My Instant Google+ Review

Folks have been asking me for my thoughts on Google+, the new Googlelicious social network, so:

I like it, for a few reasons: One, it doesn’t have an arbitrary cap on the number of people you can connect to; two, it’s easy to organize the people you connect with into buckets (Google calls them “circles”) that  better reflect your actual relationship to those people; three, the interface is clean and minimal but effective; four, it’s not yet clogged up with bots and announcements from games I don’t give a crap about that one or another of my connections has bought a cow or taken over a castle or whatever. So: Clean, easy to use, not obnoxious. Is it perfect? No, but from my point of view it’s better put together than other social networks, if for no other reason than the people at Google have had time to look at all the mistakes MySpace and Facebook made (and the previous mistakes they made with Buzz and Google Wave) and avoid doing those. So far: it doesn’t suck.

Will I use it a lot? Got me. My main online hangout is here, followed by Twitter; I update both of those several times a day on average. I put a post on Facebook maybe once a week, partly because Facebook irritates me enough that I wish to spend as little time as possible on it while still keeping contact with friends who like it (I’ve mostly stopped adding “friends” there because I only have a couple hundred friend slots left and I want to keep those for people I actually know — sorry people I don’t know who want to be my Facebook “friend.”). I notice myself going to Google+ more than Facebook (or MySpace, or LinkedIn, etc) because I find it easier to get about in and so far it doesn’t annoy me technologically and philosophically like Facebook does. Take that as you will.

Would I recommend Google+? If you’re in the market for a social network, sure, why not. I still prefer my own blog, followed by Twitter, but provided you can get enough of your own pals to join up with you, Google+ does the things social networks are supposed to do — make it easy for you to stay connected with people you like/know/have some passing interest in — without making an ass of itself. So far, anyway; we’ll see if it lasts.

41 thoughts on “My Instant Google+ Review

  1. I’m really loving G+ a lot. Just the fact that I don’t have to run a Firefox extension or Greasemonkey script to keep from being pasted with Farmville crap is a joy. I also appreciate the granularity of the security settings. I don’t necessarily want my family to see what I’m posting for my friends, and now I’ve got these lovely circles to keep that sorted.

    Facebook has its place for me still, but my presence there is about to drop to bare bones.

  2. To be honest, I don’t particularly care at all about the whole ‘social network’ thing. Not Facebook, not Google Plus, nor whatever else is coming down the line. I have Twitter, and a couple of other places, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go, as a) I’ve heard enough horror stories re:Facebook that I have no intention of joining at all and b) the odds are something else will come along to take their place so they’ll eventually become obsolete in a few years or less. Besides, I was under the impression the ‘net itself was a network in & of itself that makes all the Facebooks & Google Pluses in the world seem redundant.

  3. I’ve been using Google+ for a few days now. I really, really like the circles idea.

    Facebook is based on the idea of having one identity. Here are some quotations from Mark Zuckerberg on the subject:

    * “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.”

    * “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

    This, of course, flies in the face of what we know from sociology and psychology. People naturally have different identities that they adopt depending the situation. The way you act around your parents is different than how you act with your spouse, which is again different than how you might act at your job.

    Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t realized that there’s a good reason you might want to communicate different things to your co-workers than your family or friends. I sometimes wonder if that’s because the guy’s only real job has been working for himself.

    Now, it’s true that you can set up filters on Facebook to make it possible to limit which of your FB friends see various posts, but it’s not easy or automatic. The default is to post to everyone that is your FB friend, and to put all your FB friends in one big pile. On the other hand, Google+ not only makes it easy to set limits on sharing, it actively encourages it, by having you think about which “circles” you want your contacts to be in when you add them. I think that design philosophy gives Google+ the potential to be a much better social network.

  4. Why would you need to run a Greasemonkey script to not see Farmville or any of the other irritants on Facebook? Haven’t seen anything since I blocked it. I actually felt a certain sense of achievement when I passed 100 apps blocked on FB. Now 98% of what I see is actually informative content posted by friends and family. Still, have to agree with John’s comments about G+.

  5. I like + a lot mainly for the reason that I can actually create a circle/bucket for “People who I don’t actually know but like their work” since I don’t consider most of the writers I read to be my friends because I’m not crazy(exception for some minor guys I am actually friends with).

    I also like the fact that, unlike facebook(unless I’m mistaken), I can limit information that goes to people like my parents or older friends of the family who may not need to know that I’m doing team trivia or the like.

    That paired with the anonymity of which circle you put people into is nice. I’m curious how chat would work(beyond the google chat in the sidebar) though.

  6. I’ve stopped using Facebook thanks to Google+. Well, I’ve stopped manually updating Facebook. My sites’ RSS feeds get automatically posted to my fan pages.

    I’ve already shared my initial thoughts on G+ on my site and GeekMom, but they basically echo what you’ve said. For me, the biggest thing is that I can have both my private and public world in the same place and I can have more meaningful social interactions with those who support my various projects, while having meaningful social private interactions with friends.

    It will never replace Twitter for me as Twitter is more social media than it is social network, at least for my personal needs. But for years, I’ve been wanting something to come along to replace Facebook in my toolbag because I’ve never liked it.

  7. There’s one feature of G+ that really appeals to me: NO GAMES!!!

    No Farmville crap that needs to be blocked (multiply by number of games on Fb, which is rising almost daily). No “So-and-so has answered a question about you! Click here to find out the answer (by enabling an app which will annoy you to distraction)!” No SuperUltraMegaRoyaleWithCheesePokes.

    In a word: No bullsh*t.

    If Google can keep that up…they’ve got it made.

  8. The thing I like is that it can replace Twitter as well as Facebook.

    Want to write something that will entertain your old college friends: Post in a circle.
    Want to write something that will entertain your fiction-loving public: Post publicly.

    It still needs all of the tools and API stuff in order to really compete with Twitter, but it’s definitely got the potential.

  9. CLP@4: (Mark Zuckerberg) “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

    There’s nothing more enjoyable on a balmy summer California night than to sit back and watch the irony meter try to launch itself into orbit.

    That said, I’ll probably stay on Facebook. It’s handy for keeping in touch with relatives on the other side of the country. And I’d hate to lose touch with the hordes of young women whom I do not know but for some reason want to meet me.

  10. I’m not on Facebook. The biggest reason for this is that Mark Zuckerberg feels himself entitled to impose his own ideas about identity and privacy on his users.

  11. Keep trying if you get an invite. It sometimes takes a couple of days.

    I like Google+. It’s slick, no annoying crap and fine grained privacy settings.

  12. I like the idea of Google+ but TBH it’s probably going to end up being a case of “six of one, half dozen of the other” once enough people join that it turns crap again. Having been through the rolls of both online gaming and 2-3 social media “experiments” this is what always happens. Which is why every 5 years or so someone will come out with a different platform that’s not “yer parentz Google+” and probably make another $100 M+

    In any case, I’ve not had a problem with Facebook since pretty much nobody that I don’t know IRL bothers me on it.

  13. I think you guys are going to be disappointed if the draw of G+ to you is “no games.” My understanding is that there are APIs and hooks out there, and that Google is working on games for it.

  14. If someone can explain to be how, at least at the moment, Google+ isn’t just a big circle jerk for tech hipsters, I’d love to hear it. I got an invite a few days ago, set up a profile, got a few friends into a circle, and…uh, okay, now what?

    I suppose if you and your 100 friends are all on, then great. But so far it’s missing the”social” part of social networking. Even putting that aside, what are you suppose to *do* there, other than chat and post photos, which you can do pretty well already with Twitter and Facebook. I’m sure it will grow into something in time, but so far there’s nothing there.

  15. @MarkH: I remember when Facebook opened up to anyone with a .edu email addy and no-one I knew was on it. “I’ll stick to myspace”, younger me said, “Where my friends profiles take up 3 screens and autoplay horrible music. No-one will switch to Facebook.” 4 years later myspace is a techno-graveyard of musicians, stand-up comedians, porn-bots and pedophiles and facebook is the standard social networking site in America and much of the world.

    It always starts out as a circle jerk for tech hipsters and then becomes “OMG I can’t live without this” until something comes along that is better(which Google + is in structure) and can last long enough to win that war of attrition. In 12 years I doubt Google+ will be the dominant force, but only because it will have spent its time in the sun by then.

  16. How do you feel about privacy on Google+ vs. Facebook?

    I just find myself getting more and more paranoid about posting anything, anywhere online that I wouldn’t want the entire world to see… which kind of ruins the purpose of having social networks to share stuff with people I actually know.

  17. Agreed. I’m sitting here with an invite in my inbox, trying to decide whether I want to use it, and if so, whether I want to use my real name or an alias (at least Google+ seems willing to let me use a handle, which Facebook was not…which is why I’m not on Facebook). I need to dig in a little more and find out just what information they’re collecting on me and my surfing habits before I pull the trigger.

  18. The appeal to me of double-plus Google is that they’re NOT as purely foolish as Zuckerberg appears to be, regarding the implications of privacy, etc.

    That is also the downside.

    The whole thing is very much still in Beta. This is not so “techno-hipsters”can smug it over the peons (#14 and #18, I feel your annoyance) but rather, so they can get the basic functionality to work at all.

    As it currently exists there are some issues. For instance, the Facebook to double-plus Google interface, apparently NOT a smart nor well-thought-out idea. I provide a link to a commentary, which you might consider with the usual side dose of salt that comes with any such expose’ (and where is the spell checker that offers alternate alphabets?)

    http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/ikymu/googlefacebook_allows_you_to_view_your_facebook/

  19. Hm. I just got an invite to this today; the fact that I can add John to an automatically-created “Following” circle that doesn’t actually imply that he and I have ever or will ever meet in person intrigues me.

    John, do you get any sort of notification when I do that? Do you have to approve it? I don’t know anybody on the service other than the person who invited me yet so I can’t tell.

  20. MBL @ 23:

    You get a notification if someone’s following you. It seems to be just another circle whose meaning is determined by the user rather than any associated special attributes.

  21. #4, #9: I am picking up commentary from certain parts of fan-culture to the effect that Google+ may actually not be supportive of multiple accounts/IDs/secure noms de Web. Some of the relevant links I’ve seen:

    New World Notes on rules requiring handles to be linked to “real” names. Includes a Q&A with a Google rep.

    Jillian C. York on Google+ and real names.

    GeekFeminism.org, compiling datapoints from the blogosphere on Google+ and pseudonym/privacy issues.

  22. #25

    John, I think, maybe?, you misunderstood what I meant by private and public life. I don’t use a non de Web. Even my Twitter account has my real name on it.

    What I meant by keeping my private and public life in one place yet separate at the same time is that I can choose, right down to one individual, who I share what I’m posting. If I’m cool with the whole world seeing something I post, meaning I’d be okay with it being on Twitter, I make the post public. If I only want a specific group(s) or individual(s) seeing it, then I set my stream update to reflect that. I’m uber paranoid and don’t want to risk anyone sharing what I feel is a private thought meant for a limited audience, then I disable the ability for people to share my update. Of course, someone could always take a screencap of what I said and repost it. But, at least I have a great deal of control over who sees what and people have to take a few extra steps to share things I don’t want to be distributed. Also, I really like that if you make something limited and someone goes to share it, Google tells them that it was meant for a limited audience and keep that in mind when sharing.

    Also, I can add people to circles that I can’t follow back on Twitter without Twitter becoming a completely useless tool for me. I can also allow people to add me that I would never accept as a friend on Facebook.

    Google+ has allowed me to have way more meaningful interactions with people that both Facebook and Twitter has ever allowed me to have. I always stayed away from conversation on Facebook because any one can jump in and sometimes, even if they are a friend, I just don’t want them to be part of the conversation. I also cannot stand when people post things on my wall or ask me very private and person questions on my wall, things that should have been done via email. People cannot do that with Google+.

    I have many meaningful conversation on Twitter re: current event and news, however keeping track of those conversations, at times, is difficult.

    So Twitter will always be my public “persona”, for lack of a better word. I’m me on Twitter but I’m very choosy about what I say and who I follow. It will always be a source of news for me. Google+ allows me to take that news and have better socialising experiences with those who consume my various media things and will, hopefully, allow me to better figure out what my audience wants, get to know them better (for me this is important) and let them get a better idea of who I am, enabling them to make a more informed decision before consuming my ‘things’, at the same time, allowing me to interact with my IRL friends and never having those worlds meet and collide.

    I hope that clarifies what I read was a concern (?) you may have had re: fan-culture and non de Web.

    If not and I totally misunderstood and typed the above as a result, please clarify :)

  23. When Google wants to make its new Not Facebook available to the likes of me, maybe I’ll check it out. Until they are ready to take down the velvet rope, however, they can STFU with the hype, as far as I’m concerned.

  24. #26: I think you’re correct that you don’t have quite the same concern with privacy that the fanfolk I’ve been following.

    That said, I have barely scratched the surface of the relevant iceberg, and I think that there may, somewhere down in the substrata of that body of concern, be folks raising issues about the privacy/security of individual G+ posts that would concern you. I have not dug especially deeply into what’s clearly a sizeable and growing body of commentary to know for sure one way or the other, but some of what I’ve seen hints that G+’s functionality, while mostly much tighter than Facebook’s, is still susceptible to accidental switch-flipping.

    In any case, my primary motive in posting the linkage was to provide the gallery here with some hooks into the alternate perspective — because if the criticisms I’ve seen expressed are accurately framed, then at least for those fans, Google+ has made exactly the mistake CLP says Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook do, and “doesn’t get” the fan culture’s strong desire for the ability to maintain separate and unlinked identities on their social networks of choice. And that’s just the opposite of the conclusion CLP draws in #4.

    Let me amplify the context slightly to illustrate. I know of at least two pro writers who maintain more than one LiveJournal — one associated with their professional name and/or byline, and one reserved for fannish pursuits (specifically including fanfiction). It’s the writerly equivalent of taking on a superhero identity; there’s the Bruce Wayne journal and the BatBlog, and unless you already know Bruce is Batman, one journal won’t lead you to the other.

    But if the folks I’ve linked are reporting accurately, Google+’s Terms of Service strongly discourage (at best) or outright prohibit (at worst) this kind of dual account-holding. Thus if Bruce Wayne wanted to set up a BatBlog on G+ (and be legal under their ToS), they’d insist that he do so as a direct offshoot of his Bruce Wayne account, entering “Batman” as one of his alternate names. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose — and may make G+ an inhospitable space for those parts of the fan community that value the separateness of fannish and offline identities.

  25. Hugh57, you know, it’s now at the invite stage which means that if you have friends on Google+, they can invite you. It’s not like Google don’t like you. Maybe. Could be, actually. You seem a little bit on the aggressive size…

    Guess I take it back.

  26. #8, you can do that with facebook but its a huge pain in the ass to set up.

    John, I assume you have a circle named “people I don’t know who added me so they’re probably readers” or somesuch?

  27. #28

    Ah, yes. I see what you are saying. While I don’t ever see myself needing to have a “secret identity” online (I’m one of these people that believe in a lot of transparency, in some regards. For instance, I love that if you edit a post or comment on G+, it let’s the other readers know), I can also understand why some would need to have a private identity.

    G+ is currently setting up the beta program for business pages/profiles. That could probably work for those who want to be Bruce Wayne and Batman online. They could have Batman as their personal profile and a business page/profile for Bruce Wayne.

    Now whether or not those would be unlinked from your personal profile, I do not know. I’ll learn that when I’m, hopefully, approved for the business beta.

    You can change your name on your personal profile to whatever you want. I have a few contacts who, when they originally signed up for Google+, had their gamer tag as their name because that is how their Gmail name was set up. Some have switched back and forth between legal name and online handle, a number of times, trying to figure out what would be the easier way for people to fine them.

  28. John, have you checked out http://www.ifttt.com? It’s a web-app where you can set up “triggers” for a site (like Facebook or Twitter or Gmail, etc…) and have it affect other sites. I’ve started abusing the heck out of it since you (yes, you are to blame) got me hooked on Tweetdeck. I use the Chrome-based version, and I hate that EVERY TIME I need to click the Facebook button if I want a post to go to Facebook an Twitter both. Iftt saves me my pathetically small hassle.

    The other reason I love these guys is how responsive they are. I make suggestions and comments frequently, and I usually hear back from them the same day. I’ve also seen a number of suggestions implemented already which probably means I’m not the only one complaining. Once the new G+ API is out, I’m sure they’ll plug that in too. Which – once again – saves me from having to go out to another site. I’ll probably abandon Facebook and Twitter altogether at that point. G+ is too convenient. With the share field up on the toolbar all the time, I almost wish I could keep that bar up when I’m NOT on Google.com sites.

    Anyways, if you want an invite, let me know, I’m happy to send you one.

  29. Hugh, there’s an invite winging your way. I pulled your email off of your website.

    Creepy, innit?

  30. John C. Bunnell @ 28: Where have you read that Google disallows multiple accounts? I looked through their terms of service, and couldn’t find the relevant provision. (It’s a pretty dense document, so I very well could have missed it.)

    The reason I’m skeptical Google disallows this is that they provide a mechanism for signing into more than one Google account at once.

    I agree, disallowing multiple accounts is a sign of cluelessness. Still, I think Google+ is well ahead of Facebook at getting the need for multiple identities.

  31. MBL @33 Thanks. It showed up in my email box, and I was wondering who you were. Then it occurred to me that I had just made a rather snitty comment on the Whatever about Google+, so I checked this thread for subsequent comments.

    And I certainly can’t complain about you finding my email on my site — I put it there. ;-) One of the things I love about having my own site is that I, not Facebook, or Google, or Yahoo or whoever, get to decide whether or not my email is exposed (and if so, which one). And I can easily change or delete it at anytime.

    And I did also just get an invitation from a friend whom I know IRL, so I will likely use his invitation and get added to his circle, or whatever it is. Thanks again, though. I’ll be checking out Google+ later this afternoon. I’ll walk back the part where I said Google should “STFU” and reserve judgment on the rest of the comment (about whether it truly is a “velvet rope” strategy, or really is a phase where a lot of bugs need to be fixed before it is ready for prime-time, as Steve H @22 suggests. I’ll know when I’ve had the chance to see Google+ in action.) :-)

    <grammar rant>”Invite” is a verb; its noun form is “invitation.” But don’t mind me; I’m just channeling my late father, who was a University English Professor. ;-) (Not directed at you specifically, MBL, everyone’s doing that; it’s one of my pet peeves.) </grammar rant>

  32. CLP @ #14: Hmm.

    First, I note as I did to Jules that I haven’t looked at the evolving fannish discussions about this in particular depth; as I told Jules above, my intent was mostly to point out the existence of an “opposition” POV.

    That said:

    If I’ve understood what I’ve read correctly, the ToS in question may be those specific to Google+. Your link sent me to Google’s universal ToS, and I’d agree that I don’t see the seeds of the expressed concerns in that document. The specific issues as originally raised apparently surround what G+ counts as an acceptable name/handle, and what it does when it comes across a name it doesn’t find acceptable. The critics claim that one or both of two things are happening: either the account with the “inappropriate” user name is being suspended, and/or G+ admins are insisting that a “real” name be attached to it. And there seems to be a great deal of confusion over how G+ decides whether a given name/handle is “appropriate”. The net result: one can apparently create multiple accounts, but an account not including a “real” name (as G+ defines “real”, which it apparently does only fuzzily) is subject to random penalties if and when G+ notices your unreality.

    I note that CNET has picked up the story now….

  33. John C. Bunnell@37: Thanks for the information. I saw a link to “Terms” at the bottom of the Google+ main page, which linked to the universal Google ToS. I overlooked the link to “Content policy”, which links this page, which seems to be a Google+ specific ToS. It doesn’t appear to disallow multiple accounts, but it does disallow the use of pseudonyms:

    To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.

    That would seem to very much inhibit having multiple accounts for the purpose you propose in @28.

  34. fmuniz, I’d be happy to send you one if I could click on your name and track down your email address like I could with Hugh. ;-)

  35. it does disallow the use of pseudonyms

    Well, pseudonyms are worth anything when you’re selling identity information on the web. Spammers are paying good money to get names and addresses of real people and they don’t want Jake living at 1060 West Addison, Chicago. It’s just not worth anything.

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