I'll admit it. I've been pretty critical of Google Plus in it's first year. It was billed (at least as I understood it) to be the latest and greatest of the social networking sites. Given the resources available to Google it was wondered by many as to whether or not it would be a Facebook killer.
Like many I signed up the day it went public. I don't recall what made me special since sign-ups were limited in the first few weeks of the service but somehow I got an invite and I signed up because that's one of the things I do. Then I waited to see who among my friends and family would show up. And I waited. And I waited. And I... well, you get the picture.
One group of acquaintances that showed up en masse were my friends from the Open Forums at Ars Technica (Disclaimer: I'm a volunteer moderator there). Most of the peeps over there are early adopters and they quickly embraced Plus. Many of them are on my friends list at Facebook and I noticed that the vast majority of the posts I was seeing on Plus were from my news feed at Facebook. They only others that ever got around to signing up at Plus were my brother and my girlfriend at the time. Neither of them have ever posted anything on Plus.
After a awhile I got tired of waiting and I stopped checking Plus at all. Every now and then I would drop in to see what was up and mostly what I saw were the same updates I was already seeing on Facebook. Over in The Lounge area of the Ars forums there was a thread (signup required to read, subscription to participate) discussing just what was going on at Plus. Most of the posters (not to mention the general public), myself included, just aren't seeing the point of a social network that doesn't have people we know on it.
A few of the evangelists in that thread are telling us, "You're doing it wrong!" Most compare it to a long-form Twitter that is really useful for following people. Well, there's a problem for me right there. I don't "follow" anyone. I don't see the point in it. I'm not interested in celebrities and the topics I am interested in I'm already plugged into with my bookmarks so I've not seen the point.
On the other hand I do like the interface. It's very clean and spam-free. I want to like it because I'm already a big Google fan as it is. But there's this whole I don't know anyone on it thing and I already have plenty of Internet friends from my association with the Ars Technica forums.
Over the last weekend I decided to give Google Plus a serious try. I read some articles with suggestions on how to use it and put those suggestions to work. I made some circles associated with my interests, did some hashtag searches and the like, added some people to the circles and did some reading. And.....
I still don't get it. Apparently Google Plus is a social network for strangers to interact and slap each other on the back about how they're too cool to use Facebook. Aside from one girl from Massachusettes who made a remarkable post about her standards for dating I haven't seen anything that I wouldn't have seen on Facebook or found in my own web surfing. I've seen little worthy of comment and noticed that like most web "celebrities" most rarely interact past their first post.
I'll keep working it for a few more weeks but I'm still not really understanding how this service can be useful to me other than a mild distraction on days I'm bored. If your story is different I'd love to hear from you.