My Google+ (sort of) Findings

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.

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5 thoughts on “My Google+ (sort of) Findings

  1. Alaina – I like your first impressions. I haven’t actually tried some of the things you mentioned and other stuff seems to make perfect sense. Google Buzz was Google’s answer to Twitter. I have my Google Buzz feed automatically populated from my Twitter feed so it’s redundant but I guess the one or two people who prefer Google Buzz to Twitter, and maybe actually give a darn about what I’m doing, may be happy that I’ve done this.

    Sparks – Good question. I assume this content is actually just a real-ish time feed from Google. Time will tell if this turns into something more.

    How do I talk to someone? – I noticed that while looking at your profile you can add a “Send an email” button. This allows people to email you without ever giving them your email address. You can limit who can actually see this button. I actually really like this idea. Who needs ANOTHER IM box? If you have a smartphone this allows you quick easy access to your messages without needing to launch an app.

    Tips – Before I added anyone I set up the security on my profile the way I wanted it. I don’t want “Everyone” or even everyone in “my circles” to see my location, my employer, my email, but I don’t mind my “family” & “friends” seeing it. So I’d take my time working on your profile before building that circle.

    Flaw – This is an open trial and already a big gaping hole has been found. You can limit who can see your content. But if you don’t limit how that content can be shared then someone with sufficient permissions can show it to whoever they want. (I.e., You post “Ugh, my boss smells horrible” and share it with friends, family. Your co-worker Steve is also a “friend”. Steve chooses to share it with his circle. Which unfortunately includes your boss. Not only can your boss see the comment, he can see who wrote the comment. Ut oh.)

    Great write up, Alaina.

  2. I’ve found the same frustration — I can’t actually seem to message or contact someone from the Google+ interface. Which, to me, seems weird. However, I do like where this is going. It’s interesting that it’s a project (connotation of work in progress, ongoing) rather than product (finished, ready for prime time). I’ll be watching how quickly tweaks are made over the next couple of weeks. And while I understand that we don’t want to take servers down, I just feel like the invite frustration should really be handled better–especially after wave and buzz. Manage expectations, and all that.

    1. I completely agree with you. It definitely seems a little rough around the edges and not terribly intuitive, but Google is definitely the type of company that watches how users are interacting with their product and tweaks it to them. I think they’ll be watching the public reaction very closely in the weeks and months to come and we’ll see a lot of activity.

      If either of you would like to “follow” someone who will likely provide a lot of good information on Google+, within Google+, then search Vic Gundotra. He’s the Senior Vice President of Engineering and seems to be providing statuses, such as them pulling invites due to demand, etc.

  3. Thank you for this Alaina. I just got on to Google+ this morning and I’m still digesting it all and still trying to get how it might apply to higher ed at this point. Should we be making circles for our schools? Departments? Sports Teams?

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