Google+ First Impressions

As anyone who hasn’t spent the last month living in a cave on top of the Himalayas will know, Google has made its entrance into the social networking fray with Google+.  I was very keen to start using it but it’s still invitation-only so I had to wait a bit until the network reached me. It finally has, I’m playing with it a lot, and I thought I’d record a few thoughts.

Spiderweb
A symbol for social networking?

I already have a Facebook profile, do I need another “social network”? Well, not really. But I’m very much inclined to prefer Google+ over Facebook; certainly I have somewhat more confidence that Google can handle data security. Google+ has easy-to-configure privacy controls, and  some built-in features that I’m keen to use, such as the concept of a circle as an easy way to limit posts to a subset of your online friends. (I know it is possible to separate friends on Facebook into subcategories but the hassle…) Nor do Google+ relationships have to be bidirectional: You can add people to your circles (“follow” them) without them putting you into one of their circles. That way, you can only see their public posts. Also, Google+ isn’t full of third-party applications that may or may not be secure as far as protection of my data is concerned (which is why I don’t use a single application on Facebook), nor does it clutter my page with annoying adverts (so far).

So, as soon as I got invited I set up a very minimalist Google+ profile and started playing with it.. There is a little bit more of a learning curve than for Facebook but the basics are very similar: Add people you know to your circles, share status updates / photos etc with any appropriate circle, or make them available to everyone.  If your friends don’t yet have a Google+ account you can send them an invite. While they’re “not yet” on Google+, you can still share with them via email, the instructions helpfully state. I hesitated at that point. Surely if I send someone an invite, and they don’t accept it because they don’t want a Google+ account, is it not rather annoying for them to get my posts anyway in their email? I really didn’t like that option but the first time I posted something to a circle that included email-only contacts it asked me if I wanted to share by email, I clicked “no”, and this option became the default. I appreciate how the last post’s settings become the default for the next one; it’s a nice touch.

Facebook-like minimal functionality thus established I started to look further. As I learn more about photography I find I like to share some of my photographs with a wider audience. Hence this blog, for example. Then I stumbled on this article: Google+: The Survival Guide for a Photographer’s Paradise, which I found an excellent introduction to the basics of Google+ even for non-photographers. The post explains every menu item, button and display area, and goes into some detail about circle creation and settings. It also pointed me to the Scrapbook album, which I might not have found on my own. It can be set up so that it shows five photographs on your profile page, and you can even choose which ones. I like this functionality a lot.

Of course I’ve still barely scratched the surface, for example, I haven’t been in a Huddle or Hangout yet. But so far I like Google+ a whole lot more than Facebook.