Google+: Circles, Sparks, and Hangouts, oh my!

By on July 06, 2011 under Marketing/Communications, Technology

“Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day. Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.” official Google+ press release

Ok, that’s all just a bit dramatic for my taste. Personally, I don’t know that online sharing is “awkward.” For my purposes, it’s certainly not “broken.” Can it be improved upon? Sure. As someone who has a very basic knowledge of technology and social media, I’ve found most platforms to be quite user-friendly. I’ve got my lists on Twitter, my groups on Facebook, and I’ve been able to make connections between programs that I find useful (Instagram with Facebook and Twitter, Foursquare with Facebook and Twitter, to name a couple). I should mention that I only began using social media within the past year, so it’s possible that most of the kinks were ironed out before I signed on.

Nevertheless, I was curious to try out Google+. When Jason Crouch (@jasoncrouch) sent me the invitation (thanks, Jason!), I hastily clicked it, but I was too late. Google+ had already exceeded its capacity, so I’m on hold. In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with it on other friends’ profiles and scouring the interactive tour. Compared to many others, my experience has been cursory at best. With that in mind, I give you a few of my initial impressions.

PROS

  • The user interface. After Google Buzz and Google Wave, I was skeptical (and with good reason). However, the Google+ interface is stunning, really. Beautiful design, seamless navigating.
  • No ads or spam (yet). Google+ is Farmville-free and Mafia Wars-free, and that’s good enough for me.
  • Circles. Friends, family, and colleagues can be easily separated into groups, giving you the ability to quarantine those who, well, need quarantining. You know who they are.
  • Hangouts. The video is high-quality, the video chat features are easy to use, and for friends who are far away, this is just a super cool way to… hang out.
  • Privacy settings. I guess this one could be a con, depending on your point of view. For me, the privacy settings are far more intuitive than Facebook’s.

CONS

  • No iPhone app yet. I know, I know. It’s only been, like, three seconds since Google+ came out. I’ll give it time.
  • The news feed. Old threads with new comments pop to the top of the feed, rather than keeping them in chronological order. This is obnoxious. (Can I change this anywhere?)
  • No message history. Maybe I’m missing this? I can’t seem to find message history as with Gmail and Gtalk. On a related note, I haven’t seen a search feature yet.
  • It’s somewhat overwhelming. This is most likely attributed to its newness. Beth Kanter reminds us to “come to grips with the fact that you will never read EVERYTHING on Google+.

Oh, did I mention Google is retiring its Blogger and Picasa brands with the rollout of Google+? The plot thickens! But don’t take my word for it. Lots of other folks with far more experience perusing Google+ than me have written about it. Or perhaps you have your own take. Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Here are a few posts that I recommend:

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