Now that 20 million people have visited the new “Google+” social network, we’re ready to add our two cents. (Yes, we know: half the journalists in the known universe are already on this.)

Google Plus

Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook. It’s a social network that allows customization through the use of “circles,” as in “circles of friends” or “circles of business contacts.” Facebook has “lists” for this purpose but they’re not as easy to create. Google+ also has group video chatting, called “hangouts,” where groups can gather and see each other. There are also custom news streams called “sparks.”

Dancing Parrot Google+ is similar to Facebook, but since it’s new, some of its features are yet to come. Both services tend to draw people who like broadcasting their every activity to groups of friends and followers. Hold-outs tell us they still prefer one-on-one conversations. We’re with them; Bob doesn’t use Facebook at all and Joy uses it mainly to post items from our column. She did get in touch with a long-lost Danish niece, however.

Google + feels more private than Facebook. Its strength is being able to make lots of circles for special interests and keep them private. (Name them anything you want; no one but you will know.) Want to talk about the boss with family but not with co-workers? Done. Click “hangout” to hang out with people in a video chat. (Just remember to turn it off. We read about a guy who forgot and let all his friends in on a private phone conversation.) Click “Sparks” to add special interest news that updates continuously. We added “Funniest YouTube Videos” and “Android Apps.” (Check out the dancing parrot, “Frostie.”)

The interface is beautiful and it’s no wonder, it was designed by Andy Hertzfeld, who did the Macintosh. Google+ is still in the “field testing” phase and you will notice some bugs. In fact, you may notice quite a few bugs. Some of our contacts couldn’t open our photos, for example.  Some accounts, like the one belonging to Arianna Huffington, creator of the popular Huffington Post, have been deleted by Google under their “real names” policy. Our account was not deleted. Go to to request and wait for an invitation.

A Historical Note: For those of you who enjoy the origin of words, the use of “bugs” to describe things that don’t work right stems from ENIAC, the first electronic computer, built at the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. (Bob recalls that the last time he was there, large pieces of it still clogged the entrance hall.) Since this was before transistors had been invented, ENIAC used 20,000 radio tubes for switching. The glow and heat from the tubes tended to attract moths and other insects, which would sometimes get fried by the current and cause a short circuit. Hence the phrase, literally, “A few bugs in the system.”

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