Over the past week, Google+ has gotten a lot of attention. I’ve had a blast playing around with the new service. There’s been a lot of discussion as to exactly what it is, what best to compare it to (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and what are the real benefits. As you might imagine, there are a ton of opinions.
The main question being asked is really about what is the service really and who is best suited for. First, I am not of the “killer” this or that school of thought. I’ve always despised that line with tech reviewers because it implies that only one of whatever can really exist. The fact is there are many options for tech and social services. Some rival others and are more effective in various settings. Google+ will find it’s place among different types of users. Like any social networking service, it’s really about what you make it to be. Facebook, for example, started out as a means for students to connect and grew to be a global means of connecting people as well as a powerhouse of a service for businesses and organizations to connect and engage their customers. Google+ will inevitably evolve over time for various uses as users find new means to capitalize on it’s multitude of powerful features. In a nutshell, it’s a social service that is about sharing and incorporates features that are similar to many other social services such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Foursquare (i.e. check-ins) etc. while tying in many of the great Google products all in one place.
Part of my evaluation of the service has been can it benefit Catholics both individually and parishes? The conclusion I have come to is . . . yes. And there is a great deal benefits for both especially once Google opens up it’s version for organizations which the specualtion is that this would be similar to the Facebook page. Here’s some of the features I see as being great benefits for parishes:
- Circles – Google’s philosophy with this feature is that in life we share different things with different people. Circles allows users to create targeted “groups” of other users not only to share information with but also to easily view posts strictly by members of that circle. Think of this in terms of ministries within a parish. Each ministry becomes a “circle” which then allows for targeted discussions and sharing amongst those members all in one spot.
- Hangouts and Huddles – This feature is also a great addition for members of circles to engage in discussion either through text chatting and/or video. Again, a great feature to provide greater flexibility for ministries and/or groups to meet and collaborate.
- Tie-ins with other Google products – Google+ also ties in directly with other Google services such as Picasa photos and Google Documents making it easier to store and share items easily out to others.
- Connecting with Catholics everywhere – Google users are vast and wide, and the ability to connect with other Catholics globally allows for a great many benefits. We can gather ideas from others that benefit our own parish communities, enegage in faith discussions, and come together to do the good works of the Church. One thing we have realized with some of the disasters that hit the world over the last few years is that social services online provide an extremely powerful means to gather and coordinate aid response very very quickly. Google+ will also play a role in those situations and for Catholics.
- Great mobile benefits – Google+ users can access and use the service on the go as well. Android users have an app that is available to them and is a great design. Other mobile users such as the iphone can access the mobile version in their browser on their phone which works very well also. Google has said that they have submitted the iOS version of their app to Apple and are just waiting for Apple’s review process.