Google+ Lacks A Certain Spark

I think that it might be down to the fact that I’ve been using Google+ for a few weeks now, that I’ve only just realised how little I’ve actually used it.

Google+

Google+ has made it into my bookmarks... But will it stay there?

Sure, I’ve been sharing as much as I can, especially when it comes to shamelessly plugging my own blog posts, but the +1 feature is really all that’s grabbed me about the service. Circles, I suppose, have been useful so far, but I don’t imagine them becoming particularly important to me as a user until more people I want to add as a friend or simply to follow join the new social experience.

I’m not the only person that seems to think that Google+ has some issues in need of addressing, or certainly rethinking, at any rate. As far as I’m aware, the service is still in beta, and will be until the end of this month – only a few days away now.

But upon Google+’s release to the rest of the masses, will Google have spruced anything up to improve the service and how it works? My main issue is the use of Sparks, or should I say, the misuse of Sparks, as I haven’t touched it, other than once, when I initially signed up. When I realised that it wasn’t as brilliant as Google had made out, I swiftly cut myself off from it.

What I really want is a nice, perfect list of interesting articles about things I’m interested in. However, what I’m being given is not enough to satisfy that need. When I type in a certain phrase, for example, books, I get posts about cookbooks, religion, finance – none of which I’m interested in to the point of wanting regular updates about them.

This icon, known as the

There's really no need (yet) to switch from RSS to Sparks.

If I am to become more specific about my interests, such as typing in fiction, I still don’t really get anything like the refined results I’m expecting. Obviously it’s completely unreasonable to expect Google to know exactly what type of fiction I’m interested in, but I was led to believe that the idea behind Sparks was going to make finding everything I want to read about easy and pretty much completely done for me. At this rate, I’ll spend ten minutes scrolling through articles with disinterest, until I find one that might be remotely interesting. If I wanted to do this, I’d just search for the one specific book I was interested in. Let’s try that, actually.

So I typed in Eragon, and the results returned were slightly better. Although there was the occasional post for the trailer of them movie adaptation (which is both several years old, and very very bad), there is some information about the author at Comic-Con, amongst other news items.

What have we learned from this experience? Well, nothing that you probably didn’t already know, but the important points are these:

  • Google+ Sparks is actually harder to use than a standard search engine or an RSS feed.
  • It requires a ridiculous amount of specificity.
  • It’s unlikely that, even if you’ve provided said specificity, you’re going to hit gold with every single article you’re given.
  • You should probably not use Sparks until Google have given it a major overhaul.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m really enjoying Google+. If you want to, you can add me to your Circles, or if you’re still waiting for an invite and can’t wait until July 30th (when I believe the wider release begins), you can email me for an invite – just check the Contact page for my email address. Hopefully then you can help me come to a conclusion about Hangouts, which I’m yet to try out…

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5 comments
  1. I agree with most of what you have to say about Google+. I signed up and thought it was brilliant, but haven’t really done much with it since… mostly because it’s made me realise that if I add loads of people from Facebook on there it will just turn into Facebook and I hate Facebook now.

    What appealed to me most is that I didn’t want to add colleagues to FB for them to find out the ins and outs of my private life, so Google+ circles is good for that. However, the few people that I have invited have tried to sign up and been told that Google+ is full anyway! *rant rant*

    One thing I hate about Google’s conglomorate-esque services is that if you log into one thing it automatically logs you into everything else. I run my forum’s YouTube channel (with a different email address) and I’m fed up of having to sign out of my gmail account and log back in with that.

    Anyway, shameless plug time :P This is what I thought about Google+ when it first came out!
    http://wp.me/p1DPYR-7x I still stand by most of what I said, I just need to figure out how to make it work for me better.

    P.S – the G+ chat feature is [insert random profanity here]

    • Circles is definitely one of the best features, I’d agree.

      I still don’t think that the moment it becomes open that people will swarm from Facebook. G+ is a social media hotbed at the moment – the only people who are using it are the people who care about jumping on the next new social thing. People from FB won’t get involved for another year or so, simply because it’ll be like the whole Twitter thing: “It’s just like Facebook but worse.”

      I’ve had that multiple Google account problem too, but probably not on the same scale. Sometimes I just want to check my calendar for one account but have to log out and log back in. But mail isn’t a problem because I use Thunderbird.

  2. Mooktar said:

    I agree that sparks could use some work. They have potential, but at the moment they are basically a glorified Google search. The irony is that I discovered your fine blog this morning through the use of sparks (PC Gaming tag). I thought that might give you a chuckle.

    • No way! Finally, Sparks has done something good for me… But I agree – it is just glorified Google search. Thanks for reading!

  3. You’re right about Sparks. It doesn’t work. I really can’t imagine who’s using it regularly. I don’t know if you caught Vic Gundotra’s post, but he said that some “exciting improvements” are coming. Let’s hope, right? :)

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