Just when it looked like the tech world would stabilize for a bit while we spent a few days at the beach, Google unleashed a tsunami that suddenly made Apple’s Lion and iOS announcements look trivial. And, if you’re a Facebook shareholder or if you weren’t quite sure Microsoft should have bought Skype, you probably should have sold those shares early last week. Today we’ll introduce you to Google+, and we’ll give you a free invite to join the party.
Strange as it seems, the only real discussion thus far has been by the social networking folks pitching G+ as the Facebook Killer. Maybe so. Maybe not. But, if your business or organization revolves around collaboration, Google just introduced the perfect tool for you. Whether it’s students working on a group project, parents or adults organizing a non-profit event, or architects designing the next great vacation paradise, Google+ has all the necessary components to make the project cohesive, participatory, and even fun. With its rich multimedia functions and threaded messaging that carried over from Google Wave, G+ offers the flexibility to demonstrate and talk about almost anything. There’s YouTube, of course. And web and image links. The photo integration and unlimited image storage with Picasa makes Facebook look downright primitive.
Video conferencing with 10 simultaneous people scattered around the globe or 10 students working on a joint project takes Skype to a whole new level. Google Plus calls it Hangouts. Sorry, Facebook, but one-on-one video chatting (even with Skype) is so yesterday.
G+ Circles are clearly the product differentiator. If you’re a Gmail user, you already know how Labels let you organize your email into multiple categories with the flexibility to attach more than one label to a single email message. It made email folders obsolete overnight. You no longer had to pigeonhole every message into one and only one folder. Circles let you do much the same thing with people you choose to follow on Google Plus. You can organize your friends, business associates, family, and projects into groups of people. And you can place the same person in multiple circles. Threads of messages then can be dedicated solely to a particular interest group or to multiple circles if that better meets your requirements. You can review message threads on a circle by circle basis. And you can lock down messages so that members of your circle cannot reforward a particular message to others. It provides a level of security that at least discourages inadvertent disclosure to outsiders. Won’t Apple just love it? And it just makes good sense.
G+ Sparks is a front end to Google Search that lets you identify particular topics that will assist in your use of Google Plus. Subjects can also include Featured Interests which are predefined based upon topics that others have found helpful.
Last, but not least, G+ Huddle is a messaging utility within the mobile app that lets you send text messages to every person in a particular circle. It’s a perfect tool for scheduling collaborative events.
As with any new tool, there are some tricks to getting off on the right foot. First, choose the right browser. As you might expect, Chrome runs circles around Firefox and IE when it comes to G+. Use it! And visit this site for the latest information and to download the Chrome extensions for G+ that really make it shine. And here’s a collaborative book about G+ that was actually written by 120+ early adopters. It’ll tell you everything you want to know including some great tips on privacy considerations, the user interface, formatting, and shortcuts. In addition, there are HOW-TOs that will walk you through everything to get the most out of Google Plus. Be sure to pick up the Google Plus Cheat Sheet and review these 25 Tips & Tricks as well as 15 Tips for Newbies. Finally, here’s some insight into What’s Coming Next. Now come join the fun!
Want an invite? Just drop us a note and include the word Google in your message. We’ll get one out to you promptly. Once you’re signed up, be sure to visit the VoIP Users Conference site for a quick list of everyone to put in your VoIP Circle. Enjoy!
Originally published: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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