Google + from me at Google –

So I go away to Italy for a fortnight, and Google launches a killer social tool and doesn’t invite me. Hmm.

Everyone and their dog is discussing Google +, and those who are in the beta can at least talk from experience. From the outside, I can only speculate on the tools and services they provide and how they fit with our Charting work.

Google + seems initially to have 4 main components: circles, sparks, hangouts and huddle (mobile only). I’ll elaborate below but in summary, I see circles as about connecting, sparks as consuming (curation?), and huddle as communication (!) It seems there isn’t (yet) much integration with Google Docs, but with Google Docs, you’d also have creation and contribution, making the full set of Charting activities which we recognise.

So in more detail:

CIRCLES is the Plus way of organising the people in your network. In our work on learning among knowledge workers in the workplace, we have observed the importance of reconfigurable (ad hoc) teams. In  addition, a key feature of the modern knowledge workplace is that an individual may work on a number of overlapping projects (tasks), each of which involve a (overlapping) group of co-workers. Circles allows you to easily create and re-assort groups. Ostensibly this is so that you can keep your Saturday night drinking exploits away from your Uncle (I’d appreciate that, I don’t want to see what my nephews have been up to on Facebook, but I do want to connect with them), but it would cope just as well with allowing me to manage the different task based networks I participate in. Could Circles be used to represent a set of individuals with a shared goal?  I don’t know whether circles can be shared, or whether each member of a circle would effectively have to manually create their own circle with that membership?

SPARKS seems to be about saved searches. I’ve heard, and discovered less about this, but it does seem as if it would be a natural mechanism for bringing together resources associated with a given project or goal. I wonder this feature can be used as a  front end to any resource store – e.g. a shared tag on delicious (or Google’s own bookmark service). Is it all RSS?

HANGOUTS and HUDDLE, despite the names are the interesting tools here – I have long argued that Charting tools have to seamlessly integrate (but not replicate) tools for communication. This was a key benefit of the now defunct Wave, that you could seamlessly integrate the sync, semi-sync and async discussions which occur in a way that email and many other tools can’t. It will be interesting to see if Google tries to bring in any of the Wave gadgets to the shared spaces which they are creating here.

In addition to communicating (bringing people together), I think to be useful in the workplace, a Platform like Plus also needs to be able to provide spaces for co-working (co-creation of new content). Integration with Google Docs would give this and would be the icing on the cake.

In our (failed) application to get Google Research to fund some Charting Development, we tried to align our work to existing Google services but with this in the pipeline, it’s little wonder they didn’t fund us.

One final point, I think the mobile integration of Plus will be key to its success. Working across android, iOS and windows devices, seamless integration emerges as a key determinant of whether I persist in using a tool or not. I expect Google has this covered in Plus.

Can’t wait to get into Google +. Yrs, in anticipation.

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Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

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