Image by adamj1555 via Flickr
While I’m still actually waiting to get “in”, I have a couple of comments regarding Google+, from outside the Circle.
From descriptions of this Google Social Networking effort (following Orkut, Wave and Buzz), key elements as of now are: Circles (think of them as groups of people within your network); Sparks (which are topics or areas of interest); Hangouts (video chat rooms); Huddles (group chat); and Instant Upload (automatic mobile photo syncing).
Considering potential for integrating capability across product areas has always been most intriguing to me. In serving them up “together”, G+ makes it that much more likely for capabilities to be used together.
First, and I think most interesting, is the way that the concept of Circles melds the idea of a network of friends/connections with tagging/categorization so that, without having the clunky thinking of classifying or inviting people to groups, the user is able to achieve the elusive sense of having multiple personas representable within one system. Some people maintain their professional network in one system (LinkedIn, for example), and their personal network in another (e.g. facebook). Others maintain multiple accounts in a single system in order to segregate their “work” online presence from their “family” or “personal play” selves. For those who already maintain multiple Google accounts, G+ lets you log into multiple accounts at once. I have yet to see how well you can interact in ways that cross over account lines.
Image via CrunchBase
The second area of note is the way that Sparks re-frames the idea of Alerts in a way that subtly shifts the nature of the material that results from them from being one-off emails or links — that you might dig into or forward on — to material that relate to particular areas of interest, which presumably parallel or align with groupings of people you associate with around those topics. Twine had used the approach of integrating topic areas and social groupings for alerts – but these were groups that potential recipients would have to join. In G+, the “proximity” to the Circles aspect, and the fact that those Circles are unique to the individual, and don’t require reciprocation, make for a compelling scenario for the “push” side of the equation. (At the same time, I see some potential issues in terms of “pull” and management by those on the receiving end).
Together, Sparks and Circles could take us a lot closer to a dream system I yearned for a few years back, that I referred to as a Virtual Dynamic Network
. In this, rather than having defined groups that you would need to join (which would send you related material along with much you would prefer to do without), material you both receive and send would be routed based on what it is about and how it is classified. I would love to see distinct sets of controls for in-bound vs out-bound content.
I won’t know until I get to try it, but ideally G+ will enable you to tie Sparks to Circles for you. I’m also hoping you’re able to group your Circles – to relate and arrange them even hierarchically (consider: a large Circle for your work persona, which might contain multiple Circles for various client or team categories; or a large personal Circle, with sub-Circles for family, local friends, remote friends, classmates – all with overlap management to avoid multiply-sent content).
Hangouts and Huddles are by nature “social” already, for which you’ll presumably be able to seamlessly leverage Circles. As with topical material, Instant Upload brings your photo content automatically one step closer to where you are sharing. Success of all this as a social platform depends significantly on integration between the parts for seamless use by a user across capabilities – for example, adding someone who is participating on a video call or chat right into one or more of the Circles touched or represented by the other participants on that call or chat.
Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr
Leveraging other capabilities such as linguistic processing of AdSense (and G+ may already have this in the works) it would not be a stretch for the content in your interactions to generate suggestions for Sparks which you could simply validate — places or people in photos, words in chats, terms that show up in content within Spark items. From there, it wouldn’t be far to being able to interact with your life through what I might call a “SparkMap” — reflecting relationships between terms within your areas of interest.
UPDATE: I’m now in, as of Friday afternoon, July 8. So now I’ll be playing, with more ideas to come…
How to Get Started with Google+… (socialmediaexaminer.com)
A good ScobleEncounter listen (scobleizer on cinch.fm)
Quite a collection of tips growing on this public google doc