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Google +Circles

New Google+ Feature – Chat with People in Your Circles


If you’ve logged onto your Google+ account today, you may have noticed a little pop-up on the bottom right announcing a new feature.

The message reads “New! Chat with the people in your circles. You can now chat with the people in your circles (who also have you in their circles). Change which circles you can chat with by choosing Privacy Settings from the chat menu.”

This change means you no longer need a person’s email address to chat. You just need to have each other in your Circles.

Another significant change this brings, is the ability to chat even when you’re not using Google+. You can chat using Gmail, the Google Talk client, iGoogle, Orkut and 3rd party apps.

A Google spokesperson commented on the change saying, “We’re making it easier to chat with the people you care about.” They also said this is not a form of group chat and you can not start group chats from Circles.

So, what do you think about the Google+ chat change? Are you ready to start chatting with everyone in your Circles?

Google+ Launches the Google Photography Prize


During the Google+ for Business session at BlogWorld LA, Guy Kawasaki made a comment about passionate people using the social network, which I highlighted. He said “For me, Facebook is for friends and family and Google+ is for people who share your passion that you don’t know yet.

One group of passionate people whom he mentioned were on Google+ are photographers. Google+ agrees. So much so they’ve launched a contest looking for the photography stars of the future.

Not only are there quite a few amazing photographers hanging out on Google+, but a staggering number of photos have been posted.

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

Google is teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize. This will give students around the world a chance to showcase their photos on Google+, as well as have their work exhibited on the world wide stage. It sounds like an amazing opportunity.

For more information on the contest, visit the Google Photography Prize page. For those of you who would like to see all of the great work being submitted, Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their page, so be sure to add them to your Google+ Circles.

Image Source: SXC

Disable Comments & Lock Posts Before Sharing on Google+


Ebby Amirebrahimi, an engineer on the Google+ sharing team, announced yesterday a new update for Google+ users.

One of the most popular features on Google+ is the ability to disable comments and lock posts to make sure no one re-shares it, but this could only happen after you posted.

Thanks to this new update and feedback from the Google+ community, you can now lock down and disable before you share to your Stream.

The team’s goal at Google+ is to continue to add features like these, which will help their users feel more secure about sharing on the new social network. He also shared they will continue to listen to feedback, as well as roll out new features in the coming weeks.

Here’s a video with Ebby of the announcement.

Do you find this new sharing feature useful and are there any other features that make sharing more secure you would like to see added?

Will. I. Am. Hangs Out on Google’s Homepage


Talk about a way to get your message seen by millions! Black Eyed Peas band member Will.I. Am.’s Google+ profile is featured on the home page of Google.

Google is promoting the Black Eyed Peas Google+ Hangout, which goes live today (September 30th) at 6 pm EST. You can hang out with the band before they go on stage. The band held a similar hang out last week, but this one wasn’t advertised on the front page of Google.

As far as anyone knows, this is the first time Google has linked to a Google+ profile from this prime advertising spot. This will surely increase the number of Google + Circles Will. I. Am. ends up in. It will also be interesting to hopefully hear some numbers of how many people show up to the Hang Out.

This is just one more step in the right direction for Google+ to open up to brands. There’s been a lot of speculation of when this will happen and what it will look like exactly, but we have a feeling a prime spot like the front page of Google will have brands flocking to Google+. Don’t you think?

Share Your Favorite Circles with Others on Google+


Google+ announced a new feature which lets you share your circles with others thanks to their new “Share” button.

Google+ engineer Owen Prater said, “Starting today you can actually share your favorite circles with others! So if you’ve got a great Photographers or Celebrities circle, for instance, then you can share a copy with your friends.”

When you click on a circle, you’ll notice in the upper right corner it now says “Share this circle”. Google+ notes that you are only sharing its members at that time and the name of the circle always stays private.

When you click the share link, it allows you to leave a comment about the circle you are sharing, as well as choose who you would like to share the circle with. When your Google+ friends receives it, they can then pick and choose who they would like to add to their own circle.

What is Google+’s goal with this new feature? To help you share and find great new content. Here’s a video they put together talking about the new Share option.

You Can Now Do More with the Google +1 Button


Google made an announcement today regarding their +1 button.

Most likely, you’ve seen the Google +1 button around here and there and maybe, just maybe you’ve actually clicked on it. Some have been asking what rewards there are when clicking the button. In the past Google has said it helps with search engine results, by showing pages you have given a +1 to in your friends’ searches.

The +1 button might be a little bigger than some thought. According to Google, in July it received over 2 billion views a day and appears on more than a million sites. The momentum is there and now with this latest announcement, you might have more reason than ever to click it.

The +1 button now allows you to share with your Google Circles, directly from the page you are sharing on. Google says that “beginning today, we’re making it easy for Google+ users to share webpages with their circles, directly from the +1 button. Just +1 a page as usual and look for the new ‘Share on Google+’ option. From there you can comment, choose a circle and share”.

For more on the new +1 button, sharing on Google+ and +snippets (where they automatically include a link when you share), watch this video.

Bob Caswell “What if You Had the Idea of Google+ Circles Three Years Ago?”


Bob Caswell, a product manager at Microsoft, asked an interesting question on his Google+ stream. He asked, “What if you had the idea of Google+ “Circles” three years ago but decided to pursue other interests?”

Well, maybe I’d be writing this from the beach in Tahiti? Who knows.

Come to find out, Caswell did have an idea very similar to Google+ Circles but being the cautious entrepreneur he is, it stayed just that – an idea. In a post on his personal blog (which he didn’t point to his Google+ stream like some tech bloggers have done), he talked about a project he worked on while he was a student at Purdue University. It was called iPrivacyManager or “iPM”.

You can read some snippets from his business plan here, but the paragraph which is most interesting is this one:

Currently, user profiles posted on Facebook and other sites are potentially accessible in an identical way by a wide range of acquaintances, who are typically kept separate in real life (employers, coworkers, fellow students/alumni, friends, family, and relatives).

So, although there was no mention of “circles”, the main jest of them is there. What’s the moral of this story? Here it is in Bob Caswell’s own words:

I have been asked what the moral of the story is and thought I’d add a mini-epilogue here. For me, this is the story of entrepreneurship often untold. You have to give up a lot for the hopes of a nice pay off, and the odds are against you. But what happens when you go with a decision where the odds are in your favor?I’m cautious by nature, so also being entrepreneurial is a bit of a paradox. But I have no regrets on this. I think being cautious worked out well for me, actually. That said, if you choose the cautious route, be prepared for someone else to do exactly what you were planning (in my case, Google!).

Do you think the world was ready for Google+ 3 years ago? Heck, is it ready for it now?

Why Google+ Circles Might Suck


Yes, you read that correctly. One of the main draws to Google+ is their intuitive “circle” system of listing your friends together into groups. It’s a feature that I see people repeatedly saying is one of the best things about this new social media platform. And while I agree that at first glance, the Google+ circle system had me ooo’ing and ahhhh’ing just like everyone else, as I’ve started to use the system more and more, I’m not sold. Yes, I think the circles might even suck.

Okay, before all you loyal Google fans freak out…I said might. As in “maybe they suck.” Or at least, “maybe they suck for some people.” Google+ is so new that the jury is still out on this one. But let me at least tell you a little about my experiences and how I think the Google+ system is slightly…okay, really…flawed.

A Twitter Approach to Networking

Let’s start at the very beginning.

One of the characteristics of Google+ that I really like is that you don’t have to be mutual friends to follow someone. Of course, everyone is able to control what anyone else sees, but if I like your blog and you have no idea who I am, I can still follow you and read whatever you decide to make public. You don’t have to follow me back. It’s very similar to Twitter in that respect, but with more levels of privacy. Awesome.

I like this because, frankly, I don’t like everyone who likes me. While that might sound harsh on a personal level, the fact of life is that you could be doing things that are really interesting to other people, but that doesn’t mean that other people are doing things that are really interesting to you – and that’s okay. I blog about blogging…and while that topic is relevant to Suzy who blogs about parenting and Donald who blogs about cars, I’m don’t have kids, nor do I care about my car beyond keeping it well maintained. So, Suzy and Donald can follow me, and I’m not pressured to clutter my stream with updates that are irrelevant. Awesome.

But Wait…Isn’t the Circle System Supposed to Cut Down on Clutter?

Yes. Yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s working that way.

When I add someone to my circles, I break things down pretty well (at least, I think I do). Right now, I have a circle for my best friends in real life, so I can update them about plans for happy hour. I also have a circle for BlogWorld folk, so we can talk about behind the scenes plans if we wish, as well as circles for gamers (one of my main interests) and for social media professionals and bloggers. As more people join, I will probably break down those categories even more. But just because I’ve created a pretty well-planned circle system doesn’t mean that others have.

If Suzy the parenting blogger follows me, for example, she might not use circles as well as I do. Maybe she has people who blog lumped into one circle, for example, regardless of whether they blog about blogging or blog about parenting. Or maybe she puts me in a random circle called “people I met at BlogWorld” – which isn’t very relevant unless BlogWorld is going on or we’re talking about the event afterward. In other words, people do not necessary create circles based on the topics they talk about. People are more likely to organize their circles based on the streams they want to see, not what makes sense for updating. My needs for these two ways of organizing people are very different.

The Public Problem

But all of that doesn’t really matter because of what I like to call the “public” problem.

Remember the first point I made, about how I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends? Well, the only way that really works is if people update publicly, at least occasionally. For bloggers, that’s not really much of a problem. If you’re looking at Google+ as a promotional tool, or even if you just use it as a way to gain ideas from like-minded people, allowing everyone to read your updates makes sense.

For example, earlier today, I talked about a project I was working on for bloggers. While it is relevant to my social media/blogging group most (and not, for example, my gamer friends), it might also be relevant to my followers that I’m not following…and it’s not sensitive information, so I want everyone to be able to see it.

The problem is, because I updated it to the general public, everyone saw it, even my gamer circle. It doesn’t matter if I pick Public and add other circles. The fact that I’ve chosen to make the update public means that everyone can see it.

And most of us bloggers what as much to be public as possible. Unless it contains information that is only relevant to everyone in a specific group (like plans for happy hour with local friends), it makes sense to connect with fans by making your updates public. If that’s the case though, if that’s how we use Google+, it really isn’t any different from using Twitter. You aren’t actually filtering anything for any circle.

A Solution?

I don’t like to complain about problems unless I can think of a solution…and while I’m not sure there are easy ones or even perfect ones, here’s what I think would work better than the current circle system:

The solution to the public problem is pretty easy. When you make something public, it should show up only for people who aren’t your mutual friends. They should be your default public group. If you want other groups to see it, you should have to pick public plus whatever circles are relevant. That would make Google+ so much better, with that one little change.

The second part of the solution, in my opinion, would be to have two levels of circles – private circles and public circles. Private circles would be sort-of what you see now – when you follow someone you add them to a circle to create different streams for yourself. It’s simply a way to organize your streams, similar to Twitter lists. I would actually like to see the option, like with Twitter, for you to make these lists known (if you want to) so that other people can follow everyone you have categorized a certain way. I find some of the best people on Twitter by browsing others’ lists.

Public circles would be more of an “opt in” type of system for updates. Where your private circles would be for people you want to follow, your public circles would be for people who want to follow you. You would list off any topics you discuss regularly and people could add themselves to those lists to see updates in those categories from you. That way, as a follower, you can control what you see a little more easily. You’d use your public circles when you posted anything (again, private circles would just be for categorizing your own streams).

This works for two reasons. First, it allows you to opt out when you don’t like specific content that’s showing up in your stream, but don’t want to stop following a person completely. I could sign up for Suzie’s public blogging circle, but avoid her public parenting circle, even though with the current system, she just updated everyone at once. To go along with that, some people are really clogging up my stream right now. I don’t want to miss some of their updates about specific topics, so I continue to follow them, but I wish I could mute them with other topics so I could more easily read updates in my streams.

Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly from a promotional tool standpoint, it allows you to show someone you’re interested when they might have otherwise assumed that you don’t care. For example, under the current system, I might add Suzie to my blogging circle, never realizing that she’s actually really interested in gaming as well. I’m missing out on potential conversation with Suzie because I don’t know everything about her. Or maybe one of my gamer friends is interested in starting a blog – they’d be potential fans of mine if only I hadn’t excluded them from my blog-related updates.

With this system, I’d also like to see invite-only circles, which would kind of work the way hidden groups work on Facebook. They’d be for small groups of people who have specific reasons for talking to one another that don’t need to be public. Essentially, it would be a public circle, but one where you invite people to join (and they can say yes or no). For example, my local friends could all be in an invite-only circle so we could make dinner plans or the BlogWorld team could all be in an invite-only circle so we could speak about the event privately.

Again, my solutions might not be perfect, but I really do think that the circle system needs a little more thought. Right now, it is a good start, but I think one of the reasons I’m not completely loving Google+ yet is because it doesn’t offer me the level of control I really want…yet. It’s a step up from Facebook, to be sure, but I think it might still suck. At least a little, at least for right now.

Google Announces the Google+ Project


Google says that online sharing is “awkward” and even “broken” in a new blog post today and they aim to fix it. They announced the Google+ Project, which will make Google even better by “including you, your relationships, and your interests”.

Here’s a quick look at the Google+ Project.

The Google+ Project includes:

  • +Circles: share what matters, with the people who matter most
  • +Sparks: strike up a conversation, about pretty much anything
  • +Hangouts: stop by and say hello, face-to-face-to-face
  • +Mobile: share what’s around, right now, without any hassle
  • +You: putting you first, all across Google

Google +Circles really peaked my interest. Google found that people share selectively. What you share with your friends, you may not want to share with your family, which I couldn’t agree with more. The +Circles project allows you to share precisely with just the right people. Google says to “just make a circle, add your people, and share what’s new—just like any other day”.

For more in depth explanations and some entertaining videos, visit their blog post here. And of course, we would love to hear what you think about this new project!

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