I’m seriously loving Google+. I didn’t get one of the earliest invitations, but scored one earlier this week.

Google-plus1

First, let me say that I’m not a Facebook hater, I’m not looking for a reason to leave it and I think only time will tell whether or not Google+ will beat it. But if I had to guess, I’d say no.

Here’s what I like about Google+:

  1. google-plus-sidebarSimplicity. The interface is intuitive and clean. The left sidebar lets you choose only the streams you want to read or follow everything with one click. It’s easy to get to your profile, photos and circles via the top menu.
  2. Circles are easier than friend lists. Unlike Facebook’s friend lists, circles let you easily categorize contacts into people you don’t know personally but want to read updates from (such as celebrities and high-profile persons), family, friends and acquaintances. Add people into the circles by dragging and dropping. You can add a person to more than one circle; for now I’m keeping everyone in only one circle. Be careful, though — if you remove a person from all circles, you remove them as a contact.
  3. Privacy is simple. When you share an update, you can choose to send it to the world (public) or choose any or all of your circles. So if there is content you only want your family to see, select the family circle. If it’s your latest blog post you’re trying to get to go viral, select public to send it to everyone.
  4. Inline photos & video. It’s what I loved about Buzz — that blend of Twitter and Facebook that lets you look at photos and video and comment, like or +1 right in the stream without clicking an external link.
  5. Hangouts. I haven’t actually successfully completed a hangout yet — my daughter didn’t answer (go figure). It was easy to open up and to initiate the contact and I think it’s a promising tool both for personal and business use.
  6. Notifications. If you’re a Google user (Calendar, Gmail, Docs, Photos, Reader), you’ll see a red badge with a number in the upper right corner of your screen. Click on that number and you can view comments to your posts or posts you’ve commented on in a popup that lets you view all notifications without leaving the window you’re in. You can also quickly go through all notifications with the older and newer links. Very nice and must faster than Facebook notifications.
  7. Sparks. This is very cool. Just choose a topic you’re interested in and add it to your sidebar. You can pick one of the existing topics or add your own. You’ll see an excerpt of the results and you can click on those you’re interested in and easily share them publicly, with individual friends or circles, which helps get conversations started.

google-plus-sparks
Other thoughts:

  • google-plus-friends-circle1Connections are more like Twitter than Facebook. That is, they don’t have to be mutual; you can follow people who don’t follow you back, as on Twitter. In the same way, you can add people to your circles, yet depending on which circles you put them in, limit what they see. No one knows which circles you place them in, so you don’t have to worry about ensuing drama.
  • Google is still figuring out what content gets into Sparks, though some believe it’s closely related to Google News results. I’m sure SEO experts are already on this and it’s one thing I’m very curious about.
  • It underscores the necessity of filling out your Google profile. I’m finding the generic boxes very annoying already.
  • Google+ makes it easy to do a lot of what I do in Facebook without leaving the main window:
    • Send a private message. Just type your message and only include the person you wish to contact.
    • Groups. If there’s a group (such as a workgroup or group of friends with similar interests) you regularly contact, just put them all in a circle and select that circle when you post. You’ll see comment and responses inline.
    • Easily email people not in a circle. Add your non-Google+-using contacts to a circle and you’ll have the option to include them (via email) on any post you send to that circle. Nice for folks who don’t really use social networking sites that you want to stay in contact with.

As of late last night, invitations were shut down again after being reopened for about an hour or so. So if you got an invite (and I sent out a bunch), but can’t get in, keep trying.

And add me to a circle, ok?

Are you using Google+? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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