By Steve Wheatley:
Let me talk to you a minute about Google+ and why you should join, even if you don’t think you should.
(And no, I don’t work for Google or own stock, nor am I making any money off this except the huge amount Insider Louisville is paying me to guest blog.)
First, I’ll answer the question that most people kind of know: “What is Google +?”
Google + is like Facebook for your Google account. Simple as that.
It’s a free social networking site that allows you to share your thoughts, pictures, videos, links, etc., the same as Facebook.
Why would we need two sites to do the same thing? Simple. Because one of these two sites is doing a lot of things better.
I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t Facebook.
What is Google doing better? To answer that, I’ll tell you what Facebook is not doing, or doing badly.
On Facebook, it is way too easy to share things with the wrong people.
You submit a post, one of your friends comments on it, all of their friends can then see it and so on, and it may get to someone who you don’t want seeing it.
To combat this, FB does have “Groups” which is where you can arrange your friends in different groups, ie: Friends, high school buddies, college chums, colleagues, super hotties, complete douche bags, etc.
This is good in theory because it allows you to only share certain things with certain people, keeping everyone else from having to see something they care nothing about.
For instance, 99 percent of people don’t want to see some guy with his shirt off in front of a bathroom mirror, taking a picture of his “bod” with his crappy cellphone camera. But IF there IS a certain group that DOES want to see this, for instance, the ‘Super Hotties’ group (they probably don’t, but the clueless, shirtless D-Bag will no doubt share it with them anyway), then you can select the ‘Super Hotties’ group from the drop down on Facebook, and that way your grandma and your boss don’t have to see your physique.
The problem is, in order to do this, you have to spend time putting everyone one in different groups. The Facebook function never asked you when you “friended” them to decide what group they were in. So they just went into the “Everyone” group.
Also, what if your boss IS a super hottie? What then?
How do you send your post to not only the super hotties, but also your boss who is in your work group – and just happens to be super hot – without showing the rest of the people at work? Well, I don’t know exactly, because I never did that on Facebook, and never really even knew I had the option.
Google+ solves and perfects all of this: When you add a friend, it makes you choose a “Circle” to put them in:
This is a stroke of brilliance by Google. They REQUIRE you to put friends in at least one circle. But let’s say as in the case of the hot boss, a friend belongs in two circles.
You can put them into both the “Work” and “Hotties” circle. The default circles are Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. But you can create your own, as many as you like.
Google recommends putting people in the friends circle who you don’t mind if they see anything you post from your dirty thoughts to pictures of your drunken escapades where your man and/or lady parts are partially exposed. (Not fully exposed mind you. There are plenty of other sites for that.)
Why is this so brilliant? Because when you go to share, Google asks, ‘Hey! who do you want to share this post with? Your Aunt Sally is not interested in your half naked flex pictures!’ ”
Okay, so it doesn’t say exactly that, but it sure does remind you who you are posting for every time you post.
Gone are the days of not getting that job as a bank teller because the branch manager is a friend of a friend and he saw a picture of the tattoo on your butt he thinks would be inappropriate for the workplace copier.
Then you put people who you want to shield from your darker side in the appropriate groups: Family, Friends, Acquaintances et cetera. That way you can post your pictures of you smooching with Mr.Tickles the Chihuahua to your family because your Mom will think you are a real great guy and animal lover while your buddies will print it out, make 1,000 copies and post them all over your cubicle at work.
That alone is enough for me personally to make the switch.
But if you are still worried that you might miss playing FarmVille while chatting with your friends, consider this: Hang Outs.
Hang Outs is video chat. Anyone with a webcam and mic on their computer can participate. But get this: IT’S A 10 PERSON VIDEO CHAT ROOM. That is amazing. You can’t even 3-way Skype (as far as I know) and now we can have a 10 way video chat room.
I want you to see this picture because my friend Steve Boz was SO exited that he posted it for everyone to see on his G+ stream:
Matt Good is a popular Canadian Musician and Steve was following him on Google+ (yes, you can also follow people who don’t have you in their circles, much like Twitter) when he saw a message pop up: “Matthew Good is Hanging out! Click Here to Join.”
He clicks, feeling giddy as a school girl at her first rock concert, and all of the sudden he is video chatting with Matt and nine other equally star struck young men.
(Apparently this guy’s target audience is 30-something Canadian men, judging from the screen capture.)
They chat for a while, and then Steve comes to a hangout with me, and gushes about how he just got to chat with MATTHEW GOOD. To which I immediately replied, “Who?”
You get the idea.
Ten-way video chat with friends, and possibly even a (quasi) celeb every now and then.
This is just too much awesome. You can even share Youtube vids in the chat room, video everyone sees at the same time. Eventually, you could possibly play casual games together. I’m just guessing about this, but It certainly seems plausible. You could get a lot more crops harvested in some hardcore, 10-way FarmVille.
Next there is the “Sparks” feature. Don’t let Sparks fool you … it’s not new.
In fact, it’s Google’s oldest tool, the search engine.
Sparks is Google’s way of keeping you updated on the things you are interested in by putting a live-updated Google search on your main page you can check when ever you feel like geeking out. Basically it’s a saved Google search that updates constantly. Take a look. Even though it’s not a new feature, it’s a well thought out implementation:
Finally, there is Google huddle.
Huddle is only for mobile devices, and at this point I believe it is only on Android platforms.
But assuming it comes to Blackberry and iPhone soon, it will be pretty awesome: It’s like Blackberry messenger, only with your Google+ circles, not just a bunch of boring business people.
You can message one person or multiple people or an entire circle. Then everyone can be on the same page when someone decides they would rather go to Chunky Cheese’s rather than McDoogles.
Now everybody knows McDoogles is where it’s at, and you don’t have to call or text 15 people.
This idea has been around for a long time, but if Huddle gets on all smart phones – and it probably will – it will virtually eliminate overnight the need for text messaging, saving you $30 a month for text messaging that you shouldn’t be paying anyway. (But that’s another rant.)
I don’t have any screenshots of huddle because it is on my Andriod, but heres a video from Google:
If there is still any doubt that you need to join Google+, let me sum it all up in one sentence:
It has better privacy and security features, full integration chat and video chat, some cool new features like Huddle and Sparks, and the Killer app that everyone will be using by 2012: Hang Outs. Get a friend to invite you in now while you can still have the same bragging rights this hipster dog has:
About the author: Steve Wheatley has been not just using computers but building them since he was in diapers. Steve has forgotten more about computers and Social Media than you’ll ever know. He works in the IT section of a Louisville-based mega-company.