Let’s Talk About Google+

This is the blog post I’ve been avoiding writing.

As a die hard Apple fangirl, I love everything about Apple. However, even I am willing to admit when Apple has gotten something completely wrong. Let’s face it, Apple’s attempt at a social network, Ping, blows chunks. I don’t use it. I want to use it, I think the idea of sharing the music that I love with other people via Ping is awesome, but it doesn’t connect to Facebook and to be brutally honest, it needs that piece of functionality. Ping is tailor made for the Facebook crowd and that’s where it should live, as an app for Facebook, not integrated into iTunes.

I would love to say that Ping has a brilliant user interface that is straight forward and easy to use. I would love to say that Ping has this cool feature or that cool feature that I can’t live without. I would love to point out that so far, the lack of stupid quiz apps and the lack of games that not only want to steal all of my private data, but also are designed to get me addicted to playing them so that I can sink large amounts of cash into them, is a huge bonus.

And while some of those things are true about Ping, mostly the lack of games and stupid quiz apps, the ones that matter, the brilliant user interface and the feature list, are not all that.

Google stepped into that little arena and filled in the gap between what I wanted Ping to be, and what Facebook is when they opened Google+ for public field trials less than a month ago. Google has really surprised me with Ping.

I have been absolutely unimpressed with Android. I don’t see the reason for the hype, I see Android as an also ran. It’s not a bad platform, but it’s not a great platform. I can’t hand an Android phone to a 90 year old grandmother and expect her to be able to make a phone call. I can do that with my iPhone, and in fact, I have run into many an elderly couple looking for cases for their iPhones in the Apple store. I almost never see them at the phone store. If your grandma has to call you for tech support every time she wants to send an email on her smartphone, you’re doing something wrong.

I like user interfaces that just flat out make sense. I do not want something complicated that is different for every single user, or every single device. If someone needs to use my phone to call 911, I want them to be able to do that without having to figure out which screen I put the “Phone” icon on. It should be obvious, and in your face. That’s just good design.

It also seems to me like Google had a plan for Android that isn’t working out for them in the way that they’d hoped and that Amazon is about to take the tool that Google gave them, and blow a great big hole in the side of the tablet market before Samsung can make another iPad knock off that is nowhere near as elegant and more expensive.

I can’t wait to see that fight, because I think Apple is braced for impact, and the Android tablet makers are going to get T-boned.

I feel completely differently about Google+ though.

Google has really put together an elegant product here, something that they could monetize easily by inserting Google ads and I’m not sure that would bother me too much.

What I love, is that I can choose who sees the content I put up on Google+. I maintain control of my material, so if I want my parents to see it, but not every person I know, I can just include the “family” circle in my post and not allow any other circles to see it. I can make new circles too! I don’t have to live with the five they gave me. I have circles for people that I’ve met via the Internet, by the internet forum that I met them on. So I have a MINI circle and a Dog circle and an IRC circle. I can also choose to add people to multiple circles. So if I have someone in the MINI circle that I am closer to than the guy I just met on the forum last week, I can add that person to a “Friends” circle in addition to having them be a part of the MINI circle, so they can see the posts that I make available to a more personal group.

You can get as complicated or as simplistic as you want with the circles. There are no hard and fast rules for how to make one, it’s entirely up to you. Facebook has a similar feature, but it’s hard to maintain if you didn’t start out using it from the get-go.

By contrast, maintaining your circles on G+ is a snap. Say, for example, you end up getting out of a particular hobby. In my case, I just got out of fish keeping. I liked the hobby and it was a lot of fun, but it’s not something that I choose to do. So, I don’t want to read about it every day now. If I had a bunch of people in my circles that did nothing but talk about fish keeping, I could go to the circle for the fish keeping friends, and with two clicks, cut the entire circle loose simply by opening up the circle and choosing “Delete this circle”. Not only does it delete the circle entry itself, but any friends that you have in the circle that you may not want to keep for whatever reason, are also removed from your circles and will no longer be able to see your posts.

It’s just that easy to maintain.

So far, I’m impressed. If an iOS app is approved for the service, I can see myself easily gravitating away from Facebook to using Google+ instead. It’s much more streamlined and more geared around what I want to do with it and how I want to use it, rather than being geared on how the developers think it should be used.

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg here. Those are just the major features that I have used so far. There are also hangouts, which I have not tried to use yet. I also haven’t really talked about Sparks, which is kind of a cool way to aggregate news articles on subjects you’re interested in, because I haven’t delved into how it works too deeply just yet. They’re not that relevant anyway.

The control that Google+ gives the user over their own content is the star of the show.

I still have a few invites to Google+ left. If you’re interested, let me know.