Saturday 2 July 2011

The Google+ Project, Yay or Nay?

Unless you have been completely disconnected this week or totally snowed under reading #blogjune posts, you know the internet is all a twitter (literally) about Google+, Google’s latest stab at social networking. While the jury is still out for this project, many are jumping on board and giving it a test drive. The pull is so strong that allegedly Mark Zucerberg has even joined up.

The three main features that differentiate Google+ are:
  • Circles- The ability to share information with specific groups of defined people instead of just sending out information to everyone
  • Sparks-This feature offers links to news items, blog posts, etc on specific topics, the idea is that they will ‘spark’ conversations within your circles
  • Hangouts and Huddles- for tailored video chatting, collaboration and information sharing 

Other features include the ability to download your data stream to create a backup and also, as one might expect, integration into other Google products.
A few initial features that Google+ is lacking are
  • Google+ for Tweet Deck
  •  The ability to feed tweets and blog post automatically and utilize RSS
  • Apps!

One other issue that has come to light is about information re-sharing. Tim Bradshaw at FT Tech Hub found that much like tweets, anyone in your Circles (and consequently their Circles) can share and re-share anything you post including photos.  But is this really a problem in the social networking world? For some yes, for others no, but at least it is good to know going in.

 Google+ and Libraries?
So what are the potential opportunities for libraries? The two most obvious are the possible uses of Circles and the Hangout feature. Tailored conversations could be constructed with Circles; book groups, mothers groups, professional clients, students groups, seniors, etc can each receive specific news and information. I am reminded of how The Library of Congress offers a myriad of RSS feeds on a variety of topics, could Google+ circles be applied similarly? But do we need another RSS like way of communicating information? The other potential is with the video conferencing feature in Hangouts. Whenever we can meet up online in real time for free, we owe it to ourselves to least have a good look. Video conferencing is nothing new, but the ability to do it with groups quickly and easily is definitely interesting. It could be applied to book groups, research work, live reference chat or professional development. 

The Elephant in the Room
But the question remains, do people want yet another social media platform? Between Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, etc, do we really have the time to spend populating yet another feed? Will Google+ go the way of the Wave? Only time will tell. 

Obviously we are still in early days and the opinions are pouring in, here is a brief roundup of some of the online chatter surrounding Google+: 

‘My Tweet-length opinion is that Google+ is like Facebook with a more usable, streamlined Photos and Groups interface (and that might be enough to win). Only time will tell.’ 

“Playing around with Google + last night, I had a ball clicking buttons and playing with the features the network had to offer. But I kept running into the same problem — there was no one in this sandbox but me.” 

“Anything that can increase the percentage of social software users who are actively curating dynamic, topical sources is a net win for the web and for the people who use it.”

“Conclusion: Google+ is a bold and dramatic attempt at social. There’s a reason why Google calls this a “project” rather than a “product” — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire.”

Eight Quick Thoughts on Google Plus at Manhattan Local News
“Google is going after some of the obvious issues with Facebook.”

“Circles allows for the complexities of real-world relationships to be organized in a better way than what’s currently available in social networking” 

A big thank you goes out to @VesnaC, @eclecticlib and @MissEmilieLib for your thoughts on Google+

-Amy Barker is an ALIA Sydney committee member and tweets as @unlikelylibrary

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