If you’ve been anywhere besides knitting doilies, mulching a garden or knee deep in clam-chowder, you’ve likely heard, seen or felt the social repercussions of Google’s new network site, Google+. It’s more than a site though. It’s an extension of your Google profile (if you have one) and a supplement, or in some cases, a replacement, to your other social networks. Of course, the first thing you want to is give it a few whacks to see what it can do. Turns out, Google has set it up pretty well for use as a platform for discussion and to a certain extent, collaboration. In fact, using if for something like a portfolio is definitely possible, but for product design collaboration? Well…

A Quick Google+ overview

The image above is the interface you see when you log into Google+. Breathtaking, no? It looks like every other stream of shared content. However, you receive content updated real-time with no screen refresh. With Google+, your streams can be organized into groups, called Circles, so you sort who you receive content from and who you share with. The layout is similar enough to Facebook, but cleaner and easier to navigate. The search box to ‘Find People’ does exactly that and the buttons next to the search direct you to your Photos, Profiles and Circles. Here’s an XKCD comic that really explains it.

It’s also a bit more. The Circles are a big plus, which make it less like Facebook and more like, dare I say, an email? But yeah, you can ‘send’ content to specific people, add others, with the benefit of the entire conversation remaining intact. If you have an Android phone (iPhone app coming soon, sorry blackberry users) it gets even easier. You get a native app with instant upload for photo and streaming updates from your Circles. A few benefits you have with Google+ that you don’t have anywhere else are:

  • Unlimited photo and video upload
  • Share with specific people/groups of people
  • Integrates with your Google profile
  • Integration with Android devices is already very strong
  • You About section can contain photo, links, barcodes, lists
  • Live video chat with multiple people (called hangouts)
  • Text groups of people on the go (called huddles)
  • Ports what you’re sharing in Google Reader (the Buzz tab)
  • Currant your own topical interest groups (called Sparks)
  • You hub of activity on Google OS

Following People on Google+

Of course, the purpose of Google+ can be many things – expanding your network, sharing your web finds, getting away from Facebook… it’s all possible. It’s not much without following people first. To do that, you place people into Circles. If you’ve not got the idea already, think of Circles as, ‘the circles you travel in’ – your clicks, or groups of friends. Right now, you can’t share these groups, other people don’t see them. I have a Circle for Everyone, CAD, Design, Tech, Friends, Family, Bloggers, People I generally dislike and Small people. You get the idea. Google suggests people for you to add in the Circles Section and allows you to ‘Find and Invite’ others. Adding them to Circles is easy as dragging and dropping their profile image onto a Circle.

Setting up Google+ as a Portfolio

If you look upon the screenshot of my profile below, you’ll see my Google+ profile with professional looking photo and my About section shown. You’ll notice sections for posts, photos, videos, +1’s, Buzz and a button to the far right to edit your profile (much easier than editing a Facebook profile.) Photos and Videos are pretty self explanatory. +1’s and Buzz are simply what you share from other websites and what you share from Google Reader. Those can be removed if you want a cleaner, less share-centric portfolio. So, you may get the idea of how a Google+ profile can be used as a portfolio of photos or designs. The images you see in that stripe (the scrapbook) can be added and arranged to your portfolio to compliment your work experience which can be listed below.

The reason I like this so much as a portfolio is how it has all the best information about you in one place, in a clean looking interface to boot. You don’t get this with LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s cleaner, more customizable (although not much) and is certainly a page that provides a good overview of your capabilities while at the same time provides access to your other social addictions.

Of course, Google+ is not exactly set up to be used as a portfolio, but it can be, and is but ONE MORE WAY for you to use as a way for people to get in touch with you. Like you need it.

Using Google+ for Product Design Collaboration

Setting up a portfolio on Google+ seems easy opposed to something as involved as developing a product. It’s obvious. It’s not a medium to build brilliance and create manufactured parts. However, it is to the extent that it’s being discussed. I asked the question on Google+ just to see what others were thinking. Lots of comments, but all agree it has a ways to go. What makes it a tempting resource for product development is how Circles work. Roger Haley put it this way,

Seems like one could make a Circle for sharing a particular project to include only the concerned contacts in those posts. Might be nice to be able to attach/upload files for group sharing to cut down on the need for email.

The limitation of that now, is that you see all the activity of people you have in a Circle, so some content will not be work related, but as Jeffrey Mathias puts it,

I’m going to see everything they shared with me when I click on the stream for work. The plus side is that it reinforces that you should mix work and fun.

It’s more like a open office environment with all the joys and distractions of seeing and hearing everything everyone else is doing. It’s also limited to what other Google services are shared. There is no direct integration with GMail, Calender and Docs – all services that are part of Google Apps for business, which is exactly why they are missing – Google is planning Google+ for business which will likely bring in the project collaboration aspects (and pricing) that Google+ for people is missing.

Overall it’s a interesting, and in many ways, better solution for sharing content and using as a way to display your activity and talent. (Example, if you have a Google profile, do a search for your name.) For product design however, we have yet another social network that is hardly useful for the intricacies introduced throughout the product design process. Agree?

Some useful resources for Google+

Chrome Extensions
Surplus – Google+ integration for Chrome
Replies and More – Comments and notify improvements from Google+
Notification count – Shows notification count for Google+
Extended Share – Share your Google+ posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Facebook to Google – Transfer Facebook friends to Google. Thanks Daniel!
Gplus.to – Create a short URL for your Google+ profile. Thanks Lou!
Connect Google and Instgram – 6 steps to connect and share. Thanks Bradley!
Google+ for mobile – Overview of Google+ use on mobile devices.
Google+ cheatsheet – Keyboard shortcuts for Google+.

Have any others?

You can follow me here http://gplus.to/joshmings


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.