My 30 Days With Google+ journey is coming to an end. That means it's time to review my experience over the past month and sum things up. Overall, I will say that Google+ has grown on me, and that I have developed more appreciation for Google's social network as a result of this experience. But, there are still some aspects of Google+ I don't care for, so here are my five biggest complaints about Google+.
1. Irrelevance. The Circles views should just default to listing contacts by name. I never did figure out what algorithm the "Relevance" filter is supposedly using to determine the order of relevance of my contacts, but I was able to figure out that it is jacked.
In both the "People in your circles" list, and in the "People who've added you" one, the contacts I actually interact with--by email, or on Google+ by reading, commenting on, +1ing, or resharing their posts--are scattered randomly throughout, while contacts I have rare interaction with, or people I have never even heard of are listed at the top of the "Relevance" filter.
2. The Venn Diagram. Conceptually, I get the idea of Circles and I think it makes sense on some level. But, real life isn't that clean and tidy. People can occupy more than one Circle at a time, so the Circles overlap like a Venn diagram. I might have a cousin, who is also a co-worker, and a member of my bowling league, and a high school friend who is also in my bowling league.
It is an exercise to label and compartmentalize contacts as I add them to my social network, and it is a chore to choose on a post by post basis which Circle or Circles the information should be shared with. I like Circles for filtering incoming posts and enabling me to cut through the Google+ noise to focus on information that is relevant to what I am doing at the time, but I don't like the concept much for the things I post on Google+.
3. Cat's Out of the Bag. To expand on the Venn diagram issue, and why I don't prefer filtering my messages to specific Circles, consider the "six degrees of separation" concept. Using the same example as above, not only might my cousin be in my "Family", "Work", and "Bowling" Circles, while my friend is in my "High School" and "Bowling" Circles, but other people from my Circles may be in other Circles of those in my Circles.
Yes, it gets confusing. The point is that the extended Circles--the friends of friends--makes a very complex Venn Diagram that makes it virtually impossible to predict where a post will end up and who will see it regardless of which Circle I share it with originally.
Google+ does provide some controls to enable me to prevent the post from being reshared--but only after it has been posted...and possibly reshared. Even if I act immediately to enable the "Lock this post" feature that prevents it from being shared with anyone else, someone may already have reshared it in those few seconds that passed. Plus, there is nothing to prevent someone from simply copying and pasting the content into a new post to share beyond the scope I intended.
4. Google Is Everywhere. There are many potential advantages to Google being able to integrate the social network into the rest of the Googleverse--especially if you tend to use the vast selection of Google services.
Photos are automatically cross-posted with Picasa, and you can start a Google+ Hangout to watch a YouTube video as a virtual group. Google can make it simple to share files from Google Docs with your Google+ network, and seamlessly weave social networking into all of Google.
Benefits aside, though, I prefer my social network to be a separate entity. I can change my email address associated with my Facebook or Twitter account, but Google+ is forever tied to the Gmail address it is associated with, and the rest of the Google products and services related to that Gmail address.
If I violate the Facebook terms of service, Facebook might suspend my account--but that will only affect Facebook. When Google shuts you down for violating Google+ terms of service--like using a name that Google deems not "real" enough--it affects your access to Gmail, Google Docs, and other Google services as well.
5. The Damn '+'. I am sure there is some brilliant method to the madness behind naming the service Google+ that I just don't get. From a Web search and SEO perspective, the use of a Boolean operator, and common Web formatting shortcut in the name of the social network is a huge pain in the ass.
When I search for Google+ using the main Google or Bing search engines, I get Google+ results. Apparently, they have already tweaked the search engine algorithms to accommodate. But, if I search for Google+ on a given website, what I get are all results with the word "Google" because the search doesn't differentiate between "Google" and "Google+". It looks at it as "Google and" with nothing following it, so it returns all results with "Google".
In the PCWorld post comments--and elsewhere on the Web--the "+" sign is used as a shortcut for changing text to italics. So, Typing something like "Google+ is a capable social network, and the Google+ Circles set it apart" actually comes out like this: "Google is a capable social network, and the Google Circles set it apart."
Ultimately, the jury is still out. The things that don't work or seem to be missing with Google+ may yet be tweaked or added because the social network is still in a pre-release "Field Trial". The things that make Google+ seem more active or engaging may be artificial factors that will disappear when it is open to the public and the novelty wears off.
But, with the exception of "Relevance", the things on my five biggest Google+ complaints list seem to be foundational aspects of Google+ that are not likely to change.