I’ve been giving Google+ a try over the past few weeks. It’s the latest big thing Google has released in response to just how much social networking is becoming the center of our web experience. If there’s anything Google want to be the leaders in, it’s the social space. Nobody likes to be second to Facebook. Especially when it comes to the possibilities of advertising revenue and being the center of your web browsing experience. The days where people logged onto the net and went straight to Google are quickly being replaced by people going straight to Facebook instead.

I’m pretty close to what you’d define as a Google fan boy. I did a whole assignment on them for Business Studies in high school and think they’re pretty amazing. Seeing one of their offices has a slide and firemans pole… pretty much sold me. At the same time, I’ve been pretty sceptical of some of their products. When Chrome came out at first, I didn’t really see the appeal and stuck with Firefox. Now I’ve seen how fast and clean Chrome is, it’s been hard to resist using it as my main browser. I did love Gmail the first time I tried it though. Never looked back.

When I first heard of Google+ and what it was, I had serious doubts it would get far. They’d already tried Google Buzz and to be honest… Facebook and Twitter are hard to take out of the captain’s chair. It’ll take a bit of a strong mutiny. Google need to really shake up the crew.

My artist's representation of what I see in my mind.

After using it for a few days, here are my thoughts. Overall, I’m really impressed and see a LOT of potential here. Is it love? Not yet. Maybe a small crush.

You’re able to edit posts you make
Really simple… but so useful. There’ve been so many times i’ve posted something on facebook or twitter and wanted to update it. Deleting it and redoing it is a massive pain.

Posting to one person in particular… bit weird
Posting a message to someone in particular is a bit weird… you post an update like you would to everyone but set it only to be visible to them. Hard to ensure they see it if they have lots of contacts? I worry that with a lot of contacts and messages in someone’s stream, if Google doesn’t have a special way to arrange these my messages will go unnoticed. It’s also hard to tell that they’re just for you and not the whole world.

Notifications in the top bar
These are brilliant. If someone follows me, or responds to something I’ve posted in Google+, I can respond in Gmail (or other Google sites) without needing to go to Google+ itself. I just click the notification and it brings up a popup where I can respond to a message or add someone as a friend. As an active Gmail user… this is one of my favourite features of Google+.

Nice combination of Facebook and Twitter
Google+ does seem to be a really well thought out combination of Facebook and Twitter. Following updates from celebrities, news sources and people who are in areas you are interested in has been really common on Twitter. Ever heard the saying that Twitter is the place you follow people you wish were your friends? To some respect it’s true! Google+ is set up so that you can have different circles of people you follow. As soon as you follow them, you see any public posts they make. Just like Twitter. At the same time, I can also have private discussions with friends and share photos with them like I would on Facebook.

Great emerging artist and photographer culture
Sharing artwork (e.g. sketches, photography, comics) on Google+ works really well. When you upload an image to Facebook, they appear in your friend’s feed but they appear as small thumbnails. On Twitter, you can’t see thumbnails at all and the process is a little bit more complicated, requiring third party services. On Google+, images you upload appear as a nicely scaled version in the stream. It even sets up a mini-gallery if you’ve uploaded multiple photos. Artists are already starting to try this out, I’ve even seen it used to upload a whole web comic.

Combine this improved functionality and usability with the fact that anyone can follow you and interact with your posts. Now you’ve got an open service to share your artwork and get feedback. People can follow you and see your latest stuff right in their stream. I’ve personally set up a circle for photographers and another for artists (which i’m using for cartoonists and sketchers). I see their new work in my stream, similar to having followed their blog’s RSS feed but more interactive.

Less cumbersome than Facebook to maintain
Having notifications appear in the notification bar in my Gmail account, responding to messages within the notification popup and being able to add friends into groups within a few clicks makes the service already a lot easier to use across the day than Facebook. It doesn’t really interrupt as much. I don’t get emails telling me someone wants to add me or say something and then have to visit a separate site to post or respond. It just seems a lot cleaner with its integration with Google and Gmail.

Low internet connection is a little unresponsive
While on a 3G net connection Google+ was a little unresponsive. It still worked, just took a bit longer with no real loading bar to say whether it heard me yelling “I want to add someone to a new circle dammit!” within the depths of my mind.

Reposting is getting messy
When people repost something which someone else posted on Google+ (say they really liked a photo a photographer uploaded), if you also follow the person who posted it originally then you see it twice in your feed. Kinda messy. Not to mention if people comment on individual images in a gallery, it pushes those images up higher in the stream. For photographers who’ve posted a lot of images in one gallery, it can look like the photographer is spamming Google+ with all their images… when really people are just commenting on them! Hopefully Google cleans up the feed organisation pretty soon…

Overall?
Overall, I’m liking Google+. It’s the first time in a while where a service has actually made me use Facebook less. I’ve really stopped visiting it much. When I’m bored these days, I’m actually going to Google+. I’m really looking forward to where it develops in the future!

Oh… if you want an invite, I’ve got more to give now 🙂

There has been a reason I haven’t been posting much on both my regular blog and my music blog over the past year! It’s not just laziness! I’ve been spending quite a bit of time experimenting and working on my new site redesign.

Finally it’s live for all to see.

The overall idea was to redesign my website to be able to include all the other sorts of things I create. At the moment it’s mostly photography but I’ve thrown in some poems as well. Soon I’ll add in some of the photoshopping that I’ve done from my FreakingNews days, might do some new photoshop work too. I might add some of my drawings too. I’ll also be doing more experiments with HTML5/jQuery/Canvas… etc, so they’ll come up here. If I start doing more short films or podcasts, I’ll be able to put them up here too. I’m hoping to work on a few more freelance websites, so I’ll have a bit more there as well. Overall, lots to come!

Hope you like the new site design. It’s my first time creating a more complicated website with different content types using WordPress 3. Fun experience! Let me know your thoughts, it’s probably got a few bugs here and there. I hope to improve it a bit over time and hopefully make it a bit faster too.

*Disappears into bed to sleep and recover from this whole process*