GooglePlus First Impression

Update: Added the bit about adding people to your circles and the epic ten person chat. Moved some text around. –A (6/30/11)

In writing this, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to say that I like GooglePlus. After really liking Google Wave, getting people invited to the Beta, and then having it plummet out of sight, I was not eager to endorse another large scale social effort by Google. Hell, I didn’t even sign up for a GooglePlus invite; I managed to wrangle one from a friend off of Twitter last night when people were talking about trying out the site.

After playing with it last night and a bit this morning, I have to admit that I really like it but with one major caveat: it depends entirely on who will stay after the new luster wears off. However, Google has taken some interesting steps in creating a social sharing site. They have made sharing and forming groups of friends silly easy as well as sharing pictures and video. It has integrated the Google chat and video chat options and streamlined it into a simple interface that encourages people to "hangout” (that’s even the term they use for it). And while there are some features that are missing (in my opinion), it’s a great start.

I put together a quick tour of GooglePlus. (I’ve pixelated just about everyone on my friend’s list for simplicity and to emphasis the layout.)

GooglePlus-splash

This is the GooglePlus homepage. It mimics the Facebook layout in a number of ways: news stream in the center, groups (or circles) and chat contacts on the left sidebar, the ability to see and add people on the right sidebar. 

googleplus-sidebar

On the left sidebar starting at the top, it has your profile picture with your name as a clickable link to your profile. Underneath is a link to a welcome message from Google which offers an explanation of the service. The Stream is your “everything” news feed with the circles you have created underneath it. It works just like a Facebook Friend’s list in allowing you to see updates from just those people you have marked as being in those circles.

The Incoming option is for people who you have not added to your circles but they have added you to theirs. This allows you to add them as well as follow whatever they have posted on the circles they have included you on. Yes, this means that someone can add you to a circle; there is no ‘friend request’ option like Facebook. However, they can only see what you have set your privacy settings to allow. The Notifications is the same as Facebook; if anything you have posted or commented on or +1’s gets activity, it will show it there. It’s a nice little option to see all of that activity in one spot rather than clicking around like Facebook.

Sparks is an interesting option for it allows you to track topics of interest. I just added librarian, libraries, and the American Library Association to try it out and it gave me the latest results that have those terms. With a Share button underneath it, they made it very easy to add to my GooglePlus stream. It did not allow me to do a vanity search, so I’m wondering which topics it includes and which it does not. When you enter a topic in the Spark search box, it does give autocomplete possibilities so you can see what related topics it does track.

googleplus-topbar

At the top of the page, there are a series of navigation buttons. From left to right, it’s a home button, pictures, profile, and circles. The home button takes you back to the home screen, the picture button takes you to pictures by you and the people in your circles, the profile button will take you to your profile, and the circle button will take you to a screen where you can create more circles and add people to service.

The picture aspect of GooglePlus is something I didn’t take screenshots of it (it would be one large pixelated mess) but it is one of the features I liked the most. It was drop and drag uploading, easy album making, and easy to manage sharing options. They beat the pants off of Facebook on this one; it’s simply that easy. I look forward to trying it out with the mobile app when it finally decides to recognize my main Google account. It’s easily one of the most attractive features to the service.

googleplus-profile

The profile page is super clean right now. Just a listing of friends, different buttons linking to different parts of the profile, and the news stream. The best feature of this page is the Edit Profile button. When you click on it, it swaps to an interface with a simple instruction: click on what you want to edit. When you click on it (whether it is your picture, your location, or your contact information), it brings up a little window that edits the field and has a simply pull-down box with the privacy setting. It couldn’t possibly be easier for someone to quickly go through and change settings and add information as they see fit as well as setting the level of privacy. (For the curious, the privacy settings range from Anyone on the Web, External Circles [aka Friends of Friends], Your Circles, and You. Although, some fields do not have all of those settings. Currently, you are required to share your gender.)

googleplus-circlemaking

The Circles page has a listing of contacts (both who are in GooglePlus and not) and allows you to drag and drop their picture box to the different circles created below. As you drop them into the circles, their little headshots will appear on on the outer edges; with a mouse over glance, you can see who is in a circle. The funny thing is that it allows you to add people who are not in GooglePlus; later on, when updating, it will give you the option of emailing them. I’m not sure what to make of this aside from “you will be social with me whether you like it or not”. I’m not certain how long that will remain of a feature, but it should be interesting to see what kinds of social strife it will create. On the one hand, if you want to share a picture with a large group of people, it makes it an operation of a couple of clicks. On the other hand, for the people outside of the service, it might be a giant pain in the ass to get those emails.

Googleplus-updatebox

Here is the update box for GooglePlus. It’s a much larger text box than Facebook, although I have not tested the upper limits of an update. The icons allow for picture sharing (not drag and drop, oddly enough), video, link, and location. Underneath, you can choose the circles or individuals you want to share with. It’s a pretty straight forward interface.

 googleplus-sampleupdate

This is a photo update I made last night. It gives the time/date at the top, what kind of update it is, and makes a note that it is a Public update (as in seen by all; updates to circles are marked as Limited. You can see who else can see it by clicking on the word Limited.) It shows how many people have commented on the update as well as who has +1’d it (the equivalent of the Like button). In the upper right corner, there is a pull-down menu for additional post options such as disabling comments or deleting the post. For other’s posts, you can hide them. The interesting thing I’ve seen is people sharing one of my text updates onto their stream; when they mean you can share an update by someone else, they mean anything (not just links like Facebook). 

googleplus-notifications

The Notification system is pretty thorough; it starts with everything turned on to alert you by email. (You can turn this off, mercifully.) In the upper right hand corner of the Google interface is a notifications button that you can open and see who is doing what with your posts, posts you’ve commented on or +1’d, posts or pictures you’ve been tagged in, or when you’ve been added to the circles of other people. The neat thing is that when you click on one of them, it will scroll over to the side and allow you to see it and offer the chance to update it without leaving the screen you are on. That’s a nice touch since you can continue working on whichever part of Google you are on while allowing you to update or add things to ongoing conversations. (In the picture to the right, there is a Share option that produces a pull-down menu that functions exactly like the embedded update form.

googleplus-addingfriends

Adding friends takes the tact of being permissive rather than restrictive. To add someone to one of your circles, you can mouse over them on someone else’s profile. It will create a pop-out menu with their name, their short biography, and the ‘add to circles’ button (the left side of the picture above). When you cursor over ‘add to circles’, it gives you the option of adding them to your circles (the right side of the picture).

You can also find them through the people search at the top of the screen. Once there, there is a small box on the upper right corner of their profile that allows you to add them into your circle as well informs whether they have added you to their circles. This is an important piece of information since it can dictate what they will see on your profile as it relates to your privacy settings.

googleplus-hangout

One of the best features that I’ve gotten to try is the Hangout option. It’s a video chat room that allows multiple people to join. It features a chat as well as a shared YouTube watching function (not operational last night, but still). The idea that people can watch something together (like a TED talk) and chat and comment on it as part of one interface is an excellent setup. I’ve taken a screenshot of the hangout details so as to give people an idea as to the potential. (Besides, a hangout screenshot without someone else is rather bland. They really stripped down the color scheme.)

googleplus-10peoplehangout

This is what the Hangout looks like at the maximum ten person webcam capacity. True, it was a full on mess in terms of video quality and some echoing problems after the fifth person, but we managed to reach it. However, the purpose of Hangout is that you can start multiple simultaneous webcam sessions with people you know. From the screenshot, there is a main feed with all of the other feeds located below it. When someone talks, it swaps to their feed after a second or two. (With ten people, it swapped a lot. You can stop this by clicking on an individual feed to focus on one person.)

While you cannot control who other people invite to a hangout session, it does allow for more casual video chats with friends and family. The emphasis of Hangout is on the social and immediate social sharing; at present, there is the option to watch YouTube videos. I can imagine that they will add options for games, design space, and other group activities.

(Note: In the screenshot, the black box in the lower right corner is actually Tweetdeck. It’s covering up the video mute/unmute, microphone mute/unmute, settings, and exit button. On the left, there are the invite, chat, and YouTube buttons.)

This time around, I’m going to reserve comment on how libraries and librarians can use this new social network. I think it has excellent potential, but I want to kick the tires before offering my take on the possibilities. There are some better collaboration possibilities here, but I want some more time to see what they add next.

ALA Battledecks 2011

I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to see the competition firsthand, but reading the tweets from ALA Battledecks 2011 had me vastly amused. As promised, I have uploaded and shared this year’s slide decks on Google Docs, including the special SUDDEN DEATH deck in case there was a tie.

Enjoy.

I’m still having a funny little internal debate as to whether making these slide decks actually improves or decreases my chances of being hired as a presenter, speaker, and/or consultant for libraries. I guess compared to the other things I’m known for within the profession (the Old Spice video, Ben & Jerry’s) it can’t hurt, right?

Future of ALA?

A friend was nice enough to send me a copy of this interesting document from the ALA Council meeting on Sunday. It’s the report from the the ALA’s Future Perfect Presidential Task Force, a group that was charged with the following question:

If there were no governing body currently in place, what structure would you envision that reflects ALA’s goal of an engaged and collaborative membership, the effective use of new technologies, and the changes in outlook and expectations occurring with the new generation of people working in libraries?

They came up with these five proposed changes.

  1. Revising requirements and member options associated with conferences
  2. Merging council and the executive board
  3. Committing to diversity through resource allocation and structural change
  4. Integrating ALA with its state chapters
  5. Increasing transparency, accessibility, and open communication
  6. Legitimizing governance by increasing voting percentages and member engagement

It’s worth taking the time to read since it talks about a lot of different possibilities for future governance of the organization. I’m going to think about it for a couple of days, but I thought people who are away from the conference might like a look as well.

Turn the World Around

Do you know who I am

Do I know who you are

See we one another clearly

Do we know who we are

Between ALA Annual in New Orleans and TEDxLibrariansTO in Toronto, I feel I am missing out on two important librarian gatherings going on right now. In my perspective, the importance is in their timing in the scheme of things.

[Originally, this was one post talking about both ALA and TEDx. Upon review, I broke it out to two separate posts. You can read the other part here. -A]

For the TEDx conference, I was reading fellow Mover & Shaker classmate Eric Riley’s recap of the event. It sounds like it was a great event but Eric hit something that I have been stirring in the back of my brain for a long time.

But honestly, I think there is a gem in this idea, and Fiacre and Shelly really nailed it. There is a desire in libraryland to have a more engaging conversation about the profession.  Something that is driven from the ground up, from researchers, from visionaries, from people who are out there in the field working to shape the profession into something new.  We need this conversation as a profession.

On the heels of my “Why, How, What” advocacy post, I’ve been thinking that the profession needs what can only be described as an old fashioned spiritual revival. The almost Vulcan-like focus on the statistics and studies about the effectiveness of the library in various settings (public, school, academic) turns the conversation around the library into a business-like bottom line discussion. It’s just wrong, really. For myself, it loses the sense of wonder and curiosity that this information age can now accommodate.

Indeed, where is the noble sense of purpose? Where is the irrepressible sense of being? Why are those intangibles, those glorious personal intangibles being so roughly cast aside? For the people who love the profession, who see it through when times are tough, days are long, and patrons are just driving you nuts, it is not the cost/benefit calculus of salary and benefits that sees us through another day. To steal a phrase, it’s the love of the game.

This is not simply the time of an information renaissance; it is a new age of connectivity and communication, an information exchange at multitude of levels from the dry academic to intensely personal. Our communities comes for the emotional experience, whether it is the profound sadness or joy in books, music, and movies or the sense of accomplishment in learning or the feeling of belonging in reaching out online. They aren’t vessels awaiting a cargo of knowledge; they have come to feel, to experience, and to be.

Perhaps this is a continuation of the ‘why’ aspect of the advocacy post, but I think it gets lost in the mix very easily. The profession seems to slip when it portrays the library as a sterile, non-judgmental destination, acting under the premise that the only think people seek is an intellectual safe harbor. Rather, it is a cacophony of viewpoints and expression, a dangerous mix of prose written by potentially unsavory individuals in the distant and immediate past. It is about straining to hear through a chorus of voices that mark many experience paths and finding one’s way.

That is where librarians come in.

Once more, it has to be about the joy. It has to be about the excitement of discovery. It has to be about the sense of service. It has to be about the wonder of what lies on the next page, the next website, or the next program. It has to be rooted in the emotional, the feeling, the very essence of the spirit.

What will see the profession through into the future is neither money nor professional organizations nor studies and statistics nor even well written statements of support from library supporters but the spirit that brought us to the profession in the first place. It’s time to get back in touch with that most basic of force in our lives.

We are of the spirit

Truly of the spirit

Only can the spirit

Turn the world around

eBooks at Another Milestone

Between ALA Annual in New Orleans and TEDxLibrariansTO in Toronto, I feel I am missing out on two important librarian gatherings going on right now. In my perspective, the importance is in their timing in the scheme of things.

[Originally, this was one post talking about both ALA and TEDx. Upon review, I broke it out to two separate posts. You can read the other part here. -A]

For Annual, I think another eBook milepost has been reached. With the announcement of Baker & Taylor and Barnes & Noble joining forces, the offical emergence of 3M onto the eBook scene, and the announcement of a Freegal-like eBook lending service, there is a corner being turned here. Thus begins an era of different lending models and pricing schemes where librarians will be choosing which models they want and which they do not. This point cannot be stressed enough; this will be a time when librarians can pick which lending models they are comfortable with them.

My concern is that this power will be cast aside in favor of the blind “costs be damned” mantra of providing content to patrons because they demand it. Also, there is still a lack of ownership or collection control being offered from the major players. (If I recall correctly from Computers in Libraries 2011, there are companies that offer eBook ownership, but damned if I can remember which. I just know it’s not any of the major fiction groups.) There continues to be a movement towards licensing or leasing without an ownership alternative.

The idea that really concerns me is the movement towards a “buy it now” option offered next to the lending option. Would libraries see any of this money? Would we be purchasing the license for an eBook just to lose out when the patron opts to buy it when they see the length of the wait? Will libraries become another advertising platform for eBook vendors to reach customers? The idea of libraries purchasing eBook licenses on platforms that simultaneously encourage people not to use the library for borrowing but to purchase instead seems like a big loss for libraries.

While some may argue that libraries will be able to provide a means for patrons to purchase titles they like (something they can’t do with print), I would say that the current eBook lending and licensing model stacks the deck towards making a sale more so than with print books. The instant gratification of eBooks delivery lowers the bar compared to print books along with a (generally) lower price point. It provides the ingredients to easily create frustration while providing a quick and relatively cheap remedy. (“You don’t want to go through the hassle of borrowing when you can go through the ease of buying, do you?”)

My question for this kind of move is this: where does it leave libraries in their role in society? What kind of future does it offer? I’m not in complete opposition to it, but I don’t see how it furthers the core mission.

Open Thread Thursday: We Happy Few

I’ve been overdue for a blog banner change for about a month or so. As much as I love the badass librarian bit with the flamethrower background, I got a little inspired by the ALA Annual conference that is starting tomorrow. I won’t be down in the Big Easy to enjoy it and see all the people I know, but this month has been a monster. To put a fine point on it, I just didn’t have the bandwidth.

At any rate, I recalled this quote when I was looking for inspiration for a banner replacement. For myself, it is quite apropos as I think about the conference. As tremendously overwhelming and complicated as the ALA organization is, creating initiatives and change is possible when groups of like minded people find each other. I see it in the various groups I interact with: the ALA Think Tank, Library Society of the World, Hack Library School, and a coterie of my fellow New Jersey librarians.

Don’t misunderstand this as a “hey, we’re all in this together!” sort of post; this is more of a “find your tribe” call. If you don’t see anyone working on the things you want to garner attention, start doing it. Eventually, you will find the others or they will find you. This doesn’t have to be at the ALA level or state level; it can be what you want it to be. Having started my own movements towards the change I want to see, it is just a matter of doing. That initial step is the hardest one.

Who are your tribes? Who are the like minded people you seek? Have you found them?

That’s the opening question for this open thread, but as the conference is upon us, please feel free to share your expectations. Or just speak what’s on your mind. 

Circulating Ideas Podcast

After listening to the first (and currently only) program, I wanted to share it with the group. The podcast is called Circulating Ideas and it is hosted by a librarian Steve Thomas. Here’s the pull quote from the blog:

This show is my meager attempt to get the word out on what we’re doing as a profession to remain relevant and to push the boundaries of learning and collating information, getting our ideas out there in the world, circulating them like we circulate our collections.  I hope it will also be enlightening to my fellow librarians to learn more about what other librarians are doing to push the profession forward.  I’ll be interviewing librarians and other people relevant to the profession and getting their points of view out to you, the listeners, and I hope that they spark discussions, whether you agree with the interview subject’s views or not.

The first podcast is an interview of school librarian Buffy Hamilton. You can check it out here. It’s about an hour long, but well worth the listen.