Google +

Like more than 4 million other people, I’m up and running
on Google +.
Not at all phased by the disappointing Wave, Buzz or Orkut, I eagerly accepted my + invitation despite knowing little about it. (What can I say?  I’m a glass- half- full kind of girl.) I usually wait to sign on to new technology until I know something about it or have a sense of the gap it might fill.  Not this time. I heard + could be the new Facebook and I made haste to get access to their Beta circle. If there is finally going to be a viable alternative to the social network -category-killing Facebook, I want  in from the start.

The only thing I really like about Facebook is the soundtrack Trent Reznor made for the movie.  This is not because I’m a snob, socially reclusive or “above” it all. In fact, quite the opposite is true. To a fault, I am friendly and inclusive. It is not in my nature to deny or  ignore someone who has reached out to me.  I’ve been on Facebook for years, and  I now realize the error of my accepting ways. I am well aware that many of the people from my periphery are (obviously) not  friends, rather personalities I have to consider before posting any savvy quips or, heaven forbid, pictures.
Like I really need the stress of wondering which of my Republican “friends” won’t like my political weekend T-shirts. Or which family members will worry that yes, that does seem to be a  beer she’s having with her breakfast. Let’s face it. We all care what people think or we wouldn’t use social networking sites in the first place. Avoiding real conflicts caused by virtual improvisations is something I simply don’t have time for.

The knowledge that there are several hundred people who have constant access to me, my wall, and my inbox has paralyzed any opportunity for me and Facebook activity. Sure, I could go through and de-friend them all but that seems cold, not to mention time consuming. I don’t need a Facebook re-design, or a promise of better privacy policy. I need a place to start over.

Google +

We’re all new to Google+, but for those even newer than me, here’s an overview. I think it has real potential and I’ll share a few of  the key characteristics I’ve used so far.

Circles

The big idea behind + is the opportunity for more targeted communication and information sharing. To this end, users create circles which are smallish groups within your wider social network. This is easily done, via drop and drag from your gmail contact list,  though you do not need to use gmail to use +,  for the record.

Even if you think everything you say matters to everyone in your network, you’ll be glad to know your less humble friends may feel differently. Case in point: The other day I posted some personal video footage from last week’s Soundgarden concert. Friends in my “metalhead” circle were were pretty pumped that they got to see (well, kind of see) and hear Chris Cornell at his most magnificent while I’m guessing my family circle –certainly my mom and dad–were pretty glad I left them out of it.  Samples of some of my other circles:  library comrades, Met fans, quilters.  See my need for differentiating? Thank you +, for letting me exercise the judgement and consideration that will keep us all safe.

Sparks
As a  Google product, + has a built in feature–sparks–that enables users to harness information from the web on different topics of interest. To me, this functionality is a bit similar to Google Reader, only it pulls from the web at large, not from blogs or sites you’ve signed on to.

Hangouts
Multi-user video chats. That’s right. Take that Facebook.

Right now, there is a lot being written about +, how to use it, benefits, challenges, etc. This guy’s post on tips for getting started with Google +wound up in my stream the other day and I think it’s worth a look.  I also liked this slideshow about the differences between + and Facebook. I don’t see Facebook going anywhere any time soon and it’s unclear if there will be a way to easily transport friends from one site to the other (for those of you who are into that sort of thing.)
In the meantime, I’ve got invites if you need one.