So after obsessing over getting it for a week, I finally got an invite and was able to accept that invite to Google+. Unfortunately, Google has been really secretive about how to get on the site during the field test. Normally, in these types of tests, everyone initially invited gets a certain number of people they can invite and then those people can also invite a certain number of people–and so on. But for Google+, in order to participate in the field test, you must be invited and accept the invite during a completely random and totally unpredictable invite window. As a result, if someone invites you to Google+ during this invite window but you don’t accept until later, you miss out.
In laymen’s terms, getting on the site during the field test takes a certain level of vigilance. For me, this meant harassing my sister’s friends who got invites. I did that until I realized getting an invite from a random person on Twitter would be better.
Now, two days after creating my profile, I’ve decided I think I like Google+ more than I liked Facebook when I started that social networking site. Don’t get me wrong–it will take Google+ several months to surpass Facebook in usability. Some of the features still have kinks, but I still believe that Google+ is superior than Facebook was in it’s beginning stages. I also understand many of the Twitter features users have come to know and love–@ mentions, #hashtags–were developed by users after the site got popular. Similarly, I think, once more people get involved, the features on Google+ will become more useful and will develop without the help of Google. Like any social network, Google+’s value will ultimately be determined by what people make of it.
That being said, here’s what I think (if you care at all) about Google+’s features:
For me, this is what makes Google+. Yes, users on Facebook and Twitter can sort their friends and followers by lists, but, on Google+, you can add people’s’ emails to circles even if they aren’t part of the social networking site. When I first got both Facebook and Twitter, my parents both wanted to snoop on my pictures, statuses and tweets. Because of the nature of Facebook, my mom always complained about not being able to look at the pictures I had of me and my friends. My dad, being a little confused about how it worked, created his own Twitter to see my tweets (though you can see anyone’s unprotected tweets as long as you know their username).
Google+ resolves both of these issues with circles. I created a circle for my family and can send specific status updates and share photos and such with my mom and dad to their emails. They don’t have to join anything.
This also makes it easier to hide certain things from parents, if you’re so inclined. However, Facebook is probably still going to be the best place to do that–at least for now. While Google+ is working out problems, I don’t recommend sending anything too sensitive to any circles because it might go to all your circles.
Before I really understood how this feature worked, I sent a status update to everyone in my Google+ circles. Basically, this means I sent an email to everyone. I sent a frantic second status apologizing, but I’m still a little embarrassed by it.
So no one else makes the same mistake, Google+ users should take note of the screenshot to the right. This album is of a family trip me and my parents took last summer. As you can see, users can choose to “share” the album with certain circles. For the people in your circles that don’t have Google+, they will get an email with a link to the pictures. You can also choose to not email people without Google+.
Hangouts is like Skype with a lot of people–or at least it seems that way. Personally, I haven’t tried this feature out. I don’t know enough people on Google+ to actually use it (though I think my boyfriend and I will try it this week, so I’ll write about my personal experience then).
To use the feature, you have to first install Google Voice and Video (which is kinda annoying, but it only takes a second). Then you can let people in certain circles know you’re open to video chatting. I’m excited to try this feature with my friends from back home in Evanston, IL, as well as those I’ve met in NYC. Whenever we actually get around to Skyping, it takes some time to plan and that can be pretty annoying, especially when the only way to communicate is via Facebook (if they’re in Europe or whatever).
So far I haven’t delved too deep into Sparks–Google+’s response to the interest side of Twitter. However, I don’t think I like it too much. On Twitter users can #hashtag certain interests or topics in their tweets. This is pretty useful for both finding followers and discussions as well as having other users follow you.
On the other hand, Sparks is sort of silly at this point. I added some Sparks, but it looks like the feed of sites and information is nothing but a Google search of that word. For instance, I sparked “news” and the only thing that seems to be coming up is news about News of the World.
That being said, I think Sparks will get better with time. On the sparks home page, there’s several featured Sparks feeds and these seem to be more comprehensive than searching and creating your own Spark streams, which seem like Google searches now.
As you can see, Google+ isn’t perfect. But, like they warned in the “field test” box, it’s only a week old. Social networks, because they’re meant to be userfriendly, only get better as more and more people join.
If you’d like an invite to Google+, comment below and I’ll add you during the next invite window I see (but, like I said, you’re responsible for accepting that invite during the same window).