My initial thoughts on Google+

I like it.

I got my invitation to Google+ last week and I have been slowly digging into it, using it more and more over the last several days, growing my circles and other interactions. Here are some thoughts that I’ve had about Google+ since I’ve been using it.

Circles are not only for privacy, they’re for courtesy as well

It seems to me that this is the right way to let people share content. Undoubtedly, there will be countless posts on how best to organize your circles for maximum effectiveness. I’m still playing around with mine. My idea is to keep as few circles as I need to be able to share content the way I’d like to. There are two considerations here:

  1. Privacy: limiting who you share certain content with, as opposed to exposing it to all your “friends”.
  2. Courtesy: there are people who probably don’t care much about my science fiction life, or who have told me they don’t need to hear about the Little Man. I can organize my circles and share content so as to include people who are interested in the particular content and exclude people who are not. Should someone become interested, they can always be moved into the “Science Fiction News” circle, or the “Little Man Updates” circle. In this sense, circles can be thought of as information channels.
And have you tried deleting a circle yet? If not, go ahead and create an empty circle then delete it and see what happens. It’s very cool!

Twitter-like following

I like that people can put me can encircle me without my having to encircle them back. It is like “following” in Twitter. It also means that I can follow (encircle) interesting people without them having to follow me back.

Hangouts are wicked cool

Last night, I participated in my first hangout. Science fiction writer extraordinaire, Juliette Wade hosted the hangout. Also participating was another writer, Barbara Webb. Hangouts are designed to be video-based, and indeed, all three of us could see one another. I had to install an update to the Google Talk widget on my Mac, and I made use of my new microphone. Once that was done, I think the video hangout went remarkably well.

One of the cool features of the handout is that all of the people participating appear in a row below the main video screen, so you can see everyone. However, the person who is talking is automatically placed in the larger video window. I liked that because it made it easy to tell who was talking. The video quality was good and once I got through the initial widget update, I had no problems.

Juliette and I were talking about how this would be a convenient way for online writing groups (or even just a couple of people separated by distance) to get together to go over a critique of a manuscript. Or imagine this: a writer and editor collaborating in a Hangout and using Google Docs in realtime to go over edits for a story or a novel?

Integration with Picasa

I’ve been a Google apps user for a while, and as part of that, all of my photos are in Picasa. (I pay to have extra storage there.) That includes photos for this blog, as well as everything else I have. It’s so convenient to have seamless integration with photos on Google+. If I want to share a photo, I don’t have to jump through hoops. It’s easy to pick the photo from the appropriate Picasa album. Or I can drag a photo into the Share box.

Some possible improvements

Not everything is perfect. I’ve read that Google is working to make realtime improvements based on user feedback. There are a few things that I would like to see improved, most of which center around integration with other social networking services:

  • I would like to be able to post something to Google+ and have it automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter. There are a few ways of doing this now, but none of them are through the API. To integrate with Facebook and Twitter now, you have to use the “secret” email addresses for posting to Facebook and Twitter, add them to a circle, and include that circle in any post you want forwarded to those services. There should be an easier, more seamless way.
  • Or vice versa. There should be an easy way for Twitter and Facebook to post to Google+
  • I’d like my WordPress blog posts to show up in my Google+ stream. As far as I can tell, there is no plug-in that provides this functionality, akin to the Wordbooker functionality for relaying posts to Facebook.
  • Integration with Google Docs
  • ETA: Google Calendar integration would also be a nice add.
All told, so far my experience has been very positive and I think Google might have finally gotten the social networking thing right. I wonder if the number of tweets and Facebook wall posts are down this week, what with all the people preoccupied playing around with Google+?