I have been using Google+ (I hate that + symbol, I’ll just spell it Google Plus from now on – what’s the AP style on that, anyway?) for about two months now, since soon after it launched.
As background, I have to confess that I don’t use Facebook that much. Blog posts from the ICM weblog are autofed into my “Feed,” but beyond that, I’m not on there much. So I don’t necessarily have a large area of comparisons to make between FB and Google Plus. But I do follow Twitter closely when I’m near a computer or the iPad.
That said, I do like the way Google Plus lets you put people into Circles. I can see this being useful for a journalist once more people adopt the platform (assuming that they do). Also, for an educator, it can be a useful way to organize students into classes – intro to journalism, for instance – and then feed information only to those circles.
In this particular feature, Google Plus distances itself from Facebook. Maybe there’s a way to organize people into different “categories” on Facebook. I don’t know, and I really don’t care to take the time to find out. It’s pretty easy on Google Plus.
I’ve also used the Hangout feature twice, and found it useful. In one interview, I talked to people in two different places, so I could use the video feature and see everyone I was talking with. This is not a “new” feature, necessarily, as iChat has had the ability to videochat with more than one person for a while.
But it is seamlessly integrated with Google products (you do need to download a plug-in for it to work with your webcam). Others have used the Hangout feature for press conferences. I imagine there are people who have used it for meetings, as you can have up to 10 webcams in one “hangout.”
This could be useful for a journalism instructor to host a webchat with professionals around the world so that students could interact with several professionals from the local classroom.
For a student journalist, it could be a good way to conduct an interview with a subject who’s not easily accessible for an in-person interview (taking the place of the phone interview).
Another feature I’ve used is the integration with smart phones. I can take a photograph on my Android phone and it’s automatically uploaded to Google Plus (you can set this feature to automatically publish the photo, too). I can then go into Google Plus on the web and tweak the photo, add a cutline or other information, and then publish it to my stream. This would be more useful for journalistic purposes than in the classroom.
The main drawback for a more consistent use of Google Plus in the academy, in my opinion, is the lack of adoption.
It’s only been around two months, and although there are a lot of people I follow from Twitter already using it some, they are mostly early adopters.
And there are a number of people in my circles who joined and haven’t posted anything yet.
Certainly, this is going to be a huge obstacle for Google Plus to overcome. By comparison, Facebook started on high school and college campuses, and thus built a reliable core of users before everyone could join.
On the other hand, Twitter seems to have captured the market at the moment with regard to “breaking news” or instant updates. Until Google Plus begins to feed updates like Twitter, it won’t take over that space. But I’m not sure that’s the space Google wants to occupy.
Also, Google Plus still has a “beta product” feel to it. Early users have had complaints about the use of real names, and the lack of “corporate” accounts. I’m sure Google will iron out these issues, but in the meantime, it still seems somewhat “toy-like.”
Of course, all this could change in 6 months, or a year. I expect it will. And I think it would be wise to revisit this topic in the future.