August 12th, 2011

computer typing

Some interim thoughts on Google+

This started as a comment to an LJ friend, but then grew, so I'm making it into a post.

I've been using Google+ for a few weeks now and I am still not sure whether I really enjoy it or find it useful. Now that I have Yet Another Place to read stuff online, I'm starting to feel my online presence is somewhat scattered. It used to be so easy back in the days of Usenet. A group was focused on a particular topic and whilst a little leeway was usually allowed, if you were in rec.arts.sf.composition, you were supposed to be posting about writing SF. This also applied to the other forums I used. If I was posting to an OU forum, I was either in teacher mode or student mode, but I knew what was appropriate and I could adopt the appropriate register for my posts. (I've noticed that I use slightly different language in the different forums. Sometimes it's quite subtle, but there are things like different in jokes etc so a post that feels right for one forum doesn't quite fit in another.)

But I don't really know who I'm trying to be on G+. Am I the professional teacher, the amateur photographer, the writer, the reader of SF, fantasy and children's books, the person trying to lose weight and introduce more activity into her life, the mother or the sister? At different times and with different people, I am all of these things (and more), but until now I have tended to use different a different medium to communicate with each group or person. For example, I use the OU's own forums to communicate with fellow tutors or my students, Flickr is for talking about photography and sharing photos, Goodreads and LJ are for posts about reading, LJ is for posts about writing and exercise, SMS and Facebook are for communicating with family. This way I can adopt my writing style to suit the audience and subject.

Except that I get the feeling that Google want me to use G+ for everything. "See", they say, "you can have circles and read and post accordingly." Well, perhaps. Perhaps I need to think more seriously about how best to use Circles for both reading and posting, but right now I'm left wondering how can I write posts in a way that will appeal to everyone on my G+ contact list? The answer is, I can't. I can't be all things to all people.

Anyway, though that is perhaps a problem I can solve by better use of Circles, I've also noticed that while LJ posts are almost invariably about something (even if it's only what the poster had for lunch!), G+ posts are mostly about sharing something from somewhere else. Well, if I wanted to read things from elsewhere, then I would look elsewhere. I hang out online to communicate with people I know online, not to read the latest Cool Thing from X newspaper or Y blog. I can find my own online newspapers or blogs to read if that's what I want to do, which I don't.

Perhaps the idea is that the link is being offered as a starting point for a conversation, but I don't have the time or the mental energy to read numerous articles so I can debate them. OK, perhaps that just means that G+ isn't offering what I want or need, but it seemed like a site with a lot of potential -- if only I can work out what that potential is!

Ironically, I have picked up one useful idea from a link posted to G+ that does seem to be working quite nicely, namely to keep a notebook with a log of my daily activities. I had been doing this for some years on a spreadsheet, but I now do it on paper which moves one activity from computer to a non-digital format and allows me to draw silly little pictures to illustrate what I'm doing. (I'd link to the post, but though I can almost always remember who posted what on LJ and quickly backtrack through their posts to find the one I want, on G+ because you are stuck with one user icon and no way to customise one's journal, everything seems impersonal and I haven't a clue who posted the link to it in the first place. No, wait! Here it is "One keeping a logbook". I found it by rummaging around in my browser's history.)

The idea behind the log (for me anyway) is that when I'm borderline depressed, To Do Lists just increase the feeling that I can't cope and so I like to keep Things Done lists as well which help to reassure me that I did do useful stuff each day, even if subjectively it didn't feel as though I did. Also, now I'm keeping it in a notebook form it might help point out why there are some days when it seems easy to plough through the tasks and other days I just want to sleep or vegetate in front of the computer.

Anyway, this has rambled on long enough. Once I've finished this batch of marking, I'll sit down and rationalise my Circles and see if that helps me get more out of Google+. For the moment, I'll just regard it as a work in progress.
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