Google is aggressively promoting Plus. This means that all services are now going to be integrated with Plus. Picasa Web Albums exist, but are no longer the default photo management service. Instead, clicking on photos links me to the pictures from my circles on Plus. Reader is soon to go, and be merged with Plus. Buzz is to go, and Blogger too has been integrated with Plus.
The networking aspect is the goose (that lays the golden egg) of the day. Whether or not Google wants to take on Facebook, Plus looks like it's here to stay. Why should it not? Google has learnt its lessons from the Buzz fiasco, and have the USP that relations in real life are much more complex than the friend/not friend status that others offer. In fact, I think that Plus is closer to Twitter than it is to Facebook, but without the character limit, with the option to comment on posts, something I enjoy. The ability to follow random people with interesting posts and engage with them in a meaningful way changes the way I have viewed networks. It's a new concept to a person who has so far thought of networking as Facebook or LinkedIn. Suddenly, the
knowing barrier has been removed, it is no longer important to know a person to engage with him/her. The importance of breaking this barrier has been recognized by Facebook, and suddenly, it too has come up with an option to subscribe to a person's posts.
The secret to a good Plus experience is to create meaningful circles. It's no use adding everyone to the friends circle, if that was the case, you'd be better off with Facebook. If you think it's difficult to classify a person, just add them to the following circle, it means that you are just following them. Once you begin following a certain number of people, patterns will emerge, and you can then try to classify people. For me, I'm interested in photography and graphics design. So, I create a circle with the title
Photographers I follow. With interactions on posts by these photographers, I discover a whole range of people who are amateurs like me (but whose photographs have a much better quality). For such people, I created another circle
Random people interested in photography. Since some of them were also graphics designers, I could then create another circle with the title
Graphics designers I follow. Get the drift?
The ability to effectively group people is the essence of Plus. As Prashant remarked in one of his posts, it is entirely possible to create a circle so that you get only good posts. Probably because there are a whole group of professionals out there who actively use Plus to promote their trade. For many, it's like an alternate blogging platform, so many cross post their blogs on Plus.
Sparks is another useful service on Plus. Add your interests to sparks, and get good volume of high quality content on that interest. You may even find interesting people to follow.
One of the issues with integrating all Google services with Plus however, is that Plus so far has many wrinkles, which need to be ironed out. For example, photographs in Plus do not include licensing information, which was displayed in Picasa Web. At the same time, I'm not aware of any method to
+1 any one picture from an album. Similarly, Google uses comments to mark stories as top stories, so posts with a high volume of comments can easily occlude newer posts which have a lower volume of comments. Frankly, I think this is stupid, as anyone would logically stop looking for posts once he reaches posts he has seen before.
Some tips to improve your experience on Plus. Exercise caution with mutual circling, i.e. don't circle someone just because they have circled you. You are under no obligation to do so. Look at their public posts, read the about me section, then add them, if you find their content interesting. There is no use adding people who just reshare a particular person's work. However, there may be some who reshare a well edited bouquet of posts on topics that you may find interesting. If so, don't hesitate to circle them, hey, after all, high quality content is all that matters. Report spam, or abuse. Remember, Google does not allow nudity, obscenity, violence, hatred etc. in posts on Plus. Report them. Improve the experience for others.
Now, just try to apply the same logic to your contribution on Plus. Have a good profile, describing yourself, add a good profile picture (of yourself, why hide your face), as a picture is the first thing someone would notice (after all, we recognize people with their faces). Have a moderate amount of content, and make sure that some of it is public, for the benefit of those who may not be in your circles. Limit private posts to private circles, but it's fun to engage with people you don't know, to provide them with content. If you are the reticent kind (like I am), try and get over the barrier, but exercise caution. Do not make public the posts that reveal too much information about yourself, or any private content. Also, pay attention to the circles you share content with when you post. By default, the post is shared with those with whom you shared last with. If you forget this, you might just make one of the biggest reply-all gaffes in history (wink).
So, welcome to Plus. If you are a Google user, chances are that you have already been included in the Plus community. Enjoy the Plus experience.