I finally got my Google Plus a/c sorted about two weeks ago now and have been playing with it ever since. Like most of my peers I have been an early adopter of many social networks and mobile networking apps. I’ve been on Twitter for too long to remember, Facebook too and have engaged in a year long experiment with Foursquare that has now drawn to a close. There has also been a spattering of other services that have come and gone without really featuring in my life (nor providing annoyance to my friends).
The striking thing about my connected life until now is the vast array of apps that I needed to interact with the various networks and also the frequently, limited functionality of those mobile apps compared to their desktop counterparts. Sometimes so bad, I’d rather make the slowest quip in the world than try to broadcast it from my phone. I used to be very anti-smartphone, not getting the phone-omenon in the early days. I still stand by my opinions at the time as things were just not ready for mass market in my estimation. Times have obviously changed and even I have now gone through several smartphones and a vast array of apps for those devices. I guess knocking the adage on its head applies here: There’s no whore like a reformed prude.
Upon investigating Google Plus for the first time, the interface was immediately apparent, as a well thought out, socially unifying experience. Facebook has always been shrouded in privacy concerns and locking down information was ultimately more trouble than it was worth. Of course, I still believe that if it’s that sensitive then don’t put it online! Facebook was great for getting back in touch with old friends whom I haven’t seen since school days and it served its purpose in such regard. However, I saw little benefit in joining groups related to my interests because updates were easily lost in the deluge of friend status posts and other garbage (sorry folks). Facebook allowed me to connect with lots of people, share photos to my friends in a more private way than Flickr but not much beyond.
Twitter grabbed me from the word go. As soon as I heard about the service, being a long time blogger (back then) I could see immediate advantage to concise information broadcasts from trusted peers and leading experts. It was like a 1950’s vision of the future cartoon, where all the information on the web would be available in one, tiny, 140-character burst – get your proton pills folks! However, as time went by I found myself craving more detail from Tweets. Twitter still features in my daily life; a convenient disposal chute for my garbage and a constant stream of what is happening in the world at any moment in time.
Foursquare was an experiment for me. Although not liking the idea of broadcasting my location to all and sundry, I decided to throw myself into it 100%. Within two weeks I had succeeded in annoying lots of folk with Foursquare checkins, cross posted to Twitter and Facebook. Straight away there was a problem. So many of my friends didn’t use Foursquare and so many didn’t care about my checkins, to the point of annoyance. Little value in such a service – all things considered. It was partial fun while it lasted. I gained a multitude of badges, held 20 mayorships simultaneously, uploaded some tips and photos of locations that I visited. However, ultimately the experiment yielded a big fail for me. Foursquare has potential but not within my catchment area. People don’t actively use tips, nor post photos of interesting things at locations. Businesses are not savvy enough to capitalise on rewards and offers for regular visitors or even the mayor. Then there were all the reasonably regular (at least at one stage) “Foursquare is over capacity” messages that prevented you from using the service to checkin. Ultimately it boiled down to a silly game/ego trip that produced very little of value.
Google Plus on the other hand offered granular privacy out of the box, through the concept of circles. The notion of circles was instantly intuitive and worked so well that not only did it guard whom you shared information with but also allowed you to filter friend updates from those whom you may follow just for interesting material (e.g. tech experts and others). Sharing is so powerful, yet so easy on Google Plus. My photos, my status updates, interesting articles I find, videos I like, links that are worthy of a +1, it’s all there under one roof. On top of that they have nailed the checkin system of Foursquare in a way that Facebook never did, in my opinion. I always found Facebook checkins pointless because cross-posting from Foursquare to Facebook just annoyed people so why do it directly? With checkins on Google Plus I can checkin somewhere and only share that with a select circle (e.g. family). That way the valuable information is broadcast to those who may be interested and it doesn’t annoy anyone else. I love the way I can filter, follow and organise my contacts. I like that the interface is simple yet feature rich. I love the Android app for Google Plus. It makes using Plus on the move an absolute joy. No clutter, no mess, and no inhibiting limitations unlike so many other apps for similar services.
I’ve been so taken by Google Plus that I’ve hardly interacted directly with Facebook since getting my Plus a/c. The only thing bringing me back occasionally is a group of friends who haven’t made the jump to Google Plus yet. My Twitter activity is probably more or less the same in terms of my output but I’m finding more and more interesting stories/discussions and in greater detail, through allowable verbosity, on Google Plus. Facebook looks like it may have served its purpose for me and as soon as other friends have migrated to Google Plus, I can see it fading into the distance, barring any shake-up on the horizon. I’ve gone from regularly using 4/5 services to now using almost Google ‘Plus’ nothing.