Monday, 31 October 2011

Connecting Through Google+

Google+ is not the new Facebook. I subscribe to both and find them worlds apart. Facebook is a step up from Twitter. Short status updates. Mostly inane comments that no one else really cares about. And for the younger set, it is all about the numbers. How many "friends" you have. Of course, they are not friends in the true sense of the word - people who care about and support you through all of life's ups and downs. But the higher the number, apparently, the more popular you are. The upside of Facebook is that on some level, you feel in touch with others. For me,  it is also a great way to get up to date photographs for our family newsletters.
Google+ is very different. There is no limit to the length of your post. You can set up circles so that you only connect with people you want to connect with. The conversation is far more intelligent. It is wordier. More meaningful. More thought provoking. I don't get caught up in the family happenings of others, because I am not in their family circles. I primarily use Google+ for connecting with the genealogy community. It keeps me up to date. It helps me learn new things. I can share and learn with like-minded individuals.
Genealogists are a unique group of people. By the very nature of their obsession (some would say hobby, but true genealogists know we are an obsessed bunch), genealogists connect to others. They reach out. They help. They share. They support, encourage and hold each other up. And they get very excited about each other's microfilm finds, census secrets, birth discoveries....well, just about every aspect of a great find.
In less than two weeks, I connected with hundreds of genealogists. That's an amazing connection. Then, when the beta part of Google+ was over, people began sharing their circles. The connections just kept growing. Like branches on a tree. It really is amazing. I recommend it to anyone who shares this passion. (Others are on G+ as well - writers, photographers, runners, dancers, you name it. But for me, the connection I want is with the genealogy community.) Here's how you can get started:

  1. You need a Google account to sign up for Google+
  2. Once you have signed up, set up your profile. Make sure you mention genealogy so others will want to connect with you. It is frustrating to find someone who wants to connect, but who hasn't filled out their profile. I don't want to connect with them if I don't know anything about them. After all, I'm here for a purpose. I am not a teen wanting to one-up my Facebook community with numbers. I want to know you. To know we have a common interest. To know we might learn from one another or help one another in our quest to find our ancestry. A picture often helps too, but I can understand why some people are shy that way. Especially on the internet.
  3. The next step is to set up your circles. These are the people you want to connect with. You can name you circles anything you want. No one else can see what you have called them. The names only need to be meaningful for you - travel troupe, photography buffs, whatever you want
  4. At the top of your page, there is a small search box. type genealogy into that box. Hit enter. And you will be connected with others who have genealogy listed in their profiles. Read over their profiles and see if you want to add them to your circle. You can overlap people in your circles by adding them to more than one. For instance, many writers are also photographers. Many genealogists are also photographers. You can have them in both circles. You can change them around whenever you want.
  5. Then, post something. Let others know you are out there. Don't overwhelm them with surnames or your research blocks. Take one topic and post on it. See the response you get. Then post again when you have something  to share. If you are not ready to make your own post, add a comment to someone else's post. Or +1 a post (this is like a "like" on Facebook). This helps others to get to know you and then when you are ready to post, they will take an interest and will read what you have to share.
  6. There are so many cool features in Google+ that you will come to learn about as you go along. Not all features are for everyone, but they are great to know about. One feature I can see a huge future for is the Google Hangout. This is like a mini video conference. You can have a short face to face virtual meeting. What a great way for Societies to have a quick meeting about a decision that needs to get made. And no one needs to get bogged down in scheduling. You can have a member who is a snowbird included in the meeting with those still at home. Face to face is always better than e-mail. And this is a great way to have those connections happen.
So, what are you waiting for? Get signed up. Look for me (Christine Woodcock), circle me and let's get connected!

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