Wednesday, 29 June 2011
My first experience with Google+/Google Plus

I received an invite to join the Google Plus Field Test from a friend of mine who works at Google. My first impressions of the sign up process for Google+ (or g+ as people now refer to it) was "this is rather simple" simple is good!

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I suppose the beauty of Google+ is that most people have a Google Account, well lets put it this way most people in the IT industry have a Google Account and therefore a lot of the people I associate with have Google Accounts.

All Google+ asked me when I signed up was if I wanted to link my Google+ account to my PicasaWeb Albums, it automatically picked up that I had a Google Buzz account (which I seldom use). 

Logging into Google+ for the first time, you are presented with the following screen

 

GooglePlusHomePage

The first thing I noted about the interface in Google+ is its pretty clean, they've done a bit of work making sure its not cluttered. Facebook has that cluttered feel to it which has probably come about by Facebook bolting on new features throughout the years as its grown organically while Google has had the chance to think about this from the ground up.

The Circles
One of Google+'s selling points is its "Circles" concept, basically a human being has many circles, they can be a circle of friends, circle of associates a family circle.you get the picture.

GoogleCircle

Google+ suggests people I have corresponded with in the past be they from Google Talk, Buzz or my GMAIL contact list.

I can also import contacts from Yahoo and Hotmail.

I can then choose to add these people to my network by dragging them into the circle I think they fit into best.

Later when I want to share content I can choose which of these circles I'd like to share my content with or just make the content public. Google appears to have carefully noted peoples annoyances with Facebook and appear to be making sure Google+ does not fall into the same security trap Facebook did in the past. (hopefully I didn't speak too soon!)

 

The Streams
When posting updates, Google has a concept called "Streams", the circles you placed your friends into earlier each have their own corresponding stream where anything posted by these users appear in the corresponding stream.

writingupdates

As on a Facebook wall you can post different kinds of content into a stream such as photos, video's, your location and links.

Trying it out for a while I quite like the Stream concept I think its very cleverly done. I also like how easy it is to see who I am sharing my content/updates with by selecting a Circle from the drop down list (see the picture).


Hangouts
Another feature I didn't get to test out (not many of my friends are online early in the morning!) is a video conferencing feature called Hangouts. You can basically open a Hangout to which you can choose which friends or Circles of friends can join at their leisure. In a Hangout you can watch YouTube videos together and video chat or text chat to each other. The video conferencing with more than one person at a time seems to be a direct competitor with Skype's premium conferencing service. I can see the potential for Google to Launch a commercial version of this tool with their business offerings.

Security
So far Google have made the security simple to understand. You can access these settings from the top right hand side of the screen.

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Google carefully explains to you what can and cannot be seen, how the various features work and how to change these settings if you wish.

You are also able to see how other people might see your profile by typing in their username.


Conclusion
I have only used Google+ briefly but from what I have seen I am pretty impressed and I would love it to succeed. I know there have been a lot of anti-Facebook groups lately who are unhappy with the security in Facebook, I believe they now have a suitable alternative to choose from (albeit no one finds a gaping security hole). Will people leave Facebook in droves to join Google+ ? I am not so sure they would I believe people may sign up for both because its pretty easy to do so. Which one they may end up using the most may depend on several factors such as ease of use and where their friends hang out the most. As Google is just about everyone's search engine of choice these days the integration with their flagship search engine will probably appear seamless and easy for users to switch between.

I can foresee further integrations between Google+ and search which will help Google monetise plus. For example a friend finds a jacket they like on Google Shopping and hits a button on Google Shopping which says share with my Circle. The friends in that circle then get to see a nicely displayed update in their stream so they can click on the product and see more details. Every click in theory would earn Google AdSense revenue.

What I have found in the past is that Google often focuses on launching a product or service that at the time doesn't really make much sense until later when you see the bigger picture. If Google gets this right they could crack a large revenue stream if they get it wrong it could be yet another Wave.

Note: Please don't ask me for a Google+ invite. People in the field trial have not been given the ability to issue invites as yet.

posted on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:17:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 12 February 2010
Google Buzz, Yahoo Buzz, Windows Buzz….

Google Buzz yet another release by the search engine giant in an attempt to get a piece of the large social network and micro blogging platform pie Facebook and Twitter have carved up among themselves. What surprises me about Google Buzz is that Microsoft and Yahoo have implemented such functionality in their own offerings Hotmail and Yahoo Mail some time ago. Although as always Microsoft's marketing department seems far better with its software and OS offerings than anything to do with its email and social networking platforms. Yahoo on the other hand appears more interested in getting people to change their home page to Yahoo (we have all seen the TV ads) but they haven't really given us a reason why (or I have missed the reason). I have tried out Yahoo's offerings and can't quite understand why its better. They have added some nifty little gadgets such as the search pad and they have integrated their own form of "Buzz" (and they will probably cringe when I use that word), in the way of allowing people to see your updated status and enabling you to hook in YouTube, Twitter, Picasa, StumbleUpon (to mention a few) into your status updates.

I suppose Microsoft and Yahoo's approach to the whole subject has been well if we can't beat them we may as well come up with a way to compliment or to work with the flow. In this way Microsoft and Yahoo knew people wanted to keep using these networks and nothing they could offer would sway them from using them, so decided to make all these things easily accessible from their own platforms. "Hey guys you can access all your social networking from one site!"

I think Google have thought of much the same theme however Google has been a lot more vocal about it or maybe its just that we pay a lot more attention when Google says something than if Microsoft or Yahoo says something these days? Google unlike the others has given it a name, Microsoft now a days when they give something a name seem to confuse customers even more. First it was MSN, then Live, then live search became Bing and then there was something called Windows Live services and what happened to hotmail oh is that Windows Live Mail now? Google are very good at keeping what they offer clear and to the point. Googles' web pages are clean and you're not too confused on where to go. Yahoo and Microsoft's Live/hotmail/MSN (what ever they call it now). Is very much hidden away or not that easy to find on their busy and very advertising focused websites. I remember thinking a while back I would like to try out Microsoft's new search they kept on talking about it but I couldn't figure out what site to go to to find it. I eventually found it under www.live.com, however Microsoft rebranded it yet again and now are asking people who visit their home page to change it to www.bing.com. Maybe Microsoft would be more successful with their offerings which are pretty good if they were more consistent and didn't keep on changing their minds on what they were going to call themselves. Few people realise that they can access Microsoft's online version of Office (albeit in Beta) from their accounts as you can with Google Docs.

posted on Friday, 12 February 2010 14:48:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 15 March 2009
Social networks the new Email 2.0?

FaceBook My friend Owen Twittered this interesting article on the BBC web site about how social networks are the "new e-mail". This is a subject I have found pretty interesting, partly because every day of my life since the Internet started to get popular I have been spammed excessively.

I have 3 personal email accounts which I am not very good at checking. The only email account that gets my full attention is my work email account. My work emails get sorted into what needs my immediate attention and items that are mildly interesting that I will file away and most probably forget about. There may be a few social contacts which I will probably set myself a reminder to deal with later in Outlook. To me email has become a real chore for every email account you have you need to sort the noise from your real contacts. It has become such an issue that sometimes I give up all together on my personal email account and sit down maybe once a week separating adverts, circulars and spam from genuine friends emailing me. In the old days email was not like this, when you received an email it was an exciting occasion, someone genuinely wanted to contact you. Email used to feel the same as receiving a hand written letter in the post from a friend, but now I find 1 out of 10 emails is usually spam.

Social networks help you separate spam from friend pretty easily. You usually have the option to not receive messages from people who are not in your social network and hence making your social messages and alerts easier to take in. The only problem I have found with networks such as Facebook is the excessive amounts of forwards and invitations to join certain groups or install certain applications. Without thinking about it I installed several Facebook applications just because friends forwarded them to me. I even ended up on a dating Facebook application, which I had no intention of joining and had great difficulty removing myself from. After awhile I started to find social networks just as tiring it was yet another "thing" that needed attention and soon my Facebook account started to become just as tedious to maintain. I found that the best way for people to get my attention or to get me to respond to a social events was via MSN Messenger, phone or actually meeting me and asking if I was attending something. Messenger is spontaneous and gets results. Then someone introduced me to Twitter and from there things started to change.

Twitter didn't demand the high maintenance of a social network and the noise created by spam in an email account was easily avoidable. Twitter kept things simple, you post a message in Twitter it can be anything you want and people can respond. If people start spamming you, you remove them from the list of people you follow on Twitter. Twitter is like a cross between blogging, MSN messenger and social interaction for me. Its also a great platform to put a question to the world and get a response from an expert in almost seconds. This got me thinking, if you keep things simple and they don't demand a great amount of your time, people will stay with it. It was almost as though traditional email should have had this built in. You can only send me emails once I accept your email account is allowed to send me messages which has been attempted before but requires you pay a subscription fee. I don't think social networks are the new email 2.0 I just think they are yet another way of communicating with each other. Each of these communication methods has its place.

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posted on Sunday, 15 March 2009 13:20:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 03 November 2007
Information Overload

I just have too much information to take in every day. At work I have about 50-100 e-mail's a day to cope with, then I have a constant feed of RSS traffic from just too many blogs coming into my RSS reader, Facebook traffic comes in at a constant stream and then my ISP email account and my GMail account never end.

You would just say I could turn off the RSS reader? The problem is the current project I am working on uses a Wiki for everything so every time people make changes or tag things for your attention my RSS reader goes nuts bringing in traffic. My work email account I have had for such a long time that I get all kinds of spam now and company emails going back and forth. As it takes me so long to read everything I just glance at it and use the Outlook flagging tool to mark it as important to read later. I don't think I could cope with another social network or information source and ironically enough when I want to get any work done at work I actually turn off all of these information sources. Its funny that all these information sources that are supposed to be such a "boost" and help in the workplace are actually a hindrance. Every hour at work I will start up Outlook and begin deleting the messages that are not important. Another interrupter at work is MSN messenger which we use for communicating across sites, I will also turn this off when I need to get work done and turn it on every now and again if I need to bother a colleague for help.

I realise a lot of organisations have blocked many of these "tools" and social networks on their firewalls to stop their staff from being distracted, I like to think I am good at self policing myself, but I realise why companies do this. Sometimes people just can't help themselves and I have friends who admit they have a weakness not being able to leave Facebook, Beebo or what ever social network they belong too alone while at work. I personally never use social networks while at work, as I know how distracting they are. Although one of things I say to people is while you are using them look at the clock on your PC when you first start and write it down. Then look at it again every now and again, you'll be quite amazed by how 2 minutes turns into 30minutes.   

posted on Saturday, 03 November 2007 12:58:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]