I'm amazed at the number of tech blogs that have been writing off Google Plus. I myself wrote it off last year as destined to go the way of the ill-fated Buzz, but that was mostly because I wasn't on it since they weren't letting Apps users on yet and I'd been paying attention to the nay-sayers. Actually, it's not the ghost town some bloggers claim it is. I should know: I virtually live there.
Who uses it?
It's not dead, it's a nerd's paradise. When I first got into it I circled a few people, got nothing from it and got very bored with it very quickly. This appears to be the experience of some of the bloggers who have weighed in against it. The fact is, as Vic Gundotra put it, "You're doing it wrong" if you're not getting into lively conversations there. The trick is to circle active people. If you only circle people who rarely post, you're not going to have the stimulating conversations that keep me going back again and again.
The people who use it span the social and political spectrum but most of them appear to have some interest in tech matters. Many people use it to connect with other people while some users simply want to promote themselves and their interests.
How do you use it?
The beauty of Google Plus is that it's integrated with the other Google services, including YouTube. This is handy if you're linking a video. Web addresses, images and videos automatically link when you post the URL. If you want to get a conversation going, insert the URL of a blog post or news article into a status update. The URL will automatically link, bringing up an excerpt of the post or article. Then sit back and wait for the comments to flood in. Pretty images may attract shares and comments, funny ones usually do. Contentious images or blog posts will bring up a range of responses. Be prepared for creepy or aggressive people. I've had to uncircle a few for Fascist and creepy comments.
What's the difference between G+ and Facebook?
So how do you find all the interesting people?
Same way I did. I was looking for people to talk to about SOPA when it came out and stumbled across the Internet Freedom Movement. From there I met a range of interesting people, some of whom I circled just because they circled me. I've had to uncircle a few of them because I don't like right-wingers, particularly if they're extreme or misogynist. I can live with the more moderate ones, but scare me and you're out faster than a greyhound from the trap. If you want to control your stream when you've got a spammer, the trick is to create circles and either uncircle the spammer or put the spammer in a circle by himself. I did that to one chap who is very friendly but posts so much he often fills a page with funny pictures with Spanish captions. Since I only know English, but don't want to offend him, limiting him to a circle of his own while moving everyone else to a circle called "Mainstream" was the answer.
Is there any truth in the stories, then?
You have to remember that G+ is a new network. Uptake has been very fast but it's not Facebook and was never meant to be. The fact that it's a social network will inevitably bring up comparisons but G+ is what it is and I love it. Yeah, the figures are probably correct, but even if there were only a few thousand people on it, there are enough to create a stimulating atmosphere and I can talk tech without people's eyes glazing over. I save the light entertainment, etc., for Facebook, where I tend to be more personal. That's what it's for. G+ is for nerds and meeting new people.