I’m not one to do “Top #” lists, but after today’s announcement that Google+ is now available to any and all, I thought it would be useful to recount a few of the features that I’ve been using on a nearly daily basis (well…some things…not everything, of course).
1). House Hunting – When we moved up here, I came up alone and brought along our Flip Video camera so Brooke could get a “feel” for the different options, at least in some virtual sense. This time around, Brooke is taking pictures with her phone, then allowing the Google+ app to automatically upload the pictures to her profile so she can share them with me. Then, I can comment on each picture and she can answer all my questions. This is done without anyone else having to see the conversation(s) or the pictures.
2). Gaming Communication – In the past, we have used Skype to make VOIP calls between Josh, Ryan and Mike so we can voice chat while playing whatever game we’re on at the time. Skype works well, but one person hosts the call and then has to call each person once they’re ready (much like a telephone). Now, with Google+ Hangouts, you can simply “Open A Hangout,” which is basically an open invitation with whatever group you want that can join in at any time. So, if one of us isn’t ready, they can join in whenever they want. Much more convenient, and the voice quality is nice, too.
3). Selective Sharing – I post a lot of stuff on Facebook. A lot of stuff. Google+ makes it easy with their Circles function, allowing me to share with people from Columbia, or people from Truman, or people from St. Louis, or all of them all at once. This is done really easily, both from the web interface and from within the Google+ Android app. Facebook has started adding in some of this functionality, but it’s nowhere near as helpful. It’s obvious it’s a “stop gap” measure to provide some of the same functionality, but is very much “tacked on” to their existing, convoluted infrastructure. Circles is just easier to use.
4). Full Integration with Picasa – I already use Picasa to post pictures online, partially for display on this very website. Because of the integration between Google+ and Picasa, any pictures from my phone are automatically uploaded, and then I can share them on Google+ with whoever I want. But also, they are made available under Picasa, so I can copy them into any albums I want, and either keep them private or share them. In short: it’s free cloud storage and organization for any picture I take with my phone (though, you can still manually upload them from a camera if you want).
5). Separated Streams – Right now, I have 287 people in my various circles on Google+. A lot of those folks are Gamers With Jobs people. There are times, however, I really just want to see the news updates from my Friends, rather than the GWJ crew. Thus, Google+ makes it easy to choose which Circle (or “news feed”) you want to view. Moreover, the Android App lets you set feeds so you just have to swipe from side to side on the screen to switch between feeds, making it much easier to follow the people you want without seeing updates from everyone else. Again, Facebook implemented something similar in recent weeks, and while their web interface works alright for this, the Android app just doesn’t have the same functionality. Believe you me, when you have over 500 people on your Facebook friends list, it’s a daunting task to scroll through everyone’s stuff every morning…
So now that Google+ is open to everyone, I hope more people check it out. Really, anyone that has a Google account for e-mail already has a Google+ account ready and waiting. It’ll get more integrated over the coming year, anyway, especially with Picasa (being renamed to “Google Photos”) and Reader. You may as well get used to it now!
Plus, you may find that you like it.