Friday, July 01, 2011


I signed up for the Beta of Google+ last night hoping that it will eventually take the place of facebook. I have facebook because it's a convenient way to keep track of happenings, but I'm very unimpressed with the constant revisions that make private info public and have been waiting for a replacement.

I can't say what I think of Google+ yet since the most important aspect of a social network is the sociability of it and very few people I know have joined just yet. Meanwhile, I've been looking at some of the reviews and found a few articles I feel like commenting on.

First 8 Facebook Features Google+ Doesn't Have (Yet). What sorts of things am I missing?

1. Games: Oh thank the FSM G+ doesn't have these. I can't even count how many stupid facebook plug-ins and games I've blocked. And yet it seems every day, one of my friends just started playing Zonkborger and wants me to join their brain eating zombie colony. Not going to miss that!

2. Compatibility with Twitter: I can see this being a sticking point for many, but given I rarely update my twitter, I can't really complain.

3. Third-Party Apps: See (1) & (2). Overall, I'm pretty meh about all the crazy things facebook allows.

4. Hiding Some People's Status Updates: This is a pretty big one. I'm sitting pretty at 226 facebook friends which seems to be a low end of moderate. For comparison, my sister have 544 (she's a socialite). Popular public figures tend to have even more. JT Eberhard has 1721 presently. That's a lot of spam about how shitty people's days were. Sometimes, I just need to hide the downers or the people who otherwise post stupid shit. In facebook, I can just remove them from my feed. Apparently that's not possible in G+.

Is this such a bad thing? Not necessarily. It just means you might have to be a bit more picky about who you select as a "friend". G+ has several different groups. Not everyone has to be a friend. You can select them as "acquaintances" (or make user defined groups) and only show one feed at a time thereby cutting out all the people you maintain loose contacts with and hone in on the ones you really want to follow.

5. Birthday Reminders: Oh no! We can't remember birthdays without a computer to tell us!? Again, I don't care. About the only thing facebook birthdays seem to be any good for anyway, is getting your wall spammed with 300+ variations on "Happy Birthday, bro!". I generally remove my birthday from my profile a few days before hand. Just to see how many people really know. It's not many, but if I really cared, there'd be a party, and they'd all be invited.

6. Event Coordination: This one is important to me. I'm leaving in 10 days for a trip to two conventions and not coming back to St. Louis in between. I'm planning to crash on couches and hang with friends in nearby towns I haven't seen in forever. To coordinate this, I created an invent, tagged the people nearby, and put together an itinerary. Not having such tools will be missed.

7. Polls: Another annoying time sink. As usual, I don't care what people think so much as why they think it. I don't need a multiple choice piece of bifurcation. If you're my friend, let's actually have an intelligent discussion.

8. Users: Simply put, no one is on G+ yet. So far, of the people with whom I'm friends on facebook, a grand total of 3 have joined G+. I expect this will change slowly.

Now, what if the shoe is on the other foot? What can G+ do that FB can't?

1. Easy Sub Groups: As noted earlier, you can create sub groups of friends with limited access to your profile. Sadly, this is a painful process due to the labyrinth of facebook's settings. G+ makes it very straightforward. You see a bubble with your friends pictures on it and you can drag & drop them to any one you'd like. Done.

2. Live Video Chat: This is something I don't have much use for currently, but in which I can see a lot of potential for others. The article mentions that this can be integrated well with things like Google's Calendar. Not mentioned is things like Google Docs which could allow for real time, video conferenced collaboration. As part of the Naka-Kon convention committee, I have to do remote conferencing so this may come in handy down the road.

3. Watch YouTube Vids In Real Time w/ Friends: My best friend currently lives in Springfield, MO. One of the things we do frequently is watch episodes of Dr. Who together by queuing it up on Netflix and hitting "go" simultaneously. G+ builds such things straight into the video chat. It's also smart enough to mute your mics when the video starts and there's a push-to-talk feature. I love the idea of this and would greatly like to see it expanded to Netflix, Hulu, or places that host full shows instead of mostly user created content.

4. Interest Based Content: Google is already known for building a profile of you based on your searches and other information you feed it and this is apparently integrated into G+. I'm still torn on whether or not it's creepy that Google has all this information, but I still come down on the side that as long as they're keeping it, not selling it off to shady 3rd parties, and I have the ability to wipe it when I so choose, it's ok with me.

With facebook, you can like things, but it doesn't generally change your experience, except perhaps on what adds you'll see. G+ will recommend content from the entire web. This again, is a double edged sword. It can display cool things, but as I've noted they also come up with crap. Additionally, there's the worry of getting trapped in filter bubbles.

5. Instantly Upload Photos, Decide What to Do Later: With facebook, you put a picture up and it's instantly shared. With G+, you'll be able to delay pictures uploaded from your mobile phone until you get back to your computer and then decide if you really want that picture from that party shown to the world. Apparently, you'll only have 8 hours to do so, but this is an interesting delay.

6. Quitting: One of the biggest criticisms of facebook is that it's near impossible to actually get your info gone. You can deactivate an account, but it's essentially like just not logging in. You can still be tagged, invited, and visible, just without the control. But actually deleting your account, making everything vanish, is damned near impossible to find. If you really want to do it account killer has the info.

But with G+ it's apparently easy to quit. A+ for that.

This article also has some interesting tidbits:

1. Integration with Picassa & Google Chat: I haven't done a lot of using of Picassa. In general, I just don't host a ton of photos on the web mostly because I don't take many. The pictures I hosted for this blog, until last year, were on a private web host which I discontinued (hence the numerous dead image links in old posts). However, since Blogger got bought out by Google, images can now be directly added to posts and are automatically put in a Picassa folder. That's been about the extent of my use. I do like the idea of having an image dump integrated with social networking. Facebook's is pretty good, but embedding them in other sites doesn't work.

I haven't done much with Google Chat. Aside from my previously mentioned friend who is on Yahoo messenger, and the occasional Naka-Kon meetings via Skype, instant messengers have fallen out of use. I didn't much like Google Chat due to, again, the sparsity of users. I used it a few times with people in Gmail, but that was confined to my browser and not worth the extra tabs. The stand alone program wasn't used enough for continued use. Integrating this may be more useful, but I'm doubting it.

2. Picture Tagging: As with facebook, users will be able to tag you in photos. This has caused a lot of heartache for people, especially teachers, who have lost jobs due to being publicly tagged in pictures revealing that they *gasp* have a life. Fortunately, it looks like G+ requires you go approve the tag before it goes live.

3. "Sparks": As noted before, G+ integrates your interests into a web feed. This is called Sparks. Apparently, it isn't (yet?) integrated with things like RSS feeds which is a bummer. So this may be more or less useful depending on how useful or junky it gets.


Les Jenkins said...

Just a couple of points: Games and "Questions" are coming. There's already code in the templates for it and Google just hired a bunch of people to develop games. That said, I'm optimistic they won't be as obtrusive as they are on FB.

Twitter compatibility is already there, but it's tied into their Buzz system. You can set up Buzz so it imports your Twitter account. So if you go to my profile and click on the Buzz tab you'll not only see everything I've shared in Google Reader, but any Tweets I've made as well. It just doesn't pollute the stream.

Third party apps, you can bet those will be coming at some point. They already have a Google App store for Chrome and Android, it only makes sense that'll be extended to Google+.

You can hide statuses. There's a little grey drop down arrow on the right next to a stream entry that allows you to "Mute" that post. Don't know if it's exactly the same as FB's implementation, but it's there.

Event's will probably be easily done once they integrate Google Calendar into Google+, which, again, I'd be surprised if they didn't do that. I expect all of the Google services will tie in somehow including Google Docs which will make a lot of them a lot more useful.

I think Google's going to be very careful in how they implement this stuff to try and avoid the pitfalls that could develop. But what it comes down to for me is that I quite simply trust Google more than I trust Facebook.

David Atchley said...

I think apps/games are going to have to make an entrance into Google+ sometime soon; and that's primarily market driven, since they want to compete in the same space as Facebook. I agree though, add-on apps and games are simply spammy on FB, and I block nearly all of them as well. Google+ might do well to rethink how apps and games can "access" a user's profile information and/or spam them with status updates/ads. At a minimum, if a "friend" in one of my circles is playing an add-on game, I should not get sprayed with messages about their latest loot, trophies, points, etc unless I specifically "opt-in" to see that, or am also playing that game.

Also, just want to say I'm really enjoying your blog, Jon! I'm on G+, so if you're looking to add some "acquaintances" feel free. I'm a software engineer here in St. Louis and I've had you on my reader feed for some time. Really enjoy your posts.