November 13, 2013

The Joys of Google+

Since I wrote something yesterday about my tentative new use of Twitter, it made sense to write something today about my very dedicated use of Google+, which is my main hangout online, and so it has been since the very beginning of Google+ back in the summer of 2011. Google+ is an unusual platform, not easy to describe. To get a sense of how I use it, check out my stream here: Laura Gibbs. I post everything publicly, so what you see there is what there is. You don't have to be logged in or anything to see everything I have posted, along with the discussions that have ensued at the livelier posts.

Google+ is very much like a giant group blogging platform... but it is not really like having a blog. It is also a lot like Twitter... but fundamentally not like Twitter. It really is just its own thing - and if you enjoy sharing with and learning from others online, I cannot imagine a better platform. Sure, there are features and improvements I would like to see (and there have been some great improvements added since they got started), but I enjoy Google+ so much as it is that I really cannot imagine a day going by without spending at least an hour there. I consider it my "daily hour of professional development," and every day I learn so much I never would have learned otherwise.

There are all kinds of tips and such I will share here at this blog about how I find myself benefiting the most from Google+ as a learning network, but here is a quick overview of some of my own personal strategies:
  • Build a core Circle of people whom you really want to be connected with every day. I keep that Circle pretty small, and I use it to filter my incoming stream. On busy days (which is most days), the content from that Circle might be the only thing I read. 
  • From your own world, bring new things to share every day. That might be things you yourself are creating, or it might be experiences and ideas from your work, or it might be things that you are reading and discovering online. Everybody has something to offer, and Google+ benefits from everyone sharing what they find useful, thought-provoking, amusing, etc.
  • Plus, comment, and reshare. I plus a lot of what I read, I comment often, and most of the time when I comment, I also reshare, usually pasting in my comment at the top of my share. If something is interesting enough for me to comment on, that means it is probably of interest to people who are following me, which means it is worth sharing. That is where the real power of Google+ happens, through the person-to-person networking and the human intelligence that filters the content being shared.
  • Post publicly. Some people feel differently about this, but I post everything publicly, treating the Google+ space as I treat my own blogs. If there is something I don't want to share publicly, I don't post it. The advantage of this is that even people who are not using Google+ and don't want to actually join the network can still get the information value of the content that I post and share there, just like at a blog.
  • Seek out new people. I find it really hard to get to know people at Twitter (140 characters! argh!), but at Google+, people's post pages are really like a personal blog, often with long posts. To meet people outside my own circle, I often explore the pages of people who have left comments at the posts of people I do follow. This has been a great way to meet people whom I never would have met otherwise. I don't have time to keep up with all the interesting people I meet... in fact, there are way more people there than I could ever hope to follow, and I keep running into interesting new people there all the time.
There is lots more I could say - and will say - about the specific strategies I use to get the most out of Google+ for my own learning, but that's a good list to start with I suppose. Meanwhile, someone happened to share a useful post at Google+ just yesterday about the many different strategies people use for creating posts, so I'm embedding that below here (this business of embedding posts is a newish feature at Google+ from just a couple of months ago; I really like it). As you can see, this is not a post I wrote, but one that was shared by someone I follow, and I then shared it again, which is why it shows up in my stream. I didn't write the post, and I don't even know the person who did - but my friend Mathieu provided the natural networking link that put me in touch with the post. The power of networking: I love it!

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