Elgan: 10 things I hate about Google+

Google+ is great. But it has problems. Here's how to solve them.

I have a love-hate relationship with Google+. Because I love it and use it so much, I really hate its current limitations.

As I've mentioned in this space before, I'm on what I call the "Google+ Diet." I've stopped posting to my personal blog, I've withdrawn from Facebook and Twitter, and I've even tried to use Google+ instead of e-mail. I'm all Plus, all the time.

Despite having well over 20 million users, Google+ is theoretically still a "closed" invitation-only beta service. That means Google is still fixing many of its flaws and limitations.

Until Google works out the kinks in its new social networking service, there are tricks and workarounds for most of the problems you might encounter in Google+.

Here are the top 10 things I hate about Google+, and what I do about them.

1. The 're-animated squid' problem

Google+ supports animated GIFs and nice, big pictures. As a result, a sizable minority of posts have them. You see a funny picture in your stream, chuckle and move on. Then you see the same picture again, and shrug. Then you see it again. And again, as more and more people discover it and reshare it. It becomes annoying.

The worst of these is an animated GIF showing a Japanese squid dish. Apparently, when you put soy sauce on a dead squid, it appears to come alive like some kind of zombie seafood platter from hell. The GIF demonstrates the phenomenon hideously. I've seen it appear in my stream at least a hundred times.

Eventually, I believe Google will add search filters in Google+ like the ones in Gmail. But for now, the best solution is to limit the number of people you circle (follow).

There's so much great content on Google+ that users are tempted to circle everyone they can until reaching the limit of 5,000 people. But if you circle too many people, you're going to get a lot of dead squids.

Of course, you can also just follow narrower circles (such as only "Friends" or "Family" or "People Who Don't Post Squid GIF"). But when you do that, you miss out on direct posts (items directed only to you), some Hangout (group video chat) invitations and posts from other interesting circles. It's great to be able to monitor your whole stream (made up of all circles).

The sweet spot for the number of people to circle right now is between 100 and 1,000. By uncircling the serial image posters, and seeking out users with more original content, you can constantly improve the quality of your stream.

2. The 'everybody's still on Facebook' problem

Everybody's on Facebook because everybody's on Facebook. When you move to Google+, you immediately realize two things. First, Google+ is far better than Facebook. Second, your friends and family aren't on Google+ yet.

Google+ will be way better when everyone you know is fully participating in it. But how do you persuade people to leave the Facebook cave and enter the sunshine of Google+?

It's not easy, but it can be done.

First, auto-post everything on Facebook that you post on Google+, with a link back to the Google+ post (there are many ways to do this; just ask your Google+ circle buddies).

Second, refuse to use Facebook for commenting and interacting -- make 'em come to Google+ for the conversations.

Third, convince people on Facebook to try Hangouts either by showing it to them on your laptop, or by describing it to them. Google's Hangouts group video chat feature is so compelling that nobody can resist it.

If all else fails, play hardball: Post things your family and friends really want to see, and don't make them public. They'll have to sign up for Google+ to see them (make sure you invite everybody). It sounds coercive, but you're doing them a favor.

3. The 'I spent four years building up Twitter followers' problem

You might want to abandon Twitter, but not your Twitter friends.

The good news is that you can build followers more easily on Google+ (while the number of people you can circle is capped at 5,000, the number of people who can circle you is unlimited). Sometime today or tomorrow, the number of people following me on Google+ (after four weeks) will exceed the number of people following me on Twitter (after four years).

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