I’m playing with Google+, but being me, thoughts of slightly less playful uses keep creeping in.
Free video chat will eventually be good for distance education in New Zealand. Exploring this possibility is one of the reasons I have found my way into Google+ promptly, even though our infrastructure won’t support its use just yet. Rural broadband is slow, and in some places it isn’t available at all – wasting any of the bandwidth on a picture renders the sound incomprehensible. So I’m toying with what might become possible in terms of education, and exploring what is possible now in terms of advocacy, while I play with the new toys.
Google+ has the look and feel of something that is going to be big. Those who use social media to advocate for any cause, including educational ones, can’t afford not to be there. The key question is how to make information available on all the major social networks simultaneously without drowning our followers in a sea of repetition.
On Twitter, almost everything you tweet goes in one basket – to the whole public. Hashtags enable selective viewing, but shared information is all in together. On Facebook, you have more choices – your wall, your groups, your pages, your events, and those created by others. Each page or group tends to develop a style or purpose that helps you to decide what to post where. However, almost all of us who have Facebook groups and pages, and who Tweet as well, have things that we’ve felt the need to post everywhere in case someone missed out. Now we have the opportunity to post into as many Google+ circles as we can create as well. Add a few retweets and repeats, and soon the posts we value the most risk becoming like “the song that never ends”! Our Google+ contacts can put virtual fingers into their ears by muting repetitive posts, but do we want to drive them to that?
Fortunately, Google have other tools – things I have only dabbled with until now which suddenly seem more important. Within Gmail is a tool called Buzz. Configure your buzz to show your tweets and they will be visible within Plus, but they won’t be cluttering the main stream or the stream of any of your circles, they’ll be on your Buzz page. Your contacts can take them or leave them, and your post stream will be free to share the best and forget the rest. Buzz can also show your blog updates and your Flickr uploads. Add them as “connected sites” by clicking the hyperlink in Gmail shown below.
Things you share via Google Reader can also be shared in Plus via Buzz. Reader has a facility to create a personal bundle of blogs and newsfeeds. Find it under “Browse for stuff”. If you share a lot of blog posts related to specific fields, you can create one or more bundles of blogs which can then be available on your Buzz page without dominating post streams.
Just one warning – see “People you follow” at the bottom there? Follow someone in Reader, and you’ll be following them in Buzz as well. Follow someone on their Buzz page in Plus, and you’ll be following them in Buzz and Reader (if they use Reader). However, following circles in Plus are currently totally unrelated to who you follow in Buzz and Reader. But who knows? That may change.
Overall, I feel that Google Plus could be a good thing for advocacy, but that the way we advocate could make it too much of a good thing unless we get savvy about how we use it. We will probably need to craft different styles for different online milieu to keep key messages fresh and interesting while making them widely available.
This image, by Flickr member enggul, has attribution and non-commercial licenses.