Google+ is a great social network. I’ve said it; I really do enjoy my time spent with Google+ more than I appreciate the various features of Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social sites that have stolen more time from me over the years than I care to imagine. This post isn’t intended to bash the site (or its users) in any way, but to explore some of the ways in which it could do with some improvement.
As with anything, the statements I’m making here are my own opinions formed after seeing the downsides for myself and hearing about them from some of the more active members of the community. In the end, Google+ is still a site in its infancy and I’d be surprised if the network we see today in any way resembles the site as it will look and feel a year from now.
How many times do I need to see the same cat photo? I avoid Google+ like the plague on Saturdays because of this very fact, and I recommend you do the same. I like cats, humorous captions, pretty sunsets, and pin-up girls as much as the next guy. Seeing the same photo again and again in my feed, not so much.
Google has proven the ability to recognize matching media in the past with YouTube. You can’t have the television on behind you while recording a vlog without the MPAA or some other media group ripping your video down and threatening to have your partnership revoked, but for Google to dare restrict the same photo from appearing in your stream more than once per hour, well… that’s asking too much.
Facebook has a clever way of handling this. If you receive a bunch of links from a single source, or repetitive links, it groups these together and lets you know about it. That’s all. One entry in your stream appears with the option to view all the other links from that source. I like that.
Twitter doesn’t show me the retweets if I already have the person being retweeted in my feed. That’s a good thing. I also don’t see replies made to people I don’t follow.
Sometimes You See Them; Sometimes You Don’t
As I’ve written before, I love Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, when my buddy opens his up to whatever circle they’ve put me in, there’s roughly a 50/50 chance I’ll even see it in my stream. Even the area off to the right dedicated to showing you hangouts being hosted by your friends doesn’t always reveal the whole truth.
Sometimes, I have to actually go to that person’s page specifically to see the join button. When I’m ready to chill with some friends or collaborate with coworkers, I don’t expect to have to have them IM me the URL of the hangout in order to participate. Sadly, this happens far too often.
Lack of a Robust API
The Google+ API is read-only which makes it difficult for people who favor services like HootSuite and others to use the social network without going directly through the dedicated mobile apps and/or primary website. One of the things I like most about Facebook is that I don’t have to actually look at Facebook’s site to send and receive updates from friends and family. Google+ isn’t quite there yet.
I can understand why Google is reluctant to unleash the power of a full API to the community. Opening access to all apps takes away from the experience of actually being on Google+. It’s not the same, and Google needs to work out the kinks in what it has before it tackles taking on the larger developer community. As easy as it may sound, opening your platform (especially such a wide one as Google’s greater services) to the outside world means making sure everything is air tight and ready for anything.
Lack of Hangout Moderation Tools
This complaint has been repeated by every Hangouts On-Air podcaster I’ve ever met. Even before this tool became widely available, people within the network have been shouting from the rooftops for Google to add some form of hangout moderation tools to the site. If I’m hosting a hangout and some dillweed joins with a friend, there is no way I can kick them out, even if the responsible members of the room block them. All it takes is one person not blocking the troll to keep the valuable hangout spot hogged and unavailable to more responsible users.
I can’t remember the last time when a large social network has been so widely troll friendly. Google+ is about openness and even grounds, but sometimes that means losing a good thing in favor of something much less enjoyable.
While I’m on the subject of hangouts, why does Google+ insist on controlling my microphone? I’ve had issues with my microphone being muted or just plain adjusted to the point that I’m either whispering to everyone in the room or screaming so loud you’d think their headphones might explode. Sometimes, my microphone mutes itself entirely and I have to go to the sound settings to turn the darn thing back on. Only in a hangout does this occur, and it’s annoying.
I realize most people don’t understand speakers + microphone = feedback. I get that, but when I’m using a studio-quality microphone and wearing cans on my ears, I’d appreciate the ability to configure my own sound settings as not to cause everyone else in the room hearing loss.
Oh, and another thing, Google. If I mute someone in a hangout, I’d appreciate it if they didn’t have the ability to unmute themselves instantly. Having mute wars with a troll only leads to bad feelings about the service. If I have someone on mute, I want them on mute for a minute. Whether I’m recording a podcast or otherwise attempting to carry on a conversation, I don’t need someone else telling me what I do and do not want to listen to. I get why this was put in, but independent muting without outright blocking the person so they can’t join a hangout with me in it at all would be appreciated.
If Google wants this feature to be used for broadcasting (as Hangouts On-Air indicates) it needs to focus more attention on providing users with the tools they need to record good, clean audio and video. If a host mutes others in order to make a closing or opening statement, it should the host that gives it back for the purposes of the on-air broadcast.
If you’d like to connect with me on Google+, my profile is linked at the top of the page. Just please, go easy on the cat photos.