If you’re longing for a digital networking space that lets you easily share information with the different facets of your life, then put Google Plus at the top of your “to explore” list. (Assuming you can wrangle an invitation!)
If you’re longing for a digital networking space that lets you easily videoconference with 10 people while everyone watches (and chats about) the same YouTube clip, then put Google Plus (hangouts) at the top of your “to explore” list.
If you’re longing for a digital networking space that integrates functional email, real cloud-based documents, an attractive photo gallery … and lets you eavesdrop on conversations like Twitter does (no reciprocity required in setting up circles) … then put Google Plus at the top of your “to explore” list.
And if you long for a digital networking space that will allow you to easily and simultaneously communicate with people inside and outside of the space … then you must put Google Plus at the top of your “to explore” list.
In October 2009, Google launched Wave. The current launch, Google’s third foray into “social”, is nothing like Wave, except for the clamor to “let me in!”
With Google+, things work. The interface is clean, light, inviting. Engineers have anticipated how we might use existing shorthand (from Twitter and Facebook), such as replying in a comment thread by putting @ in front of someone’s name. They turn that @ into a + automagically and the name becomes a link to the person’s Google profile page.
And the iteration — response to feedback — is stellar.
After the Financial Times noted Thursday that restricted posts (posts to a circle, not made “public”) could be shared outside your circle, thus negating the privacy implied in circles, Google engineers tweaked the interface. If an author doesn’t manually restrict the sharing of a post, Google Plus will gently remind anyone sharing that the post wasn’t made public. And next week, no limited post (one shared only with a circle) will have “public share” as an option.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a typo in a Facebook status update or comment. No edit option except the hammer that is the delete key. But with Google Plus not only can you fix that typo but you can also style the type (bold, italic)! I call that a #killerfeature.
Have you tried putting Facebook friends in lists? If you haven’t, let me simply say that it’s laborious. Painful. With Google Plus, it’s a simple drag-and-drop. Hiring that original Apple Macintosh designer was a stroke of brilliance!
By making it easy to segment our network into circles that mirror the non-computing (analog) world, Google has made it easier for us to customize our messages. But will we be any better at that than network TV? It’s easier to craft a message than anyone can see than it is to craft multiple messages or tell only a few members of our network. Will enough of us embrace the tool to keep the project from turning into Wave? I hope so.
Circles also make it easier for us to filter incoming messages. More people read than create content, so this functionality is a very good thing. And Google+ is so much easier to use than Facebook! (The timeline/stream reminds me of FriendFeed.) When you read something you like, you click the +1 button (Google’s answer to “like”).
It is a generally accepted theorem that the real-time web is here to stay; it is a natural evolution from the early days of the telegraph, a tool that dramatically increased the speed of global communication. More people — probably using phones — will be added to the roster of Internet consumers and creators; this means more content, more noise. So the recommendations of our friends and trusted networks will become more important as we navigate an overflowing information space; what is scarce today is time and attention, not information. As Kirkpatrick writes:
Anything that can increase the percentage of social software users who are actively curating dynamic, topical sources is a net win for the web and for the people who use it.
Sharing is a human thing. It does not have a straightforward put-a-set-of-rules in a virtual box technological solution. Google’s algorithms (rules) have successfully help plumb the depths of computer hard drives. But we want to know what our friends think! Is this third attempt (Buzz was number two) a charm? I think the answer is yes. +1!
Looking Back To Look Forward
On Monday, I shared the classic EPIC2015 with my undergraduate new media class. We discussed which companies had been less or more influential than this 2004 vision and how the vision missed mobile and YouTube.
2006. Google combines all of its services into the Google Grid, a universal platform that provides a functionally limitless amount of disk space and bandwidth to store and share media of all kinds. Each user selects her own level of privacy. She can store her content securely on the Google Grid or publish it for all to see. It has never been easier for people to make their lives part of the media landscape.
2007. Microsoft responds to Google’s mounting challenge with Newsbotster, a social news network and participatory journalism platform. Newsbotster ranks and sorts news based on what each user’s friends and colleagues are reading, and viewing and it allows everyone to comment on what they see.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerburg launched Facebook, which more closely matches the description of the fictional Google Grid’s ease of use than anything the search giant has launched. Facebook has also enticed its customer base to make private decisions public — showing us content (but not yet ranking it, no Digg-like feature yet) that our friends are reading (Facebook integration) — and Facebook makes it very easy for “everyone to comment on what they see.”
Strike outs here for both Google and Microsoft.
One of the core ideas of the Google+ project — our desire to share information selectively — was also at the heart of the imaginary Google Grid. And it answers one of the criticisms of Facebook. Steven Levy (@stevenjayl) has a great background on the project, code-named Emerald Sea, at Wired:
Emerald Sea is not a Facebook killer, Gundotra told me. In fact, he added, somewhat puckishly, “people are barely tolerant of the Facebook they have,” citing a consumer satisfaction study that rated it barely higher than the IRS. Instead, he says, the transformation will offer people a better Google.
Nonetheless, it was impossible to deny that “+1” (as it was then called) offered some of features closely associated with Facebook. The overall difference is that Google would try to leverage its assets to do certain things more effectively than Facebook, and attempt other things that Facebook can’t pull off yet.
“The internet is nothing but software fabric that connects the interactions of human beings,” Gundotra said. “Every piece of software is going to transformed by this primacy of people and this shift.” Gundotra said that to date identifying people has been “the most epic failure of Google…. Because we were focusing on organizing the world’s information, the search company failed to do the most important search of all.”
Me, I’m looking forward to Sparks, which is designed to track my interests and recommend content that it thinks I will like. This bot/AI/whatever-you-want-to-call-it — if it can learn as fast as SPAM algorithms (give me more of this and less of that, you know, like Zite) — could be the deal-maker for information junkies (which includes journalists, politicos, marketing folks …. and a host of others):
Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet. On any topic you want, in over 40 languages. Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share—with just the right circle of friends:
What do you think? Has the train left the station or can Google catch up? Which behemoth do you trust with your data: Google or Facebook?
Watch EPIC2015 and Google+ :