Google+ Comes Crashing Into Chez Roo

I’ve been hearing the buzz about Google+ for months.  It has been the subject of many tech conversations for quite some time.  But I’ve been way too busy with weddings and work.  So Google+ has taken a back seat at our home.  But that ended yesterday.

A few of my friends saw a plaintive lament for an invite.  Within thirty minutes, I had a slew of invitations in my email.  So thank to everyone who saw fit to share with me.  As of yesterday, I’ve waded into the stream.

So what are my first thoughts?  That’s such a tough question.  I really loved Google Wave.  And since I have been using Google Mail and Google Reader since their inception, I had no trouble getting aboard the Buzz bus.  But Buzz didn’t get any real traction.  I think that this was because Wave was focused on the act of collaboration and Buzz was focused primarily upon the content.  But Facebook (and Friendfeed) were always focused on friends.  And contact/friend management is the real key to social media finesse.  Twitter and Facebook were always focused upon making and contacting friends.

After a few days with Google+, I think that they may have finally gotten the message.  Google+ seems to be about you an your friends.  The lame code word for this is Google+ Circles.  I don’t like the analogy – although I do like the reference to the same meme in the Meet the Parents movies.  Creating clusters of community is really important.  I have so many subsets of friends.  Some love cycling and some hate cycling.  Some love tech while others just use tech.  Some love politics while others shun them.  Like most people, I have groups that can and must be dealt with independently.  And Google+ gets this right.  Now that they have finally spent some time focusing on the people aspects of community, they may just get some traction.

But as a tech enthusiast, I must admit that there are some very cool touches that have piqued my interest.

First, there is excellent integration with Android.  I love the Android app.  And it looks just like the web experience.    You can see your own posts…

your entire stream…

and all the notifications that come your way while you are out and about. 

As the platform matures, I am sure that location-based services will start to flourish.  But the cool part is that you won’t have to wait for Google to build these cool new features.  Android is open.  So you can and should be seeing all sorts of cool phone-based elements from developers near you.

And the desktop will also see some cool integration.  Most of Google+ is accessible via Javascript.  So extensions are not just limited to Android.  I have had a great deal of fun selecting and integrating Chrome extensions into my browser.    The coolest of these are the Push Contacts extension and the Surplus extension.  Both of these extensions deserve their own post/review.  But for now, take my advice and install them into your Chrome browser as soon as possible.  They will make your Google+ experience even more pleasing.

But despite all the really cool possibilities that this platform portends, you do need to realize that this is still a beta – albeit a Google beta.  One of the biggest shortcomings is the lack of integration with Google Reader – coupled with a complete abandonment of RSS as a content source.  This is so incredibly important for me because I share so much content via Google Reader.

And I would really love to see some kind of integration with RSS and enclosures – especially audio content inclusion (like podcasts).

But for a first release (assuming you don’t include Wave and Buzz as early versions), then Google+ may well be able to attack the Zuckerberg monolith – and survive.  Let’s hope so.  And let’s hope that the DoJ keeps its ruddy mitts off of this conflict.  True competition will yield real improvements in our social infrastructure.

-Roo

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