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FreePint BlogInvestigating the uses for (and usefulness of) Google+

Wednesday, 4th January 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Martin Belam


Abstract:

After Google Buzz and Google Wave, most people consider Google+ to be the company's third attempt to "do" social software. They've clearly got a large user base for search and Gmail, which they hope to convert to using the service. 2012 is probably the make or break year for Google+ having, it seems, performed better than many analysts expected in 2011.


Item:

After Google Buzz and Google Wave, most people consider Google+ to be the company's third attempt to "do" social software. They've clearly got a large user base for search and Gmail, which they hope to convert to using the service. 2012 is probably the make or break year for Google+ having, it seems, performed better than many analysts expected in 2011.

Just before the holidays started, Google introduced a range of new features, including a potentially useful feature that allows you to control the "volume" of individual circles. It means that you can set the volume of the "friends & family" circle to the highest, so you never miss a thing they post, and set the volume of the "colleagues I only added out of a sense of obligation" circle to a low level, so that it doesn't swamp your main feed. There is a blog post and demo videos about the changes on the official Google blog which also talks about improvements and changes to the Google+ pages where organisations can have an official presence on the service.

Everybody seemed to be keen to tell Google what they should have learned from the failure of Wave. Mashable, for example, pinned it on failing to keep expectations in check, failing to make the product clear, and the staggered invitation launch of a tool that relied on collaboration to be useful. Garett Rogers at ZDNet also had a take on it.

The relatively quick growth of the Google+ service suggests they did learn - Gina Trapani at Smarterware pointed out several of the key ones, including the fact that Google+ has email notifications of activity, which Wave didn't, and that you don't need people to immediately write a book about how to use it - something she actually did. For those of us in the information profession this kind of functionality is vital - we don't need yet another service to remember to visit, we need a service that will push the relevant information to us and make it easy to surface.

The service many people think Google+ is aiming to displace is Facebook, the undisputed web king of social. Mark Sullivan at PCWorld identified some key advantages that Google has in the battle - not least the fact that they have a track record as a better custodian of personal data than Facebook, which recently had to come to a grovelling settlement with the FTC over privacy concerns. Ellis Hamburger at Business Insider calls it the other way though, and wrote about the "10 reasons Facebook will wipe the floor with Google+."

Whichever direction Google+ goes in, it will definitely be one of the services that needs close attention in 2012. The eventual shape of the service will be determined to a great extent by the information that is placed on it  - and the way that organisations start publishing and adapting content for the new platform. It would be great if you could take a couple of minutes to fill out my brief survey about the service to find out what you use it for, and how it could be useful to you.


 

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Martin Belam is Information Architect for guardian.co.uk. Before joining The Guardian, he worked as an Internet Consultant with organisations like the BBC, Sony, Vodafone and the Science Museum.

Martin also blogs about information architecture and the media at currybet.net and can be found on Twitter as @currybet.

Martin can be reached at martin.belam@freepint.com

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