The Google+ Conundrum

I’ve got a minor confession to make: I actually really like Google+. I wanted to like it before, but some of the features announced over the last couple of days coupled with the redesign have moved the service into the “this is a nice product” category.

I’ve even actually used it(!) to upload some photos I took whilst I was in Scotland recently and sent them to some family. It’s nice, and it works well. I like especially how the photo-sphere photos I’ve taken are displayed in a panorama-style, with the option to switch back to “normal”, and whilst the auto-correction was a little over-zealous on some photos, it generally worked very well (and made Scotland appear misleadingly sunny).

The big cycle the platform is stuck in at the moment is that nobody’s using it, so there’s no “social” or “network” and thus nobody’s using it. Whilst well-done features such as the new photo sharing may start to change that, there are still big flaws in the accessibility of the platform, and this mainly comes down to the Circles system.

Circles works in principle, just not in practice. The mix of public, partially public and private results in a system which is confusing for non-geeks and frustrating for geeks. With the aforementioned photos I uploaded, I was never entirely sure how I was sharing, and had to check my profile in a logged-out window to make sure I’d set sharing correctly.

That’s a big stumbling block and for the foreseeable future is going to prevent Google+ from becoming mainstream. It doesn’t make perfect sense to a mass-audience and thus a mass-audience isn’t going to be persuaded to make the switch.

The one thing that will persuade people to try and understand Circles is if Google+ is suddenly filled with genuinely great content. Whilst that in part happens via friends, the big and easy way to get great content on your platform is make it easy for content creators to post on your platform.

Currently, Google+ is a terrible place for content creators and publishers. The complete lack of any insights or analytics make it very difficult to judge a return-on-time-spent and thus I get the impression a lot of publishers just don’t bother most of the time. The inability to schedule content is also a big drawback; Community teams schedule content to post at optimum times, even if it’s just ten minutes away, and the absence of scheduling means Google+ misses out on a lot of quality content.

And finally, there’s no read/write API. There’s an argument that if content could be auto-posted, Google+ would just become a place where bloggers auto-posted their content, but hey, some content’s better than no content! And not just that — that doesn’t really happen on any other social network, does it?

Great content is the easy way for Google to gain an advantage here, so, Google, can you help out here?