Few have escaped the news that there is a new shinny social media network launch underway – Google+ is here but what are we the engineering community making of it?

Over the last few years I have become a convert when it comes to social media. If you had told me that facebook and twitter were good engineering tools then I would have laughed at you. However just over a year ago when I joined DesignSpark as a blogger for ebmpapst I started the slippy slope into online networking.

So Google+ is here in Beta phase at the time of writing this and I got an invite from a fellow engineer about a week ago. The community is still growing all under the control of Google but is slowly starting to show how it can be used. So early on I wanted to capture the first views of other engineers on what Google+ is and what they think of it. But first I want to explain a little of what the new site is and how (from my point of view) it looks to work.

I joked that had Twitter and facebook had got together and had a baby they would have called it Google+ and that in a snap shot is sort of what you have. The layout and style of the site is all very facebook. However there is none of this silly “Please will you be my friend” stuff and in place there is a more simple “click to follow” approach like on twitter. However on Google+ this is called “Circles”, I’m guessing this comes from having circles of friends?

Circles are however more powerful than they look. At first it looks like a stolen idea from Twitter where you can generate lists of people, then view only the tweets from this list. Personally something I’ve not found very good to use. However unlike twitter when you post a message in Google+ you can select which group of followers get to see it. This means you can target just your family, work mates or a group of like minded engineers. This is good because I can see some of my followers on Twitter get upset with me posting links about blogs I have written day after day. This way I can select who I aim at but at other times I can just post publicly at anyone who wants to look.

This seams to be echo’ed by other engineers who see Google+ as a way of generating sub groups that can collaborate though the circles or the new “hangout” feature. This feature allows for video and voice connection with others in a chosen circle allowing things like remote working.

Google+ also removes the amount you can type – something that many Twitter uses find hard to work with. This means you can post more detail and because of the facebook style committing (comment stay and hang from your post) means you can see all the replies.

So is Google+ going to replace facebook and twitter? Well I dont think so to be honest. I know some people have said that they would consider dropping facebook but I think it stills has a place. I was never convinced facebook worked / works for business and community’s like us engineers but I can see Google+ filling that void. facebook will be around for a long time to come and can’t see some 500 million users dropping it.

As for twitter despite Google+’s style and approach there is only one twitter and that in my view will not change. Its too powerful and flexible and still allows for short punchy posts that people love. I feel like others that Google+ will not be as to-the-point as twitter and allow as quick and dynamic responses and interfacing between users.

The last few items to mop up about Google+ is that at the moment there is no mobile app – lack of push notifications will hurt it. However a application has been submitted and will be out soon. For now we will have to contend with the mobile site which is a little slow and feature lite. The only other current issue is age. At the moment Google+ is limited to 18+ while in Beta and once fully release will go to 13+.

So that is my take on it with input from fellow engineers Robert.D, Paul.S, Michael.S and John.S – thanks for your comments guys! So now I want to hear from you, what are your views of this new and shinny social tool?


I think it will be interesting to see where it goes. I have a Facebook account that I don’t really use so I can’t really comment on whether or not Google+ will replace that. As far as replacing Twitter, I agree with you that Twitter will still have a place. Many people just don’t have much more than 140 characters to say at a given time.

Oh, and there is a mobile app if you have an Android phone. It is actually pretty nice and works well.

The problem social media sites have is how to sort through large amounts of information. I tried Facebook, but it seems like all posts get mixed together so a post about engineering gets mixed in with a post from someone I haven’t talked to in 20 years who lives far away saying “2 bus running late again; hope it gets here before the rain.” Twitter approaches that problem by limiting how much you can say. Then I manually scan for things I’m interested. I can’t imagine following more than 100 or so people on any system, esp if some of the people I follow sometimes post about minutia.

Google is the master of sifting through large amts of data, so it’s only nature they should get in the game. The circles you talk about sound very useful. At some point we bump up against the human mind’s limitation of how many people you can truly follow while still taking care of the business of your life. My impression is Facebook and Twitter aren’t even close to hitting that “Shannon limit” of amount of following that can pass through a given brain. I’m glad to see Google in the game.

Maybe the holy grail would be an AI that would read through posts of all lengths and determine which ones are of no interest, which merit a one-line summary, and which I should see the complete text of. The merit calculation would be based on my personal interests, not the merit of the post to a general audience. Someone else would see a post on a new cooking recipe but not see a post of great interest to me on an idiosyncrasy they found in an o-scope. This is the logical extension of the long tail, where the long tail converges to one person.

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