The PZ Take: Google+ in Perspective

(Ping! Zine Web Hosting Magazine) – In the recent past Google+ invites have been hard to come by. However, I was lucky to get one over the weekend and it looks like Google has begun to open its social network up to more and more people. That’s a good thing, who wants to be on a social network without that many friends anyhow?

While it looks pretty similar to Facebook in some regards (such as its news feed feature called Stream, the feature similar to liking something known at +1), there are noticeable differences that make Google+ unique as its own social network.

Google Circles

The main feature is Google Circles. There aren’t friend requests on Google+. You can add anyone who has a public profile to your circle groups.  However, if they don’t have you added to their Circle, it might not count for too much. Here’s why:  I might have one user added to a group in my circles, but they might not have me added to a group in theirs. If that user has privacy settings or has shared things with only people they’ve added to their own circles, then I’m not going to be able to view a significant amount of information that they’ve shared (depending on whether they have made it public or private of course).

The Circles feature also allows the user to organize people within certain groups such as friends, acquaintances, family etc. Another cool thing is that it has a default following circle, allowing the user to follow someone who will likely not add the user to their own Circle. Perhaps this Circle is done for those who want to follow celebrities or other high-profile people (kind of like how some people follow celebrities via Twitter).

The Google Circles feature doesn’t just enable the user to conveniently view profiles arranged within their own Circles. It also has a lot to do with how a user shares information throughout the social network.

Sharing through Google+

Google+ is more personalized when it comes to sharing.

Once logging into Google+, the user is presented with their main stream. It features things that other users in your Circles have shared (kind of like the main news feed on Facebook).

There’s also a text box at the top where the user is allowed to stream whatever they want to other users (whether it’s a simple text update, link, image(s), video, whatever).

Relying on Circles, the stream box allows users to easily select a certain group listed within their Circle groups. The user can choose to share it with all their circle groups or just particular ones. Say you don’t want to share something with mom, dad, or other family members and instead just want to share it with your friends. You can easily select to stream what you’re sharing with your friends Circle group and not family.

It also gives the user the luxury of not having to view things their not interested in anyhow. For example, if I made a post regarding a new Xbox 360 game I just bought, why should people I have on the social network who aren’t interested in electronic gaming (like my mom) have to endure viewing such information? With Google+, users simply don’t have to share it with them. This helps cut out so much of the social clutter for both sides. Again, it’s only the information you want to share and view.

You’re probably also wondering why Google+ doesn’t have a feature that allows you to post to other users’ profiles. Well there’s a simple answer to that. This is also done through streaming via the main streaming box option on a user’s homepage. Instead of selecting an entire group, the user can easily just type in which particular user they want to share it with. The personal message will then simply show up through that user’s stream. This takes away the hassle of visiting someone’s profile every time you want to share something with them.

This is also why Google+ is more personal. Other users don’t have the ability to go to your profile and see what other users have shared with you like on Facebook (That is unless that user had initially chosen to share it with you as well).

Other Stuff..

Just like “liking” things on Facebook, a user on Google+ is allowed to give their own approval to what others post via a button called “+1.” Not only does what you “+1” show up through other users’ streams, a “+1” tab able appears on individual profiles, allowing others and yourself to simply view all the things you’ve given your approval to.

Then there’s the chatting platform called “Hangouts.” It’s an obvious feature and allows users to start video chat sessions. However, something really cool that Google has done is the feature’s integration with YouTube. Users can stream YouTube videos for everyone to see through their Hangout chats.

A more personal feature that probably hasn’t been talked about as much is Sparks. Sparks allows Google to provide you with new information on things you’re interested in. Say i’m interested in a certain sports team like the New Orleans Saints. I can add “New Orleans Saints” to my Sparks. Then every day Google will provide me with new information on my particular interest every time I click on the Sparks feature.

There’s still lots of stuff for Google to work out with the platform. That’s why it’s still in limited Beta form. Perhaps it’s also why it’s called a “project.”  There’s bugs here and there, also some delays. For example, I changed my profile picture and me old one will randomly show up every now and then when I click on certain sections within my account.

Overall this is a really good effort to add a more personal dimension to social networking, thus giving the user more control over exactly who they want to share certain information with and exactly what information they want to view. If you get an invite, it’s definitely worth your time.

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