Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Social Review: Google+

2nd July, 2011

I’ve been using Google+ for a couple of days now, and I really like it. While I have not yet had a chance to give every feature a full run through it’s paces, I have very much liked what I have had a go with. Here’s why I think it has promise.

Circles is a piece of genius. In fact, it is probably what makes Google+ seem so good compared to the other offerings (throughout this post, the competitors are primarily Twitter and Facebook, but secondarily Buzz - simply because it was Google’s last go - and LinkedIn / Yammer perhaps).

With Twitter, sharing is limited to either the whole world or a close set of friends you select. This is fine, but when I’m followed by my flatmates, boss, father, colleagues, that random guy I met at that event once, the other random guy I don’t even remember meeting and that person from my course I’ve never even spoken to (not to mention countless randoms, spammers and real estate agents) I would say it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to craft 140 characters which will be interesting to more than 10% of them at a single time. (It’s equally hard to craft a message that doesn’t offend more than 10% of them.) The result is a lot of noise most of my followers don’t give a monkeys about, and my tweet stream is mostly full of stuff I’m not interested in that I have to sift through to find the interesting bits.

Facebook is even worse. Although everyone on there is meant to be my “friend”, a huge chunk are my current and former colleagues (not ideal candidates for those embarrassing photos), I haven’t to spoken to half of them properly since I left Felixstowe 4 years ago, and I genuinely couldn’t give a monkeys about 99% of the status updates there, much less do I want to wish most of them happy birthday on their wall. While Facebook recently rolled out an overhauled Groups approach, it just doesn’t perform as well as Google+’s circles - it is not as well integrated, significantly more difficult to use in terms of making and maintaining groups, and it’s a chore to choose who sees your status updates. It may just as well be public.

Back to Google+, and I am yet to write a public status update. I have written some ‘Extended Circles’ ones, but I haven’t felt the need to broadcast anything to the world. I feel a lot more personally connected to the people on Google+; this may be because I am used to following them on Twitter, but I personally know a lot more of them than on any other social network. The fact that I can share to a lot more specific groups of people is great too. Targeting developer types with open source code releases (which I can guarantee none of my Facebook friends would be interested in) and F1 fans with gossip and technical chat on that subject makes the network so much more personal. And if the people you follow get their circles curation right, it can end up being a really interesting place to read updates from your friends - nothing too personal, nothing too public.

I think it is this combination of effects at makes Google+ feel much more like a place I would like to spend time interacting with friends. So far, I’m addicted!