Social Introspection: Is Google+ Right for You?


 My name is Courtney, and I use a lot of Google products.  In the past week, I have used at least nine—probably more—but I only remember nine.  Which ones?  Let’s see: Gmail, Google Docs, Reader, Maps, Scholar, Talk, Translate, and Search.  Naturally, I got into Google+.

I can’t help myself with social technologies:  I adopt early, think later.  After about a week of using Google+, I am curious to find out what type of person is the best match for this new social platform.

Runs in many circles

At the heart of Google+ are your Circles.  For new users, Google+ provides a list of suggested Circles (e.g., Friends, Family, Acquaintances).  As you connect with people on Google+, you add them to one or more of these Circles or you create a new one.  If you aren’t sure if the Circles feature is for you, then answer the following questions:

  • Does your iTunes Music Library contain playlists with labels like Dance Mix, Roadtrip Tunes, and Mom’s Music? 
  • Have you created a Group on Facebook?
  • Do you save, tag, and share your bookmarks with Delicious, Google Bookmarks, or Diigo? 
  • Are you an avid user of Twitter hashtags and lists? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions, then Google+ may prove useful for organizing your social contacts into meaningful groups.   The advantage of Circles is that this small bit of work on the front end gives you the ability to target what information you share with different groups of people and what information you consume.   

You can continue to share information with your Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or Twitter networks, by installing the Chrome extension “Extended Share for Google Plus” (see Sources). 

If putting each friend in a Circle sounds daunting, then you could use a single Circle for all of your contacts on Google+.  Or, you may want to stick with a social framework like Facebook or Twitter.  In each of these spaces, categorization falls second to mass communication.

Defines the public eye

If you join Google+, you should explore all of the Settings before diving into the fun parts of Circles, Hangouts, and Sparks.  The privacy settings in Google+ allow you to decide what bits of information you want to share and who will receive it. 

How much and what type of information do you want to share?  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you like to share photos with your friends or the public at large? 
  • Are you seeking more exposure for your creative portfolio?
  • Do you frequently send friends links to news stories, comics, or upcoming events?

Security settings can be edited within the context of the feature or by navigating to the Profile and Privacy tab in Settings.  The image below is a screenshot of the privacy options for sharing a link on my profile page.

 

If you had a Google profile, then Google+ automatically will display some of the same public profile information.  Information that once was (relatively) hidden will be front and center on your Google+ profile, so it’s a good area to review.  Photographs from Blogger accounts with the same Gmail address also will appear in your Google+ profile; however, the default setting for these albums is private.  

Finally, it’s worth emphasizing that Google+ is in beta, and I expect that some features may change when the product launches.

Demands serendipity

On Google+, a Hangout is a video chat that you can either start or join with up to ten people.  Similar to the other features in Google+, you can specify who can join from within the context of the Hangout.  In the instance below, my dog Maggie has invited her Circle of Friends to join.

Google+ puts a spin on traditional video chat by delivering a seemingly serendipitous experience where members of your Circles might stumble into a Hangout. 

If you tend to socialize online, then Hangouts might be your new favorite social space.  Or, perhaps it will become your alternative to group SMS when you and nine of your friends are debating what movie to see.  

Whatever the case, what do you think of Google+?  Does it fulfill your needs for sharing and consuming information?  What features do you wish it had?

Sources

Extended Share for Google Plus, https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/oenpjldbckebacipkfbcoppmiflglnib?ct=author

[Image credit:  stock.xchng.  (2011).  “Circles.”  Retrieved on July 16, 2011, from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1058825]

[Image credit:  screenshot of Google+:  Settings (beta) on July 17, 2011).]

[Image credit:  screenshot of Google+:  Hangout status (beta) on July 17, 2011).]

[Image credit:  screenshot of Google+:  Hangout (beta) on July 17, 2011).]