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Google Plus? Or Minus?

Google+ (G+) is Google’s entry into the social media space. It has enjoyed a remarkable growth rate, achieving 25 million users within a few months of its launch. This session was entirely prepared and presented using G+; one speaker even attended and participated remotely. Nevertheless, G+ is not the answer to all your social needs; if you have a large network of friends on Facebook, you probably don’t want to move to G+ and start your network over again.

Google+ Panel: (L-R) J. Shore, Julie Strange, Joel Shields

J. Shore, MEDLINE Systems Librarian, said that if you have a GMail account, you have a G+ account (look at the upper left of the black bar). G+ is a social media site incorporated into the family of Google products. Companies can have a G+ page. G+ operates with circles, which are organized into two groups: those in your circles and those that have you in theirs. Everybody can see who you are following as a default. You can put people into various circles and control your audience.

Julie Strange reviewed what you can do with G+. However, she noted that if you have an active community on Facebook, you may want to stay with it. Don’t use technology just for itself. G+ is just another tool to push things to your community. Content + Community = Libraries.

Circles let you tailor what streams you look at and control what you are pushing out. You can tailor content to a specific audience (circles can be based on almost anything: geo location, parents of school age kids, members of a team, specific interest, book discussions, attendance at a certain program or event, etc.). Here are some library applications:

You can create circles for internal teams or people you are interested in bringing in to the library. Once you have created a circle, you can share it with others (curated groups in a community).  They are a way of connecting people more easily.

Think outside the circle. You can create an account for a character in a book, or a theme to facilitate discussions around it. You can use G+ solely for your private network, as a travel journal, or as your blogging platform. It is fast, easy, formattable, and shareable.

Let your community recommend you. Find people or resources you trust. You can recommend individual pieces of your brand. By disabling comments on a circle, recommendations can be used to conduct polls.  Or if you have a  private group, you can disable sharing of entire posts.

Patricia Anderson, who participated in the session virtually, said that hangouts, a unique feature of G+, are a bold new feature that cannot be ignored. They are a killer app. Hangouts are a video conferencing system with up to 10 simultaneous participants. One can share windows, videos, Google Docs, or screens. Hangouts are Very powerful for team meetings and work planning sessions. They are different than Skype because people can join or leave them at will, which leads to a constantly changing and serendipitous environment.

Hangouts can be used for telecommuting types of work. Job interviews are being done using them because they are richer than a phone interview but lots cheaper than bringing people in physically. Another application is outreach to homebound people. People are teaching courses on cooking, running help desks, troubleshooting, scavenger hunts, science fairs, etc., etc.

Joel Shelds wound up the session and addressed a common concern:  privacy. Google’s new privacy policy states that they will share information from any of their services to any other one.  Big Brother is watching you, and it’s Google!

Search results on Google will now show hits from G+. Don’t think of G+as a social network; it is actually a community network. G+ is now tagging information from Android phones and updates it on your G+ account.

On G+, there are no APIs; everything is being generated by humans.  Nothing is private on the Internet!  But don’t take this personally; Google does not care about you.  They only care about the information you are putting out, your search patterns, your travel patterns, etc. and how it can be used to increase their revenues.  Unfortunately, the only way you can be completely private is to unplug your computer!  Google has issued a “transparency report” that describes some of the ways they are making the flow of information through their system transparent.



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