I'm still backing Google+ and rapidly finding that I post there now, rather than on Facebook. That said though, there are a few things about it that need a tweak, so here's what I'd do next if I was in charge at Google HQ.
Incoming just doesn't work for me. Random people add you and then shout about whatever's on their mind, which is usually some waffle about social media being awesome. If they were interesting, I'd put them in a circle.
I can see what Google were trying to do and there's a good idea hiding in there, that you might like to have a place where you can see posts from the people who follow you, but you don't follow. The trouble is, people who follow you but you don't follow, tend to be the sorts of people who spam out social media and marketing links to every story they can find. They follow everybody! I don't follow them back because they're not adding value - there's no opinion, no insight and no personality.
Incoming in its current form doesn't work and once the platform's open to all, it's going to be a recipe for spamming. I'd be tempted to combine it with Sparks, which brings me on to...
Anyone use these? Thought not.
If Incoming can be a little annoying, Sparks is pretty much irrelevant. It's a news scraper and tracker in a social network, which ignores the principle that Google have got so right with Circles. I like to keep my news and my friends' opinion about the news separate. Sparks should just show me what Google+ users think. Google have got a great product already that can find me mainstream news stories.
From these first two points then, I'd
- Restrict sparks to just contain posts from users of Google+
- Then add filters to Sparks, to select either posts from all of Google+ (including brands), just personal users of Google+, only your circles or from your extended network.
- Now you can dump Incoming. You've got the pull model for topics that the web is so brilliant at, so you don't need people to shout at each other.
They work on Twitter and they'll work here. The updated Sparks will work better if people can flag up topics and then search for them with tags. How about a little plus sign in front of a word, if you want to announce it as a topic? That would be lovely.
An API for photos and video (and other things creative people make)
I like Picasa, so Google+ using it as a photo hosting service works for me. I don't use Google's video hosting because I like Vimeo (paragliding videos anyone?) This is a mistake Facebook made but Google can go one better. Don't only allow people to post things to their feed that they store in other places. Build an API and tie them in to profiles, so that it doesn't matter where I choose to host my content.
As clever as Google+ might turn out to be, it can't be a one-size fits all solution, because people are different. Let them be different and then pull the results of whatever they make into your platform.
As well as photo or video, with the right API, I could have a music tab on my profile, for music I like and music I've recorded. You've just jumped into the only territory that has kept Myspace staggering along for the past few years. Open your content platform up and see what people invent. Be the network that joins it all together.
It's time to let everybody play
If Google aren't just about ready to open up access to Google+, then they launched it too early. I like that it was launched with an invite-only wall as it helped to create a buzz around the product. It also made sure everybody had somebody to share with when they first arrived. If you're going to avoid people drifting back to what they did before, then you need to let everybody in now.