It’s been a week since I joined Google+. Perhaps some of you have joined or at least heard of it. Google has had some not-so-successful platforms in recent years, so some are wondering (myself included) if Google+ will be a winner. So I thought I’d share my thoughts from my week long test drive for those of you who may be considering an invite. Before I do, here’s a little video introduction:
My first thoughts were that Google+ was taking the best practices of Facebook and Twitter and coming up with a hybrid social networking platform that integrates media and contacts with all of Google apps. Aside from being a well-integrated platform, there are three features that make G+ appealing: circles, hangout, and sparks/1+ button. The circles are customized groups of people that allow you to share information at various levels or groups. I have groups from my local church, church planting network, friends, and so on, and it makes it very easy to communicate to each of these groups content that may not be relevant to those in other circles. By limiting content to specific groups, it not only benefits you the user but also others in the public who may consider your updates more like “noise” than an interesting update.
Hangout has the potential of replacing Skype or FaceTime as a means of video conferencing. I have not toyed with it much, but it seems like to be a really competitive way of video chatting, which I use quite often for leadership meetings, hosting training sessions, and communicating with missionaries in other countries. Sparks carries the idea of subscribing to key terms that retrieve news and information for you to browse within the G+ platform. Similarly, when you use the 1+ function (both in Google’s search engine and on many websites), it serves as a “read later” tool that compiles all the articles or blogposts into one area, also within the G+ platform. So in many ways, G+ enables you to share and receive information both interactively and directly, both automatically and manually, which makes it a pretty cool concept.
Other things that I find really helpful is the drag-and-drop feature to the share box for all media, no limitation of characters for updates, the presentation of videos and photos is attractive, scroll-over option to add people to circles from virtually anywhere, lack of ads (which will probably change), simple and clean layout, and integration of Google docs and huddles for collaboration.
There are some things that either I have not found out yet or I think needs to be added. Either way, the following functions are some I hope to be able to use with G+ in the future:
1. Favorites – looking for an easier way to favorite items without creating a circle exclusively for me!
2. Hashtags – it has become one of the most useful inventions for social networking. What is going to be the G+ version of hashtags? Will a G+ hashtag create a separate “spark” or “circle”?
3. Scheduling updates – About 40-50% of my tweets/fb updates are scheduled. Don’t know of a way to do that here.
4. iOS App – The only photos and videos I upload are from my iPhone and iPad. I won’t be using G+ as much until they get a (really good) app for G+ for iOS (I hear it is currently in queue for approval).
5. Desktop App – Will there be a Tweetdeck-like version for G+? Not sure that it is necessary, but I doubt that I would be on Twitter at all if it weren’t for Tweetdeck.
6. Custom G+ Profile URL – It would be nice if each G+ user had their own profile url like facebook and twitter (something like gplus.com/timmybrister)
7. File Sharing on Stream – It would be super cool if you could share docs, PDFs and other files by drag-and-drop onto the stream like you do photos and videos. G+ could create their own direct link to the file that is hosted on one of their clouds. I know that Google Docs is integrated, but it seems that it would be so much simpler to use the share box the same way with docs as you can with media.
8. Managing Multiple Accounts – I already have two G+ accounts, and for me to switch, I have to log out of Google completely (as far as I know). It would be great to have a drop-down option to switch between accounts with one click of a button.
9. Clustering Circles – some of my circles overlap with others, and it would be nice to be able to view multiple streams and cluster circles together
10. Integration with FB & Twitter – there are plugin’s already in the works, but it would be cool if Google+ could create a desktop app that facilitated this kind of integration of G+ with other social networking platforms
It’s still really early (G+ I think is a couple of weeks old), but I am really liking what I am seeing. If you are considering jumping onto G+, I thought I might provide you with a couple of links that might be of interest to you:
* Tips and Tricks: A Collaborative Google Doc created by over 120 G+ Users
* Google Plus Cheat Sheet
* 25 Tips to Enhance Your Google+ Experience
* How Churches Can Make the Most Out of Google Plus
* Wanna integrate Facebook with Google Plus? Here’s how.
If you are on G+, I’d love to get your take on it. Digging it? If so, will you be replacing other social networking platforms with G+? How do you plan on using it? As it develops, I hope to write on how I intend to use G+ both for communication in the local church as well as collaboration through a decentralized network.