My Thoughts on Google+

First, I just have to say, I’ve never liked Facebook. I learned to use it for business purposes (social networking is a huge buzz item in the world of marketing), and am grateful for some of the connections it allows/helps me to keep. But it’s interface is crappy at best, its useability is among the worst of any large site on the ‘net, and well, I’m not sure I trust Mark Zuckerberg. So most people who are friends of mine, know that I don’t post detailed info on where I’m at, pictures of my family, etc. on there very often. I just don’t feel like I’m in control of who sees it.

So I gotta say, I love Google+ (aka Google Plus)! It’s got a clean, simple interface, with several “modules” or modes you can go into. Between these you have essentially all the features of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, & Skype. It’s easy to use, is similar enough to Facebook and others that anyone can start using it quickly, and it doesn’t have all the stupid games, apps, etc. that plague Facebook. Plus, the Android App is awesome, and backs up my photos and videos to the cloud, for FREE, permanently, and automatically. Apple’s new iCloud (or MobleMe 2.0) service doesn’t do that. It will back stuff up to the cloud, but only temporarily, etc. Google has essentially made photo and video backup to the cloud, FREE and automatic.

Another great feature is “circles” which allows you to select which “circles” your friends, co-workers, family, acquaintances, etc. fall into. Then when you share status updates, links, and even photos or photo albums, it’s easy to share with only the circles you want to be able to see that info. It’s much easier, and more safe than Facebook. Plus there’s a “following” circle where you can follow famous people and such that you don’t know (and are unlikely to “Friend” you on Facebook), just like on Twitter.

The “hangout” feature allows you to chat, audio call, video conference, and watch YouTube videos together in a dedicated space. It’s great for remotely talking to friends, business meetings and more.

If you’re not on Google+, you need to try it out, and follow/friend me!

Chasing Bugs in Other People’s Software: Xobni for Gmail and Boomerang for Gmail Conflicts

I spent a little over an hour this morning chasing down bugs in some great Chrome extensions I really like to use. The first was that I discovered that if I have the Xobni (very helpful contacts manager for Gmail) OR the Boomerang (excellent Gmail plugin that lets you schedule messages to be sent later, or return messages to your inbox at a later date) extensions enabled along with one called Measure It, then Shift+click in Gmail to open something in a new window stopped working. The solution is simple, uninstall Measure It. But finding out that it was the problem was much more difficult. I had to disable all my extensions in Chrome and then turn on a few at a time until I figured out which combination was causing the issue.

I really like Boomerang a lot and am learning to like Xobni more and more (but wish they’d implement some of Rapportive’s features or just let it work alongside Rapportive), but opening stuff in a new window is critical to be able to see the original email and respond to it at the same time, etc. So it’s good to have all that functionality back.

In doing this, I checked some settings in another cool plugin I use: Minimalist for Gmail, and found that I had a few settings turned on (like rounded corners) that weren’t doing anything useful, and were making Gmail continue to “load in background” (where you have your mouse cursor and the “working” indicator next to it) for a long time. But better yet, I discovered it has some cool new settings. My favorite is that it can make the toolbar and the navigation links “hoover” meaning that when you scroll down they stop scrolling at the top of the browser window, and hover there, so they’re always accessible! Super helpful tool. I used to have to scroll back up to get to it, or scroll the rest of the way to the bottom to get to the other one down there.

Note: the same guy makes several other “Minimalist for….” extensions. So if you use Chrome, you may want to try out Minimalist for Facebook, which lets you do a lot of things to make Facebook cooler, to the point and distraction free (like eliminating all updates from Fb apps! [hallelujah!!!]). This is how mine looks now:

Facebook Badges, Buttons, & More

Like with my previous post about these same kinds of things on Twitter, Facebook chooses to make it unobvious how to get badges, buttons, etc. to put on your website or blog. So here’s the link: Facebook Social Plugins.

Update: here’s where you can get a custom URL for your Facebook Page: though you have to meet a minimum number of fans (I’ve heard 25) before you can use it.

Import Facebook Friend’s Email Addresses & Phone Numbers

I found an easy way to pull all your Fb friend’s emails and phone numbers. This was useful for me, because my Gmail contacts (which syncs with my Android phone) didn’t have all the same people, and some that it did, wasn’t current or complete. So here’s how you do it:

  1. Sign up for (or login to) your Yahoo mail account.
  2. Go to contacts and select “Tools>Import,” now select Facebook and you’ll need to authorize/login to Facebook in the window that pops up.
  3. Yahoo will now import your Facebook contacts. If your primary email is Yahoo, you’re done.
  4. If you use Gmail like me, or something else, you’ll then want to do “Tools>Export” and export your contacts as a “vCard Single File”. Type the verification code and click the button. The file will download.
  5. Now go to your Gmail contacts and click “More Actions>Import” then select the file from your hard drive and click the Import button.
  6. Gmail will automatically merge any exact email address or phone number matches for you. I recommend going to “More Actions>Find and Merge Duplicates” to catch all those with the same/similar names as well.

That’s it! You now have all your friend’s contact information in Gmail or wherever.

UPDATE: I found this article at Lifehacker that explains how to do the above, as well as how to import your contacts from LinkedIn. I’ll have to try that next.