Sunday, 25 February 2018

Google Plus for Newcomers (2018)

It's been quite a few years since Google Plus (G+) was launched into the world. That's a long time on the internet. For G+, a whole lot of priorities and directions have changed, articles and FAQ about it, written a few years ago, now have distortions in relevance. Here's a new rundown, from my point of view.

What is G+ ?

G+ is a social network. There are lots of social networks now, catering to different audiences. Facebook was and still is the dominant social network. Why does the world need so many social networks? Because each person is different and each group of people is different.

+Robert Wallis has a humorous diagram about a doughnut which caricatures the different social networks.

Why makes G+ special and worthwhile? 

  • G+ encourages public posting and allows you to discover birds of a feather. The spirit of G+ is that you make public posts so that others who have similar interests or hobbies can see your posts and you can see theirs. In this way, you do not have to ask to be friends nor reciprocate friendships to engage with other members of this network.
  • Initially, you may encounter a person's Collection of posts that interest you. You can choose to follow that Collection. When you do that, any new post to the Collection will appear in your home stream. You may alternatively decide to follow that Person. If you do that, you may see posts in your home stream that are not relevant to your initial interest. Most people don't restrict themselves to only one topic of interest when they write a post.
  • If you find that you eventually do not like subsequent posts in that Collection, simply unfollow that Collection. If you don't like subsequent content from the Person you are following, simply unfollow that Person.
  • It is likely that your school friends and family will be on G+

Comparison to Facebook

  • Facebook encourages private posting. You can make public posts on Facebook especially for celebrity accounts and business accounts but most Facebook people make private posts limited to friends. 
  • You admit people into your circle of friends - usually, you only friend people you have met - the friendship has to be two way. If you have not personally encountered people who ask to befriend you, the tendency is to decline. 
  • Once you friend each other, your friend's posts appear in your stream unless you take some action to suppress them. Since there is no Collections concept on Facebook, you might be only interested in artistic photography but your friend posts endlessly about politics, jokes, Candy Crush etc...  You could unfriend them but that feels like a miss in etiquette and relationships.
  • Facebook is the dominant social network with lots of business accounts. Your old school friends and family are likely to be on it and demand to be friends

Comparison to Instagram

  • Instagram encourages public posting.
  • Instagram does not have Collections so you have to follow the person or the business entity. Once you follow that person, subsequent photos, regardless of whether they are of interest to you or might be NSFW, are displayed on your home stream.
  • Instagram does not have the concept of Circles - you can't follow a person but decline to make their posts appear on your home stream.
  • The Instagram layout encourages posting of square photographs. G+ doesn't care either way.
  • Instagram is more focused on the mobile phone app - in navigation and uploading of photos. On the desktop, the Instagram website is much more clumsy to use.
  • Instagram focusses on posting a photo first and then adding some brief words. On G+, posts can be without photos.
  • G+ with Google Photos allow posting of virtual albums of photos. You can now post multiple photos in one Instagram post but it isn't an album
  • Instagram following can be one way. There is no need to reciprocate.

Comparison to Vero

  • Vero claims that your home stream is displayed in a simple chronological order.
  • Vero will eventually ask for a small payment.
  • Vero has a feature similar to output Circles - you can nominate categorys for your contacts.
  • Vero is focussed on the mobile phone app. 

Other features of G+

Communities

  • G+ has Communities. The Communities can be Private or Public.
  • A G+ Community allows you to have prolific discussions with members of the same Community without flooding your home stream with such posts.
  • Each G+ Community has separate Notification and other settings.
  • Facebook Groups work in a similar way. In fact, this is the way that people in Facebook can engage without friending each other.

Circles

  • G+ Circles are similar to Facebook's Friends Lists - Circles was envisioned as an important feature when G+ was launched, they have now been downplayed.
  • You can create a Circle and add people to it. Each Circle has separate settings.
  • Circles can be used for input. Posts from each member of a Circle will appear in your home stream if you set the Notification setting to other than None.
  • Circles can be used for output. When you make a post, you can choose to target
    • Public
    • A Community
    • One or more people
    • Your Circle(s) containing people.

Getting started with G+ 

  1. You need a Google Account. Usually intending users will already have a Gmail account - the Google empire of products includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Suite (including Google Drive), Blogger, Youtube, Google Photos, Google Analytics and significantly, those who own an Android mobile phone. Once you have a Google account, you can simply opt in to G+
  2. Before you get busy with G+, take the time to understand the entries in your G+ Settings - it is a long page full of choices - https://plus.google.com/settings 

3. Have a look around G+ - the Discover page is not my favourite page, but it presents some Collections and Posts that might be interesting. 

4. If you have been recommended to join a Community, search for that Community or look for one 

5. When ready, follow one or more Collections or People - subsequent posts by these entities will appear in you home stream. If you do not specify a specific Circle to add these entities to, they will be assigned to the typical Following Circle that you will have.

6. Make your first post. Type the text to your post. To mention a person use prefix that person's account name with a plus sign ( + ).  Facebook and Instagram use the ( @ ) sign as a prefix. You can optionally add a photo.

7. Some time ago, Google Photos was split off from G+ as a separate product. Google Photos is a gallery of single photos or albums of photos. Uploading photos to Google Photos does not automatically display them in G+. In the Google Photos webpage or app, you choose one or more photos or album and Share to G+
















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