Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Losing My Faith in Google+ and Google Chromebook

Guest post by @GDhuyvetter | Cross posted at Work With Hope - Courageous Education in Frightening Times

As with most disillusionments, this one came on slowly, starting with irritations, growing to disappointment, and blossoming in questioning. Finally, I couldn’t deny it any more, and I said out loud (via Twitter) what I had not yet completely admitted to myself.
“I don’t know if I believe in Google any more.”
Let me clarify. I have loved many Google products. No matter where this googlagnosticism goes, I will still use many Google apps and recommend them to others. Google search is like oxygen for cyber travel (I can’t believe that I used such a lame expression). Google docs is a million times simpler than Sharepoint, and probably the best collaboration tool. I also have always liked Google’s ability to provide free tools for educators, businesses and others.
But two products in particular have shaken my confidence and made me question my love affair, and both have to do with dependability.
1) Google+
I was excited by the release of Google+. I saw in this filterable social sharing tool the answers to Facebook’s weaknesses. The ability to create and broadcast to specific circles is genius, and I saw great possibilities for creating discussion groups with colleagues, or even possibly between teachers and students. Lots of little details, like the ability to edit posts and the ability to create longer posts made me think that this was truly a Facebook killer. I encouraged all my friends to leave Facebook and start using Google+. It was a revolution, a Googlepocalipse.
But what happened? 
I notice now that weeks go by when I don’t open Google+, and longer than that without posting anything. This experience is shared by the few friends who have come over. Somehow Facebook and Twitter continue to be a more satisfying and useful experience. 
Google put out this exciting new platform, but they haven’t put the time or money into making the case to the general public as to why they should use it. Likewise, Google is yet to make an application that makes Google+ fully functional on the iPad. Interestingly, there is now a Verizon commercial showing how to use circles with the Samsung Nexus, but there isn’t any reference to Google+ (if that is what this commercial is showing). 
I am somewhat apologetic to the people I invited over and feel like my credibility has been lessened by this whole experience. Google+ may survive (in a recent development, Google is finding a new and annoying way to integrate your search results with your Google+ account), but there is a perception at least in my circle that this one more WAVE or BUZZ…a great idea going nowhere.
2) Google Chromebook
And what about the Chromebook? A little more than a year ago, in the midst of the netbook craze, Google announced that it was building a lightweight operating system designed to work solely as a web interface. This new chrome operating system would reside on notebook computers called netbooks. By embracing the cloud for all operating functions, the new device was going to be lighter, faster, and with better battery life.
And what happened? First, lots of time passed. Google itself seemed uncertain how the Chrome OS fit in with Android development, and certainly couldn’t make this case to the casual user. Chromebooks are now being released, but the silence behind this release is deafening. No public campaign, no splashy release to schools, no advertising in the mainstream press. So it appears that Google has released a device that solves yesterday’s problems in a form factor that no one wants.
Out of touch?
In general, I have this nagging suspicion that Google no longer has its finger on the pulse of users and doesn’t know how to explain itself to them. When a great product like Google+ dies on the vine, and a product like the Chromebook arrives with a thud, you can’t help but to be wary of jumping on the Google bandwagon so quickly.
Superintendent of Catholic schools in OrangeCountyCAReluctant iPad convert 


  1. I use Google+ on a daily basis (and way more than Facebook.) Facebook is full of bloat, ads, games and apps. Google+ is clean. I guess it depends on who else is on Google+ with you. I have friends, fellow educators, and lots of companies in my circles. I actually see quite a bit about Google+ out there. Hangouts are one of the best features.

    As for Chromebooks, I have one. I have one of the original CR-48 and love it. They turn on instantly, no data stored on device, and they just work. Schools are getting them and Google is at every conference and show pushing Chromebooks.

    I use a lot of Google products and think that they are some of the best around. I think that Google+ is an excellent platform and Chromebooks are what schools should be using.

    Why I use Google Products as an Educator:

    Chromebooks for Education:

    Google+ for Education:

  2. I agree with you on g+, but I'm finding good value in chromebooks for my school. They are excellent for the kinds of work that we are doing-reading, researching, discussions, writing, etc. I did find the point of sale with google totally lacking, but once we got the chromebooks on campus set up and deployment was a snap.

  3. A lot of the problems that people have with Google+ stems from a misunderstanding of it's purpose. Here's a rough overview of a couple of common social media sites to keep in mind when you try to use them for certain things:

    1. Facebook - inward focus - all about people that you see or know, usually in person (hence the limit on the number of friends you can have)

    2. Google+ - outward focus - all about meeting new people and networking with a wider range of people than you usually see on a day to day basis. Google+ is not going to fail because Google are basically integrating everything they do into Google+ as the ultimate Google experience/tool/life. Google is also going through a developmental stage where they seek to become cleaner, more intuitive, and easy to use. Facebook has never made intuition a major part of their consideration of the user experience I think.

    3. Twitter - outward focus - meet new people with similar interests and network with them to find info from experts (Google+ is like twitter on steroids, allowing a significantly deeper interaction than twitter's 140 characters)

    Each of these three can also be used in ways that mimic the others but you have to use each for what it will most efficiently accomplish. At the moment, Google+ is set up as the most forward thinking of all and will continue to meet the changing information and social needs of our changing global culture. Give it 5 to 10 years and you will see it well in the lead, at least amongst forward thinking people.

    I haven't experienced a chromebook but I did read an article somewhere about android versus chrome on the chromebooks being a way to promote competition within such a large company as Google. By having two separate divisions competing on two different products that do many of the same things with two different development paths, Google keeps the pressure on to be innovative enough to find what is best for the user. Could just be a clever spin on the issue though.

  4. Thanks for the comments (and many thanks to Lisa for sharing this piece). I am a bit at a loss for reply; since the post is talking about an impression, I certainly can't argue with anyone who has a different impression. I am also certain that there are communities that move into G+ and schools and individuals who purchase Chromebooks (I have a school in my diocese that has done so). However, I think that the message of these products has no resonance outside a small select group, and that broadening the appeal will be a difficult task, and that I have seen no indication that Google has the ability or the corporate drive to win the hearts and minds beyond that group.

  5. I honestly just want to write to you to help you get more out of your Google+ experience.

    I use Facebook to keep up with friends and be generally social--it's my social network.

    I use Google+ to help me build a Personal Learning Network. I only have around 30-40 people I follow on Google+. That said, I have hand-selected those people as other educators and people I want to learn from. I get ideas from and share ideas with these people. I used to follow education listservs for the same purpose, and find that the listservs no longer are as compelling as they were because I have crafted a resource that is exactly to my specifications. And I continue to grow that resource.

    The people I have chosen are often on Google+ (otherwise, why follow them?). They have, if not similar ideas to mine, at least new ideas about what education is and should be. I began with a few other Latin teachers, and have branched out (via those connections) to professors and educators and online teachers and educational reporters, all with different focuses, but all regular posters who make me think.

    Feel free to find me on Google+ ('d be glad to offer you some great educators to follow!

  6. Thank you so much for providing tips for searching in Google and how to get the best results for your query. I am also want to share some of the essential google search tips to use in day to day life.

  7. Maybe a year later you have changed your mind a little? G+ is a robust network of people looking to share information about like minded experiences. The communities are a great resource.
    FYI as of now G+ has passed the Tweeter with the number of active users. I really don't think you can compare the two. Facebook is for friends I guess and liking stuff. G+ is a place to learn and gain an active person growth community.
    I realize this article is a year old and I don't believe Communities was a part of G+ at the time. Cheers