Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I Want From Google+

If you've spent any time on the internet lately, and if you're reading this you have, you know about Google's new social network Google+. As of now, G+ is in beta testing and you need to be invited by another beta user to give it a try. My curiosity for G+ was piqued by XKCD
Upon seeing that I could have Not Facebook with all the things I like about Facebook, I was hitting up all my geek friends for a code and had one the same day (thanks Callie!). On the whole I really like G+. It's clean, sleek, easy to use, and until today, easy to read. I'll get to that last one in a moment. For now, I want to share a wish list with you all that I have also shared with the good folks at Google. 
The first social networking site that I participated in outside of e-mail groups was LiveJournal. LJ is a great blogging community that in this day and age of Facebook is sadly overlooked. I still have my original LJ, which is nearly 9 years old, and I update it frequently. I also use their Droid app and encourage my friends to continue to use it as well. My attempts at the latter are rather futile, sadly. LJ's inability to keep up in the era of the smart phone, as well as its inability to protect itself from denial of service attacks has caused most of my LJ friends to abandon the site all together. This is sad for me, but I understand. I have even backed my LJ up recently on another blog site as well as through another archiving source. 
Despite all this, Google could take a lesson from LJ, as well as its own blog community Blogger, and offer G+ users with archiving tools. For example, I knew I had posted this XKCD comic on G+ but I couldn't go right to the day I posted it to find it. I had to go to my profile and keep loading page after page of old entries until I found it. And that sucks. This is something Facebook does too, and something I have long hated about Facebook. Having a daily archive would be fantastic. I would love to be able to click a day on a calender and see all the posts I made that day. I'd also like to be able to go to a friend's profile and do the same thing. 
Threaded Discussions
This is something else that comes from blogging communities that I'd like to see implemented on G+. There are times that a post generates conversations within the comments that go off on tangents or spawn all new ideas. Having threaded comments would make the comment section of a post much more manageable and usable. 
Better Labeling
The crown jewel of G+ is the circles. Circles make the sharing experience much more enjoyable, much more private, and much easier to manage. With that in mind, I'd love to have a user-defined tag at the top of posts that indicate which audience they're going to. For example, if I create a group for organizing my mother's surprise birthday party, I'd like for the people in the group to know that a post was made just for them. That way they know who else is in on the surprise and don't risk blowing it. The tag at the top should be user-defined, as I said, and not necessarily the name of the circle. To keep with the party example, let's say I named the circle Keep From Mom. But I don't want that to show up on my posts, so I'd name the tag "Mom's Surprise Birthday Party." 
But this is good not only for the poster, but for the reader as well. I don't want to run the risk of sharing personal information with people who may not be in on a post, as things do tend to come up in casual conversation. 
Me: "Oh I hear that Sally is having her appendix out on Monday."
Over-reactive friend that Sally purposely kept the news from: "WHAT?!?! OMG SHE'S GOING TO DIE!"
Me: "Uh, so how's your soup?"  
Keep the Stream Chronological
Some time last night Google made the awful decision to bump posts with new comments on it up to the top of the stream. This is incredibly annoying and whoever at Google decided to do this needs to be sent to bed without dinner. This makes the stream cluttered, confusing, and is making me miss posts that I haven't seen yet by pushing them to the bottom of the list or off the page completely. If you follow famous or popular people, it is even worse because their posts get lots and lots of comments, and they therefore dominate your stream. You can read by circle, yes, but you get the same thing - posts with recent comments at the top (despite how old they are) over top of more recent posts. Annoying as hell and needs to go. And it also ties into....
Hiding or Collapsing Comments
As I stated before, I follow some famous and popular people who get a LOT of comments on their posts. So not only are their posts always at the top of my stream, the comments are eating up my screen. Either collapse the comments automatically or allow me to collapse them so I have more than just the comments of one popular post on my screen. 
More Posting Options
There are some people, myself included, who would like to use G+ for everything. Right now I can use it for everything put blogging. Sure G+ gives you room to type lengthy entries, but it doesn't give you the flexibility to post multiple links, multiple pictures (or even a link and a picture together), or anything of the sort. Being able to create multimedia, blog-type posts would be great. 
Widescreen Options
I have a wide screen monitor, and right now the way G+ is set up, I have a considerable amount of white space on the sides. Considering the rise in popularity of wide screen monitors, I'm surprised there isn't an option to view G+ in a wider format. Please look into adding this option. 
Better Functionality on the Mobile App
I have been testing G+'s app for the Droid, and I really like it. I love the push notifications, especially how fast they are. I like how I can filter my mobile stream reading by circle, and I like that I have the ability to filter my own posts by circle. However, there are three glaring omissions on the mobile app. One, you can not share someone else's post on mobile. Two, you can not +1 an individual comment on mobile. Three, you can not tag someone in a picture on mobile, but you can tag them in a post. These are all things I'd really like to see happen on the mobile app.

UPDATE - Since this writing, Google has updated the mobile app to allow for mobile sharing! 
Take Good Care of a Good Thing
Please don't let G+ become so bogged down with advertisements and games that it makes it unenjoyable to use. In other words, please don't become Facebook. People dislike Facebook for a reason, for many of them actually, and you'd do well to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Fix your name policy, and come to terms with the fact that not everyone will make the switch from Facebook to G+. That's seriously ok. Social networking in general, and G+ in particular, are not everyone's cup of tea. Right now people are having actual, real conversations on G+. People are connecting and sharing, and our feeds aren't overrun with click spam, viruses, and status messages full of ~*~*~*~*floatsam*~*~*~*~ (and for the love of Dog don't forget the hearts! <3 <3 <3). And we like it that way. 
In Conclusion
I really like Google+ and I think it has the potential to be the biggest thing to hit the internet in a long time. I enjoy the privacy of it the most, as well as the ability to so easily read and share with my different circles. I like how clean and simple it is and I really hope Google keeps it that way. I'm really excited to see how G+ changes during the duration of the closed testing. 

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