I was just about to write a blog post on digital communication and museums when I got stuck in Google+*. A couple of people had added me to their circles this morning, and suddenly a long discussion on the use of circles (and Google+) distracted me. So this will be a post on Google+.
Why Google+ attracts early adopters
I am one of the early adopters that have entered into Google+ to find out more about this new service, along with 10 000 000 others apparently. It’s grown tremendously fast from launch, but even though the users are the size of a nation (like Sweden) we still have left most people on Facebook behind. The people trying out Google+ are mostly people who are into using Twitter and interested in social media and innovation. And that last reason is why I enjoy discovering Google+. It’s brand new, it’s got potential to grow and it seems a lot more useful than Google Wave that was launched a couple of years ago.
So, what about Google+ ?
Describing Google+ is not that easy because we haven’t really discovered the full use of the service (mainly because it’s still in Beta-version). Some have described it as a competitor to Facebook. Indeed it looks a lot like Facebook with a status wall, with “friends” and the possibility of sharing photos, links, videos etc.
Some have described it as a mix of Facebook and Twitter, the microblog service. Google+ is more open than Facebook, and will I believe be regarded as a more transparent option where people you don’t know will be able to take part of your updates.
So the core use of Google+ today is the possibility to connect with people sharing the same interests, people you find interesting, get a flow of news updates and take part in conversations.
However, what seems to confuse users is the possibility of categorizing people into circles (groups of people that make up a network). The point of circles is to filter your communication and be able to talk to one group of people at a time. And how do you define these groups? On Twitter all followers, and people you follow, are in the same group or category. No difference. On Google+ you suddenly have the opportunity to classify people (and the purpose is not to tag people savvy or less savvy, interesting or less interesting, tall or short, etc. though that could be interesting!).
The people you add to your Google+ won’t see which circle you put them in. You can also get all updates from all circles in one flow of updates on your start page, and you are able as an option, to filter the start page and only get updates from one circle at a time.
How do I use circles?
As of today I place all people in one circle. What’s the point of circles then you may ask. First of all I want to have this wonderful mix of people that Twitter allows, the diversity that is so enriching.
Secondly, I see circles as a way of communicating with people around certain topics or interests. It’s the possibility of niched networks. I am well aware of that niched networks need fuel to thrive, and that could be a project or an event for example, and I see great possibilities to work on projects in Google+ together with the use of Google Docs, Calendar etc (what about schools? In classrooms? Educational purposes?).
I intend to evaluate the use of Google+ (instead of for eample Basecamp or Huddle) a couple of months down the road, when trying it out for a project. Already a great advantage is that since I am a daily user of Google (Gmail, Analytics etc.) it’s excellent to be able to collaborate through Google+: I don’t have to log into yet another service, I have Google docs, calendar, Gmail etc. within reach, and it’s free!
I just spotted a question on Google+ by Jim Richardson: Will Google+ keep you logging in? Well I intend to share and take part in conversations, and as long as others do, it will be a place where ideas will thrive and knowledge will be shared. This will keep me logged in. And if that open discussion doesn’t take off in Google+, I will most likely use it as all other Google apps and services (which is quite a lot).
* At this point Google+ requires an invite but will, it seems, soon be open everyone.