Google+ : First Impressions

Google Wave, Buzz, now Plus. Google has been throwing these 4-lettered products at us in the last few years. Wave and Buzz have both caused most everyone to throw some 4-lettered words right back at Google. I’ll admit that I was riding the crest of the Wave, trying to get as many people as I could to hop on with me and collaborate. Mind you, I have little to collaborate on with anyone, but COLLABORATE WE MUST! Well, as it turned out, nobody else really had much to collaborate on either and the waters of Wave receded (ocean analogies!).

As I was an early adopter for Wave (and Buzz, which I just don’t really even want to talk about), of course I wanted on the Plus train ASAP. It didn’t take much begging on twitter to get an invite for Plus (incidentally, from the same person who invited me to Wave). My invite arrived at roughly 10:30pm and I spent the next 2 hours arranging my circles, figuring out how quickly my photos instantly uploaded (pretty instantly, actually), and posting back and forth with my few friends who were also awake and exploring Plus at that time.

First impressions? I like it. Of course, there are things that need to be tweaked and changed, but nobody expected it to be perfect on launch anyway. I haven’t fully explored yet, but what I have has been pretty satisfying. I don’t like the phrase [anything]-killer, but if enough people hop on this train, it could be some pretty solid Facebook competition.

Circles: Circles I love. I think Facebook has groups, but I haven’t messed with them – instead, I just post anything I might be be offensive to some friends or family to twitter (those guys aren’t offended by ANYTHING). With circles, you group your contacts into specific groups (some of mine: family, bffs, trivia, tech nerds, design nerds, animal people, tweeters) and decide which of those you want your posts visible to. You can also post to individual email addresses or post publicly, but with circles I’m able to post hilarious photos of kerning issues only to people who will actually give a damn, instead of having my extended family ask me to explain it to them when they come across it in a public forum.

Photos: Instant upload from my Evo is pretty freakin sweet. Since I have that option checked in my options, pretty quickly after I take a picture from my phone it is uploaded to a private album on my google-linked Picassa account. From there, posting the photo publicly is a matter of clicking a button (as well as choosing which circles you’d like it visible to).

Hangouts: I haven’t had a chance to play with Hangouts, but it’s a 10 person max video chat system. From what I understand, you let it know that you’re available, and if anyone else wants to stop in and video chat with you, you chat. When Hangouts is enabled for mobile, it will be golden. Also, great potential for group video orgies.

Huddle: Basically a group chat room that you’re invited to (Android only right now, I think). Glitchy and currently unusable on my phone (Evo4G), but I like the idea of having one group text that everyone can read instead of having to go back and forth between multiple text messages to volley the same information back and forth. It’ll be good once its issues start to get resolved.

Sparks: Eh. I’ll stick with my google reader for now. While I’ve added a few “Sparks” (categories that you specify and Plus will pull related articles for you), and it’s ok for casual browsing, it contradicts all the effort I have put forth culling the exact feeds and writers I love in my RSS reader. If Sparks can somehow integrate with Reader, it’ll be better. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing on this one, but I don’t think so. I suppose Sparks is more for the casual news-reader instead of obsessive media-whores like myself.

I think that’s about it. Plus has a pretty sweet-looking Android app (and widget!), which gives it an immediate mobile advantage over Facebook since Android users have been neglected on this front for a while. Also, mobile push notifications for Plus are actually FUNCTIONAL, as opposed to the Facebook ones, which kinda work sometimes, mostly immediately after the app updates, but very rarely after that.

My main issue at this point is deciding how to carry on, how to integrate Plus into my network. Do I post to Plus instead of facebook now? Hopefully the people I care about will move over to Plus to check it out… considering that I don’t give a damn what 3/4 of my facebook friends think (nor do I necessarily know who they are or when it was that I saw them last), the rest might not even know I’m gone. Hopefully this new site is interesting enough for people to want to step away from their facebook pages and give it a glance.

So, Google Plus, keep it up. I like where you’re going. If you want to be a real bitch, give us an easy way to transfer facebook photos to Picassa.