The pleasures of Google+

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Over the past week or so, I’ve been playing around with Google+, Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter. You can see my posts here.

Whenever a new social media system rolls out, I give it a test-drive. Sometimes I end up in a ditch. Here is my MySpace page, last updated three years ago and now lingering on like a time capsule.

Here is my abandoned Quora page.  I asked one question: why does Chewbacca used a crossbow instead of–you know–a laser or something more effective?After I got some answers, I lost all interest.

For the most part, though, I try to make social media part of my life. My rational explanation for this is that, as a writer, I ought to head for the virtual spaces where people congregate and look for things to read. Of course, I’m also lured by the addictive procrastination. It sometimes feels like channel-surfing on a social cable television. Whatever the true cause, I’ve ended up with an author web site (old school!), this blog, a Facebook profile, a Facebook author page, a Twitter account, a Tumblr thing-a-ma-bob, a LinkedIn account…and other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

When Google+  rolled out, I had a bad feeling. Google Buzz was a total disaster–there was no point to it, it was confusing to use, and it pushed its way into your privacy in mysterious ways. So I didn’t think Google understood social networks.

So far, I have to say, Google+ has avoided most of the mistakes of Google Buzz, and it’s borrowed (or improved on) many of the nicest things in Twitter, Facebook, and even blogs. For example, one of my favorite things about this blog is getting comments from readers. The drawback is that there are several steps to entering, reading, and responding to those comments. Getting back to commenters ends up on my to-do list. Trust me, you don’t want to be on my to-do list. It’s a graveyard.

On Google+, commenting is astonishingly frictionless. It feels much more like having a conversation. Here’s one example: having read an interesting article in Wired on feedback loops, I riffed on it, discussing feedback loops among genes and proteins. Immediately, it sparked a fascinating discussion about the history of cybernetics and much more. Twitter has some of that spontaneity, but its 140-character limit can feel like a straightjacket.

I wonder if Google has some soul-killing plans for Google+ once they open it up to all comers. (You still need an invitation, but these aren’t hard to come by. Ask me.) For now, I’m just enjoying the experiment.