Google+, Google’s newest stab at the social networking world, launched a few weeks ago as an invite-only beta on June 28, 2011. I was invited in on June 29th, which marks a milestone for me in that I don’t think I’ve been in a network so early in its infancy. With so few people with whom I could interact in the space, I wasn’t sure at first what to do with this Google+ thing.  Fast-forward to a few weeks later and I’ve watched the network grow in leaps and bounds as Google eases up on allowing people into Google+.

My first post on Google+? “I am not sure what I am doing. Per usual.”  Just in case you’ve been invited in and are feeling the same way, or even if you are just curious what the hoopla is about, I thought I’d write a little post here to offer my initial reactions, insights, and hacks for Google’s newest, hottest service.

First of all, being one of the lucky early invites had a lot to do with my previously created, publicly viewable Google profile. [Full disclosure: I am a Google Certified Teacher and my university is a Google Apps for Education school.  So I do a lot with Google.] This has to do with the main way Google+ operationalizes one’s networks: through circles. While Twitter has followers and folks you follow, and you may have various “lists” on Facebook, Google+ allows for different people to be added to different circles to make it simpler to differentiate content that you share to the various circles. Google+ suggests a “Friends” circle, a “Family” circle, an “Acquaintances” circle, and a “Following” circle. You may also create and label circles yourself (I added a “Professional Contacts” circle, for example.) As an encircler you get to choose who among your contacts go where. As a person being encircled, I am not told which circle you’ve added me to, only that you’ve added me to one of your circles (this CAN be checked in your profile, however: I’ve listed a site that walks you through making this feature hidden). Now, when you add a status update or a link, you choose who among your circles (from “fully public” to “just family”) gets to see what you’ve posted.

The rest of Google+ beyond the circles will seem familiar. There’s Google chat contacts. There’s a stream with commenting.  Instead of the Facebook “like,” Google+ has a “+1.”

My favorite feature so far? The Google+ Hangout. I am no stranger to a video chat room, and I normally  hate them.  BUT I LOVE THE GOOGLE+ HANGOUT. The interface is dead easy to use, it’s really fast, and the quality is great. It also allows for text chat and sharing of YouTube videos, which you can watch and talk over (this allows for, you guessed it, KARAOKE!)  I am already planning to use it to facilitate writing groups at a distance.  With rumors that Google+ will integrate with all of Google’s services, I am drooling over the possibility of using a Google+ Google Docs combination for writing conferencing.

How are you using Google+? Let us know in the comments!

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13 Responses to Google + Grad School = Awesome?

    1. I haven’t tried the hangout yet. Wondering what I would use it for ….

        • Hi Kevin,
          I *tried* to invite you the other day, but you were out ;). I am thinking the biggest use for me in terms of the hangouts will be for facilitating my personal writing groups. I think to start identifying ways for other “schoolish” things will become more obvious as Google expands the service into the other applications, like Docs. Let me know when you want to test the hangout feature, friend!

    1. Hi Andrea. I enjoyed the post as an introduction to Google Plus. A couple of questions came to mind, and we have just discussed by email. Thanks for the clarification which I will note here.

      You confirmed that a follower must be added to a circle before being able to see any more than the public postings. You pointed out the ‘blocked’ circle should one not wish a follower to see anything. I couldn’t find it at first, but I see it is created once the first person is blocked.

      I am interested in PLEs (personal learning environments). At first glance, it looks like Google Plus may be a good fit within the concept. Much more to explore. Thanks for your early help.

        • Thanks for the comments, Tony. And I am so glad I could help. For anyone else who wants to email with questions about Google+, feel free to contact me [alzellner[at]gmail [dot]com] and I will do my best to help you out. Depending on the amount of email, you may have to be patient though. ?

    1. […] drop in. (For more on Hangouts, as well as another overview of G+, don’t miss today’s coincidentally timed introductory post by Andrea Zellner at GradHacker.) It’s nothing revolutionary if you’ve used Skype or […]

    1. Shelby says:

      Gradhacker circle! shelby dot e dot edwards at gmail dot com ?

    1. Joani Orr Taylor says:

      I’m lost. What does Grad school have to do with Google+?

        • Joani,
          I see that in my editing haste, I may have deleted the parts explicitly linking grad school life with Google+. The post was really long.
          So, I alluded to it in my discussion of writing groups: I am using it to facilitate writing groups about my writing for school. Also, as Shelby suggests, as another space in which to share learning, tips, and tricks. Finally, it is another space for potential networking-for some that may be overwhelming, and for others a chance to start up conversations that may lead to interesting collaborations or even a job. Who knows? Also, with so many schools moving towards Google Apps for Education, the integration there has a lot of interesting potential. While Google apps accounts are not incorporated with Google+, the assumption is that they will be. Time will tell how much of an impact the new service will have on our lives in general and as grad students. Thanks for the comment!

    1. […] its usefulness.  For example, ProfHacker has a post here about it, and they point to an article in GradHacker here.  It is far FAR too early for anyone (certainly me, as an expert) to speculate too much about what […]

    1. Amy says:

      Andrea, I like your suggestions about using Google+ for facilitating writing groups at a distance. (Full disclosure: I teach writing, and I love to explore new ways to use technology in face-to-face classes, but I don’t know yet if I’ll use G+ to conference with students. You sound very adventurous!) I would love to try some G+ features with a dissertation group, especially NOW in the summertime…everyone disperses at different times during the academic off-season, and keeping a diss. writing group going via conventional means is hard.

      One more thought about the ways in which grad students could harness the power of G+: the public profile, which has SO many degrees of customization and levels of sharing. I think the G+ profile provides grad students with a more professional-looking, high-page rank digital presence than, say, facebook. I’m using my G+ profile to augment my job search, for instance. (On the other hand, I always have opted *not* to index my facebook profile with search engines, even though nearly everything is set to “friends only.”)

        • shelby says:

          Amy – I think you’re spot on with the benefits of Google+ privacy/customization. I also really enjoy the privacy settings regarding photos posted! Unlike Facebook, where people can upload a picture of you and tag you in with (without your approval), on Google+ you can change the settings to say no photos may be tagged with your name unless you pre-approve that to happen. Great option for grad students/others who want to maintain a level of professionalism and control their online identity.

    1. […] I posted here about the roll out of Google+, Google’s new social networking site. At the time, there was […]

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