You’ll hear writers say that writing is a lonely business. I’ve said it. But Google+ may be changing that. Last night, I attended my first “writers hangout” hosted by Jason Sanford. It started at 9pm and went on for close to two-and-a-half hours, following some basic rules that Mary Robinette Kowal suggested earlier in the week. In a nutshell:
- We meet at the designated time and pop into the Hangout.
- We chat for 15 minutes.
- We write for 45 minutes.
- Repeat steps 2-3.
It was a great experience. With the video and voice capabilities of a hangout, we could see each other while we were chatting, and also while we were writing. During the writing, the sounds become like pleasant white noise. It is motivating. Everyone else is writing and you want to write, too. Best of all, you get to hangout with such cool people. There were as many as 10 people in the hangout last night: Jason Sanford, Mary Robinette Kowal, Juliette Wade, John DeNardo, Paolo Bacigalupi, Janet Harriet, Patrick Thurnstrom, Adam Callaway, Brian Dalton, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Shaun Duke, and Scott Roberts.
Also, one of Mary’s puppets made an occasional appearance.
I joined the session at 9, stepped out at 9:30 to take part in an SF Signal Podcast (about which I’ll have more to say later), and came back when it was done. All told, I managed to write some 1,600 words and did so in a sympathetic environment with folks from all over the place. It was great, and I will absolutely be doing this again.
Many thanks to Jason Sanford for hosting the Hangout.
I like it.
I got my invitation to Google+ last week and I have been slowly digging into it, using it more and more over the last several days, growing my circles and other interactions. Here are some thoughts that I’ve had about Google+ since I’ve been using it.
Circles are not only for privacy, they’re for courtesy as well
It seems to me that this is the right way to let people share content. Undoubtedly, there will be countless posts on how best to organize your circles for maximum effectiveness. I’m still playing around with mine. My idea is to keep as few circles as I need to be able to share content the way I’d like to. There are two considerations here:
- Privacy: limiting who you share certain content with, as opposed to exposing it to all your “friends”.
- Courtesy: there are people who probably don’t care much about my science fiction life, or who have told me they don’t need to hear about the Little Man. I can organize my circles and share content so as to include people who are interested in the particular content and exclude people who are not. Should someone become interested, they can always be moved into the “Science Fiction News” circle, or the “Little Man Updates” circle. In this sense, circles can be thought of as information channels.
And have you tried deleting a circle yet? If not, go ahead and create an empty circle then delete it and see what happens. It’s very cool!
Thanks to my friend and coworker, Monica, I am now on Google+. I’ve had almost no time to really look at it or play around with it (although did manage to add a few folks to circles), but once I have I’ll post here about my preliminary experiences so far. Anyone else out there on Google+ yet?
Looks like I’ll soon need to put together version 4 of my social network.
I saw two new Google tools today. One of them won’t be available for a little while, and one of them is available right now.
Google+ is Google’s attempt to take on Facebook. It is a social networking venue that appears to address one of the chief concerns that people have with Facebook: that all “friends” are created equal. In Facebook, when you post something, unless you take some specific actions, it is generally visible to all of your friends. Using what it calls “circles,” you can define arbitrary lists of “people” and add them to various circles. When you post and share things, you share them among your circles. So you can safely share some things with one circle that you may not share with others.
It also introduces some pretty cool social networking features using this concept. But one of the coolest is the ability to take pictures from your mobile device and have them automatically uploaded to a private folder in the clouds as they are taken. This takes away the pain of having to upload them yourself, and the photos are then accessible for you to share with your circle as you like.
It doesn’t appear that Google+ is¬†publicly¬†available¬†yet. Right now it is by invitation-only. However, after reading the blog post and watching the accompanying videos, I was pretty impressed by the concept. Duh! Circles! In retrospect it makes a whole lot of sense.
The other tool that Google has introduced is available now. It’s called Google Takeout and it provides a mechanism for downloading an archive file of all of the data that you store on Google: pictures, profile information, streams like Buzz, etc. You choose what you want to download and it will generate a file that you can then download to your computer. This provides a fast an easy way to grab content you’ve stored in the cloud and bring it locally onto your computer.
We know that Google Wave didn’t work out to well, and Google Buzz has only marginal acceptance, but I am impressed with what I have seen of Google+ and I am particularly impressed by the notion of circles. Watch the demo videos if you get a chance and you’ll get a better idea of how the framework will operate. I think this could be a good break for Google in social networking.
Just in time for the holidays, Google has opened it’s eBook store. The claim 3 million titles available in electronic format and these titles appear to be available for most eReaders, except for the Kindle, which at present cannot handle the particular PDF format the store uses. I have a Kindle and naturally, that means I cannot read books I might buy from the Google eBook store on that device, but I can read them using other applications on my iPhone or my computers.
I think this store will be an interesting addition to the eBook arena. Google has a tendency of building useful applications, in my opinion. (I love their mail and calendaring applications, to say nothing of Google Docs.) But Google has also had a reputation for playing a little fast and loose with digital rights, trying to digitize books that it didn’t necessarily have a right to do. In the material I’ve seen today, they have statements on copyrights, and what books are available versus what books aren’t.
But moreover, Google’s eBook store is, at present, in direct competition with Amazon because it doesn’t work with the Kindle while Amazon, obviously does. To me it reemphasizes the need for a universal eReader format and support for such a format on all devices.
Not all of the books available in the eBook store are available in formats that allow free-flowing of text the way they are on the Kindle. That is, some books have literally had their pages scanned in and in these cases, the font sizes can’t be adjusted and I think that will prove interesting as well. However, the store appears to provide much of the same functionality as other eBook stores with the ability to switch devices and find yourself where you last left off in the book you are reading. Your library is stored in the cloud so that it is accessible anywhere. It was not clear to me from my brief perusal this morning if this format allows for annotations, and if so, if the annotations are stored in the cloud. The books can be reviewed, just like on Amazon, and the reviews are available online.
It will be interesting to watch this evolve. Google has a way of doing innovative things with their applications and there are some interesting possibilities with their eBooks.