Why you should consider Google+. Again.

I’ve been having lots of conversations with people lately regarding their trust – or lack thereof – of Facebook/Instagram and their use/intentions with regards to your content and data. I’ve always maintained that posting info on ANY service on the internet is never going to be 100% guaranteed, but how a company conducts itself ethically, to me speaks volumes as to what level of confidence you should have in said service.

I dumped my Instagram account when Facebook bought them, because I was pretty sure no good would come of that.

I myself, don’t really trust Facebook anymore and pretty much only maintain an account there to connect with people that I don’t have a means to anywhere else, and also to administer my company’s page.

Though it may seem like a hassle to learn something new and you might have heard reports to the contrary, Google+ is a real alternative with a thriving community, better development and applications, and considerably less bullshit.

The level and quality of engagement I’ve found on Google+ with both people I knew already and new people I’ve connected with vastly surpasses most experiences I’ve had on Facebook.

It may seem silly to speak in such earnest and sincere terms about something that to many is ‘just an app’ or merely a ‘distraction’, but the fact of the matter is, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the way we connect with people, build relationships both at work and home, find services and products, learn new things, and gather information has changed and will continue to change, sometimes in the very moments as we type.

With the continuing proliferation of wireless connectivity and mobile devices, these ‘tools’ will continue to become more ingrained and integrated into our lives. Like any other issue of our days – politics, human rights, etc. – change will only come about if people choose to ‘vote’ for it, by demonstration with their actions.

How do you want to move forward?

The Status Quo will always be just that, unless people change. If you believe there’s no viable options to Facebook – or whatever service you’re unhappy with – then you are making the choice yourself to stay in the situation you’re in.

Google+ Only August

I am the mad scientist of social media.

Back at the end of July, in another one of my social media experiments, I’d sort of made a resolution to myself to only use only Google+ in August and see what it got me. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, just sort of did it. The impetus for the whole thing is that I’m really starting to loathe the whole Facebook experience. Not the connections or people I’ve made there, but the user experience and interface is just lousy – and Facebook doesn’t really seem too interested in improving that in either its webpage or mobile app.

Google on the other hand is continuing to improve and innovate to the extent that I’ve read articles on the web of instances in which people have dumped their flickr accounts for Google+, left Facebook – essentially trying to have Google+ be the one ‘go-to’ social media source for them. This has always appealed to me as well – I’ve always been on a quest to find that ‘swiss army knife’ of a social media app. One ring (or plus, heh) to rule them all.

For quite some time while still checking into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I haven’t been doing it though the native apps, I’ve been using Flipboard which provides a much better experience. It has most of the features of the native apps and none of the hideous design or clunky usability features. The drawback of course is that those companies aren’t going to port all their goodies to 3rd party apps obviously, so some key elements – namely notifications – don’t exist in Flipboard. Even with that being the case I was happier with it than the native mobile apps and had decided that though I was going to go Google+ only for August as my experiment – I would still allow myself to read/view the streams from my other apps, just not comment or post there. (FYI, you can also read a lot of other feeds, including Google+ through Fliboard, check it out.) Call it lurking if you want, but I still wanted some of the content/links/stories that can be found on those other sites, but I wanted to see if I could use Google+ only for the bulk of my online interaction and see if it filled my needs.

Most people’s primary complaint about Google+ when trying it out (and the subject of lots of articles and bloggery) is that “there’s no one here” or “it’s a ghost town” – to some extent this is true.

G to the Plus, Yo!

It’s not that no one is using Google+ – there’s 100 million users there as of April – it’s just that people have spent years cultivating their community over at Facebook and the subconscious assumption is that on jumping over to Google+, one will have the same kind of experience and level of engagement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – yet. You simply can’t take all your Facebook contacts with you to Google+, believe me, I’ve tried, but what the past few weeks have taught me is that you might not need to right away.

What this experiment has done is get me to start circling/following people I don’t actually know, based on interest – something that seems MUCH weirder on Facebook and something I only used to do, really, on Twitter. Google+ has built a user experience and interface that really encourages and facilitates this yet still gives you the security/confidence and easy ability to only share more intimate posts with select people/groups when you want to – all in one app.

Since I’ve taken this ‘stranger plunge’ so to speak, the level of quality conversation and engagement I’ve experienced on Google+ has gone up radically and overall the whole thing has become much more satisfying.

I won’t lie, I’ve gradually been pulled back into Facebook – backsliding – partly because I was tagged in photo and felt compelled to comment on it, but also, I’ve missed the conversation there with some people and groups that I really enjoy. Really, it’s the people and conversation that are good – but simply because there are more established connections there. I hope over time that my Google+ experience will grow to equal, or even surpass that of Facebook.

Say it with me, Facebook is ugly.

One thing being away from Facebook – at least the native app/page – has caused to resurface from the depths is my contempt for the overall Facebook user interface. It’s just hideous, period. As a person who makes my living designing things, after a while, I just get pissed off that they simply don’t realize this – or if they do, they don’t care. Currently, Facebook seems more focused on monetizing the business model than they are with improving the user experience. Ads, promoted posts, suggested pages – it’s a very “hey, we’ve got some blank screen space here – we’ve got to figure out a way for that to earn money”. They’re totally trashing the joint.

Hey, Facebook people. Did you know there’s NO ads over on Google+? None. As in zero.

Over the years, Facebook has rolled out tweaks to their overall design in small doses here and there. Sure, the Facebook of today looks radically different than when it started out, but this is the result of YEARS of little, sometimes indistinguishable changes. In my opinion, they practically need to clean house and start over from scratch. Also, quit making changes to how my profile appears to other people (Timeline). I don’t care about that. Make it so it’s not like pounding my toe with a hammer every time I try and use it.

I hope that Google can continue to innovate and improve without resorting to a full on shilling of every inch of white space, because although I’ve begun to realize that I probably never will fully leave Facebook – due more to other’s unwillingness to do so than anything else – I will be visiting less and less.

I haven’t been on twitter in ages. I think that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Google+ Circles, Good – Facebook Lists, Bad.

For those of you that have never checked it out, one of the (multitude of) things that Google+ does infinitely better than Facebook is allow you to manage your streams and the content in them using ‘Circles’.

Facebook has ‘Lists’ that you can create to sort people into categories. This works ok. Their mechanism/UI for managing and adding or removing people from these Lists is very clunky and un-user friendly. In addition, they have default lists that they give you such as ‘Family’ or ones based on where you’ve worked or where you went to school, and you can’t get rid of these, even if you want to. Lame.

Google allows you to create Circles – which are essentially lists, but their system of management is much better and a whole lot prettier and easier to navigate. They present you with some default Circles to start, but if you don’t like those, you don’t have to keep them.

I don’t do a lot of compartmentalizing of my friends/contacts, but in each application I do create separate lists for ‘actual people’ vs. ‘brands, companies, products’ etc, as I like to sometimes just see what actual ‘people’ are saying, vs. who wants to sell me something or tell me about their awesome widget.

Overall the Google+ Circles apparatus allows for a monumentally better user experience. Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

Offtober.

So it’s that time of year again. The time of year when I get tired of Social Media.

I don’t know why I get tired of it, or what I get tired of. At some point I just start to find it exhausting. People like my wife always just tells me to lay off some, but for some reason, I seem to be an all in or all out kind of guy, but you probably knew that.

There’s the pending launch of the iPhone 5, which I have no desire to hear people talk about indefinitely. Some of my Facebook friends are complaining that people are posting rather graphic images of child or animal abuse in an attempt to shock people into action or advocacy – a ploy I find all most as heinous as the crimes themselves. I’ve no friends doing this – yet. But I’d rather not deal with it right now. Most of my Facebook friends that aren’t doing that are complaining about Facebook changing, and that, well, that’s just stupid and makes me want to hit myself on the head with a hammer.

Google+ is the elite treehouse of my tech geek friends, and even though open to the public now so you no longer need to know the secret handshake, not a single one of my complaining Facebook friends seems to have considered jumping ship, probably just because of the ever-present human nature fear of change. The status quo sucks, but it’s much safer to sit and complain about it than venture into the unknown. Hence my Google+ feed seems to be predominately tech stories and comics that are over my head. It’s like being the only non-engineer at an all-engineer cocktail party.

I vacillate between wanting all Social Media all the time, to wanting none of it and while I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me gripe about it, the very nature of Social Media is that I get to sit and gripe about it and if you’re ‘hooked in’ to me, you get to hear it.

Maybe I’m just tired of hearing other people’s material. Good or bad, happy or sad. My headspace, both virtual and real is full. So I’m checkin’ out for a bit to clear the baffles.

Takin’ a month off everything but email and this blog. I’ll probably throw the occasional photo up on flickr too. I’m hoping that may induce me to actually write more here, but I won’t be the least bit surprised if it doesn’t. A month may seem kinda arbitrary to some of you, especially since some of you probably only check in once a month, but to a hard-core junkie like me, a month is a long time. Plus when the idea popped into my head this morning, it just sounded good.

So yeah. Offtober.

See ya in Onvember.

Pluses and Minuses.

Ya know, the interesting thing I find is people comparing the launch of Google+ to Facebook and Twitter and comparing stats with regards to users in X amount of time and such. Google+ has had the benefit of 5+ years of Facebook and social media successes and failures to build on. Launching this service now can’t be compared to the launch of a Twitter or Facebook as when they launched, not nearly as many people were social media aware or savvy. To me the comparison is really sort of pointless.

A very large part of the reason Google+ took off like it did is because Twitter, Facebook and the like were already there to facilitate a ridiculously fast dissemination of info and user uptake.

I mean, I’m pretty sure most of us found out about it via another SM platform/tool.

Ironic. Dontcha think?

Oh, and I’m on Google+ here.