Thoughts on Google+

Having been playing with Google+ for a while, I’m starting to get to grips with things. I’m seeing it as a place to talk geeky stuff, where I won’t bore the large group of people I am friends with on Facebook who aren’t obsessed by the internet. Twitter remains my default place to share stuff online though. A few things have occurred to me that would improve the service:

1. Let me sort out my Google identity crisis

A few others have made this point – most consistently, Dan Harrison – but those of us that use Google to host our email using our own domains (ie my dave@kindofdigital.com email address is set up using Google services, and thus is a ‘Google Account’ in its own right) can be in a bit of a pickle.

Luckily I’m not the position that Paul Clarke found himself in, as I’ve always used a vanilla Gmail account for most of my interactions with Google. But it would be nice that those of us who are actually paying for the Google service get as full an experience as those using free accounts.

2. Find a way of making circles quicker

It’s got some lovely little visual tricks, but the circles interface just takes too long to organise. It’s also something that you can only get right after having used the service for a while – ie once you’ve already got hundreds of people in your circles and it’s too much of a pain to fix.

In other words, circles has got the technology pretty right, but the process isn’t great and Google needs to find a way of speeding it up.

3. Make better use of my other streams: email, docs, Reader

It strikes me that Google has a bunch of my other content and information that it could be making use of within the Google+ interface. After all, through Reader it knows what my favourite websites are, and which I pay most attention to. With Docs it knows who I probably work with, because I share documents with them.

It would be great if G+ became my Google service dashboard, where I can access all my own Google-stored data but also all the stuff shared by the people I know.

4. There is a distinction between +1ing something and sharing it, but it isn’t that pronounced

I guess the comparison to Twitter is that +1ing an item is like marking it as a favourite; and sharing is like retweeting. But Twitter is a very different beast to G+ and I’m often left wondering whether I should share, or +1 a bit of content. In the end, I usually don’t bother to do either.

5. Why on earth hasn’t Google killed off Buzz? It’s another potential confusion

Not much more to be said. Buzz was Google’s previous effort at doing something like Twitter… and not only have they not killed it off, they even include a user’s Buzz updates as a tab in their Google+ profiles. I don’t know why this is there as it appears to be a confusing duplication of effort and features.

Maybe all I want is FriendFeed?

Whilst I was thinking about all this, it made me wonder whether the grand sharing tool I seem to want Google+ to be might in fact exist, in the form of FriendFeed, the forgotten social sharing site bought by Facebook a few years ago.

I went and took a look, and lo! FriendFeed still seems to be running, albeit without much love. Here’s mine.

If you’re new to the site, it enables you to pull all your social content into one place (tweets, bookmarks, blogposts, Facebook statuses, shared Google Reader items, etc etc) and subscribe to other people’s feeds.

One downside to this is a bit of duplication (ie, if I post something on my blog, and then tweet a link to it, it’ll appear twice in my FriendFeed) – but that’s easy enough to overlook.

So I do wonder if, for Google+ to have something that sets it apart, looking back to FriendFeed might be a good idea.

Some interesting reading

Some dead interesting stuff popped up when I logged in this morning – all worth giving a read:

Facebook buys FriendFeed

Lots of people seem to be quite upset about this one. Friendfeed is still a pretty niche service, even by the standards of the social web, so this isn’t that seismic a change. The interesting thing about FriendFeed is that it was founded and developed by a really skilled team of ex-Googlers and it is probably those guys’ brains that Facebook are after.

Read more…

Google makes new search engine available

Google have responded to the threat of a revitalised Microsoft web search (in the form of the ludicrously named Bing) by starting to re-engineer their core search product. You can test it out on the sandbox site – I found it noticeably quicker and the results are different.

Read more…

IE team ‘defends’ IE6

There have been a whole bunch of memes on the web around the fact that Internet Explorer 6 sucks and that people should replace it. This was reflected in the UKGovWeb scene with Tom Watson’s parliamentary questions asking when government departments would be upgrading from this ancient bit of tech.

Microsoft’s IE team have responded to this chatter on their blog, not necessarily defending IE6 as a product (they would prefer people to upgrade, too) but explaining the reasons why big organisations – and indeed individuals – might be happy sticking with what they know.

Read more…

Barcamping today

This morning, over 130 people interested in the way government uses the web will be descending on London to, well, have a bit of a natter.

There has already been plenty of chat on the event social network, and hopefully this will mean we can really hit the ground running with all the sessions people have been planning and discussing.

Big thanks go out to those who are supporting the event, such as DIUS, who are providing some lunch; Mitch at PolyWonk for funding the post-camp drinks, and Huddle who are providing drinks and snacks during the day.

Big props too to Jeremy, Steph, John, Jenny and others for their role in getting this thing going. For Jeremy, this will be his last hurrah before moving to Ireland and I’m sure we’ll all be able to send him off in style.

For those wanting to follow the event, Steph has created a Friendfeed room, and I have cobbled together an Addictomatic page. Whatever works for you, guys.

FriendFeed fun

I have been playing with FriendFeed today. It’s an interesting service that I first wrote about back in February, but haven’t paid a massive amount of attention to since. For those not in the know, FriendFeed is a service that performs three main functions:

  1. It allows you to aggregate the content you put online using different services into one place, such as your blog posts, flickr photos, YouTube videos, delicious bookmarks, Google Reader shared items, etc etc
  2. It allows you to subscribe to your contacts’ friendfeeds too, and presents all of their items, along with yours into a single timeline, so you can follow what people are up to
  3. It allows you to comment on items in people’s feeds, as well as marking whether you like them or not. So it becomes another place where conversations might happen, though with Twitter Friendfeed will add your comments to that service too.

This last point is one which would bother me a little, I guess, because I would prefer it that comments about what I do (mainly on this blog) all appear in one place. Perhaps I am already being overtaken by how distributed conversations can now become, who knows. But at the moment, other than a few very high profile folk, not that many people appear to be spending a lot of time in FriendFeed.

I’m starting to see some of the value, especially now I have reduced the number of people I follow. This is not like twitter, with short messages, people can have loads of different things reported into their FriendFeed and the noise can be deafening. Better to keep FriendFeed as the place you track your most preferred sources of stuff, I reckon. If you would like to follow me, I am at http://friendfeed.com/davebriggs.

One other bit of functionality of FriendFeed, though, is rooms. These are separate pages on the site which allow groups of people to recommend content to each other, whether in the form of short messages or posted links, photos, videos, blog posts etc etc. It seems like a cool, easy way of sharing and discussing online resources. I have started a room for government webby stuff at http://friendfeed.com/rooms/govweb – do join in and let’s see how useful it actually is!

Google Reader

Google Reader

Am using Google Reader at the moment as the new version of NetNewsWire, which I foolishly downloaded, seems to have problems doing anything.

There’s a number of new features that I need to investigate that weren’t around when I last used the service, like notes on shared items and friends lists. I tend to share the stuff I think worthy of comment via del.icio.us, which posts directly to this blog once a day, but in case I start sharing bits, the URL is http://www.google.com/reader/shared/08096379081421145011. As soon as I have shared something, I will stick it up on my FriendFeed too.

A pandemonium of fragments

Gordon Burn, in Born Yesterday, writing about the erstwhile Eastenders actress Susan Tully:

A colleague had logged her onto YouTube for the first time that very afternoon, and the fact that just tapping the words ‘Michelle Fowler’ into the thing could back so many moment of the past crowding back – a pandemonium of fragments (an aggregation of fragments is the only kind of whole we have now)…

Isn’t this exactly what services like Friendfeed leave us with – just an aggregation of fragments? And how well does this represent us – are we more than the sum of our parts?

FriendFeeding

FriendFeed is an interesting service, which I was alerted to by Neville Hobson.

It enables you to create a ‘lifestream’ – a list of all your interactions with various social networking sites. It create a narrative list of, for example, tweets, blog posts, flickr postings, youtube videos, del.icio.us links etc etc.

As an example, here’s mine (please be my friend).

You can also choose to subscribe to other people’s feeds, which is presented on the friendfeed homepage in a Twitter stylee, or you can click to view the entire FriendFeed universe in a river of news type affair.

FriendFeed is useful, there’s no denying that. The splitting of our online personalities is well due for a reassembling, and FriendFeed makes a pretty good stab at doing that with an interesting social element to it as well. I do wonder how much services like this, and Twitter, are drawing us away from our RSS readers and back to using actual websites on a regular basis. I find myself less reliant on RSS, getting the key ‘must read’ updates through other means these days. Not that I am reporting the death of the aggregator, of course, merely that it’s slightly less dominant these days, for me at least.

I also think there might be some really useful applications of this, especially if it becomes possible to extract stuff from the public timeline along the lines of subject matter, maybe through tagging or just identifying keywords, rather than just by identity as it is done now.

Oh, and Scoble‘s in now. So it’s going to be huge.