What is Google Plus

Google plus is what 'you' make it. You decide what groups and communities to join and who's interests you share.

The Communities
So what is Google plus exactly, you and a few million others may still be wondering. It is known by 3 names, Google plus, Google + or just plain G+.

When I joined Google plus. I was immediately struck by how very different it was to any other platform on the web. 

Firstly it was very quiet in terms of things happening on the screen. 
I thought it was a desert with no sign of any humans anywhere. 

It is a very simple plain interface and hopefully it will stay that way. There are always new features being added and tested on the site. It is always evolving to cater to the needs of the various G+ communities. 

G+ can be used in any number of ways according to what you hope to get from it. But you have to get your head around what it is, and not what it isn't.  It is not Facebook!

It requires a shift in your perceptions of what you think it is. 

It is in fact, almost every useful piece of Google software combined into one platform.  Many thanks to +martin shervington who has created a detailed walk-through which is a must see for anyone wondering how this all hangs together. 

My view of Google plus is that it is uncluttered and for want of a better description, it reminds me a little of a personal diary. 

You control what is most important to you and you fill your diary with things that you are interested in. 

Therefore everything you get involved in, is decided by you and not 'pushed' at you.

Your G+ Profile 

Your profile page will have just a few photographs and below that your followers and who you follow.

On the top left you have a drop down sidebar showing you the list of ways that you can interact with people, circles and communities.  

You decide who to have in your circles. So you can have a family circle, and a circle for other people that interest you.

When you share things, you can decide 'who' to share with using these circles. 
Or you can just share what you want, with the general public i.e the people that have followed you.
You can click on any of these buttons and it takes you to, for example to your photo collections or YouTube channel if you have one.

Less is More

What is noticeable by it's absence is all that noise and clutter, that fills every inch of every other social networking site. 
There are no ads on Google plus as yet, and none of the tons of other crap, that fills the screens of places like Facebook. So how are writers and content creators going to earn any money. All the videos photos and articles do not get make by robots.(mostly) 

Real people have to spend usually their own time and money creating this stuff. There is an option that is gaining traction now and could see the end of adverts online permanently. 

You... the consumer of all this content can pay the content creators directly. 
Support my blogs  If you don't then the ads will stay on all the other so called social networks. This fact alone is what makes G+ unique.

There are really no other comparisons of any value, that can be drawn between these two platforms. Although they seem to perform superficially, somewhat similar functions. 
They do it in totally different ways and with a totally different emphasis. G+ is about discovery. 
Finding interesting things, rather than someone's description of their cat's latest bowel movement. 

Many people myself included, jumped right in and joined a few groups, only to see my stream turn from a trickle to a torrent of posts, from thousands of G+ people.

There was no way I was ever going to be able to keep up with it, and neither will you. It can be frustrating until you learn how to turn down those feeds and stop joining everything that comes your way. 
Thankfully it is simple to fix. At the top of the feed page is a toggle bar. You can control the flow of posts and you can even pause it.

There are so many interesting people, carrying out fascinating experiments everyday to optimize the G+ experience. People like +Mark Traphagen who has a wealth of knowledge about how the SERP can sometimes give surprising results. 

Mark seems to out rank just about everybody, when he shares a post. Even other peoples post's, which he has shared. 

Some people, who may have been blogging for a while, also misread Google plus and still do. 

They seem to post their entire back catalogue of content, every single day.

I don't know how it is working out for them, but I have a creeping suspicion, that they get dropped pretty quickly from many peoples circles. 

Posting too often can be very counter productive on Google plus. People are looking for qualitatively different things on G+. 

I was also struck by how G+ reminded me of the earliest days of the internet before the invention by Tim Berners-Lee of the world wide web. Where would we be without him. He should get a knighthood at least. 

Prior to the development of html and the web by Berners-Lee, a task which took him almost 10 years to complete, the internet was a just a basic bulletin board System (BBS).

In other words, just a bunch of more or less static pages that people (mostly academics) put up to share or gather information from each other.

These BBS's were hosted on the Joint Academic Network (JANET) when I came across the internet in the early 1980's.

I would put up a request for the latest information from the US, on hearing aides innovations and c
ome back a few days later, to find a couple of posts, from researchers in the states. 
That was it, basic but very specific and focused. There were no search engines at that time.

The similarity between the BBS system and Google Plus is quite striking. The interface is plain and uncluttered.
There is an emphasis of group working and sharing of ideas.

Below is an example of a community page where +Al Remetch is in discussion with others on the subject of the community. 

Author Rank

Find out about Author Rank. Join the Community.There is a growing emphasis and indeed need to be identified with your work. Why would you not want to claim ownership to your content.  The days of anonymity are long gone. 

If you want to be taken seriously on Google plus. You need to sort your identity out.  Some people may think this is an unimportant development. 

My point is this. If Google are spending time and money introducing Author identification. Then is makes sense to be ready, for when it does become important. 
Rather than react to changes. It could well be used as another signal used in ranking.

Obviously there are times when being anonymous is the sensible option. i.e. when living under a repressive regime, and a few other exceptional circumstances.

This is not the case for the bulk of web content contributors and bloggers. 
This lack of anonymity has several advantages for both Google search, and for contributors to the web, in terms of your content. 

You may have heard the buzz about Author rank. This is where you identify yourself to Google and your identity is established unequivocally. 

This way, all content that you produce and have produced can and is associated with your identity, and can be traced back to you, as the owner and originator. 

You have to do the associating initially by using the rel=author link.

This has implications for copyright protection of course, but more importantly it establishes the fact, that you are a real person.  That your interactions with others is genuine. The level of engagement of yourself and your content now become signals. These can be analysed and interpreted by Google and us.

Author rank may have implications for your future relevance, and presence on the web, as it may in time affect your contents, SERP position.

Google plus has used html 5  to pull together all the elements that we commonly use on the web, into one web page. 
Prior to this innovation, a web page relied on separate programs, to run various forms of media. 
Now they can all work inside the Chrome browser. Video, photographs, text and games can now all be run using just html 5.

Google's signals.

When people posted content on the web in recent years. It was often difficult to determine who was who, and whether the content was of any value.

In terms of search too, this was/is a big problem. If 100,000 people have written on a particular topic, and they have all used the same keywords. 

How can Google search, figure out which is the best answer for the searchers inquiry.

The algorithms that Google has developed over time, can check for spelling errors, grammar and punctuation issues. It can even make a good guess at the content of a web page.

What it cannot do, is determine the quality of the content, as this is almost always going to be based on a subjective human assessment. Even the best artificial intelligence (AI) systems have no way of doing this.

This may explain why Poetry usually has a problem when it comes to search.

AI cannot understand basic human concepts, let alone when they are wrapped up in prose, metaphor and allusion, as many poems invariably are.

Just to give poets everywhere some hope. You can be a successful poet online. If you have a big enough following.  
Some poets write for the joy of writing. Then I guess they won't mind if they don't get indexed.

The Google plus button and sharing button, along with the amount of engagement and comments a particular item or content generates. Will influence it's ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) 
This may not be news to many of you reading, but to new people it needs to be mentioned.

Why do they matter. Because these plus buttons and shares are being generated by humans. They are the computer equivalent of voting 'for' something, rather than passively counting how many people read the page.

Also the comments and length of time, that people spend on your content will have an influence. 

+Matt Cutts  explains below why, 'freshness isn't' everything.The constant need for everyone to be updating their content is a misunderstanding of epic proportions.

Updating your content.

You 'do not' have to be constantly churning out new content, or refreshing old content, unless of course it was crap to start with, and needed a serious makeover.

If you have written, what you think is the definitive article on cup cakes. Forget about it. Write something else. Fiddling around with it, will rarely help a dog of a page.

Using HTML5

With the development of html5  (now just known simply as html) Google plus stole a march on every other platform on the web
Everything that you could possible want to do you can do from one page. 

The integration of many of Google most useful functions on one page, make it a dream to work with.

Want to see a YouTube video, it's right there. Want to search, it's right there on the page. Gmail right there. Hangouts right there. The list goes on and on but you wouldn't think so to look at the interface.

It is a marvel of minimalism packed with powerful supporting applications and links.

Google Community

This I believe is where Google plus, is about to explode in terms of new members joining G+. The Google community or communities are where people of similar interests congregate and share ideas.

As I mentioned above. This whole system has been designed for people to share their ideas, photographs, videos and articles, amongst many other things. Instead of having to go to 5 different websites, it's all in one place.

The communities are filling up with some of the brightest people, I have had the good fortune to come across since leaving university. They are here and willing to share their thoughts and ideas with you.

I made a conscious decision just before Christmas 2012, that I was going to get more involved on Google plus, and to write more on Blogger.com. 
It makes sense as my accounts are linked.with G+, and to add more videos to my YouTube channel. 

Your YouTube Channel 

In the last few weeks, since deciding to get more involved. 

I have learned so much from the real experts. The people that actually made and are still making Google plus happen. Us... You and me.

It is evolving and changing daily as we build it. To get the best out of it. You have to put your best efforts into it.

It is unlike any social network you have ever come across before.

You don't know these people on a personal level and they do not know you, so don't be surprised when people come and go from your circles, or follower lists. 

Maybe you were 'just' not doing it for them and they have moved on. Forget about it.

The big difference here on G+ is that they are not your friends and family, that have to put up with you on the other social networks. 
Here there is no guilt at dropping someone that is of little interest to you.

Don't take it personally you just haven't found 'your' kind of people, yet. Keep looking and you will.

You will find, and build new relationships here.

Don't misunderstand me. If you are interested in a topic that is all the rage on the other social networks. (like, is +Britney Spears pregnant).
Chances are you will find people here that like those topics too. And if that is what floats your boat then that is fine too.

This growing Google community is not filled with po faced serious people, but they are here too, if you want an interesting conversation, about something a bit deeper than. 'Is my cat allergic to me'.

Google plus is what 'you' make of it. It is that simple.

Hang outs

This is a new area for me, and I have been following the work of two people who know how this Hang out thing works. +Craig Long and +Ronnie Bincer are both very helpful and have produced videos on how to use Hang outs,and very importantly. What not to use Hang outs for. 

Basically a hang out is where up to 10 people can hold a real time video conference. I have watched a few of them and they seem to be gaining in popularity. 
Having had my first hang out with family members. I can say that it worked perfectly.
Very simple to use and much faster and clearer that Skype. No lag in video or audio. 
If you have shares in Skype. It may be time to cash them in.

It is so much better, than the old style video conferencing systems. It would be very useful for business users.

Google plus has many interesting features. Deciding where, when and who to engage with, is now up to you. Happy plussing.