Google Plus: The Social Networking Project

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It has been the talk of the tech world. Google has decided to take on Facebook with a social network of its own. Here are the main features that you will encounter as Google tries to reinnovate social networking.

Circles is like your friends list. It’s where you store your contacts and you’re forced to put a friend into a certain category. You can name them and even rename them. You can add people to multiple circles and even make you own circles by either drag n’ dropping them into an ‘empty circle’ or clicking “Create Circle”.

Circles improves the whole ‘grouping your contacts’ experience. You see, by grouping  the contacts in your list by default, you get to choose what updates you see. Whether you want to only see updates from your business buddies, or you want to keep it personal by only seeing your close friends’ streams.

Note: Circles is not a I’m your friend and you’re my friend policy. It’s more of a I’m following you, but you can follow me too if you want to. (Facebook+Twitter anyone?)

It is also worth noting that even if your contacts don't opt into Google +, they can still recieve updates through email and still end up in your circles.

Hangouts is Google's free equivalent to Skype's paid Group Video Calling service.To start a hangout, visit your stream and click “Start a hangout”. This is automatically posted to your wall as that you have “started a hangout”. Whoever wants to join can join, but you can also make a private hangout.

Note: I’ve received reports from other users (names will remain anonymous per request of these users) that the Private Hangout feature is not fully implemented or not properly working for some people so test with caution.

Whoever is the ‘loudest’ in the hangout is displayed on the big screen. Now, I wouldn’t advise you go screaming your head off because you CAN be kicked off the hangout session by the person who started it. Also, if you started the session, people just might not want to stay if that’s what you’re going to be doing.

Note: To start, a small plugin must be installed.

Sparks is one of my favourite features within Google +. This feature is what’s most personalizable within the whole Social Network. Say you like computers, type that in the Sparks’ search bar, press enter. If you like what you see, click “Add Interest”

Have you ever wanted to talk to someone you haven’t seen in ages but, very often in a conversation, you find yourself quickly running out of something to say? Well Sparks is your solution.

What IS Sparks might you ask? It’s the feature that brings all the news to you. It brings you YOUR news when YOU want it. It lets you customize which topics you want to be watched and which ones you follow. Though there’s not much to say about Sparks, it definitely is a big part of Google + and is one of the main features that Google boasts. Sparks’ news feeds include anything from blogs to reviews to news updates to even videos.

Your profile, the home of every user. Google’s profile system allows you to share things about yourself. You can add your employer, your job, your education and much much more. In reality, your profile is like any other profile. But why should Google+ be shown as different? Google’s profile system integrates itself with all the other Google services you know and love like Gmail.

Though the Circles policy is one of ‘following’ proportions, you can control who sees what. If you only want your close friends to see you birthday or job, then you set that information to be viewed by only that Circle.

Posting on other people’s walls are not available. Like twitter, you use a tag. In order to tag someone in a post, just add a + or @ sign before the name that you want to tag. Likewise, if the people you tag are the only people that are in the post, they are the only ones that can see the post. This takes Facebook’s inbox ability and brings it to the stream directly.

If you were ever concerned about who can see your profile and how it will look like. On the top right corner of your profile you will see view profile as. Using this, you can see instantly how your profile looks from a different person’s perspective based on your privacy settings.

Google +’s built in chat resembles a slightly more advanced version of Facebook’s. It can chat like a normal chat client. If you want to chat with multiple people, that is feasible. It can also start calls and video calls. One thing it can do that Facebook can’t is share files instantly. If you use Google + for work, the chat feature will be very handy for dealing with documents. Unlike Facebook, however, Google + doesn’t put all of your contacts in the chat view by default, meaning that you will need to invite your new Google + contacts to chat as well.

In chat, you can also go ‘Off the Record” which is a mode where your conversation isn’t archived. This is another feature that Facebook hasn’t yet matched.

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