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google+
a post-technologist's early review
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)
7.11.11
tech

When I heard about Google+ I was excited. Yeah, I am nerd, hear me roar. Without much to go on but a cryptic Flash movie and hear-say, I had that tingling I used to get as a kid whenever I would go out and buy a new video game. I would spend the entire trip home thinking about how I was going to waste an entire weekend playing it to death. It was the tingle of anticipation for new content, new stories, an exploratory experience, and something new to learn and become proficient at. That kind of eager yay-ness.

I wouldn't exactly call myself a Google fan-boy - not like Apple has fan-boys - but I generally feel like Google gets stuff right. I use a lot of their products. After a couple of slightly failed entries into social media (Buzz and Orkut - which I understand is very popular outside of the U.S.) I got the impression that this would finally be the social media platform that might fit everything that I want in a social media platform.

Instead, what I got was an uneasy cross between Facebook and Twitter with fewer options and (of course this is early, but it will stay this way unless something big changes) fewer people.

I feel the same way I do about Chrome. Is it cool? Yes. Would I use it if I didn't already have something that I like? Yes. But it has taken me years, using apps, hacks, and everything but the kitchen sink to get Firefox to a point where I like the way it functions. I'm not going to start over unless there's a substantially new and better functionality that makes a big difference to me. And that just isn't there.

I thought Google+ would tie everything together. I use Google to track my web surfing history, my actual physical location history, my personal and business calendars, 5 accounts worth of e-mail, hundreds of documents, photos, my music and my brewery's voicemail. I use Google Reader, Google Books, Google Talk, and Google Groups. I used Google Wave and I even still have Google Buzz still sitting around in the background somewhere. Almost all of these have some sort of social component to them. In fact, some of them are strictly social components to my life. Having these all wrapped up into one, slick, social experience would have been mind-bogglingly cool.

Not to say it's a total failure. Google+ meets the two basic requirements a social media app needs to be successful:

1) I need to be able to brag to my friends to show them how much cooler I am than they are.

2) I need to be able to stalk people to see how much cooler they are than I am.

That's it. That's social media. That's why my entire Facebook thread is filled with pictures of babies. It's not because people are so desperate to show off pictures of their offspring to any random group of people. It's because their particular offspring is the most adorable goddamn baby in the goddamned universe and no other baby has ever done this amazingly cute thing that their baby did and they have to show everybody. Everybody else just overlays their own interpretation based on #1 or #2 up there: "Wow. She looks foxy for just having had a kid." "Wow. Maternity clothes 2 weeks later? How tacky." etc., anon, and so forth. Judge and be judged. That is the essence of social media.

OMG! I just had the best sandwich EVAR.

Yes, yes. Everyone cares.

But while Google+ meets these criteria in a slightly differently designed way, it doesn't really have anything else that I didn't already have. It doesn't have the integration of my entire digital life via Google and so there is no incentive to add Google+ to my previous slate of social media sites. It is Twitter with fewer people to follow and a more difficult way of finding them. It is Facebook without groups or apps or a place for my business or my blog and with fewer friends, though, admittedly, fewer babies... for now.

I don't even have a good way to cross-post between the three of them to use them all simultaneously in a way that stops me from wasting even more time on the damn internet. While I'm sure that will come with development time, it makes early adoption a pain in the ass and, frankly, not worth it.

Maybe I'm being unfair to an early beta test, but normally when Google releases something in beta it's already pretty polished and it just gets better from there.

So, my review of Google+? If you're not using social media yet, then crawl out of the cave that you live in, discover electricity, and sign up. It's not a bad start. However, if you're already familiar with social media, you won't really see anything new, yet. Just a ton of unmet potential.


ABOUT ERIK LARS MYERS

Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

more about erik lars myers

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COMMENTS

joe procopio
7.11.11 @ 8:51a

As my first official act in Google+, I just "+1'd" this column. Which really tells you all you need to know.

tracey kelley
7.12.11 @ 8:21a

I received 2 invites to join Google+ 12 hours after your column came out. Freaky.

I like your point about total integration. As much as I want to keep up with everything and how people are doing and so forth, visiting a 3rd site might be overload. For the same reason why I haven't joined LinkedIn (I guess I might at some point, and thanks to those who have invited me so far) -- one platform to make reviewing and commenting on all of them easier would be helpful.

carrie deahl
7.15.11 @ 12:03a

As someone who keeps getting invites for it, I appreciate your review.
I'm surprised that Google took a leap on something like this when we're already so over social-medialized. As someone who recently started blogging again, I'm overwhelmed by the many options for the Share This feature on my blog. I don't know who's into what, and frankly, I could care less. What I want to do is cross-post between my blog, facebook, and my gmail accounts with no glitches.

[edited]

carrie deahl
7.15.11 @ 12:04a

I think this is a pretty simple request, which I'm still struggling to figure out how to do. Don't even get me started about trying to create an email feed for my blog which updates readers each time I submit a new post.

Google's taking a big risk here, one that I, agree, probably isn't worth it. While facebook has lost it's novelty, I still check it daily. For Google stock-holders, hopefully Google + isn't going to kill them! If I were a tech developer, I'd focus my energy on cross-post apps.



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