Do you know anyone who uses Google+? I have used it periodically, but not frequently enough to have it replace Twitter as my main social engagement service. Besides me, I think quite a few people use it. Sure, it’s become the fastest growing social network, but in the pursuit to get members to sign on and actively use it, one of the things that seems to be missing are a few great features that would certainly make it more useful to the masses. Of course, one would imagine that these features are forthcoming, but it doesn’t hurt to list out some key things that would help, right?
Before we begin, let me say that while Google’s social network has become rather polarizing (let’s face it, you either love it or you hate it), I think that there’s definitely room for improvement. After all, no one has ever produced a product that hasn’t needed to scale or be updated. Of course some of these things may be in the Google pipeline, but I wanted to express my thoughts here and get them out for the record.
1. Better integration with other services
One of the things that I hate about producing content is sharing it multiple times across several different locations. Granted, Google+ came out of the gates as a brand-spanking new social network, but what I’d like to do is be able to share specific tweets or posts between networks that I constantly use. Sure, the one thing that is a no-no is having companies say internally that they won’t want to have anything to do with their competitors, and that’s a fine statement, but what the consumer wants is a way to tie Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, PicPlz, SoundCloud and Foursquare in with Google+. In fact, it would be great to have photos that I take using my mobile device, I would surely like to push the photos there into a special album. And yes, I know that the Google+ mobile app will allow you to upload photos to your account, but what about with the other guys like PicPlz, Hipster, Instagram, Camera+, etc.? The point here is that I’d surely like some more tie-in so that it would streamline the effort that people would need to do in order to help maximize reach.
2. Enhanced way of filtering Circles
As with most efforts, the more you post interesting content, the more people who want to follow you will be. As of this writing, my Google+ community consists of over 13,000 people. In addition to that, I probably have a few hundred folks that I’ve added into Circles and eventually I’d like to utilize filters a bit more to organize the people that I follow. Unlike Twitter, I think there’s more value and personalization in me adding folks to specific Circles. Facebook filtering is a bit unnecessary for me, especially since we’re only allowed to have 5,000 friends on Facebook without resorting to a fan page. And I would imagine that most people would want to have Facebook be more personal and closed off instead of a content faucet. So that leaves us with Google+ and their Circles.
A while ago, I found myself going through the enormous number of people who have added me to their Circle. Which one I was added to is irrelevant for me, but what I would like to do is an easier way for me to filter through the unorganized individuals. Surely there can be a more helpful way for me to know why I’d want to add them to a specific Circle. Wouldn’t Google have the necessary algorithm in their search engine to tell me why I should add them and who we both might know? I suppose I’m asking for a very individualistic Suggested User List (SUL) that could tell me what to do with this individual. Are they fellow photographers? Do they have their own startup? Are they a venture capitalist/investor? Are they a celebrity? These are things that would help me better organize people. And yes, we all have our own “cliques”, so it’s no surprise that a bit more granular control would help to make sure that the right people are in the right circle.
But then again, could I be considered an edge case here? I suppose Google+ might not have wanted to apply this feature, if they were considering it at all, because who would realistically have 13,000 people following them? Would the normal average person?
3. Enhanced threaded control
One of the things that I felt was good about FriendFeed (wait, did I say that?) and that Google+ “seemed” to carry over was the threaded conversations. It allowed for much more controlled conversations and that’s probably a good strength that Google+ has over Twitter when it comes to this feature. After all, imagine that you’re in a crowded area (say a concert), and you start to talk about the band playing. Well how would you realistically keep track of the entire conversation when thousands of people crammed into a arena are having several hundred different discussions. That’s kind of what you see with Twitter. And yes, you could have hashtags to do it, but let’s face it…Google+ seems to have better handling.
So a few past instances took place where I thought about creating a discussion/live-blog on Google+. Unfortunately as soon as I started, I found it a bit limiting…and there are a few reasons why and that’s what leaves me with this third feature I’d like to see. First of all, as messier as this might make the system, it would be nice to have some sort of format control that people could have that would control bolding, underlining, ordered and numerical listing, etc. Why? Because a bit more style helps convey information in such a more meaningful manner. Now, yes, I KNOW it’s a social network and not a term paper, but it would help make things easier to read, wouldn’t it?
But back to my live-blogging experiments. During the most recent TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco and when President Obama had his town hall in Silicon Valley, I tried out Google+ and wanted to share my thoughts in near real-time. Aside from the fact I was “live-blogging” during work time, what I felt was a bit constrained in not being able to embed multiple links into my original post nor able to add new photos or media to supporting comments. If I wanted to make a conversation something more meaningful besides for posterity, it would be good to have it be more archival and conversational. Comment fields should allow people to share thoughts, questions, and media related to the original thread.
4. More mobile photos to be uploaded per album
Maybe this is a bit of a stretch because you technically can have more than eight photos in a photo album on Google+, but that’s only if you upload it from the web interface, NOT from the mobile app at a given time. I suppose it’s because of a bandwidth issue or maybe because they never would have expected people to do it? But if people start using Google+ more than Facebook, they’re going to want to upload their vacation photos, event and conference photos and all around other things en masse. Sure Google+ has Picasa, but with more people practically living off of their mobile device and the camera on phones being touted as the most used phone (surpassing the point & shoot and SLR cameras), it would be nice for the system to be able to scale and handle these massive (in number) photos.
5. Google Dashboard integration
When it’s all said and done, what do we have from Google+? Another place for us to log into and have as an extra window open on our computer? With Google having so many features and even revamping some of their old, but good ones like Google Reader, it would be really great to also do a bit of a home remodeling on the ol’ favorite, Google dashboard. In fact, with lots of businesses rolling out their emails using GMail, communicating using Google Talk, uploading videos using YouTube, sharing files using Google Docs, scheduling with Google Calendar, and tracking web traffic with Google Analytics, wouldn’t the icing on the proverbial cake to tie it all together be Google+? I’d like to see a new Dashboard formed so that all my GMail accounts are tied into this central location along with Google+, YouTube, Google Docs, and a whole slew of their products and viewed in a very interactive, integrated, and design-friendly service. Consolidation is good here…because we all hate having too many windows and tabs open on our computer…it just makes things more difficult to find. Convenience will help people find information and may make people more prone to using the services more.