10 Top Google+ Pages . . . Including Ours

Google plus 40tech

Google+ now supports brand pages, and 40Tech is there with our own page. We’re working out exactly how we’ll be using the page, but if you want to keep up with all things 40Tech, head on over and circle us. We’re still digging around, looking for other great pages to follow, and we’ve listed some below. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments.

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Social Media Overload: How Has Your Social Media Usage Changed Since the Release of Google+? [Reader Feedback]

Social media overload

We’re big fans of Google+ here at 40Tech. In fact, if you follow the Twitter accounts of either 40Tech or Bobby Travis, you’ll see that we’re not posting there quite as much as we did in the past. Are we alone in the way Google+ has detracted from our ability to be as active on Twitter? Let us know how your social media usage has changed since Google+ has arrived.

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Bye Bye Google Buzz On November 14th 2011

Bye Bye Google Buzz On November 14th 2011 | 40Tech

Google Buzz is going the way of the dinosaur — or maybe the Dodo is a better analogy. Either way, as of November 14th, the hopeful attempt at getting in on some of that Twitter juice will simply fade away. Google’s on to bigger things now — like trying to get a piece of that Facebook pie, with some Twitter a la mode. Sounds nummy, right? Or maybe I’m just getting hungry…

Google officially announced the retirement of the Gmail-integrated Buzz on October 14th, but some of you may only now be getting the little pop-up notification in your Inbox. I got mine yesterday and I realized that, in a weird way, I’ll miss the service. It seemed like it had so much potential, at first. We even wrote about why we figured it wouldn’t flop – oh, wait… that was Wave. What can I say… we’re optimists. In any case, the integration of Buzz was handled badly, the “bubble up” experience was annoying (to say the least), and the UI design was the former and most unfortunate Google Ugly.

Thankfully, Google+ not only cannibalized some of the best that Buzz had to offer, but it also was designed with the understanding that minimalist can be pretty, too. The jury’s still out on whether or not Google’s latest social offering will see long-term development, but the Magic 8 Ball –  and my never-ending, aforementioned optimism — tells me that chances are good…

So, anyway… If you want to view or keep your Google Buzz content, you can still see it on your Google Profile, and you can download it via Google Takeout –  a very handy service, I might add.

On a final note, does anyone else find it funny that the “Google Buzz is going away…” post in the Big G’s Gmail Help pages can be actually shared on Buzz — and that there is a button to open up Sidewiki as well? Just me…?

Say your farewells to Buzz in the comments.

If You Haven’t Heard — or Noticed the Huge Sign — Google+ is Open for Business and More Awesomer than Ever

If You Haven't Heard -- or Noticed the Huge Sign -- Google+ is Open for Business and More Awesomer than Ever | 40Tech

So let’s get the dust out of the air right away: I am fully aware that “awesomer” is not a word. I am also fully aware that all of the big tech blogs and probably everybody else with a post up today (or yesterday, by the time you read this) has already talked about this. I don’t care. This is 40Tech dammit! And I want to talk about it. With you.

So here it is: Google+ dropped a ton of new goodness for their social network today, opened it up to the public (bye bye preview, hello open beta!), and worked with wil.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas (who also loves the tech) to put together the first publicly broadcast on YouTube video Hangout. Big day — and those are barely the highlights.

 

Here’s the Big Sign — Come One Come All!

Google+ is Open to the Public, has a Big Sign to Prove it | 40Tech

 

Here’s Just a Few of the New Features

Search!

It’s finally here. You can search for whatever in the Google+ search box and get back relevant people, posts, and web content. You get the public stuff and the items that only you can see.

Hangouts on Your Mobile Device

Available for Android first, of course, with iOS on the docket soon. Full-fledged multi-person video chat while on the go.

Hangouts On Air

Webinars, video broadcasts to large audiences (with up to nine other people to team up with), and session recording for those who miss it. The broadcasts are limited for the moment, but anyone can watch.

Hangouts with More Awesome!

Screensharing, sketchpad, Google Docs sharing, and the ability to name your Hangouts so you can focus your topic. These are still under construction, According to the Google Blog, but you can try them out by clicking “Hangouts with extras” in the green room.

Messenger for Mobile (Formerly Huddle) — Also More Awesome.

You can now share photos in your mobile chats!

APIs

And let’s not forget that they’ve dropped their first API for developers to play with. Klout has already jumped on board, adding Google+ to their social scoring platform, and you know that others are going to start coming out of the woodwork too, especially as the API improves and allows for more integration possibilities — for example, they are going to be releasing some Hangout APIs soon…

 

Here’s the Bottom Line

I’m not saying that Google+ doesn’t still have its work cut out for it, especially with social networking overload already frustrating the hell out of your average, or even super-social-geek, user. The kid gloves are off though. The most widely used tool for finding information has made Google+ its focal point. Google is creating a platform to personalize search, and give you a permanent home on the web — you can search for new information, search for things your friends are talking about, easily find and share and talk about whatever interests you, do all of that with only the people you care to, play games by yourself or socially, easily upload and share pictures, hangout with people via chat or video from your computer or your mobile device, broadcast yourself for the hell of it or for conferences or webinars, handle (or even throw away) your email, and more more more for the simple and effective cost of free.

Facebook may have the people, at the moment, but Google+ isn’t going away. Remember when Gmail came out? It didn’t look like a very likely competitor to Hotmail or any other webmail service at the time. Look at it now — especially since the rise of Google Apps. Google hasn’t even launched the business aspect of Google+ yet. What do you think will happen then?

What are your thoughts on the new, fancy, public Google+?

Master the Google+ Interface with these Great Tips

GooglePlus

Editor’s note: Today, 40Tech is pleased to present you with a guest post from Kevin Moor, of slow-computers.com.

Since launching the preview earlier this summer, Google+ has quickly gained users across the globe, reaching more that 25 million individuals within the first month of its availability. The service has been heralded as ushering in a new wave in social media, as web users begin to shift in the way they connect with those around them. While registration for the site is still by invitation only, the service run by the search engine powerhouse is poised to become a serious player in the crowded field of social networking. For new users try to get familiar with the Google+ interface, the following tips are a great way to stay on top of the game.

 

Send Private Messages by Way of Post

All of the updates users send to Google+ are called “posts.” Facebook users may be more familiar with the terms “status update,” “wall post,” and “notes.” Google+ groups all of those things together, allowing users to publish posts that can be shared with as many or as few people as desired.

One of the primary features of Google+ is the ability to create “circles.” Circles are designed to mimic interpersonal groups in the real world. For example, you might choose to add all of your colleagues to one circle, while all of your friends from your college days form another. Individuals can also be added to multiple circles, making it easy to keep the right people in the know.

To send a private message to a friend on Google+, you’ll simply need to to indicate that the message can only be shared with that person. Typing their name when you publish the post will make it viewable only to their eyes. You may also want to deactivate resharing once you’ve published the message, as this will prevent the post from being forwarded to other users.

 

Stay Updated Instantly via Chat

Users who are already familiar with Google Chat are sure to love the chat interface built into Google+. Google has worked to ensure that all of its products and services are incorporated together in its new social media offering. The chat function in Google+ is a great example of this harmony. Existing contacts from Gmail, Google Talk, and iGoogle are all included within the window of available individuals who can be contacted through the system.

Another great option chatting in Google+ makes available is the option to only allow certain circles to chat with you. If you have ever accidentally signed into a chat service, only to be bothered by individuals you weren’t interested in speaking with, you are certain to appreciate the simplicity of this feature. Easily define which circles should be made available for chatting and which you would prefer to avoid, and you’ll keep your chat interface free of unwanted distraction.

 

Learn to Navigate with Shortcuts

For an easier browsing experience, Google+ incorporates a variety of different shortcuts that make it easy to browse content published by friends and family. Some of the most important shortcuts include hitting the spacebar to scroll down your stream, using the letters J and K to move up or down one post, and using the combination of tab and enter to submit new comments. While these shortcuts may seem a little bit difficult to master, once you have learned the basics, you will be navigating Google+ like a pro in no time flat.

 

Keep Your Privacy In Check

Sharing information with specific circles is a great way to avoid sharing content that might be inappropriate for certain members of your entourage. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to keep track of which individuals you have granted specific privileges to for viewing your content. Instead of going back to look at the circles that a friend is part of, you can easily view your profile the way that contact sees is by typing the person’s name in the “View Profile As” box on your profile.

 

As users spend more time getting familiar with Google+, using the new social media client is certain to become second nature. The intuitive design is jampacked with great features that make it easy to see why technology analysts believe Google+ could one day rival the prominence of giants like Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, by spending some time getting acquainted with Google+, users can avoid a steep learning curve in the future, should the service become the primary social media client of choice for web users.

This article is written by Kevin Moor who writes for slow-computers.com, a site reviewing and testing various slow computer issues.

Google+ for iPhone and Android Sharing — Too Little Too Late?

Google+ for iPhone and Android Sharing -- Too Little Too Late? | 40Tech

Though the initial excitement of Google+ has worn off, millions of users are still using the service and more people connect every day. For its part, Google has been working hard at bringing the preview social network closer to a production offering, adding social gaming without annoying people, verified accounts for prominent users and famous folk, and ironing out their sign-up rules (the heavily debated real name only policy). They have also been paying attention to their mobile apps, finally adding post sharing into the Android app. iOS users had to wait a bit, as is per usual, but the much awaited update is now available in the app store.

But is development coming along too slowly to keep up interest?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Google+. There are a lot of innovative uses that are cropping up — cooking classes via hangout, blog replacement, collaborative writing groups; Evan and I are even putting together a hangout-based pen and paper roleplaying game, cementing our geek status once and for all. Google+ is also a fantastic place to meet and converse with new people, focusing on like interests over general broadcasting, which makes for better conversation and better relationships.

The problem is, I’ve started to notice that my streams are starting to degrade. People appear to be less active, less conversant, or generally gone and gone. This could be due to the end of the summer — people are getting busier as the school season and work focus heat up — and it could be part of the overall ebb and flow of a new product. It could also be that Google is taking too long to get their service off the ground and into the hands of the general public.

Gmail was in beta for years, and to the point that it was really more of a long-standing joke than anything else, but the Internet back then was, if you can believe it, less fickle. With the world takeover of social networking and subsequent obsession with real-time streams, the attention span of your average user is practically gnat-sized. And let’s not forget that, in order to get noticed in the massive amounts of information flowing through the digital-verse, bloggers and people in general tend to gravitate toward sweeping sentiments of “wow this is awesome” build-up and “it’s never gonna make it, and here’s why!!!” doom and gloom statements. And yes, I realize that it wouldn’t take a stretch if the imagination to lump this post in with them, no matter what I say t the contrary. The point is, it makes it really hard to accurately gauge if a service will live or die.

To top things off, Facebook hasn’t been sitting about with thumbs in nethers, either. They’ve been paying attention to what people like about G+ over Facebook and have been making changes to how their own streams work, attempting to make it easier to share with those you want to share with, and even (finally) updating their mobile apps for new sharing and privacy options.

I say again, I’m digging Google+ — but I dug Google Wave, too. I think that Google’s push to integrate Plus into their overall offerings will help keep things moving, but I have to wonder: if users as a whole notice their streams downgrading in quality and movement, will it start one of those slow spirals into web oblivion?

It’s been a few months now, what are your thoughts?

Easily Back Up Your Google+, Picasa Data With Takeout

Easily Back Up Your Google+, Picasa Data With Takeout | 40Tech

If you have invested yourself into Google+ at all, you will be happy to know that, whether you stick with the service or not, there is an easy way to get a copy of all of your data (profile, contacts and circles, your stream, Picasa pics — even Buzz and +1s). It’s called Takeout, and it’s built right into your Google+ settings as a part of Google’s “Data Liberation Front.”

There’s no tricks to it, no caveats, and no amount of hacking genius required. It’s all a matter of a few points and clicks and a bit of hard drive space. Here’s how to do it:

There are two ways to get started:

1.) Head to this link to visit the Takeout page directly

2.) Go to Google+ settings (little gear, top right corner of the page) and select Data Liberation

If you choose the second option, you can either click on one of the services to jump to the services selection page, or can click the “Download your data” button to get to the Takeout page. Once on the Takeout page, you can click create archive to backup everything. You will find the archive available under the Downloads page, available by a three-button menu at the top of the page.

Google+ Data Liberation | Takeout | 40Tech

If you wish to be selective about what data you want to back up, then you want the Choose Services page (via step two or the three-button menu). Here, you can select one or all of the Google+ related services mentioned previously and create a custom archive. I suggest you head here, anyway, as this section of Takeout shows you not only the size of the archive, but the percentage each service takes up in the total download (this information is mostly available on the Downloads page as well).

Use Google Takeout to Backup Your Google+, Picasa Data | 40Tech

The services will download as the following file-types:

  • Picasa Web Albums photos: .zip
  • Profile Data: .json
  • Stream data: .zip
  • Buzz data: .zip
  • Circles and Contacts: .zip

Photos are organized by Album or Post Date, and Contacts are individual .vcf files that are organized by Circles. Your Stream data is delivered as a functional, standalone website complete with comments, images, as well as anything you have reshared.

Overall, I find Takeout to be fairly impressive as a means of manual backups or to walk away from Google+ with all of your data. The compression rate is pretty good, as well — Over 3,000 pictures in Picasa (I imported my Facebook photos, and have uploaded many more taken with my iPhone) and the total download size was under 500mb. Not bad at all!

Google Takeout | Download, Back Up Google+ Data | 40Tech

Note: There was once small inconsistency in file size information for my photos. The Choose Sevices section said the download would be 778MB, while the downloads page said 449.8MB.

Have you used Takeout? What are your impressions? What do you think of Google’s Data Liberation initiative?

3 Ways to Safely Share Your Email Address (and Beat Spam Scrapers)

3 Ways to Safely Share Your Email Address (and Beat Spam Scrapers) | 40Tech

Posting your email on a website, or in a blog, social media, or forum comment, opens you up to a world of messages about making money online, viagra, the enlargement of specific body parts, and a host of other fun solicitations and potential virus links. We all know this, and we all know that the safest way to post an email link is this: don’t. If you absolutely have to, you can always try to beat the bots by posting it as an image (time consuming), or by killing the link and adding some brackets and such like this: myemail (at) adomain (dot) com. The trouble with this approach is that you are also making trying to contact you annoying for the people you want to connect with.

Here are three ways you can share your email safely and easily:

scr.im

Scr.im is a convenient and brand-efficient way to post a link to an email address. It provides you with a simple vanity url that is easy to share and doesn’t require any specific code in the link. When the link is clicked, the person — or spam-bot — is directed to a captcha page that shows an image of an alpha-numeric code and a game of match the code with one of the nine buttons on the right. If there is, for some reason, a problem with this method, you can simply click the link at the bottom to go to the tried and true “failsafe” captcha method of typing in the code from the image and clicking the “I’m a real human, honest!” button.

To get set up with scr.im, head to their site, enter your email address, click “Protect my email” and go, share, be merry. They will generate a url for you, but if you want some extra awesome, then type in your own vanity url tail in the provided field. Scr.im will automatically let you know if the url is available or not.

Safely Share Your Email Address, Avoid Email Spam with scrim | 40Tech

Scrim Email Spam Protection | 40TechShare Your Email Address Safely with Scrim | 40Tech

 

reCAPTCHA Mailhide

You are probably familiar with reCAPTCHA, especially if you own a blog. They have put together one of the easiest and most powerful (and best looking) captcha protections out there. They are also owned by Google, now, which I only recently became aware of. Whether that makes you feel more or less comfortable will be determined by how many Google services you already use , and how evil you feel Google is, but the reCAPTCHA Mailhide solution is a great way to safely post an email link to a website.

If you want to try it out, head to the reCAPTCHA Email Protection page and enter your email address in the given field and click “Protect It!” You will be taken to a page that provides the URL of the reCAPTCHA that will need to be solved before anyone can send you an email — which you can then share anyway you like. You can even take the (crazy, long) URL and plug it into your shortener of choice to create an nice and easy to share link. Once the captcha — which can only be solved by humans — is correctly entered, people will be presented with a page that contains an untrackable link to your actual email address.

reCAPTCHA Mailhide Email Spam Protection | 40Tech

reCAPTCHA Email Spam Protection | 40Tech

Web security is important to the people clicking your fancy email link, as well, so if you want to assure them that they are heading toward an email address, you may want to use the customizable HTML code that is also provided by Mailhide. This code will display your email with the first four letters of your address, followed by a clickable “…” and @yourdomain.com. This code can be customized to your liking — which was especially handy in my case, as I used an address with “butter” in the beginning. Posting an email link to butt@gmail.com is not likely to gain me more than a few laughs. (Note: the clickable … previous is for aesthetics only. It is not an active link to my email address)

Share Email Address Safely using reCAPTCHA | 40Tech

If you want to know the technical protocols used by Mailhide, check out this API link.

 

Google+ Profile Link

If you aren’t using Google+ yet, you should be. Yeah, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid — and it’s sweet, refreshing, beautiful, and I hope it lasts. Aside from the Picasa integration, circles and other neat network and privacy controls, and the fact that social games are finally done right, Google+ also makes one hell of a way to share your email without getting attacked by spam.

The first step is to make sure your Google+ Profile (okay, okay, if you really can’t stomach using Google+ yet, you can always just use a regular old Google Profile) has a visible “Send an email” button just below your picture. To do this, you go to the settings gear in the top right, then click on “Profile and privacy,” and then the “Edit visibility on profile” button beside “Public profile information.”

Safely Share Your Email Address by Sharing Your Google Profile, Google+ Profile | 40Tech

Google+ Profile Settings | 40Tech

Step two is click on the “Send and email” area below your profile picture, click the check-box that is next to “Allow people to email you from a link on your profile,” and then click on the dropdown that sets your visibility preferences. For the broadest case, you will want to choose “Anyone on the web” as it will allow you to safely share a link to your email with anyone. Save, and then click the “Finished editing” button at the top of the page. People can now send you email right from your Google/Google+ Profile page.

Google+ Setting Who Can See the Send Email Button | 40TechGoogle+ Send Email Privacy, Sharing Settings | 40Tech

Bobby Travis Google+ Profile | 40Tech

The final thing to do is to share your Profile link with others. There are a number of ways to do this, including the secure (long) Google Profile URL, using a general URL shortener or a vanity URL, or even by using your profiles.google.com/username — though that may defeat the purpose a bit if you don’t want people to know your email address (seeing as the username + @gmail.com = is your email address).

 

Bonus – Bugmenot

If you are after a way to sign up for services without getting spammed, none of the above methods will work for you — so check out Bugmenot, instead. Bugmenot is the perfect way to check out for a multitude of “sign up first” services using dummy emails and passwords set up by other people. It’s a great way to avoid spam and solicitations, and it saves time. You could also just use your own dummy email address.

 

There you have it! Three easy ways to share a link to your email address without painting yourself as a target for spam bots. If you know of any others or have had experiences with any of these methods, please share them in the comments!

Games in Google+ are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It

Games in Google Plus are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It | 40Tech

One of the biggest bitches for me when it comes to Facebook is the way it handles social gaming. Yes, social gaming can be fun, and the quest to get the most points, coin, trophies, et al has its satisfying moments — but the constant invitations, notifications, and culling of said items from my Facebook stream is annoying as hell. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, either. Google+ is jumping in to the games space today, and I’m happy to report that they, once again, appear to have gotten it right.

If you need a Google+ Invite, get it here.

The Facebook method of social gaming is actually very effective if your goal is to use social pressure and addiction propensity to keep people on your social network. Those things, in many ways, are the basis of how Facebook and its attached products work, and many people are tired of it. Google+ broke that model right from the start by removing any mention of “friends” and letting you decide how to label people in your social circles. Google+ games, which is rolling out today, keeps the low-pressure approach by keeping the crap out of your stream. As they say right in their blog post: ” Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.”

Rejoice!

First of all, Games will have their own page that is accessible from the top of your stream. If you don’t see it yet, don’t fret, you know how Google loves a staggered rollout — just give it time. Once you’re on the page, you can see all of the latest updates from your circles, run through the invites you have (or ignore them entirely), and take a look at the games that other people you’re connected with have been playing. If you are the type that loves to broadcast your score and rub your awesomeness in the face of the masses, you can still do that — but the masses will be your circles, and they will only see your bragging and/or challenges when they feel like gaming themselves and can respond accordingly.

Better for everyone that way…

Google+ Games Homepage Screenshot

There are several games available already, such as Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, and Diamond Dash for the Columns/Tetris style games lovers; Zynga makes an appearance with Zynga Poker, and there are also Sudoku, Dragons of Atlantis, Crime City, Zombie Lane, Dragon Age Legends (hell yeah!), and more. Angry Birds is in there too — but I don’t think I want to have to kill them again. The first time was difficult enough! I nearly had to call Mike Tyson to help me out…

Google+ Games at Launch

So far, the Google+ Games implementation doesn’t disappoint. Remember, though, as with everything else about Google’s new social network, it’s still only a preview. If you run into some problems, try not to hold it against them. Yet.

Let us know about your Google+ Games experience!

Image credits: The Official Google Blog