Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nerds on Call: Google+ improves on Twitter, Facebook

By now, you've probably at least heard of Google+ and you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Is it really the new Facebook?
Facebook stinks when it comes to filtering your conversations. Post photos of your kids playing Batman and
Robin before bed and every "friend" sees it. With the Google+ project, you create circles of people, and you selectively share information with certain circles. As you post comments, photos or links, you choose what circles to share each item with. You can add your mom to a family circle, your boss to a work circle, and your friends to yet another. You can even add people to multiple circles. After all, your cube-mate is a co-worker and a friend, right?
Anyone who has been uncomfortable when asked, "Why haven't you accepted my friend request?" knows the limitations of Facebook. But Google+ has no invites. If someone adds you to a circle, that person will automatically see your public posts. You can follow anyone you want, even without that person adding you as a friend. You can see what people share with the public and, unlike Twitter, they won't be limited to 140 characters. Imagine what Ashton Kutcher will do with this.
Another way to connect with your circles is through the Hangout feature, a video chat that up to 10 people can join. You can open your chat session to certain circles, all of your circles, or even the public at large, as with Chatroulette, the web tool for meeting people. This is great for meetings, book clubs or just reconnecting with old friends. Does your daily dose of updates from your favorite TV show start your morning off right? Instead of fan pages and like buttons, use Sparks to track just about anything from Harry Potter to Starbucks and news that posts anywhere on the internet about your "Spark" will show up in your Stream (Google's version of a Facebook News Feed).
Google+ was built with the mobile user in mind. Huddle is like a chat room and a group text combined. Have you ever tried to coordinate a last-minute venue change for a dinner with multiple attendees? You could group text everyone, but if anyone can't accommodate the change, it's like herding cats. Huddle will let you quickly create a closed chat room where everyone can text the group all at once.
Instant Upload allows you to automatically upload every photo you take with your linked smartphone to a folder in your profile. Then simply choose whom to share it with, if anyone.
Google+ isn't perfect.
If you add to a circle someone who posts a lot of comments, photos or links, there is no way to prevent the prolific poster from filling your "stream" (news feed). This could be a problem if you don't want such posts drowning out all of your other friends.Also, new comments always appear at the top of your stream regardless of how old the original post is, so you may see the same post(s) for days or weeks if the topic stirs a lot of commentary. Facebook has a "hide" feature that lets you block posts from showing in your feed. You can go to the person's profile when you want to catch up, without having to remove him or her as a "friend." The buzz in tech circles is that Google will fix this flaw soon because of less-than-glowing attention from the early adapters.
Currently, Google+ is an "invite-only" service (Google is calling this a "field test," not a beta). But current members can send unlimited invites to their friends. With more than 20 million users already, it's not exactly an exclusive club. There's no publicly disclosed estimate of when the service will open to everyone. Some speculate it may remain "invite only" indefinitely.
I can see myself switching to Google+ as my friends do. Are you ready to take a look at Google+, but don't want to buy an invite on eBay? Send me a note and I'll invite you to the party.

No comments:

Post a Comment