Thursday, July 07, 2011

Obligatory Post Speculating on Google+

I love product launches. It's the perfect time to speculate with no inconvenient research or history to get in the way.

This goes for everything on this blog, but it's probably worth highlighting in this instance that these opinions are my own. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of Google, the Google+ team, or anyone else who works at Google.

My history of speculating on products tends to be bullish on Google and cynical of social. I thought Android and Wave were going to change the world, and that Twitter was a waste of time.

Twitter with conversations

Despite my initial reservations I'm a big user of Twitter, but I find that most of my interaction there is effectively anonymous - I'm either reading things by interesting people I don't know, or sharing things I think are interesting with people I've never met.

I've found that half my use of Google+ works similarly - by posting publicly and creating a "My Stream" circle full of interesting folks who I don't know personally.

Where I think Google+ adds value is with threaded conversations. By attaching the conversation that emerges from each post, anonymity is reduced and the process of sharing and reading are suddenly more social.

Facebook with sharing controls

I remember quite clearly the moment my use of Facebook went from regular to sporadic. My manager's passing comment on my most recent status update (something along the lines of "I'm so bored I'm considering setting myself on fire just to liven up my day") prompted this blog post.

I've always maintained a policy of only adding people I know and would recognize in person as Facebook friends. Nonetheless, when your extended family, school friends, and current / former work colleagues are all reading the same stream, and seeing the same pictures, the intersection of "appropriate material" rapidly tends towards zero.

Using circles to fragment my audience has been an elegant solution for me.

I've created the obvious circles like "friends", "family", and "Googlers" but I've found smaller adhoc circles particularly useful when socializing


In the paleolithic age we used email to arrange social events and share the photos afterwards, but it never really worked.

Facebook is a good alternative, but it requires adding people you don't necessarily know to your "friends" list.

Being able to create an adhoc circle (or just add individual people to a post) - makes it easy to work out the details for a 4th July BBQ - and then post the photos - all in one place.

I've not spent a lot of time with Huddles or Hangouts yet, but they seem a natural extension. I can see using Huddle instead of SMS to let folks know you're running late, to get parking advice, or confirm the orders for a lunch-run. I've used similar products (most notably Beluga and GroupMe) to coordinate amongst a large group at conferences or events like MWC or Google I/O.

Social photo sharing without wanting to punch your screen

Photos are probably the reason most folks joined Facebook to begin with. It's also the reason many people hate Facebook.

I'll happily rave about the Google+ photo experience which is awesome. It's easy to share photos with just a small group, or post your best amateur photography for the world to critique.

I don't want to be social at work

For all the good uses, let me highlight a couple that I don't see catching on.

I admit to having been a little skeptical of Google+ during the dogfooding stage. With 20/20 hindsight, I think a lot of that had to do with it being effectively a corporate social network. My email inbox is full enough as it is; I really don't need another stream to monitor in order to be involved in work conversations.

This is not a blog

You'll note that I haven't posted this directly on Google+.

I don't want to read your essay in my social stream, just give me an abstract and link to your blog. For added bonus points, make sure your blog links back to your Google+ profile.

In Conclusion

Twitter is entirely public and as a result my interactions there are regular but tend towards the impersonal. Facebook is limited to people I know so the interactions are more personal, but (increasingly) less frequent.

Google+  lets me choose which group of people I'm comfortable sharing something with to a degree that lets me have regular, personal conversations.

As many of you have no doubt noticed - that makes for an addictive combination.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

London 2005-2011 in Photographs

I really like the photo sharing and viewing experience in Google+ so I decided to sort through my massive collection of "London" photographs and share some of my favorites.

Selecting and preparing photos to share has a way of focussing your attention and allowing you to really look at them critically. As I sifted through the thousands of photographs I'd taken in London it quickly became obvious that I've got some work to do before I'm competing with Romain Guy.

It was also clear that I had a couple of preferred sources of inspiration.

The Seasons

Grey skies and light rain don't make for great photos and an overcast Winter that starts in October and ends around April does little to provide inspiration.

London is blessed with real seasons though, and Autumn and Spring (however brief) are an entirely different matter. They offer some of the most amazing light and color for taking photos. And when it snows? London transforms briefly into a winter wonderland.

By 10am the skies cloud over and the snow turns to mush, so to take advantage you need to be out there at dawn. I worked in banking, so that was never a problem.

Each of the following thumbnails links to a gallery of my pictures of London in Winter, Spring, and Autumn respectively.

The Sights

London has some of the most easily recognized landmarks in the world. Because of the seemingly perpetually grey and overcast skies, lots of tourist snaps come out flat and dull. To get around that I've taken most of them at night or very early in the morning.