Google+ - a Gentle Introduction

| Comments | featured

So a couple of days ago Google launched Google+, a product that did not slip out quietly it seems despite Google’s intentions.

You’ve probably read journalists who love it and journalists that hated it, but since the cat appears to be out of the bag and the invitations are flowing fast and furious I thought I’d write a quick few bits about how to get started using it.

First of all your invitation.  If somebody you know has invited you, there’s a good chance that you didn’t realise it was an invitation.  There are 2 forms of invitation.

As a “member of the press” (by association not directly) I got a real invitation from the Google PR team, which appeared to come from one of our developers.  It looked a bit like this and it was a real invitation.

[caption id=”attachment_660” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”A real full invite”][/caption]

You can see clearly that it is an invitation and you can sign up from the mail easily.

During the first few hours, Google ‘accidentally’ left a send invitation feature into Google+, which was quickly noticed by the press and the number of people coming in massively increased.  Google quickly disabled the send an invite functionality, and we don’t know when it’s coming back.

However there is another way to invite people to Google+ and they get an email that looks like this:

[caption id=”attachment_641” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”This is actually an invite”][/caption]

Firstly this is not an official way of inviting someone, and may not work.  This email doesn’t say invitation except in tiny print at the bottom of the email, and instead looks like an opportunity to see the marketing bumph about Google+.

But clicking that button will result in your seeing one of two screens, if you are unlucky, it appears that Google are disabling signups globally for a few hours at a time, and you’ll get the “We are overloaded” page.

[caption id=”attachment_642” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”When Google is not allowing invites, this is what you see”][/caption]

If you get this try again in a few hours (or minutes) and you might get lucky and get the “Make an account” page (I don’t have a screenshot I’m afraid, you can’t miss it, it asks for your name and has a big signup button).


First steps in Google+

The first page you’ll see will contain a lot of welcome bumph.  Go ahead and read it, watch the videos and come back after you’ve experimented.  I’ll wait for you.If you are a popular kind of person with geeks, then there is a good chance that you will have a number of notifications that you are in peoples circles already.

[caption id=”attachment_643” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”People are sharing with me”][/caption]

If you unlucky and only know one or two geeks then it’s possible that the only person who has added you is the person who invited you.  Never mind, you can find friends all on your own.

First of all, you can simply mine your gmail contact book.  This is particularly easy to do, and Google have put a lot of thought into it.

[caption id=”attachment_648” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”A list of friends”][/caption]

In the section that looks like this under your circles, you can see all of your contacts who are not yet on Google+.  At first you will probably instinctively start dragging contacts down to the relevant circle one at a time.  This is a fairly inefficient way of sorting your contacts.

[caption id=”attachment_645” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Click to select multiple friends”][/caption]

Instead simply click all of the contacts that you want in a single circle (say the 25 members of my family I wanted to select) and then drag one of them, you should see that they all come down and group together to be dropped into a circle.  This makes life a lot easier when sorting out those tricky large groups.

[caption id=”attachment_649” align=”alignnone” width=”228” caption=”Creating a new circle of friends”][/caption]

Create lots of circles, you can add people to multiple circles, and it’s very easy to rename, delete and even move people from one circle to another.  I currently have circles for my church, my friends from Milton Keynes, my friends from School, people I’ve worked with, and people I currently work with at the Guardian.

Speaking of people you went to school with, I don’t really use GMail (especially not my gmail account itself) to email people, so I only had 60 − 80 addresses in there.  For a number of my contacts, I instead use Facebook.  At the time I’m writing this, adding your Facebook contacts requires a couple of steps.  I expect this to change eventually, but for now, it turns out that Yahoo works as a very good middleman.

Login to Yahoo Mail for your Yahoo account (or create one if you don’t have one).  Click the contacts link, and select the Import Contacts link from the Popular Tools that you should see.

You can now select Facebook, enter your Facebook details and Yahoo will happily slurp all of your Facebook friends into your Yahoo email list.  Handy huh?

[caption id=”attachment_653” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Find and invite from Yahoo”][/caption]

Now back in Google+, Under the circles tab, select the Find and Invite link and you should be able to add your Yahoo contacts.  Authorise it from your Yahoo account by following the instructions and suddenly all of your Facebook friends should be available in the Find and Invite tab.

[caption id=”attachment_647” align=”alignnone” width=”147” caption=”People who are in paul's circles”][/caption]

Finally, once you’ve got a few friends who are on Google+, you can start looking at their circles to see if there are any friends that you are missing.  In pretty much any section of Google+ you can click somebodies name and get to their profile page.  On the left is a quick view of a few people in their circle, and people who have added them to their circles (and people you’ve got in common).

[caption id=”attachment_644” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”People in pauls circles”][/caption]

If you hit the view more, you can get a nice view of all their contacts with an easy way to add them to your own circles.  With this you can very easily start adding a large number of people who are already on Google circles.

Doing all of this should give you a fair number of people into your circles, but you might be missing a number of the less geeky people in your life.  You might have them in your circles, but they don’t have a Google+ profile yet.  How disappointing.  So lets discuss invites.I cannot guarantee that this works, the only sure way to send invites is to wait for Google to fully enable invites.   For now the following seems to send out the magic email.

[caption id=”attachment_654” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Email your friends”][/caption]

Go to your stream and start sharing something.  Remove the Public/All Circles users that are currently in the list and add a circle that has members you want to invite.  You should see an option to email people not on Google+, tick it and confirm the pop up that comes up when you click share.

This will cause each of those people to get an email indicating that they’ve been mentioned, and they can click the link in the email and hopefully they’ll get in and sign up.

I hope you found this useful, and feel free to find me on Google+ and say hello or thanks.