Google+, Hackerspaces, and… Geekspaces?

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I’m a Facebook user, but I’m not a Facebook fan. I don’t care for the frequent facelifts and security updates and privacy changes that are often buried in pages upon pages of legalese that ensures that only 1% or less of its user base will ever read it (mostly lawyers I’m guessing). They know they’re the only game in town and I think the attitude over the last few years has been don’t like it, don’t use it. And they’re right — I’m not forced to use FB and they apparently do offer a method for completely deleting your account if you care to do so.

So, while I’m not a fan of FB, I do appreciate the fact that I can catch pictures, videos, and comments from my friends and family whom I’ve friended – it’s a lot easier than calling or emailing them all daily to find out what’s going on in their little part of the world and, quite honestly, I wouldn’t want them calling or emailing me so frequently to do the same. I take the good with the bad, and that means putting up with FB’s shenanigans until something better comes along.

Right now, a lot of people are placing their bets on Google and its new Google+ service as a possible Facebook-killer. I’m a bit skeptical, especially given Facebook’s lead (in years, not months) in establishing itself as the social app. I’ve got my Google+ account set up, I’ve got some circles created, and I’m slowly seeing its potential, but again… not yet sure if it will latch on with the public and gain momentum.

But Google is… well… Google. It’s got $$$ behind it, and there’s no discounting that when Google decides it wants to enter a playing field, it does so with guns blazing. And that’s what I see happening right now with Google+. I’m not here to review the service (there are plenty of those around, including Melissa Wiley’s GeekMom.com 4-part review — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), but a recent article by Phillip Torrone over at makezine.com has me thinking about one possible idea/problem I’ve been struggling with that Google+ could very well solve and that is (currently) missing from Facebook.

In the article titled Are Google+ Hangouts the Next Hackerspaces?, Phillip provides a solid walkthrough and example of how Google+ is positioned to make distance a non-issue when it comes to sharing and brainstorming in small groups. The Hangouts feature built into Google+ allows up to 10 individuals (with webcams) to share a virtual meeting space. It’s not a cutting edge service, but it’s the first time that it’s been made available to the masses and hasn’t required a large investment in software, hardware, and video equipment. While Phillip’s article focuses on the benefits that Google+ and Hangouts brings to makers/tinkers, you can easily see how his arguments can be applied to any group that shares similar interests but where individuals might not necessarily be in close proximity to one another.

I bring this all up because for a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to get a gathering of geek dads from Atlanta together — maybe for special movie showing or just lunch or dinner somewhere where we guys can hang out, visit, and geek-talk. But trying to organize something like that, getting in touch with those interested, and communicating all the details could quickly become a logistics nightmare depending on the number of participants.

But Google+ may just be the solution.

First, I can create a new Circle, Google+’s method for organizing your contacts into groups. Circles can be used to keep the information that you share compartmentalized — Friends and Family can maybe view your family pictures and videos whereas those contacts in the Acquaintances circle cannot. So I can create a circle titled GeekDad_ATL (see image) and start to collect Google+ geek dad users and use this circle to share posts, discuss all things geek, and plot plan future activities.

And while the geek dads I keep in this circle are all local to Atlanta and, presumably, a bit easier to gather together, we can easily use the Hangouts feature (well, up to 10 of us) to host our own GeekDad Podcasts but with video! And, if we follow Phillip’s suggestions, we can also share these discussions with fellow geek dads who may want to tune in on our action-packed discussions (or that inevitable Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate that can only be done via webcam in order to avoid fisticuffs).

Circles can easily be enlarged — while I can’t imagine what a GeekDads_Georgia circle would buy us, I could see GeekDad circles that focus on certain interests — Geek Dad Gamers? Geek Dad Trekkies? I realize discussion forums have served this purpose for years, but it seems to me that Google+ may be bringing some much needed updates/upgrades to the old way of doing things.

Is Google+ a game changer? Will users switch over from Facebook to Google+ or somehow find a way to blend usage of the two (plus other services)? And what features of Google+ are available now or on the horizon that we can possibly use to further our hobbies/interests?

I’d like to open this up for discussion and hear your ideas on Google+. We have this new tool available, so how can we put it to use? Please keep it civil — no Facebook vs. Google+ debates.

And finally… Atlanta geek dads: Are you out there? Email me! If we can get enough interest, I’d like to see what we could do (as a group) — movie, lunch, gaming session? I’m open to suggestions.

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