12 July, 2011

Does Google+ get a plus from me?


My initial assessment of Google+, which I’ll hereby summarise as simply Plus. I joined Google+ yesterday, and started getting used to the various additional functions I now have. There’s some good stuff to look forward to, but there’s still a couple of niggly warty things to work out.
For starters, Plus has some advantages for me, in that it attempts to integrate several of the aspects of Google that I use in one interface. The items I can directly access get bumped into their own tab, meaning I get to keep the previous tab contents - at least until I click on the +brickviking, which then takes me up to the top of the Plus hierarchy, no matter what task I clicked on it from.

New stuff

Apps-wise, Plus doesn’t add much beyond what I already have, bar the Circles addition, Hangout and the serious rewrite of the Profile screen. So, the warts and the bonuses of Plus - hard to summarise in one short document. The warts seem to only be little niggly “I can’t find out how to do this”, “Too many steps to do A or B” or simply “We don’t support doing that yet”. As for the bonuses - well, there’s the obvious takeup of Hangouts, the ability to finely sort your contacts into categories, with your choice of how those circles interact, if at all.


Yes, so far, it has warts. Simply put, things just aren’t as intuitive to do as I’d expect.  I couldn’t initially figure out how to make posts to circles, until I figured out how to actually select a circle then choose “Feed for this circle” - that then makes any of the posts from me appear only to members of that circle.
As for Hangouts, the only real bug I’ve found so far is that trying to type into the text chat portion simply doesn’t work, though I did figure out a way around this. Find another text field in the main browser window, type in some text, highlight the text, and copy the text to the clipboard. Switch back to the Hangouts window, and paste from the clipboard. You should then be able to keep typing as you normally would. This is just one of the weird problems that needs to be fixed. In addition, the application occasionally seems to think the microphone’s muted, even when it’s not.


Hangouts are a fantastic idea.  There’s the obvious comparison with Facebook’s Video Chat feature, but Hangouts has the edge, as it works on all three major platforms. Facebook currently only supports Windows and Mac OS X.
Circles are a rather neat UI tweak to manipulate existing data about contacts. It’s not exactly anything revolutionary, however it’s a nice touch and a nice way to do sub-setting. Facebook does have lists, but the interface to add people to each list is quite different. Facebook loads the list of friends as a big list, and lets you choose which lists those people are in with a dropdown on each friend’s entry. Circles allows you to drag contacts into each circle you create, and the focus is on the groups you create, not the individuals.
Feeds are basically Buzz, which contains (at your discretion) tweets, other RSS feeds you happen to be following, and other Buzz posts. Again, nothing stupendous, more of what they did previously. However, you can drill down, selecting feeds based on what circle you’ve selected. Trying to do the same thing with Facebook is nigh on impossible.


I suspect that Hangouts probably won’t be wildly popular, due to most people probably wanting real interaction instead of just via monitors, cameras and microphones. Adding people to the Hangout isn’t exactly intuitive, so I created a circle specifically for adding people to for hangouts - that way, I can select the circle, head off to the stream, and click the “Start a hangout” button on the right hand side.
The fact that Hangout’s plugin is installable to Linux gives Plus the edge, but I don’t think it’ll take Facebook too long to implement a plugin that also works with Linux browsers, if they haven’t already done so. After all, Skype works with cameras on Linux, there’s no reason why they can’t implement that into the Linux plugin too.
And my verdict? Yes, Google+ gets a Plus from me.

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