Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Going Slow with Google+

By Dennis D. McDonald

I’ve been researching Google+. I’m looking forward to trying it. I haven’t been begging for an invite, though. The reason has nothing to do with reluctance or disinterest.

What has me most intrigued has to do with the Google+ “Circles” feature which looks to make it easy to create and manage different — and potentially overlapping — groups of connections.

As is the case with most people, I interact at varying levels of frequency and intensity with a wide range of online and offline groups of varying social and professional relevance. The difficulty of representing this complexity online is one of the reasons for my go-it-slow attitude about Google+.

I think social networking systems have been a bit oversold in the past because of the cumbersome and imperfect way they have supported creating and maintaining groups. This is one of the things that led me to dropping my use of Facebook a couple of months ago. I realized that the family, friends, and colleagues I was most interested in interacting with might be on Facebook but were not necessarily using it for the types of communication I was interested in pursuing.

Just figuring out who had access to what Facebook information had become a chore and was not helped along by my suspicion that Facebook had ceased to be a real networking tool and had become instead a general purpose broadcasting and selling system for special interests eager to access personal information about their target markets.

My Facebook experience is one of the reasons why I want to take my time with learning to use Google+ once its kinks have been ironed out. I want to think seriously how I want to use it to help communicate and collaborate with different groups.

Right now, for example, I maintain both professional and personal websites that I use as integral parts of my communication with various groups via a variety of communication channels that are heavily email reliant.

Whether Google+ will allow me to reduce my use of email, I don’t know. Given that I now use Gmail as a hub site for my various email services, I am curious how Google+ will be integrated with Gmail. That by itself could make or break its success with me, I think. I am mightily impressed with the performance of Gmail’s spam filters and hope that similar effective filtering will be part of Google+ so that I am not deluged with messages whenever I chat about a target topic online. I’ll tolerate online ads that reflect my interst, but I’ll draw the line at increased spam.

I’m also intersted in how Google+ services integrate with Google Search. I am continually amazed by the power and sophistication of Google searching. While I admit to frustration by those that game the Google search algorithms to promote low quality sites, I’m not convinced that direct or indirect “curation” of search through some integration with my groups’ behaviors is necessarily going to help. For example, I frequently search for unusual, specific, or technical topics and have my doubts whether the behavior of some of my connections would — or should — have any impact on my search results.

Another question I’m wondering about concerns the interaction of Google+ services with “enterprise” types of collaboration services. Earlier this year I established and managed a small SharePoint site for a client project. I really had to struggle not only with the different levels of privileges that could be assigned to different site users but also the ways that “internal” and “external” users were treated differently when manual or automated email announcements about site activities were generated. I’m sure a more knowledgeable SharePoint user could have solved the problem, but I was frustrated.

I ran into a similar set of concerns on another recent project where SharePoint was being used as a tool by different departments and groups of a large international financial organization. Several sites that included both subsites and multiple permission levels were perceived as being unwieldy and difficult to manage, even though a logical justification for varying permissions and privileges was always available.

Will Google+’s approach to simpler management of various privacy and messaging controls significantly simplify the process of managing overlapping corporate groups where policy compliance dictates the need for tight access controls that vary by group? I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but I’m sure that some folks are already dealing with these issues and I look forward to learning from their experience.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald

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