Continuing further with that series of blog posts on the topic of Google Plus, I thought I would ahead today and share a third one, which I thought was going to be, originally, the last one for now, but then again things have come up and there will be another one that I will be sharing next, where I will talk a little bit about the topic of Circles and share a couple of thoughts on how I am managing them and their flows. But for now I will spend the next few minutes talking about what I would think is the killer feature from Google Plus, at least, one of them, that you hardly ever see on any other social networking tool out there on the Social Web and which I think is probably going to be one of the main key success factors from G+: bridging together too irreconcilable worlds.
Ray Wang already hinted it earlier on today on a recent tweet that I thought captured it, half way through, very nicely: “MyPOV: The thing that #googleplus #google+ has right is the Unified Communications. The communities will come as a result. #socbiz #e20” and then developed further on this really insightful Google Plus discussion with a bunch of other folks. The overall sentiment is that G+ may not be ready just yet for a full implementation of unified communications and I would probably agree with that statement. But what I think G+ provides us with is a new breaking ground that no other social networking tool, at least, till now, has dared to bridge just yet: combining both online (As in real-time!) and offline interactions.
Yes, that’s right. If you take a look into some of the most popular social networking tools within the Social Web, hardly any of them provide full support for real-time, online interactions; with today’s Facebook announcement we may have the first exception. However, for the rest everything happens offline or in semi-real time, which in most cases, for a certain number of interactions and use cases, is not enough any longer. In a fast pacing world where most of the action happens in real time it’s a pity to see how we keep missing this bridge of combining the best of both worlds.
But here comes Google Plus, packing together, quite nicely, a whole bunch of features that help us combine both of those worlds and get the most out of them. On the one hand, we have got Google Talk, nicely integrated into Google Plus, which means that you can go ahead and fire up an Instant Messaging chat with your networks with just a single click. Then for those folks who heart Gmail, we are starting to see how G+ is getting nicely integrated in there as well with the Notifications pop-up box and all. But perhaps the killer feature from those online, real-time interactions is going to be, of course, you have all guessed right, G+’ Hangouts.
Indeed, plenty of folks keep saying that video, and videoconferencing, is going to be huge, if not already, as perhaps the next frontier for effective online collaboration amongst small groups, where instead of just typing away, you would just do a single click here and there and off you go with your webcam talking away with other folks. Well, Google Plus would allow you to do just that, with a single click, and with up to 10 people of your social networks and that is something that no other social networking tool has even attempted to do. But it gets better…
It gets better, because, even though I haven’t tried it out just yet myself, I have been hearing and reading from a whole bunch of other folks from my own networks, who have tried it out already and they have loved the experience, for how smooth it is and what high quality the rendering of the video is so far, which I think is rather interesting, because, in my opinion, it is going to help improve the way we collaborate online. How? By enabling audio (voice) and video right into your social streams. And here is the kick of it all. I am myself a rather fast typist, learned over the years and all, like probably most of you folks out there as well, but still I talk much faster than I can write and that along the combination of body language would make for a perfect collaborative environment where I need to get the job done with a small group of people in a short timeframe and somehow I still think that seeing is believing. After all, we are all visual animals.
However, what I really like about this bridging of these two irreconcilable worlds from Google Plus is that for those hangouts you can set them up yourself on purpose, inviting others to join, which is really good on its own already, but you can also join random hangouts of people who are in your network(s), who you may know really well, or not that well, but still having them at your reach for a video conversation with just one single click would enable something that I have always found very empowering and engaging from any social networking tool: facilitated serendipitous knowledge discoveries resulting in a constant and rampant social learning experience!
Can you imagine? You are just going through your G+ Streams and all of a sudden you see a hangout from a couple of folks from your networks who just got it started and since you have got a few spare minutes you decide to join in and BANG! the conversation kicks off and it blows you away! Remember that golden combination of both strong and weak ties? Well, imagine combining both of them in a single hangout, using video, to converse, connect, share your knowledge, collaborate both with a purpose or perhaps just for the sake of it. Who knows.
The key thing is that feature *is* already available, right as we speak! Which means that if you are lucky enough to have a G+ account you would be able to test it out right away. If not, you may need to wait till July 31st, when Google will go mainstream with it for everyone and open Google Plus. Now, while you muse about it for a little while longer, imagine what that would mean when you think about going mobile and what this would represent… Yes, I know, truly mind-blowing! The richness of interactions, wherever you are, no matter what, taken into a whole new level! The fine line between offline and online, real-time interactions will be a thing of the past! If not already!
You may have embarked yourself in a rather fascinating and perhaps a bit too complex conversation in one of the threads and in order to finish off, before you all go crazy, you click on Start a hangout, invite those folks and finish off the conversation, right there! Priceless, specially if you are stuck on a particular issue that you need to develop further more than just a few words. I am not sure what you would think, but the potential is just huge and it IS already here!
Now, finally, if you combine that set of features to incorporate video and audio into your streams, but also available elsewhere from where Google may be planning to integrate G+ with I think we have got a winner and if I were Skype, amongst several others, I would probably start worrying about it a little bit, because somehow I, too, can see myself, with a whole bunch of other people, shifting gears and moving to Hangouts, vs. Skype, more than anything else because the entry point is just low enough for me to not have to worry, that is, click on a button, start the conversation! And all of that without having to even know your Skype ID.
Like I have said in the last couple of blog posts, the more I continue to play, experiment, learn, and enjoy Google Plus, the more I am convinced it’s going to be huge. It just probably needs some time from us all to let it mature and grow healthily, to perhaps give it some time off adding further pressure on it and let it keep innovating adding new features and enhancements on what I think is one of the main premises for social networking tools: reach out to those who you care about, stay connected, converse with both audio / video AND text, share, learn, cultivate and nurture your social networks as a result of it in an efficient and effective manner. The one that matters to you and your network(s).
A win-win situation, in my opinion, if you would ask me, and, like I said, if you look into the potential growth from an integration point of view, along with the world of mobile that Google seems to be so good at, I do think we have got a new kid in town that very soon is going to grow into a rather smart adult in the social networking space integrating for us all a bunch of various different interactions that so far were just too scattered around. And that would make things just so easy for us all, don’t you think?
Click, click, done!