I have not read any reviews of Google Plus, so you’ll get my raw impressions starting after fifteen minutes of use – I guess that whatever they are worth, they bring more value than risking paraphrasing other people’s impressions after having been influenced by their prose.
First, a minor annoyance : stop asking me to join the chat. I don’t join messaging silos – if it is not open, I’m not participating. You asked, I declined – now you insist after every login and I find that impolite.
First task I set upon : set up information streams in and out of Google Plus. A few moments later it appears that this one will remain on the todo list for a while : there is not even an RSS feed with the public items… Hello ? Is that nostalgia for the nineties ? What good is an information processing tool that won’t let me aggregate, curate, remix and share ? Is this AOL envy ?
Then I move on toward some contacts management. I find the Circles interface is pretty bad. For starters, selecting multiple contacts and editing their Circles memberships wholesale is not possible – the pattern of editing the properties of multiple items is simple enough to be present and appreciated in most decent file managers (for editing permissions)… Sure it can be added later as it is not a structural feature, but still : for now much tedium ensues. Likewise, much time would be saved by letting users copy and paste contacts between circles. But all that is minor ergonomic nitpicking compared to other problems…
No hashtags, no groups… How am I supposed to discover people ? Where is the serendipity ? Instead of “Google Circles” this should be named “Google Cliques”. In its haste to satisfy the privacy obsessed, it seems that Google has forgotten that the first function of social networking software is to enable social behaviour… It seems that the features are focused on the anti-social instead. I can understand the absence of hashtags – spam is a major unresolved issue… But groups ? See Friendfeed to understand how powerful they can be – and they are in no way incompatible with the Circles model. It seems that selective sharing is what Google Plus is mostly about – public interaction and collaboration feels like an afterthought. This will please the reclusive, but it does not fit my needs.
Worse, the Circles feature only segments the population – it does nothing to organize shared interests : I may carefully select cyclists to put into my ‘cyclists’ Circle, but when I read the stream for that circle I’ll see pictures of their pets too. This does not help knowledge management in any way – it is merely about people management.
Finally Google is still stuck with Facebook, Twitter & al. in the silo era – the spirits of well known dinosaurs still haunt those lands. Why don’t they get on with the times and let users syndicate streams across service boundaries using open protocols such as Ostatus which an increasing number of social networking tools use to interoperate ? Google may be part of the technological vanguard of information services at massive scales, but cloning the worst features of competing services is the acme of backwardness.
Of course, this is a first release – not even fully open to subscription yet, so many features will be added and refined. But rough edges are not the reason of my dissatisfaction with Google Plus : what irks me most is the silo mentality and the very concept of Circles as the fundamental object for interaction management – no amount of polish will change the nature of a service built on those precepts.
I’ll keep an account on Google Plus for monitoring purposes, but for now and until major changes happen, that’s clearly not where I’ll be seeking intelligent life.