A few days ago I not only received an invitation to Google Plus, but managed to actually get on. Invites are going out faster than Google is taking on new users, you see, so a lot of folks are waiting days before they can check it out. This might alienate some people, but the hardcore users and early adopters are finding the strength and patience to carry on somehow.
Yes, it’s got a lot of neat features, but what it boils down to is Facebook with better security and filters. I can tag updates to only go out to certain “circles”, so if I’m saying something about roleplaying games, only the people I have tagged as “roleplaying game people” can see it. If I want to post something more personal for only people tagged as family to see, I can tag it as “family”. When I want to discuss current events, I can restrict it to a circle that I know won’t erupt into a flame war. I can throw coworkers, judgmental relatives, and people I don’t particularly like but somehow need to stay connected to into one circle, and only post the safest, most vanilla updates that involve neither dungeons, Cthulhu, religion, or politics.
Sounds harsh, but that seems to be one of the uses many people are exited about. Wouldn’t it be nice to break your roleplaying circles into Pathfinder people, 4th edition people, Old School Revolution people, indie gamers, and so on, so that you can post a relatively innocuous comment without a new round of edition wars breaking out?
The concept of circles is neat, but to me it’s just tagging with some new nomenclature. I wish I could do this in Facebook, and that Facebook had better security and defaulted certain (okay, most) settings to opt-out rather than opt-in. I’m tired of learning that some new feature is leaking my information and only know to turn it off after the horse is already out of the barn. Google allegedly doesn’t do this (“don’t be evil!”), but for all their tech they’re still an advertising company at heart, and I know realistically that Google Plus is just another way for them to gather marketing data on us so they can better target their ads. Is my data really more secure in the hands of Google than it is in the hands of Facebook? Let’s pretend “different” handling of my personal information equates to “better”, and maintain that TSA-like security theater that allows us to sleep better at night.
I wish Twitter’s lists worked like circles, so I could filter my outgoing messages the same way. Someday, sooner than later I’m sure, they will. Every time someone gets a good idea, everyone else adapts it.Facebook will eventually have a circle-like feature, if for no other reason than to keep people from bailing to Google Plus. In the immediate future I only see people who truly have a use, or a perceived use, for circles and a concern for security theater bailing. Most folks, obviously, neither know nor care about Facebook’s security flaws and will remain there fat, dumb and happy. Well, and to play Farmville. They’ll only switch once a tipping point is reached, and more of their friends are on Google+ than Facebook. See also: the mass exodus from MySpace. Okay, that’s over-simplifying it, but you hopefully get my point.
Seriously, the only reason I’m still on both Twitter and Facebook is because while the majority of the people I’m trying to reach are on both, there are a lot of folks who have drawn a line and gone with one or the other. Now I’ve got a third social network to contend with in order to reach the people I want to. This is why I’m waiting for the Google Plus API. Currently I use Threadsy to post to Facebook and Twitter simultaneously, and when the Google Plus API is released it will handle that as well. What really needs to happen is for all social media to converge into one giant pool of API, so that any time I want to say something I can tag followers by interest across networks. Then when I have a circle of roleplaying gamers, it shoots my messages out to everyone tagged as such, whether they’re on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or the Next Big Thing.