Author: Kevin Purdy
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2011
Aimed at: New and confused users of Google+
Pros: Well organized, good explanations
Cons: Impossible to be up-to-date
Reviewed by: Lucy Black
Does this title live up to its motto "the book that should have come with the site"?
This is, of course, a book for end users and not for developers. If you are interested in developing for Google+ then no books on the topic are available yet and you can visit the Google+ Developers site - or go to the recently inaugurated Google+ page for Google+ Developers.
So this book is primarily for those who are newcomers to Google+ or feel there is more to it than they have so far discovered. There are plenty of reasons to be confused by Google+. It takes a different approach to organising your social contacts and if you are used to Facebook its perhaps tempting to decide to stick with a more familiar environment. And of course, you might be completely new to social networking - or being asked for help from someone in that position - in which case a book, the traditional form of documentation, sounds like an attractive option.
I've embarked on this review without stopping to explain what Google+ is. Kevin Purdy, on the other hand, doesn't make this potential mistake of assuming everyone knows what it is. In the Introduction section he explains that Google+ isn't a "supercharged version" or an elite upgrade of the ubiquitous search engine but is instead Google's first foray into social networking. There's also a 1-page overview of how Google+ is different from other social networking sites and an overview of the books nine chapter topics in the introduction, so it's worth reading.
Chapter 1: Getting Stated covers signing up for a Google account is you don't already have one - and as they are very difficult to avoid the chances are that you do - and Joining Up. When Google+ first launched you could only join up by invitation from an existing member. Now you can simply join - and having done so you might want to invite others to do so which come next. The rest of the chapter is devoted to creating and managing your profile including how to upload a profile picture and the delicate process of deciding how much about yourself to reveal to the public and to other people such as your mother-in-law or your boss.
To understand Google+ you have to understand its Circles. Kevin Purdy tackles this, succinctly and successfully in Chapter 2. He then looks at Streams - the flow of information on the Google+ page in Chapter 3. Again there's a good explanation of how to view and interact with other people's posts and how to write your own. The chapter also covers controlling who sees your posts, deleting posts and comments, and blocking and muting unwanted ones. Chapter 4 is devoted to Notifications and covers all the different ways in which you are alerted when your posts receive a +1 or there's a new comment and how to control notifications using the Google+ settings page.
Chapter 5 covers sharing photos and videos, something which Kevin Purdy says is "easy to very easy". He goes on to cover the topic in enough detail to make this the longest chapter (34 pages) of the book.
One of the key features of Google+, and one that could be the most frustrating, is its group video chat facility know as hangouts, a way to interact in realtime with up to ten other people. Chapter 6 is devoted to this topic.
Chapter 7 is called Search and Sparks and covers how to find people and information on Google+. You find out what Sparks are in a section on the four types of results from a Google+ search where they explained as a "kind of curated feed of news and blog items" related to your search - they are items that come from links external to Google+ ranked by popularity. Chapter 8 is devoted to Google+ on mobile devices and the final chapter is a very short one on Playing Games.
This book takes a very straightforward approach and uses clear, jargon-free language. It includes lots of screen dumps, uses bullet-point lists where helpful and a uses sidebars for Tips, Notes, Faqs and other stuff that merits special attention. It also includes an index which supports its role as a manual. One problem that it can't overcome is being up-to-date but the author maintains a Google+ page for updates and relevant information.
Overall its a good book to have around if you want to get comfortable with using Google+.