Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
The writer and philosopher Alain de Botton is a well-known commentator on our modern world. He’s written and presented on a vast range of subjects, from art and religion to literature and travel.
His work is loved by many, but less so by others, and his Twitter account, in which he tweets thoughts for our preponderance, comes in for particular criticism. Search for his name on Twitter, for instance, and you’ll find that opinion on him is divided. Some view his words as pithy platitudes, but others clearly find help and inspiration – his tweets receive hundreds of favourites and retweets by other users.
He has unintentionally triggered some rather amusing stuff on the web, too. The blog Alain de Bottom pairs up pearls of wisdom from the philosopher with images from 1990s comedy show Bottom, which starred Rick Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. I can’t quite decide whether the blog is affectionate or mocking.
Personally, I do struggle to “get” the little I’ve read by him. I find, for instance, that his tweets tend to state the obvious. I also fail to understand the premise behind a book called The Art of Travel when clearly, objectively, there is no such thing – at least, any more than there is an “art of life” or an “art of thinking”.
The other day, a tweet by Alain de Botton was retweeted by someone else into my timeline.
It isn’t disrespectful to the complexity of existence to point out that despair is, often, just low blood sugar and exhaustion.
— Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) February 19, 2013
To which I could not help but wonder aloud:
It is a great mystery of our modern age, that someone somewhere pays Alain de Botton actual money.
— Simon Varwell (@simonvarwell) February 19, 2013
About an hour later, I received an email.
Thanks for your tweet. If you’d like me to explain more closely, I’d be happy to try to shed some light.
Congratulations on your website and all good wishes,
Instantly, I was suspicious. It came from what an email address that contained his website domain, but such things are easy to fake if you know how. My suspicions were directed towards good friends Niall and Justin, both of whom have been known to play such pranks in the past (Justin, for instance, once wrote to me pretending to be David Icke). I challenged them and they both denied it.
This left me with the assumption that perhaps, it really was him. That he’d searched for himself on Twitter, seen the tweets where people had used his name, saw mine, and decided to respond to it. Was it just mine? Did he regularly do vanity searches, and did he reply to everyone who mentioned him? If so, he could be a busy man.
It was odd. But I figured that replying with honesty and frankness (offering neither rudeness nor a grovelling retraction) was the only way to get to the
botton bottom of it.
Thanks for your email. It was an obvious surprise to receive it as you might imagine. I thought that friends had sent it as a spoof, hence the delay while I obtained denials from likely suspects.
My tweet – and apologies if it sounded rude – expressed a mild degree of wonder at the nature of your work. It’s like the old joke which I’m sure you’ve heard of philosophy graduates never seeing a job advert that says “Wanted: Philosopher”.
The tweet that particularly sparked my reaction was the one that said “It isn’t disrespectful to the complexity of existence to point out that despair is, often, just low blood sugar and exhaustion.” While I can’t fault your logic here, and indeed I can testify to it personally, my curiosity stems from the fact that it seems so obvious as to not be worth stating.
And this is a theme I feel that runs through your offerings on Twitter. Maybe I’m a cold-hearted pragmatist (I tried reading Paul Coelho but gave up after a few pages), but isn’t much of what you tweet pretty obvious? Or alternatively is there no harm in sometimes stating the obvious, if certain people thrive on the reassurance that it provides or if they can’t see the clarity in life through the fog that sometimes descends?
Who, I suppose I am wondering, is the “target” or likely constituency for your writing? Maybe it’s hard for any writer to answer that question, so if it is an unfair one I apologise.
Thanks again for dropping a line, and all the best in your work. May others “get” it more than I do!
Very quickly, a reply came back.
Thanks for your gracious note, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Only to learn.
I believe you’re clearly a highly intelligent, reflexive person for whom many ‘truths’ aren’t any kind of revelations, they are just your obvious common sense. Sadly, for me, and for many others, less well endowed intellectually, we like to be reminded of obvious things, which while they aren’t complete revelations, can be crisply said and therefore gain a place in our distracted and weak minds.
What most bothers me is people’s routine assumption that Twitter is an innocent medium in which one can be as rude as one likes about pretty much anyone without consequence. Rudeness always hurts someone – and if there’s space for one truth that isn’t yet common sense to you, it is to remember to be kind towards those perhaps less intellectually blessed than you’ve been.
With good wishes,
It was a striking reply. Firstly, I don’t know why he thought me as intellectually superior (or thought it was valid to make me feel that I was). But secondly, his words at the very least showed a humanity. It was a reminder, as if we needed it, that famous people are just ordinary human beings and are capable of being hurt or offended with the rest of us. It’s an acute issue in this age of instant communication where, through social media, once-remote public figures can be put in direct contact with ordinary people.
You don’t have to rummage deeply online to find a controversy about personal abuse of famous people, often masked behind the cowardly cloak of anonymity. This article by radio presenter Richard Bacon is a sobering exploration of the effect it can have, while the often surreal events at the Leveson Inquiry highlighted the terrible abuse and violation of well-known people that can emanate from society’s obsession with celebrity.
Not to say that my original tweet about Alain de Botton was remotely comparable with the evils of the gutter press or the deranged hate-spouting of online trolls. I don’t even think my tweet was particularly rude. Critical, yes, and probably unChristian, but certainly not what you’d classify as offensive. And I’m perfectly entitled to a less than stellar opinion of de Botton’s work, despite the fact he came over as charming and thoughtful in his emails. But all that said, I could have phrased my original tweet more politely, and I could have tweeted directly at him rather than referring to him in the third person with no consideration that he’d “overhear”.
Not wishing to protract a conversation unnecessarily, I wrapped things up with Alain de Botton with one short, final email.
Hi again Alain
I’d respectfully dispute your assessment that I’m especially highly intelligent or somehow more intellectually endowed. A bit rude in my tweet, perhaps, yes, for which I apologise again. There are lots of cases out there of famous people being badly hurt by abuse on Twitter. I’d hate to think I could contribute to that.
Twitter is rather like a large room where everyone is capable of hearing and reacting to everything that’s said about them. It seems to be a good rule of Twitter that if you wouldn’t say something about someone to their face, don’t say it at all.
It’s probably a good rule for life, too.
In fact, if it could fit into 140 characters, it’s the sort of thing Alain de Botton himself might tweet.
As I mentioned on my blog a few weeks ago, I did a recent spell as the tweeter on the ScotVoices account. That is, of course, one of many “national” Twitter accounts where someone from the country tweets about their life, their country, and indeed anything (within reason) they fancy.
I’ve now had a couple of weeks or so to mull over my experience, and feel I should blog a wee report on how it went.
Before I do, though, I had every intention – thanks to a suggestion from my opposite number on the Pakistan account – to “storify” my week’s conversations. Storify is a handy little tool that searches, records and presents tweets (or indeed emanations on other social media platforms) in the form of a conversation that you can later easily read through and present to others. To do a whole week of tweets was admittedly a little vain, but I felt it would be a nice way to remember the week as well as pick out highlights when it came to writing it up.
It was also, however, an enormously fiddly process to transfer several thousand tweets at once, and – long story short – she couldn’t handle it, Captain. I emailed Storify and – to my enormous surprise – a friendly, fluent English-speaking human being wrote back to apologise. Basically, he explained, the system is not designed for the capturing of many hundreds of tweets at once, but saw that there was great potential in it being used by “national” accounts like ScotVoices, and he said he would pass the idea on to colleagues.
So that aside, you’ll have to cope with my memory.
And in a nutshell, being ScotVoices was a blast.
The first thing I noticed was that the experience was very different from my own Twitter account. I was tweeting more often than I would for my personal account, and there was a huge level of interaction, with anything I tweeted rendering a number of replies or retweets and indeed often generating long conversations between various users.
That was nothing to do with the quality or nature of anything I said, but simply to do with the numbers of people following the account. I think my personal account had, at the start of my ScotVoices week, around 400 followers (though its grown since as a result). ScotVoices, however, had something like 2,500, and I was totally unused to this level of interest and interaction. Trying to be polite and engaged as possible, I replied to as much as I could. While it was all fascinating, it was at times exhausting in a way to keep up with everything.
It was fun, though, and that was because I tried as much as possible to ask questions and generate discussion. The account after all is about reflecting the country, and life is as much about questions as pronouncements. In any case, asking a question then sitting back is sometimes easier than trying to spout forth on something in a balanced way.
So I posed a number of questions over the week: about the nature of Scotland, the relationship between the cities and the rest of the country, or (and this was a popular one) people’s best photos of Scotland.
My favourite discussion, though, was when I turned the independence referendum debate on its head. Rather than asking people’s views (which had been done by previous custodians of the account), I instead asked people who subscribed strongly to either yes or no to share what they thought the opposite side’s strongest argument was. There’s too much polarisation in politics, not least these days in Scotland, and so it was fun to get everyone thinking as objectively as they could about the views of the “other side”.
I wasn’t passive in all the discussions, however, and did “lead” at other points. I went on an admittedly predictable evangelical rant about the merits of Esperanto, and to be fair did get a lot of positive interest from it. I also, on a day off, went on a couple of hours’ “photo walk” around Inverness, tweeting photographs of various parts of the city, going into bits of local history where I knew it, and generally sharing a flavour the city I live in. Judging by the responses, this was probably one of the best received parts of my week on the account, and was certainly one of my favourites to do.
When I visited Edinburgh for work at the start of my week, I even attempted to convene a face to face gathering in a pub for whoever was in the area. After 30 minutes of waiting, nobody had turned up so I headed to my hotel… only to receive a tweet a wee while later asking where I was. It was from none other than an MSP who was an old comrade in arms from our days in the SNP Students at Aberdeen University. I set followers on a fun guessing game as to which MSP it was that I’d inadvertently stood up, and the first correct guess won a copy of my book (as did the MSP himself for his trouble).
I learned a lot, too, over the course of the week. I learned, for instance, that there’s a huge amount of international interest in Scotland. Many of the account’s followers, judging by those who interacted with me, are from European and North American countries. While awareness of the independence referendum was surprisingly low (it was a question I specifically asked), there was a huge general interest in and love of Scottish people, culture, scenery and history.
I also learned a lot from other countries – not only those people who replied who were following the account, but also the the many other foreign accounts that ScotVoices was already following. I had good chats with my equivalent tweeters on the Pakistan, Egypt, Sweden and Netherlands accounts, and it was nice to have a brief crossing of paths with people from so many different countries – like a sort of “citizen’s United Nations”.
Finally, from a discussion I sparked about Scottish food, I learned that porridge made with banana-flavoured Yazoo is something I really must try some time.
My experience on ScotVoices convinced me that social media really does have a place. It doesn’t have to be all about trolls, abuse, mudslinging and endless pictures of cats. It can be a place where windows are opened to other parts of the world, jokes and ideas can cross cultural boundaries, and we can give real voices to real people.
It was an exciting week. Though I’m rather glad to be back to just the one Twitter account.
Rather excitingly and terrifyingly, I’m the voice of Scotland for the coming week.
Well, not quite.
I guess I’d better explain. One of the nicer phenomenons (phenomena? Phenomenii?) on Twitter is a number of “national” accounts, where one person from the country in question looks after the Twitter account for a week and (within reason) tweets about whatever they like. It’s a lovely way of giving ordinary people a voice and getting their fellow countryfolk to think about certain things and to generate a bit of a national conversation. Or, given it’s Twitter and it’s only a week, and “national conversation” sounds too political, “national chat” probably sounds better.
I think – and I might be wrong – that @sweden was the first such national account, and a few weeks ago @ScotVoices was started up and you can read the background (and meet past tweeters) here. I’ve really enjoyed following it so far, and the range of individuals who’ve held the conch have been very interesting and thought-provoking in their own different ways. The platform that such a range of different people are given reminds me of The Listserve, which I blogged about this past summer and which I can thoroughly commend to you.
Anyway, long story short – I’m privileged to be this week’s tweeter on the ScotVoices account, starting from this evening. It will be fun to interact with a range of different people and play a wee part in the discussions that the account has generated about who we are as Scotland, where we’re going, and what we’re all up to.
Hopefully I’ll do it justice. Follow the account and join in!
What would you say to the world if you had the opportunity?
Well, if not to the world then at least to several thousand strangers. That’s the idea behind The Listserve – an email list where one person each day is randomly selected to send an email to everyone else.
I heard about it a few weeks ago on Google+ and signed up out of curiosity. It’s easy to think that the list will be populated by self-publicists, nutters and spam artists, all keen to get over a message or product that you’re almost certainly not interested in. And while everyone so far selected has been getting over a message, it’s usually a thoughtful and reasonable one, nearly always including some sort of tips for a better life – be it a recipe, inspiring quote or thoughtful story.
There have been very few sales pitches, religious preaching or attention-seeking stupidity, and I think that reflects well on humanity and is one of the reasons why the concept appeals to me. It reminds me of the idea of togetherness in diversity that came over in the marvellous YouTube film experiment Life in a Day (which I reviewed here).
One recent message from The Listserve contained a reflection on the concept itself, and I’ll let you read it in the poster’s own words:
I am an avid reader of The Listserve. I love the concept of the group and I love receiving each day’s email. So far I’ve learned so much from so many strangers – drink recipes with ingredients I would never have thought of, more information about bees and beekeeping than I ever thought I’d learn, the list goes on and on.
While I always hoped that one day I’d be selected to send out an email – I didn’t expect the time to come so soon. To me, the chance to email almost 20,000 people in countries ranging from Belarus to Cambodia to Lebanon to Nigeria is an incredible one. It’s the 21st century equivalent of being given a microphone to talk to a massive audience of people from around the world, people that you’d never normally meet. A really amazing opportunity, but also one with quite a bit of pressure. I have to be honest, when I received the email yesterday afternoon, I panicked. What could I possibly tell people that they didn’t already know? I’m 22 years old – how many incredible life experiences do I have that would be inspiring to 20,000 others?
The question obviously occurs: what would I write about if I was selected? You apparently get three days’ notice so there’s a little time to think of something, but I imagine those three days could fly by, especially if you are busy or away from your email for whatever reason.
The statistical likelihood is, of course, that you’ll probably never get a chance to write anything, as the odds of being selected are slim. Every day, though, you get the thoughtful contributions of those who have been. And that’s a lottery too – you never know where the next message will come from, what sort of people they will be, and what they will say. It’s an interesting demonstration of the little things in life which make people tick and which make it special.
I’d like to think I’d write something that people would appreciate reading, though despite there being very little “selling” so far I’m rather ashamed to confess I would struggle not to be tempted to mention my books past and forthcoming. I hope I’d resist though, and perhaps instead I’d talk about travelling in general, life in Scotland in these exciting times, or maybe Esperanto.
One feature of the internet is that (at least where there is no government restriction) you can very easily write what you like, as often as you like. It’s therefore too easy, thanks to the internet, to write quickly, often and without thought. But what if you were given a unique platform you’re highly unlikely to be given again, with only three days’ notice? What would you write?
Out of a modicum of boredom more than anything else, I conducted a little experiment last week.
I have a pile of copies of my first book, Up The Creek Without a Mullet (I may have mentioned it here once or twice), and decided to run little competitions on each of the social media platforms I am on. Nothing too complicated: just a case of asking for suggestions as to who should receive a copy and why, with the best idea in my view winning. No second mention, no reiteration or reminders, just one little message, transmitted once into the busy streams of social media land.
What were the results?
The first day I did it on Twitter. I had a grand total of zero entries. This was, I thought, a mild surprise. I don’t have a huge number of followers on Twitter, but enough to render a handful of half-baked or even half-joking responses. At least that’s what I thought. But fair enough, it’s a free social media and frankly it saved me an ever-increasingly expensive stamp.
The second day I did it on Google+. There was one reshare, but again, no entries.
The third day, I tried my page on Facebook. I got one entry, which of course won by default.
What does that say? Well, perhaps nobody pays attention to me. Or those that want to read the book already have done so. Or that (in the case of Twitter or Google+) people didn’t know enough about the book to want to put in for it. Or maybe it’s easy to miss things and simply not keep up with the contant stream of bumph that’s out there in the world of social media.
If it’s the latter, it suggests that people are trying to absorb too much information and the only way to get folk to notice what you’re saying is by repeating it. One thing that mildly annoys me on Twitter is the number of people who will write an article or post and then tweet the link to it a number of times. ”I get the message”, I want to say, “I follow you for a reason and read your tweets, so there’s no point telling me four or five times about the same thing you’ve posted!” If you are following someone whose stuff you don’t notice or don’t want to read, then you’re following too many people. Or the wrong people.
I don’t mind that there weren’t many responses. It was, after all, just an experiment. But it proves what a funny place the world of social media can be.
If you read Dave Gorman’s blog – and it’s always an entertaining and informative read – you’ll be aware of a difficulty he’s been having with Flickr, the photo community he (and I, and millions of others) are a part of.
But in a nutshell, the problem is that a company contacted Flickr to demand removal of one of his photos because they claimed it breached their copyright. They were entirely wrong, and their email was the result of a careless “scattergun” approach to anything that might vaguely be similar to their business. However, Flickr deleted the photograph when what they should have done was hide it until the issue was resolved and then put it back again if and when the claim was proved false (which it obviously was).
To no avail, Dave has attempted to get Flickr to reinstate his entirely legitimate and legal photo. For some reason they have refused, and mysteriously they have also refused to explain why they are not doing this, despite the fact that reinstating it is technically not a problem and indeed is the legally correct thing to do.
The diagram he published on Flickr, which you can see in that third blog post of his above, summarises things neatly:
One big disappointment for him is that the photo that was removed was one of his most popular ones, widely linked and commented on. He’s easily reuploaded it, but all the comments on the original one are now lost and the numerous blogs and articles that embedded his original picture or linked to it now have a broken link. He’s lost that original picture not through any fault of his own but firstly through the shoddy actions of the complaining company and secondly through Flickr not adhering to either reason or law.
If you are a member of Flickr, you could email them to complain and ask that they reinstate his original picture. I just have.
This of course has nothing to do with jumping on a bandwagon, and is only partly about helping a fellow Flickrite. It’s mostly about protecting the community as a whole. If it can happen to Dave, it can happen to anyone:
- Someone mischievously demands removal of someone else’s photo (easy to do)
- Flickr removes it
- The owner of the photo complains and proves there was no copyright breach
- Flickr nevertheless doesn’t put the original back, and refuses to explain why
How safe are any of our favourite photos on there, if this is the haphazard way Flickr treat them? I am going to have a think about whether I want to carry on using Flickr if this is their attitude.
One of the problems, I suppose, of being a large photo community is that there will always be some odd behaviour. Something annoying happened to me the other day on Flickr. Not as serious as Dave Gorman’s lost photo, but peculiar nevertheless.
I had an email from a travel guide company called WCities wanting to use one of my photos. It happens quite often – people might be writing some form of publication and will search in Flickr for photos relating to their topic. Hundreds, if not thousands, of photos will come up in the search and they will send out standard messages to the owners of all of them asking if they can use them. Enough will presumably reply in the affirmative to make the “sweep” worth doing.
WCities wanted to use the following photo of mine of Aberdeen Arts Centre:
I was bemused, to be honest with you. It’s far from brilliant and I’m not even sure it’s my best shot of that building. No matter, though, because I as a rule charge for commercial use and I responded to say so.
I then got another message from them:
I thought their reply was rather a bizarre attitude to take, because their original message hadn’t offended or annoyed me, and it had taken me barely a minute to write out a reply telling them that I would expect a fee for use. I wrote a message back to them asking why they were apologising and why they were assuming I wouldn’t want them to contact me again in the future.
I clicked “send this”. Of course, it didn’t send. Silly me. They’d blocked me.
No harm done, but as I say: a bizarre attitude to take. It’s just a shame that in Dave Gorman’s case, that bizarre attitude belongs to the people in charge of Flickr.
One great thing about WordPress, which powers this website, is the stats page, where you can see how many hits your site is getting over time, what pages they’re visiting, and how they reach you. You can even see the search terms people use to find you, which is a mixture of the mundane and the hilarious. Obviously there are predictable searches – people searching for my name or common words I use like “Inverness”, “Scotland”, or “mullet”, and there are a number of hits for albums or books I’ve reviewed, places I’ve been, aspects of politics or religion I’ve written about, and so on.
But amongst the more distinctive ones are three recurring terms which bring at least a handful of people here every day. It’s funny that – often some years after I wrote a post – my website can still provide a key source of information on these topics.
Here are a handful of some of the regular words or phrases that keep bringing people here:
- “ScotRail sleeper bargain berths” – This page was an attempt to articulate, to the best of my understanding, how to get the best fares on the ScotRail sleeper trains. There are only a handful of the cheapest fares on each route, and getting those elusive £19 berths can seem impossible at times. It’s nice when people revisit the post to say how successful they were after trying out my tips.
- “C7 church cult Glasgow” – During my search for a new church when I moved to Glasgow in 2006, I visited a lively if slightly over the top charismatic church called C7. I used the phrase “personality cult” in my description of C7, and ever since then I’ve been receiving hits from people who seem to think the church is a cult. A lot of big, modern “brand” churches like Hillsong (to which C7) belongs are regularly accused of cult-like behaviour in the way they monitor their flock. As one example, read this overview of some recent alarming (and unbiblical) behaviour from the leadership of a famous church in Seattle.
- “Biceps Land” – When playing the board game Articulate with friends last year, one of the places you had to describe was Biceps Land. None of us, of course, had ever heard of it, and neither has a steady stream of people who land on my website after searching for it online. After some raking around a while back, I did eventually find reference to it on the Articulate Facebook page, where the company said they had looked into it and figured it was a silly mistake by the writers that they had no explanation for. I should have taken a screen capture of it, because even the Google Cache version has now disappeared.
Now, no doubt, those search terms will bring people to this specific page too.
Apart from Nigerian scammers, the Daily Mail website and a dreadful, never-ending avalanche of kitten photos, the internet is a pretty remarkable thing. It’s been a huge tool in my learning of Esperanto which, five months since I started, is probably beyond the “beginner” phase and into “intermediate” territory. It’s fair to say that Esperanto went out of fashion for much of the twentieth century, though I sense from discussing the matter with folk that the internet is allowing for something of a modest renaissance for the language.
Thanks to the web, I’ve been able to study the language, exchange emails with other Esperantists, read articles and stories online, and find many speakers to interact with on Google+. Yes, that much-maligned social networking service from Google may not be the success they hoped it would be, nor the “Facebook-killer” some hoped, but I have to say I enjoy it. It’s clean, crisp, advert-free (for now) and easier to manage what you do than on Facebook.
One very handy feature of Google+, which makes it ideal for learning a language, are the “hangouts”. These allow you to have a video chat with a large number of people together. An Argentinian Esperantist in the USA has started holding a weekly hangout (or “kunvidejo”, literally “place to see together”), and I joined one the other day and found the relaxed chat with him, a Brazilian and a German to be good fun and a useful experience. Reading and writing a new language is all very well, but nothing beats using it in real conversation to improve your competence and confidence.
He made a video of us all talking, as an advert and encouragement to other speakers (whatever their ability) to join in the weekly chats. You can see me, and the others, speaking Esperanto so you can get a feel for what it sounds like and even surprise yourself with how much you might find familiar in this satisfyingly simple language. I look like I’m reading a script in my part, though my hesitancy is purely down to a lack of conversational practice. That will come in time, I’m sure.
You may remember me speaking back in June at A Night of Adventure, a fundraising evening in Edinburgh for the great charity Hope and Homes for Children. It turned out to be a really fun evening, and very inspiring because I was rubbing shoulders with fellow speakers that included round the world cyclists, mountaineers, endurance runners and others who all told incredible tales of exploration, determination and adventure. Also, of course, it was a great opportunity to hear more about the charity’s work.
I was quite pleased with my own presentation in the end. I was the penultimate speaker out of twelve, so I was increasingly nervous as the evening went by, particularly as everyone’s thoroughly daring tales of pushing themselves to their physical limits made my mullet-hunting quest feel like a pathetic triviality.
That, however, worked in my favour because my presentation could come over as a refreshing alternative to the more hardcore end of the adventure spectrum, and in any case my fellow presenters were hugely entertaining and hilarious, so my flippant mission ended up not appearing quite so out of kilter as I feared it might.
The presentations were all recorded, and Al Humphreys, who organised the evening, has put them on his Vimeo page. Do go and check them out – there are some thoroughly inspiring and entertaining tales. Mine is right here and, of course, just above.
You’ve perhaps heard about Google+ , the latest of Google’s many attempts at creating a social networking site to rival Facebook.
Previous attempts have sunk, but Google+ seems to be their best effort yet. It’s much like other social networks, in that you connect with people to share ideas, links, photos and suchlike. However, Google+ really is different, not to mention better than Facebook, in that it is as easy to use as you’d expect Google products to be, is free from detritus like adverts and silly games, and the most attractive concept is that of “circles”.
With “circles” you don’t just “friend” or “follow” someone on it, you put them in as many or as few self-created circles as you like, with the idea being that you can choose to share anything you post with whichever circles you like and can in turn limit your “stream” (the content you read) according to what circles you want to follow at any time. To be fair such a feature is possible with Facebook but is a lot fiddlier to do.
I’ve signed up to Google+ and while it does have the slight feel of a bland, modern housing estate at the moment, it is slowly coming to life. Whether coincidence or not, I’ve seen a corresponding decline in “noise” on Facebook, which I am finding to be increasingly dodgy when it comes to security, privacy and so on.
I’ll stay on Facebook, not least because my author page is on there, but reckon I’ll be doing a lot more on Google+ for the foreseeable future. I think it is going to be increasingly my social networking site of choice. Of course I remain on Twitter, but then that’s always been about sharing information rather than social networking.
I think Google+ is invite only still, while they continue to develop it and iron out flaws, so let me know if you’d like one.
Oh, and here’s my profile right here. And if anyone knows of any good wee social networking buttons that include Google+ in their series (like those on the bottom left of my front page), then I’d love to be directed to them.
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