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How are you using Google+ at PAX Prime?

25 Aug

Google+ app

There are some obvious ways to use Google+ at PAX Prime: the same way you’d use Twitter and Facebook, to post updates from the show and share photos.

But I’m curious to see how two features in particular will be used.

I’ve talked a bit about how gamers are using Google+ Hangouts live video chat to run games across the miles. I have to think that someone will be using it at PAX Prime. Maybe a gaming group will include an absent member at their table at PAX; or perhaps the lone member of a group who actually made it to PAX will bring the group along, virtually. Maybe some clever exhibitor will offer a PAX exclusive live via Hangouts.

And then there’s Huddle, a Google+ feature that lets you send SMS text messages to your circles, creating a mobile group chat.

Several of my agency colleagues used a similar service at SXSWi to coordinate a large group of people at the show. Huddle seems tailor made for meeting up at PAX.

Will you be using Hangouts and Huddle at the show? Or — if you’re reading this after the fact — did you use them, and how did it go?

Let me know in the comments, eh?

Gamers are taking to Google+ like ducks to water

5 Aug

You know who’s really diving headfirst into Google+ and figuring out pretty quickly how it fits into their lives? Gamers and game designers, at least from what I’m seeing.

I’m getting more gaming-related adds there than any other kind; and I’m getting more gaming-related adds on Google+ than I get on Twitter and Facebook. Once someone who’s passionate about games sees that you’re in a gamer’s, game blogger’s or game designer’s circle, there’s little or no shyness about adding you to their own circles.

Also, gamers are eagerly testing its features out and pushing them to the limits. DMs are already using Hangouts to run tabletop RPGs across distances, and giving some good feedback on the experience. Now they’re talking about recording Hangout sessions for sharing later as “actual play” reports.

If you’re in PR or marketing, your clients will want to know what Google+ does and does not do well, and how the audiences they want to reach are likely to use it to get and share information. You could do worse than to get involved in some gaming circles and pay close attention to what they’re doing.

Google+, the post-friend social network

24 Jul

The other day I was reading an exchange between two friends on Facebook, neither of whom “gets” Google’s recently-launched social network Google+. It occurred to me that the moment I “got” Google+ was the fourth or fifth time I was added to a circle by someone whose name I didn’t recognize. In those cases I can usually figure out why they’ve added me with a bit of research, but there’s still a lot of people I don’t know who want to connect with me; and vice versa. Then it finally sank in that Google+ had provided me with a circle called Acquaintances.

One of the awful things about social networks up until recently was that they forced you to say that everyone you connected with online was your friend. (I’d classify the friend/not friend binary as Bad and Right: it’s ugly but functional.) Twitter eventually changed the verb from “friend” to “follow”, which made things easier. Facebook was built to emulate the way friends hang out in the real world, so everyone I’m connected with is still either a friend or (in the case of pages) an interest. LinkedIn now gives me the option to connect with someone as a friend, a co-worker, or someone with whom I’ve done business.

But to me, those services still carry the baggage of commitment. Unfollowing someone on Twitter or unfriending them on Facebook is an act that has weight. I’ve never severed professional ties with someone on LinkedIn.

Google+ presents itself as an online place for sharing that has been built from the ground up to address the complexity of human relationships, and rescue the word “friend” from its distorted online usage along the way. I can finally satisfy my neo-Victorian sentiments by calling 80% of my social network connections by their true name: Acquaintances.

(I was going to take things a step further and create a circle called “Who?” for the people I don’t recognize and want to someday identify, but at that point I had another epiphany: if I want to share things with people who are not in one of my social circles, I can make those posts public. EUREKA. I’ve rediscovered blogging.)

I can use Facebook the same way by creating lists of friends (though not as easily.) The circle-creating functionality is the entire point of Diaspora. And frankly, the Google+ solution is flawed because at some point I’m going to call bullshit on the whole time-consuming exercise of categorizing all the people I know, and start dividing my content into things that are public and things that are visible to ten or so very, very close friends.

Unless Google starts to automate the process for me, which is where I think we get to the potential of Google+. I’m drawn to Google+ because Google already powers a lot of my online life outside of Facebook and it’s good at making educated guesses about what I want.

What I suspect would finally make the process of connecting people online Good and Right is for Google+ to make an educated guess about which of my social circles people belong in. It could say, “Wade’s contact Jane Smith works at Weber Shandwick. He’s added all of his contacts who work at Weber Shandwick to his Work circle, and added most of them to the Frolleagues or Acquaintances circle. So I’ll make it incredibly easy for him to add her to those three circles, with the option to do something else with her  in the usual Google+ way.”

Ideally I won’t end friendships and change jobs so often that getting people out of those circles requires an automated solution.

Will circles help me in the long run? I think so. There are friends who don’t want to see the PR-related posts my colleagues would be interested in. My agency colleagues are probably not all that interested in the latest post on Grognardia. But in today’s highly-connected world, if I can use circles to keep track of how I’m connected with each of my contacts, it will be insanely useful. It will provide me with context for my relationships. And that means I won’t spend time searching the Web or my mailbox to figure out how I know someone.

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