Wanna be in my inner circle?

Google+ is getting lots of buzz (yes that is an underhanded reference to Google Buzz) and I’m excited to have been snuck into the party by the bouncer.  Well maybe not literally, but apparently there IS a way to get people in without having an invite, and if you’re nice I might show you how.

Either way, I’m in and have to admit it has its charms.   Google+ is supposed to be a new social network and the biggest question is – can it provide the first major competition to Facebook?

For those who aren’t familiar, the way it works is this: the image to the left is a group of the symbols Google+ uses.  Moving left to right they represent Circles, Hangouts, Home (homepage), Photos, Profile and Sparks.  Home, Photos and Profile are relatively self-explanatory and operate essentially the same way as Facebook, so aside from saying I like the nice, clean layout of Google+, I’ll focus on the new functionality provided by the network.

Channeling people into different “Circles” works for me, but I did read a post by someone who questioned what happens when our “Circles” begin overlapping.  Frankly I don’t see the problem, I’ve already got people in multiple Circles on Google+  and in real life.  Seems like an easy enough solution.

I like “Sparks” in theory.  The idea of having a stream of info (articles, blog posts, video etc.) based on topics of my choosing, is fun, however if I am interested in “running” I do not particularly care about a segment titled “Running on empty” about Americans and their economic challenges.  Ideally, Sparks should be a step up from simply Googling a word, though it doesn’t seem we are there yet.

Haven’t tried the integrated webcam functionality called “Hangouts” yet though I love the idea that you can start a webcam-based “Hangout” for a “Circle”.  This would make web conferencing pretty easy for my coworkers and myself when we need to have a long-distance meeting (we currently utilized Gmail and Skype separately).

I like the fact that Google+ is streamlining my email/calendar/social network into one system.  However the draw back of that is that it is all in one system.  Call me paranoid but I think a little separation is a good thing.  Seems to work well for church & state.

The bottom line? So far, so good.  Don’t know if it will ever replace Facebook but I do really enjoy what appears to be some additional ability to share info within certain groups.  I could see this being useful in a work setting as a collaboration tool but will hold off judgement on its use in a personal way until more people join up.  After all, what good is a feed of your friends status’ when none of your friends are actually on Google+?

By the way, Mark Zuckerberg is supposedly on Google+.  Who knows if it is really Mr. Z himself, but there is certainly an account with his name & pic, and over 17,000 people have added him to their circles.  Myself included.  What?  Don’t want to run the risk of missing a chance to have him in my inner circle if it really IS his account and he is scoping out the competition…

So what do you think?  Are you on Google+?  Do you have any interest or does this seem like a passing fad?

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