03 January 2013

Nature, Photography, and Birding on Google+

I'm a fan of Google+, and those interested in nature and photography (and nature photography!) should give it a look if you haven't already.

If you are familiar with Google+ already, check out these communities, which may be of interest. If you are new to Google+, skip to the next section and then come back to this one later.

Landscape Photography
National Geographic Exploration 
Nature Photography

There are plenty of other good ones - the above are just to get started.

And I just created a Birding North America community yesterday.  I have not invited anyone to join - so consider this blog post the first invitation to join the community.

For Those New to Google+

Google+ is usually referred to as a social network, and often compared to Facebook. In my opinion, these comparisons do not do it justice.

Google+ (or G+) was launched a little over a year ago by Google, and it nicely combines features of Twitter and Facebook, along with lots of unique features and capabilities.

Benefits of Google+

  1. Greater control. You create 'circles' of friends and acquaintances, and only share to those specific circles. No more sharing family information with strangers. And now you can target your birding exploits only to those interested.
  2. Communities. The community feature allows you to create a more advanced sharing experience than a traditional mail list.
  3. Photo quality. G+ has been a leader in photo quality on social networks, providing larger images with minimal reprocessing. Professional photographers have flocked to G+.
  4. Innovation. G+ keeps producing new features - volume sliders, hangouts (real time video conferencing), etc. Facebook has had to scramble to add inferior versions of these features.
  5. No advertisements.
  6. All of your posts get delivered. No need to 'pay to promote' like in FB to ensure everyone actually sees your posts.

Detriments of Google+

  1. Total users. Other social networks still have many more users.
  2. Learning curve. Many people look at G+ and don't see much activity and immediately leave. This is often for two reasons - one is what #1 above mentions - there are still fewer users of G+. The other is that the sharing model of G+ is different. From day 1, G+ has allowed targetted sharing, meaning your G+ friends may be sharing items, but just not 'publicly', or not directly with you. Further, the 'following' model is something many people don't expect since they are used to Facebook. Try following some interesting people.

Getting Started on Google+

Go to and login. If you have a gmail account, you can re-use those credentials.

Once logged in, set up some circles. My circles are called "close family", "extended family", "work contacts", "friends", "acquaintances", "birders", "photographers", "music", and "following". You can name them however you want - when creating circles, think about who and what you intend to share. Remember, you can put a person in more than one circle - for example, I have work contacts that are also friends.

Now, add people to your circles. Search for your friends and acquaintances. If you have trouble finding people you know, you can "follow" people you do not know. For example, you can follow news organizations (CNN, NPR, BBC, The Economist, etc), sports teams, and interesting people. I follow National Geographic, B and H Photo, The Nature Conservancy, and others. If you are in to photography, you can follow the likes of Thomas Hawk, Mike Spinak, Scott Kelby, Trey Ratcliff, and many others.

You can adjust the 'volume' of each circle, so circles that are less important will only show up if there is nothing else, or if there is a lot of engagement.

If you are using G+ on a mobile phone, you can adjust your notification settings. Personally, I don't want to get 'buzzed' every time a new post or response is sent, so I disable that. Similarly, you can set up G+ so that it emails you every time a new post/response is sent to you, or you may disable that feature.