Posts Tagged ‘Google+’

Disclaimer: This post in no way reflects the opinions of my husband or his employer. Yup, it’s one hundred percent me. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned from Google.

1. Filtering is critical.

Google is not a media company, and it doesn’t produce any content of its own. Its core idea is to filter and organize data in a way that makes it useful to the end-user (that’s you and me). Without a way to make sense of the huge masses of data, the internet would lose much of its practicality and all of its convenience. And when you think about, filtering is critical for communication in general. If you asked about my day and I gave you a minute-by-minute breakdown, you’d probably be so bored you’d miss anything important I chose to relay.

2. People will hate on you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

No matter what decisions Google makes, some people are unhappy about them. I don’t even work there, and I hear about it all the time. The bigger and more successful you are, the larger a target you become for other people’s judgment and rage. (Seriously. Random people rage at my husband all the time. It drives me crazy.) Just a reminder, I suppose, of the truism that you can never please everyone.

3. The power of data is nothing without the power of distribution.

So Google offers this great filtering service to the world. And yet, this service by itself generates very little revenue for Google, which makes almost all its money from advertising. Meanwhile, what do I insist on spending my money on? Internet access in my home and a data plan on my phone, so I can get to the filtered data. Infrastructure for distribution is key. (Look at the publishing industry. This fact has been screwing them over for decades.)

4. People love the idea of free food.

For a long time when people found out my husband worked for Google, they wanted to hear about the campus and the food. Had I eaten at Google myself? What did I think of the food? (Not much, as it turned out.) There was a near endless fascination by the idea that Google fed its employees for free. And in fact, until we moved in together, my husband barely had anything in his kitchen because he ate almost all his meals at work.

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

5. It’s possible to change the world, and you don’t even have to be Einstein to do it.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were two CS grad students when they founded Google. Now they are among the richest people in the world, and they have had a deep impact on the way we all experience that world. Plus they continue to use their resources to investigate other potential changes in the future, like self-driving cars. You can never be sure how much power the right idea at the right time will have.

6. A catchy motto can come back to haunt you.

“Don’t be evil.” I’m sure it sounded good at the time, but now it gives people yet another reason to be asinine while complaining. If I read one more “clever” twist of this motto, in which people are for some reason shocked to discover that Google is in fact a corporation and not some shiny Kumbaya fest, I’m going to have to go hide in an isolation chamber.

I wrote this post on Google Docs, I’ll get notified of any comments through Gmail, I’ll promote this content on Google+, and I looked up the correct spelling of Kumbaya on Google Search. Whatever your opinion of Google (and I certainly don’t agree with everything they’ve ever done either), the company impacts my life on a day-to-day basis. So the last thing I’ve learned from Google is the incredible value of easy access to data. Remember the days of encyclopedia sets that never told you everything you wanted to know, so you’d just be left wondering? I, for one, am glad those days are behind us.

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So you’re a writer using social media. Either your agent or publisher has persuaded you to do it, or you’ve heard that new writers should start building a platform even before they have a deal on the table, or you’ve decided to take a greater role in publicity for your creative work. Whatever the initial motivation, a writer on social media has to answer the basic question: what am I going to talk about?

A lot of writers fall back on the obvious answer: well, we’ll talk about writing, of course. After all, that’s why we’re here interacting with strangers in the first place. And that’s what we’re passionate about, and what we think about all the time, and what we are closest to being an expert about. From this thinking arises the bottomless pit of word count stats, updates on the WIP, and pleas revealing writerly insecurities, not to mention the massive sharing of articles about writing.

This may come as a big surprise, but the nitty-gritty details of writing? NOT interesting to the average non-writer person. And guess who you’re trying to connect with via social media? Potential readers, many of whom will hopefully be non-writers. See the problem here?

I’m not saying we can never talk about our writing. Indeed, part of why social media is effective is because we can use it to promote our work, whether that be our latest book, short story, or blog post. We can also become more active in a writer community, through which we can learn information about craft and business and be supported by like-minded writers. This is all fabulous and useful. But we also want to be building a network of readers, people who theoretically might be willing to spend money to read our work, and if all we do is post how many words we’ve written today or that we’ve had a good or a bad writing day, these potential readers might get bored.

However, fear not. We are writers, and we are capable of writing engaging content, even if we secretly fear that we are boring. All we need to do is think about our audience (those potential readers I keep talking about), think about ourselves and our interests, and find a place where those two groups intersect. Easy, right?

I’ll use science fiction and fantasy as an example since those are the genres and audience most familiar to me. (YA, unfortunately, is a bit trickier, since the audience and the purchasers are not necessarily the same people.) Subjects to consider discussing via social media if you write sf/f include: books, movies, comics, etc. in the genre (or even outside of it); politics (after all, Lois Bujold says that speculative fiction novels are fantasies of agency, but be aware that discussing politics on the internet has its perils); history (esp. for writers of historical fantasy and alternative history); technology; futurism; science and advances in science; folklore; anthropology; geek culture; gaming (board gaming, RPGing, etc.); costuming; philosophy. The list goes on and on. Not that every writer should talk about every subject mentioned here; we each get to choose subjects that we like and feel comfortable talking about.

So in between posting about your newest story coming out and sharing a great article your friend wrote about writing, you can ALSO muse about some interesting strategy ideas you had during your latest game of Dominion and share an article about a recent awesomesauce scientific discovery or some recent photos from the Mars Rover. And if you’re being especially organized, you can share that great writing article with only your writer friends via your Writers circle on Google+ or your Writers list on Facebook.

And if you want to talk more accessibly about writing, think about what aspects are most intriguing to non-writers. However irritating you might find the oft-asked question about where your ideas come from, the reason that question pops up again and again is because people find it interesting. Think of the more “glamorous” aspects of a writer’s life and write about them: where ideas come from; strange facts you discovered while researching; travel due to conventions, conferences, and book tours. You can also take problems you’ve faced while writing and universalize them to apply to other creative disciplines or develop them into general life lessons.

Finally, the use of key words are essential. People find writers on the internet in a variety of ways, and perhaps the strongest of these is the network effect (aka word of mouth). But there are other ways to connect online. Let’s say I’m obsessed with Dominion and post about it once a week. And let’s say a reader who also happens to be obsessed with Dominion searches for it on Google+ and finds my posts. The reader might start following me not because I’m a writer but because they like to talk to me about Dominion. And then, months later, when I announce my next book is coming out, this Dominion friend of mine might decide to check it out. Why? Because now she knows me and wants to support me. Or she finds me interesting and thinks she might like the book. But this reader would never have found me if I didn’t make myself easy to find by using key words. If you’re talking about something related to psychology, make sure to use the word psychology somewhere in your post. If you’re talking about the Mars Rover, perhaps you can slip in the words “space exploration” into your post. Help people find you.

The community of writers needs its wonderful specialist blogs on the craft and business of writing, and the writers involved in these blogs are providing an invaluable service. Writers also need ways to communicate with and support each other, and networking with industry professionals can provide us with opportunities and expert insight. But when we think of the bigger picture of social media, we need to remember the non-writers too. Think of each social media platform as a cocktail party. We want to be witty, well spoken, and concise. We don’t want to be the prima donna who simply talks about herself all the time or the bore who drones on and on and on; instead we want to ask questions and discuss subjects that are interesting to more than just ourselves.

So ask yourself these questions: what am I interested in besides writing? what do I enjoy talking about? who is my audience? what do we have in common? (The most obvious answer here is, of course, a love of BOOKS. But then dig deeper.) We don’t have to be perfect on social media, and we can’t always be interesting to everybody, but a little bit of effort can make a huge difference.

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Earlier this week we covered Facebook’s new direction, including both the potential large upside for writers and the accompanying privacy concerns. But what about Google+? Where does it fit into this picture? (Disclaimer: my husband, you may remember, works on Google+, so I’m not an uninterested party here. Apparently I also need to tell you explicitly that these are my opinions and not his. So yes, all mine. Especially the brilliant parts.)

Google+ has only been public for a little more than a week, and has only been live at all for the past three months. So we’re still in the very early days, which means there is still a lot of room for conjecture. First, let’s talk about a few differences between Facebook and Google+ (although with all of FB’s recent changes, there are less of them than there were). I was happy to have independent verification that Google+ is not doing the creepy cookie thing that makes me so concerned about Facebook and its privacy. There’s also less chance of accidentally posting information you don’t want posted, which is always nice. With its recent integration of Hangouts (group video chat) with new tools, especially Google Docs and screen views, Google+ lends itself well to collaboration in creative, business, and educational fields (and even recreational). The Google+ stream is not filtered the way Facebook is; you see all the posts being shared with you, although not in straight reverse chronological order as sometimes new comments will make an old post jump back higher in your stream. Google+ has garnered a reputation for hosting more in-depth discussions and conversations and for being a great platform for meeting new people.

I’m reluctant to talk about Google+’s real names policy because I know that many people feel passionately about it and I don’t want this conversation to center only on that. Regarding writers, I will say that I don’t think it’s Google’s aim to penalize those of us who write under pseudonyms. I personally expect that once Google+ has matured a bit more, this policy will lose its relevance, if for no other reason than that Google will find it impossible to enforce such a policy. For writers in particular, as long as your pseudonym looks like a standard American name (ie first and last), the odds are that you won’t have problems. But it is a concern that Google needs to address in some way so that users feel completely comfortable investing in the site.

A baby hedgehog with a lot of potential… (Okay, you’ve got me, I just wanted to include a hedgehog photo.)

Why might writers consider being on Google+ right now?

1. Hatred of Facebook. It happens, and now there’s an alternative for having an online presence that is more conducive for conversation with fans and communities. Twitter can also do this, but it feels more ephemeral in time and is difficult for communicating more complicated ideas or sharing links (since they are truncated and therefore very mysterious). So this may partly depend on your style of communication, and of course, carries the downside of not having the sheer number of users as Facebook.

2. Early adopter status. One of the main benefits of this is getting a head start. Users who are early adopters tend to have large follower counts, both because they’ve been doing it longer and because they are present at the beginning when more people are looking for interesting content for their streams. For example, I have well over 1000 people following me on Google+ after three months, whereas I have friends in the three hundreds on both Facebook and Twitter.

3. If you are an sf/f writer, being active on Google+ right now is a no brainer, because guess what? Your fans make up a large portion of the current user base. Google+ is known to be particularly popular with the high-tech crowd, many of whom enjoy science fiction and fantasy. So the potential for building your fan base is very good. Not to mention that the artist communities (comic book artists, photographers, and writers in particular) are well represented as well–hence why Google+ is great for collaboration and networking.

4. Positioning. Writers want to be in the best place to take advantage of whatever changes may benefit them. Keeping up to date with what’s going on with these social platforms and understanding the basics of how they work means greater speed in adapting and leveraging them to work for you.

What I am most excited about, though, is the huge future potential of Google+. Remember how I said that it is becoming known as a great place to meet new people? Well, guess what the point of having a social media strategy is in the first place. Yes, that’s right: meeting new people in order to build a fan base. On Facebook, the vast majority of my friends are people I’ve met in real life. On Twitter, the vast majority of my followers are newer writers like myself, indie writers, and social media professionals who use words like SEO in their personal descriptions. I certainly have a fair number of writers following me on Google+ as well, but I’m also being followed by lots of..wait for it… normal people! I know, right? Who knew that could happen? And these people are all potential readers who might like my work. Plus, for an added bonus, they’re really interesting to talk to. So while I stand by my assertion that Facebook is great for more established writers due to its larger reach, Google+ is great for writers actively trying to build a fan base before they even have a publishing track record. If you read a lot about social media and writers, you have doubtless read how we’re all supposed to start building a “platform” a few years before our first novel hits the presses. Google+ seems positioned to be a powerful tool to do just that.

With its new search feature that came out last week, Google+ became a tool for discovery. I can now search for posts about subjects I care about on Google+, which is a great way to meet people. With its release of shared circles, in which users can take a screenshot of a current circle and share it with their followers, we’ve been given the means to share groups of people who we know are interested in photography, or current events, or reading, or whatever topic we want, which will also facilitate discovery. My hope is that Google will continue to pursue this line of development and begin to offer more advanced and refined methods of finding other users with similar interests.

Next week I’m planning to discuss ways for writers (or anyone else) to be interesting and discoverable on social media. And then maybe I’ll be able to tear myself away from this topic for long enough to talk about something else.

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There have been a lot of shifts in social media in the last few months. Google+ has entered the field and become known for its Hangouts (which can now even be broadcasted), its conversations, and its potential for collaboration. Facebook launches the rest of its redesign on or around September 30, including Timeline (the scrapbooking and record-keeping replacement of the profile and wall) and deep integration with applications, most notably media applications (music, movies, TV, news and articles, etc.).

First, a few more details about Facebook’s newest features. Its application integration will make it easy to automatically share information on the internet, from what article you’re reading to what recipe you’re cooking to what song you’re listening to. Once you give a certain app–whether that be Spotify, the Washington Post, or Hulu–permission to share your activities (you only need to give this permission one time ever per app), it will stream all your behavior directly to Facebook without you having to make additional clicks for each item you’re sharing. The idea is that this will make it easier for people to serendipitously discover media based on what their friends are doing, and there are already discussions about how this could be revolutionary for the music industry in particular (not to mention a possible savior of the faltering print news organizations). All of these application updates will be shown in the scrolling ticker box on the righthand side of your screen, as well as being recorded on your Timeline. (I’ve also already seen some of them creeping into the News Feed.) And speaking of the Timeline, you (and your friends) will be able to see anything and everything you’ve ever put up on Facebook.

What I’m interested in is how these changes will affect possible social media strategies for writers (although much of what I’m thinking may affect other creatives as well). First, Facebook. Honestly, it is difficult (although not impossible) to avoid strategies that don’t incorporate Facebook in some way, either through a personal account or through Facebook Pages, at least not for writers who have at least one novel published. Once you have fans, Facebook becomes logical since it has the largest user base, therefore making it much more convenient as a way for people to find you. The less of a niche market you’re targeting, the more important Facebook becomes. Having an author website and/or blog is great, but following a blog, whether through RSS, bookmarks, or email subscription, takes a greater level of engagement and commitment than simply liking an author page, and therefore Facebook gives writers a greater reach, allowing them to keep a larger fan base updated as to their activities and upcoming releases.

Once the changes to the Open Graph (aka the applications) roll out, Facebook offers even more advantages to the established writer. While I didn’t see Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads on Facebook’s truncated graphic of partners, that graphic by no means represents their complete list of media partners. Rest assured that one way or another, you’ll be able to share the books you’re reading through this system sometime in the not-so-distant future. Factor in the burgeoning e-book market, and it doesn’t take a social media expert to figure out that Facebook will play an even larger role in book marketing. The ticker feed, through which uses will share without even having to remember to do so beyond granting the initial permissions, has huge potential for increasing word-of-mouth on books people are reading, and word-of-mouth is among the very best of marketing that a book or business can receive. This is a big deal, dear writers, not just for the music and newspaper industries but also for the publishing industry. And hopefully you are beginning to see why I think refusing to be on Facebook as a writer carries a hefty cost. Granted, you’ll receive the ticker word-of-mouth regardless of whether you have an account, but how much better if a user finds you via Facebook and is then able to Like your page?

However, I do have serious concerns about the privacy implications of these new features, which seem to me to be ultimately much more about what’s good for Facebook and advertisers than what’s good for the users. Of course, this is all very new and not even rolled out for most users, but I’ve already had a friend who accidentally shared that he had read an article on a controversial subject. Not a great sign, and obviously Facebook users will have to stay really on top of their sharing. Plus there have recently been allegations that Facebook monitors everywhere you visit through your browser, even if you are logged out (through cookies, for those of you technically cognizant people), which means you could be sharing an awful lot of information with them (often without even realizing it). If this is true (it is certainly technically possible), there are measures that can be taken to minimize this while still using Facebook, like denying all apps access to your account, using an incognito window of the Chrome browser for Facebook and not opening any other tabs in that window, or using a dedicated browser for just Facebook (ex. if you use Firefox for your normal internet usage, you can download Chrome and use it for only Facebook). But I worry that these potential security problems and accompanying measures might be too confusing for many writers to understand and implement.

My other concern has to do with noise. If everyone on Facebook is sharing all their daily activities with everyone else, literally every movie, song, TV show, hike, meal, book, article, run, sleep cycle, etc., how effective will this be as a marketing strategy? Will significant numbers of people actually discover new authors and books through their tickers, or will any such discovery be drowned out by the sheer overwhelming volume of information? We will have to wait and see how sophisticated Facebook’s ranking abilities are–will they be able to skillfully filter and show users information that is actually of interest? Will they be able to choose your friends who have a similar taste in books to you? Possibly, but right now it’s anybody’s guess.

At the present moment, Facebook is a powerful tool enabling writers to reach their readers. I plan to continue to use it, while staying very aware of what’s going on with my privacy and taking measures to alleviate Facebook’s intrusion into my life. As skeptical as I am that I will find enjoyment hearing every detail about what my many Facebook friends are liking/reading/watching/eating/listening to, I am sure I can survive at least five to ten minutes per week to keep up a minimal presence on the site. However, I can’t find fault with those writers who are concerned enough about their privacy to opt out of using Facebook.

So where does that leave Google+? Tune in on Thursday and I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.

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Since I talked about blogging last week, I decided to continue my trend and talk a little more social media. Only this time, I will turn my attention to Google+ and Twitter, and one of the strategies I see being discussed and implemented. Okay, time to test out my backbone!The strategy I’ve been thinking about is automatic mutual following or circling. The idea is this: when someone follows you, you automatically follow that person back (unless it’s a spambot, although some people even auto-follow them). In your turn, you can hope for similar reciprocity when you follow somebody else. By doing this, you can build your Following count and therefore your social media reach and presence, presumably for the purpose of connecting with your audience.

I’ve seen this strategy pushed all the time and tried it myself on Twitter. I didn’t just do automatic follow-backs either; I regularly retweeted, shared cool content, joined in conversations, etc. This took a fair amount of time to do properly (sifting through all the material to find the articles I thought merited retweets, for example), and as the number of people I followed grew, my stream became so noisy I began to be unable to find quality content or the people I actually wanted to talk to.

I know, I know, Tweetdeck. But all Tweetdeck does is allow you to divide people into lists, and show those lists in different columns. It’s still the same amount of information to read. And most people don’t have time to read that much information. I began to realize that, in fact, most people weren’t reading the information I was sharing. The whole “I’ll follow you if you follow me” game was resulting in a torrent of what I like to call “Fake Follows:” follows in which neither person actually reads anything the other person is sharing, instead using lists and circles to avoid each other, while boosting up Follower count.

So when I got the opportunity to start over again on Google+, I decided to try something different. I don’t feel obligated to circle someone when they’ve circled me. A revolutionary thought! Instead, if I have the time, I go look at the person’s posts that are visible to me, and I decide whether or not to add the person to my circles based on how interesting she is to me. And if someone starts posting up a storm about topics that make me feel stressed or bored, I remove them from my circles. (For instance, anyone who starts complaining all the time about Google+ while not being constructive or actually saying much of anything? Kaput. Life is seriously too short.) Meanwhile, if people who are reading me comment intelligently about something I’m sharing, I’m very likely to check them out again and see if their posts have become more interesting, giving them another chance to be added to my circles.

What I am left with is a much higher quality stream than I would otherwise have, without the charade that I’m following people who I never read. I circle people who I think are interesting without worrying about whether they’ll find me interesting in return. And I curate the “Amy feed” knowing that if anybody finds it extremely dull, they can always remove me from circles, which means I don’t have to censor myself from sharing on a variety of topics.

I don’t think Fake Following is effective at marketing or spreading the word about your book or getting people to spend money. What I think is truly effective is following people who give you value: with whom you can engage on a personal level, or who feed your artistic spirit (I follow some great photographers for this reason), or who give you interesting food for thought. These are the people who will enrich your life, and if you begin to develop a relationship or even a friendship with them, these are the people who will support you in your endeavors. You can’t fake this support; it must be earned.

So for those of you on Google+, I encourage you to share some posts publicly, so that other users can tell if they might enjoy adding you to their circles. And for those of you on Google+ or Twitter, I encourage you to choose authenticity over the Fake Follow, to follow people because you are truly interested in them, not just to add to your numbers.

How about you? How do you decide who to follow on social media? Are you interested in following people you don’t know personally?

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Yes, this week you get me on Monday and Wednesday instead of the usual Tuesday/Thursday. It’s confusing me, too; I am a creature of habit. However, I want to tell you all about Google+, and I want to tell you about it right now. Because I’m also a creature of impatience.

I’m on the white list for the first users who get to try out Google+, or Google Plus, which is Google’s new social offering. Disclaimer first: my husband is the equivalent of the chief architect for this project, so in no way can I claim to be unbiased. On the other hand, I also really care about social media and tend to have strong opinions about it, so I imagine those will come through regardless. We shall see.

So what is Google+? Besides its poor branding, that is (a + followed by punctuation just doesn’t look right to me). Basically it is a suite of social features. In some ways it is like Facebook; in others, more like Twitter, and then it has features that are all its own. And it’s a work in progress, so it’s quite possible (even very likely) that we’ll be treated to cool new features in the future. It has a feed like Facebook (although it’s called a stream) where you can share status updates, photos, links, etc. It has group video chat (more about that in a bit). It has Sparks, which is a kind of recommendation engine for interesting new content on the web-based on your interests. It has some cell phone features that I won’t be talking about much because I don’t have a smart phone (but they include a group chat function that is basically like a text message except faster and free, and the option to automatically upload photos from your phone to a private folder in your account). You can see some screen shots here.


As of right now, I see two main downsides to Google+. One is the way its stream works. Of course, I don’t know anybody on Google+ right now, so I’m just following a few random people for experimentation purposes. But right now, the stream is not sorted with the most recent post on top. Instead, whenever a status is commented upon, it moves up to the top of your stream. This feature already drives me crazy, and I’m only following three people. Imagine how much worse it could be if I was following the 350 friends I have on Facebook and kept on having the same status messages repeated again and again as people I don’t even know comment. Yeah, not so good. I don’t like it when Facebook tries to mess with my feed with its “Top News” and I don’t like Google messing around with my stream either. I have hopes that they will add an option to change the sorting if you don’t want to deal with this sort of stream spam.

The other main downside is that I don’t know anybody on Google+, which means there’s not really much to do. Once I am given invites to send out, this aspect should improve, but it begs the question: how many of the people I interact with over Facebook or Twitter will join Google+ and be active over there? The services are not compatible in that you cannot port your status messages from Facebook over to Google+ (although to be honest, I hate it when people do that with their Twitter statuses anyway), so it’s a whole new social media platform to deal with. Will enough of my friends want to use both Facebook and Google+, or want to switch over to Google+, that it will be an easy way for me to interact with them? Will this mean I have to spend more time on social media applications (yikes!) or will a balance naturally emerge? (Here is one interesting theory on how the two social media platforms can be used differently.) Only time will tell.


1. Circles: The way you organize your contacts is pretty spiffy. This is the main way right now that Google+ combines Facebook and Twitter…and improves on both. In my experience, Facebook is mostly a walled garden in which you share all of your content with all your friends and no one else, whereas Twitter is a mostly public place where anyone can follow you and read any of your tweets. Google+ allows you to very easily set up multiple modes of interaction instead of having to choose one. (Yes, I know Facebook has group things or something, but I’ve never been able to get them to work, whereas I figured out Google+ in under five minutes.) I am able to follow anyone I want, and don’t need to get a friend request approved. However, I am under no under obligation to follow anyone back. And if I do wish to follow someone back, I can click and drag them into various “circles,” which are absurdly easy to set up. For instance, I can have a circle for close local friends so I can easily check and see who’s free to have dinner with me tonight. And I can have a circle for my family, or my college friends, or whatever I want (the names of the circles are private, too). This is great for writers because we will no longer have to wonder how to use Facebook: do we friend fans, or direct them to our Fan Page? Instead, we can just broadcast certain messages publicly, in which case all our followers will see them, OR we can create a circle for our fans, while still being able to be more personal with our real-life friends. Also, I’ve already created a circle called “Writers” so that if I want to talk craft (or the next big convention), I can show those conversations only to the people who care. (Note that Circles neatly sidesteps most of the drama inherent in Facebook; no more awkward friend requests that you have to ignore, or sudden realizations that someone has de-friended you. Less drama leads to less stress, which makes me happy.)

2. Hang Outs: Hang outs are video chat rooms that can hold up to ten people at one time. They are easy to open, and they notify whoever you specify that you’re available right now to chat (but you can filter this by circle, thereby avoiding the need to chat with anyone you’d rather avoid). I’m really excited by this feature since so many of my friends aren’t local; it sounds like it could be ideal for hanging out with them in a more casual way. Hang outs will also be great for critique groups who aren’t geographically close to one another, and for conducting plot breaks, brainstorming sessions, etc. I’m really hoping to have some Taos Toolbox alumni hang outs once general invitations are available.

3. No text limit in the status update box: Yeah, I know some people love the 140 character limit on Twitter (or the slightly longer one on Facebook), but I’m not one of them. Google+ doesn’t limit you, so if you have a longer idea, you can express it all in one place. I don’t know how often I will actually need this, but it’s one less thing to worry about.

4. Sparks: Sparks, the web content recommendation engine, lets you search for the newest content for your interests, so it’s already fun. But honestly, Sparks is in its infancy. I’m not allowed to tell you more, which sucks, but I’m allowed to say that someday it’s going to be a lot more awesome. I can’t wait.

5. Choice is good: In the past I’ve gotten kind of creeped out by Facebook and some of its policies (notably related to privacy). However, there has been no real alternative; either I can live with it or I can not have my social media toy. I know that Google has had its issues in the past as well (Buzz, anyone?), but choice and competition are generally good things for us, the consumers. And here comes my bias full force, but it has been my impression that Google is generally one of the strongest companies technically, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they are able to do. It is my hope (and my understanding) that the Google+ I’m seeing right now is just the beginning, and that there will be many more features and innovations in the future.

Any questions about my user experience with Google+?  Any thoughts about Google+ in general? Let me know!

ETA: It looks like there’s already an extension for Chrome available that will allow you to cross-post your Google+ posts to Facebook and Twitter. Don’t think there’s any way to do it the other way around…yet!

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