Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Google+ 1st Post

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 15:06 -- rprice

I heard about Google+ about from a million places when I checked in to the world this morning, and as I write this Leo, Jeff and Gina (or is it Leo Jeff and Gina now?) are chatting about it and discovering new things about it on TWIG.

Google What?

Really curious about some of the features? See the official Google announcement page or read the article in Search Engine Land

One thing I don't understand is why Google is releasing this as a suite of products... from the company that is so famous for launching things in "beta", why not just roll out one feature at a time?

Clearly, the Profiles, Plus One feature (and Buzz?) were part of the rollout of this product, but today they introduced so many new features and new paradigms that I don't see this as a staged rollout anymore.

Did they feel it wasn't compelling enough to simply have posts that could be shared with a select group of people, or to have a Google branded group messaging service (several of which launched in the past few years at SXSW) that was only available on Android phones?

Clearly, one of the great launches today is the Hangouts - group video chat - for up to 10 people, for free. While there are a lot of group video solutions, many of them cost money - making the product free is a great way to get people to try it, and use it whenever it is needed.

(for those of you reading on facebook, there is a video here)

This was something I asked for on the Our Yellow House podcast - a Chat Roulette about a particular topic. For example: there is a group here in Orlando that has a TED meetup once a month. They watch a video from TED, then proceed to have a 45 minute discussion inspired by that video. What if you don't live in a big city, where it is a bit easier to get together in person? You still want to participate in the conversation, but you can't get a group together. Now you just need to start a Hangout and get a discussion going.

I can already see a great application here for the Drupal Dojo - a weekly virtual meetup group that shares knowledge about Drupal.

Having an IRC chat with sound and video is going to be huge for collaborative groups.

In my job, I have at least one phone call every week that can last as many as 5 hours... right now, we open up Skype and get online, then start working. Through the open audio channel, we don't necessarily have to be "on the phone" the whole time, but when we have a question for the other person (who is sitting 2,000 miles away), there is a zero connect time. Skype has video capabilities, but if your call has more than one person on it, you can't use video anymore. A really important part of my job is seeing what the other person is seeing, and the solutions to make that work tend to cost money - anywhere from $15 to $50 to hundreds of dollars a month. This is free.

There were some interesting social conventions brought up in the TWIG episode - like do you announce yourself when you enter or leave a Hangout? Apparently when someone says something dirty you can do a "hand check", and I'm sure other conventions will pop up, a la hashtags, @ signs and other hacks introduced on Twitter.

A few more anecdotes:

  • When we first started doing Likemind in Orlando, I would sometimes have a hard time waking up and making it down to the coffee shop, and I had to walk, so instead of missing 20 minutes of the meetup, I just had John RIfe open up Skype from the event and have me join via telepresence. This again, is great for that.
  • There is a Drupal meetup in Broward County sets themselves up with a Skype channel while they are holding the Broward Drupal meeting to let other people join in if they choose. Traffic in South Florida is notoriously bad, despite the fact that most areas of the metro are not physically far apart, it takes a long time to get across town, so this is a good choice for locals or anyone else around the world who wants to join in.

Back to my rant about rolling out too many new features all at once...

If the Googlers are such experienced engineers, then why don't they just show us one tool at a time, UNIX command-line style? It feels a bit UNIX-y to have these different tools and let each of them be used one at a time, but why show us so many all at once? There are a lot of new vocabulary words here (something that I know is confusing from the Drupal community - Node, Taxonomy, Entity, Field, Views, Panels, Pages, Context, etc have been hard for some to keep straight), and there are obvious ways to combine the tools here - phrases, as it were - I'm sure new ones will emerge eventually.

Still, I wonder if it will be too confusing to "the masses" - the people they will clearly want to be stealing from Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft. We all saw Wave go crashing down because of the numerous new concepts and difficulty of understanding how to use them all and make it work. Also, Wave was a little too much of a walled garden to be useful right away. At least with Google+ it seems like making things public isn't too hard.

I could go on, but without an invite and some more experience, that's about what I'm thinking for now.

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