What's so great about Google+ Communities?

Google this week rolled out a feature called Communities. This changes everything.

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Google+ Communities makes everything more relevant to everyone.

Communities solves the stage fright problem with Google+. If I post something in a community, it feels far less consequential.

Posting publicly in a stream can be unnerving, like talking about your steak dinner in front of people you suspect might be vegetarians.

Posting in Communities, on the other hand, is like talking about a book at a book club, talking about sports in a sports bar or talking about tech at a tech trade show.

Now people can interact like they're on Twitter, tossing off comments but knowing they'll reach a receptive audience.

Want to post about your lunch like you do on Twitter? Go for it! Post it in the "What I had for lunch" community!

It's a win for people who want to hear about your lunch. And it's a win for people who don't want to hear about your lunch. Everybody wins!

Communities solves Google+'s undeserved reputation as a place only for geeks and photographers. I've said from the beginning that every interest is represented on Google+. Now, Communities creates explicit spaces where thousands of interests can be easily discovered.

Better still, topics within Communities are organized by category. So, for example, within the "Foodies Online" Community, you can post in categories that include "Wine O'Clock," "Food Fails," "Bacon" and several others.

No matter how specific or narrow your interests, you'll either find a Community and a category where all the conversation is focused, or you can create one yourself.

And like all great online conversation sites, Google+ Communities are moderated. The creator can both set up the degree of moderation, and also appoint other moderators.

Like the message boards of yesteryear, you can have threaded, categorized, moderated conversations. But because it's Google+, those conversations can be augmented with high-resolution photography, YouTube videos and Hangouts.

How to really use Google+ Communities

Setting up or joining Google+ communities is so easy no manual is required. Still, Google has published the manual.

Here's my advice about how to really take advantage of Google+ Communities.

Since Google+ launched publicly last year, users have tried to organize circles around topic areas. So in addition to circles called "Family," "Friends" and "People I don't really like but I need to follow anyway," people have created circles like "Movie fans," "Home beer brewers" and "LEGO maniacs."

In other words, people have created some circles organized around people, and other circles organized around topics.

Here's what you do. First, go see if the topics you've created circles around have Communities set up. If not, create them yourself.

Then invite all the people in each topic circle to join the community. Then delete the topic circles.

The idea is to replace topic-based circles with topic-based Communities, and keep all your circles people-focused.

Google+ Communities represents the most highly evolved public communications medium ever devised. The feature fixes what was broken about Google+, and makes Google's social network a supremely relevant and friendly place for everyone and anyone to talk about the things they care about.

If you're interested in some of the Communities I've created, including a few about mobile computing and technology, check them out here.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at http://Google.me/+MikeElgan. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.

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