Sunday, 17 July 2011

All Change and Google+

Well things are certainly looking different around the Blogger Dashboard again, mind you all of Google is getting a bit of a overhaul. Although I have to admit in some cases it is not welcome as it is very white and with someone like me who has Dyslexia and finds black text on a white screen tends to jump about a bit. The new Google grey text on brilliant white is certainly something that needs getting used to. I am sure there are programs on my laptop and things I can do to overcome this, I just hope Google implements a small customising feature in the future that will allow either customs backgrounds to their services or the ability to change the background colour.

I did find this with one service the Google Calendar, which was far too white in the new layout for me, so I switched back to the old one and used a custom image in the background of the main time/date area. (A green tinted photo of Rangitoto.)

Anyway I am aware that all these changes in a service that I use most often on the web are in part to do with the launch of Goolge+. Something that I have been using for about a week or so now, although it still confuses me, as even though it is similar to Facebook and Twitter there feels there is a lot more to learn. Yet I am liking it and I am liking the fact that what you share and who you share it with has been put back in the user's control and made a darn sight more clear that Facebook ever was. (A service that I didn't want to join in the first place but am now forced to keep due to work.) So I am very happy to be using an alternative and it has been nice to see a lot of people I am friends with switch over to Google+. (Despite it's early days!)

I do wonder though when full integration with other Google services will appear, as the one thing I have noticed is the annoying lack of integration with Buzz and Reader. Unless Google+ is to replace one or both of these. As at present I have my Twitter account post automatically to Buzz, as does anything I Share in Reader and I believe anything I post to this blog. However it is not appearing on my Google+ Stream, which is annoying but then it would be difficult to limit posts from these services into the different Circles that have been set up in Google+. A lot of coding and kinks to sort out, in the mean time Ctrl C and Ctrl V are very repeated actions when wanting to Share anything to my Stream. Not that I have done that often as I have to admit I am not sure what to use Google+ for yet. Most others in my Stream are using to share things they find on the web or photo's of events they have gone to or their own blog posts. Very few appear to be using the Stream the same way the Facebook Feed or Twitter Timeline is being used. This may just be down to the small section of people I am following on Google+ but I even find myself questioning what I should post.

For example a quick post like: 'Just been doing a mountain of housework today, now time to settle down and get on with Uni work.' Would normally appear on Facebook or Twitter, as it is a little detail about my day. My reason for sharing it: not only is it possible to do so but also from my point of view for the benefit of friends far away. I say this not to sound egotistical, but because I like to see what my friends far way are doing by what they post, even if it is small as it feels that there is still a connection there in some form.

Although in saying that I think this is more necessarily out of convenience than preference, as in the past when I moved away or a friend moved away the best way to keep in contact was to write a letter and then post it. You would get a large update on what had been going on in their life and visa versa a long time after any of it actually happened. Now with the technology we have available it is more immediate and therefore a smaller more mundane update. I would still prefer to actually talk to and hang out with friends in person, but when you are scattered the technology becomes more important and small details about someone's day can at least make you feel more involved in their life despite your physical absence from it. But that may just be me and realising that most of my really good friends now live a fair way away due to my leaving for Uni.

Anyway that was a little off topic social commentary there, what I am still not sure about is what to use Google+ for. The one thing I am eager to try out soon though is the video chat in Hangouts as I have friends and family that live far away so it's the next best thing. However we are talking about family that run Linux machines, me with a Windows laptop and my friends with Mac Books, one in Vietnam. Trying to find a chat service that will work for all and in all countries seems to be a bit of a challenge. We have been using Skype for a long time now, but it seems to be getting more unreliable recently, and now Microsoft has bought it I fear it's free future on Linux and Mac. They are already charging for the use of Group Chat from what I can understand and this is a problem for when me and my former flat mates try to chat together as we tend to catch up all at once seeing as one of them is in Vietnam and dealing with timezones! :)

So I sent Invites to Google+ as soon as I could once I had joined with a note saying that this maybe a better way to chat to each other if Skype is playing up or going to start costing. However the test will have to wait as my friend all the way in Vietnam is having problems with her Mac Book and it now using a very old Acer machine that doesn't like being used. Hopefully when she gets her Mac fixed we can test Google+ to see if it can provide that functionality that we would like to have from it.

In the meantime though I am still unsure of what to use the actual Stream for...but then that's the point it can be for whatever you want to whoever you want. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and Linked In which all seem to have a precedent for what is shared on there be it from the services themselves or the collection of people on there. Google+ is that brand new thing that is what you make of it, not what it expects of you.