with friends.” I see that clicking Sparks takes me to a page with a list of content topics. I can search for topics, too. What is unclear to me is where this content comes from. Who categorizes it? Is this coming from other Google+ users? Or just the internet in general? Got me.
How do I talk to someone? When I’m logged into Google+, I can visit people’s profiles. It doesn’t look like I can post on their profiles or talk directly to them in any way. Perhaps Gmail accounts are the equivalent to Facebook inboxes?
Buzz. There is a Buzz tab on my Google+ profile. Why? I know I played with Google Buzz once upon a time, but I can’t really remember how it worked or what I did with it. Maybe Buzz is making a comeback. Only time will tell.
There is a lot left to explore in the world of Google+. For now, the invitation function has been turned off. It will be up to us in the fray to test it out and report our findings. I trust others are “finding” a lot more than I am.