Google+ and me

I really like Google+. It is kind of the perfect mix of Twitter’s new-like streams and Facebook’s user management. That and much more managable discussions than on Twitter. I hope I’m not the only one who has sometimes a problem keeping up with what discussion a certain @reply was now part of.

The killer feature: volume control

The last new feature that heaved Google+ over Twitter for me was the addition of the Circle Stream Volume control introduced just a couple of days before XMAS. This way my main stream has become usable again while before it I mostly moved from circle to circle and stayed as far away from the main stream as possible due to information overload.

The stream volume control makes the main stream usable again.

Right now I have more or less the following main circles:

  • Family (mostly vacant right now but I’m working on that)
  • Friends
  • Following
  • Django
  • Brands
  • Company

Friends and Family are tuned all the way up while Following and Brands end up not being included in my main stream at all. Django and Company are kind of in the middle ground because news from friends are simply more important than news about Django. This way I can finally use the main stream once again for what is important while keeping the rest of interesting stuff only at max. one click away :-)

The conference use-case

During conferences my priorities shift a little bit. There I first of all want to know what’s happening around the conference; something that Twitter and its hashtags excel in right now. Finding nice restaurants to relax after a long conference day is just so easy if you “follow” the conference hashtag.

Here Google+’s search subscription comes in which basically allows you to bookmark a search-term (and/or hashtag) and the search result is auto-updated if you keep the page open (similar to Twitter’s search but a bit more automatic. Think of a Twitter-wall).

So basically this use-case would be covered if people would just use Google+ more during conferences ;-) #GDDDE in Berlin this year was a nice start, though which discussions about presentations more or less happening in real-time there.

Topic streams

But what if you could combine search-subscriptions and circles? As you’ve seen up there one of my main circles is for people being involved with the web framework “Django”. Now, naturally, all these people do not only write about Django all day but also about other things that are important in their lives. While definitely interesting I’m mostly following them because their role in the Django community. For the personal stuff I have the “Friends” circle (these two circles are not mutually exclusive ;-)).

What I’d really love to see is a way to search only within a circle, similar to how you can search within a single domain on Google. Something like: “django circle:Django”

Circle operations

Another but only minor issue for me is that there is no easy way to share something only a withset of people. Think about sharing something with people who help you organize a birthday party for a friends. You can’t really share it with “Friends” simply because the person whose birthday part you’re organizing is probably also in that circle. Or if I wanted to share something with all the Django developers who are Friends, I’d have to pick them name by name. SET OPERATIONS, PLEASE! :-)

Like “+Friends -Peter” and “+Django AND +Friends”.

User Content Policy

Something you can’t really get around writing about Google+ is their enormous support for the photo community. People like Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff are probably the best advertising Google can get for their social network. With Brian Rose Google+ even has its own community manager for the photography sub-community.

On the other end of the spectrum you have #10 of the User Content and Conduct Policy:

10. Sexually Explicit Material

Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites.
Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a personโ€™s buttocks or cleavage.

I totally understand that Google+ is owned by a company that has a reputation to uphold, but #10 is far to restrictive. Sure, it bans porn, but it also bans any kind of nuditiy which is far to broad a term esp. when it comes to photography. In this regard I think 500px’s approach with the NSFW flag is far more appropriate where you basically have a setting in your profile that either hides or shows nudity. Google+ also has the advantage of providing a way to share content explicitly with certain groups so they won’t end up being public.

If you’ve read the quote above, you’ve probably also read the last 2 sentences which handle profile picture, something MG Siegler hit a couple of days ago when his profile picture was removed. I guess using that finger in a profile picture kind of violates the whole “mature” part in #10. Wether or not doing that as a rather public figure in a public profile is a different story, though.


On the other hand and compared to other folks and the topic above I’m far less skeptical when it comes to the so-called “Brand Pages”. When Google+ first launched, there was absolutely no support for companies to promote their content. In fact, every G+ profile had to be associated with a real person. When brand pages finally launched more than a month ago, some people felt quite disappointed. There was not a lot of bling and even less features. Brand pages, once again, could only be associated with a single G+ account which caused some really funny situations.

A brand page for the Python usergroup in Graz.

Back then I immediately created a brand page for our local Python usergroup in Graz which I by now use over Twitter for sharing news and informations with the community. And since mid-December we can also finally have more than one account with write and management access to it :D Right now I’m still the only manager of that page but I hope this will change with our first virtual meetup next week :D I’m personally really curious how the hangouts feature of Google+ will work out for something like a community meetup. There are some rumors that Google is working on allowing more than 10 people to join a hangout as visitors but sadly this didn’t made it live in time.


During the #gddde in Berlin this November I attended a presentation by Chris Chabot about what Google has planned for the Google+ API and why it has been rolled out so cautiously. It certainly makes sense to first offer access to the content this is already publically available anyway and then slowly add more features. I also kind of doubt that the lack of an official read/write API has hurt the network so far. The mobile apps right now are quite usable and for site-integrations the public part is a good first step.

That said, I’d be surprised if Google+ was still without a write-API in a year. An iPad client would be nice, too ;-)

OK, and now I’m off to enjoy the awesome Google+ integration of my Galaxy Nexus in the finally snowy Klagenfurt!