Plus one

I don’t often, by which I mean ever, write about work-related things here. I want to say it’s because I don’t have the time, but there are plenty of people with tougher jobs than mine who nonetheless manage to write about them regularly. Maybe it’s because although I think my work is interesting, I can see how other people might not.

But today I want to talk a little bit about Google Plus, the new social tool from Google which launched a couple of weeks ago, so this post is in the nature of an experiment. Feel free to skip it; there’s bound to be a post about kittens falling over soon.

Still here? Excellent. So, first impressions. It looks a whole lot like Facebook:

Google plus homepage

(You might need to click on the image to see it properly.)

As far as I can tell, the main functional difference between G+ and Facebook is a feature which, actually, Facebook already has, but which it doesn’t make much of. Facebook calls it “lists”; G+ calls it “circles”, but the idea is the same: you divide your contacts into groups so that you can target what you share at particular sets of people.

So, for example, I might post a picture of my new baby niece and share it with my “Friends” and “Family” circles, but not with “Work”, “Following” (I use that one for people I don’t know at all) or “Public” (if I mark a post as “Public” it means anyone who looks at my profile or has me in a circle can see it). Likewise, if I want to ask a technical question or share some thoughts on the latest radio industry news, I might just share it with my “Work” and “Following” circles.

What that means is that I can now get my tech news, my music news, my media news and my friends’ news all in the same place; I can decide what I want to share with which people, and I can dip in and out of it just like I do now with Twitter or Facebook.

So that’s one positive. Another is that you can easily make connections with people you don’t know, in a way that allows much more and easier interaction than Twitter does. Let’s say you and I are both big fans of Limmy. Limmy writes a post (that’s what I’m calling them for now; they may end up with a different name) on G+ and you and I both read it and comment on it. I see your comment, click on your name and see that we have things in common, or I just like the sound of you, so I click “Add to circles” and stick you in my “Following” circle. You get a notification that tells you I’ve done that, so you check out my profile and can decide whether to add me to one or your circles. We’ve never met and we live thousands of miles apart, but now we can share ideas, photos, video, music and more. That’s kind of exciting.

I don’t think G+ will replace Facebook, because they serve a different need. I have 271 friends on Facebook (all but one of whom I know from real life), and right now Facebook is giving most of them everything they need from a social network. Some of them will join G+, but Facebook can copy any feature that G+ has in a matter of days or weeks, which is always going to be a shorter time than it takes the majority of people to be persuaded to move elsewhere.

I don’t think G+ will replace Twitter, because again, they’re very different animals. The 140-character restriction on Twitter and the super-fast stream of information it can provide when you follow enough people mean it’s the best place for breaking news and terrible one-liners. G+ won’t change that.

As I said elsewhere on recently, I think Tumblr is probably going to suffer the most from the launch of G+, because it doesn’t have a USP that distinguishes it from the competition.  But we’ll see. G+ is only a couple of weeks old and isn’t fully rolled out to the public yet, so the story has barely begun. We knew Facebook had made it when instead of saying “I’ll send you a friend request on Facebook”, they started saying “I’ll friend you”, and we all knew what they meant. So for now, I’m just waiting for someone to tell me: “I’ll circle you”.

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2 thoughts on “Plus one

  1. I’m really liking Google+. I think that although Facebook does have “Lists” there is a fundamental difference -which you allude to- in that on Facebook you can only create a list of your “Friends”. This means they have to friend you back. In this respect then “Circles” is much more like Twitter groups as you can follow people who don’t have to follow you back, and then also add them to groups. The difference that Google+ adds is that you can then selectively share with those groups (like Facebook, but not like Twitter). If they follow you they see it in their stream – if they don’t follow you back then they can still see it, but it’s out of the way under “Incoming”.

    So it seems to be blending the two well, in my opinion at least. I really don’t like the stream order though – it keeps percolating old posts to the top based on comment activity. This is nice in some instances, but I think I’d like the option of having it chronological too.

  2. elsiem says:

    Yes, I’m still struggling conceptually with the idea that if I add someone to a circle it just means they can see what I post, rather than vice versa, which is sort of the opposite of Twitter, but I think it’s a nice model. And I’m with you on the chronological view.

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