Some reasons why I don’t
When Google+ was new (back in July :)) people were saying things like: ooh, isn’t this great, you can write posts as long as you like, so it’s like a blog really.
These were presumably people who had arrived on the shores of G+ from the lands of Facebook or Twitter, where you couldn’t write posts as long as you liked. (Facebook have in the meantime removed the limit – yay for healthy competition!) I smiled when I saw those posts – my main social networking experience was on Multiply, where you most certainly can write posts as long as you like, and you can do fancy formatting, html, embedding images, tags, etc etc, just like on any blogging platform. So I was spoiled, and didn’t share in that excitement.
G+ lets me write long posts. That’s nice. But they don’t let me save as draft, as I’m going to do now because I’m in the middle of writing but I need to go get something to eat. Or you might need a loo break, or the phone might ring, or whatever – if you write a long post, you need to be able to save as draft. You don’t want to lose what you’ve written just because your computer has a funny moment or your browser decides it’s got a problem with some plug-in. (Yes, Google Chrome, I’m looking at you.)
Nor do they let me format my text beyond three basic features: bold, italics, or strikeout. Anything else – forget it. No fancy formatting allowed.
And no indenting either.
Or embedding an image in a post – they’ll let you add an image, or even a whole album, but the images will be shown separately, at the bottom.
And you can’t hide links neatly behind a word or phrase – because html isn’t allowed. If you include one link in your post, it can be shown neatly at the bottom of the post, but, let’s face it, the bottom of the post isn’t necessarily where you want it. And this works only for one link. The others will be shown as the full URL. Not pretty.
[I just clicked Save Draft again. I’ve added lots of stuff since last time and I’d hate to lose it all. A pretty basic precaution when you blog.]
Another feature that I sorely miss there as a blogger is the ability to tag my posts. If you turn up here on my blog for the first time, you see the tag cloud and it gives you clues as to what sort of stuff I write about – which gives you clues as to whether or not you want to check out my posts. Say I turn up on someone’s blog and I see that their tags are mainly about cookery, or gardening, or Dr Who, I’ll close that down and go do something else, because these are subjects I’m not interested in. But if I stumble on a blog with tags that say, for instance, words or languages, I’d probably stick around and browse.
Tags also mean that when you read one of my posts and it includes a tag which interests you, you can easily click on that tag and see what else I’ve written on that subject. I’ve often found fascinating stuff through playing “follow that tag” on other people’s blogs. But on G+ the emphasis is very much on viewing just the latest stuff, not on archiving posts in such a way that you’ll be able to access them easily later. Here on WordPress I can choose from a selection of widgets to help my readers access my older posts – there’s the tag cloud, there’s categories, a calendar, an archive widget, and probably others that don’t even spring to mind just now. And I like these features because many of my blog posts aren’t just for now, they don’t go stale. It would be different, I suppose, if I was the sort of “dear diary” blogger, sharing stuff about how my day has been, what I’ve been doing, that sort of thing. For that type of blogging, Google+ works just fine (as long as you’re ok going without the formatting features that blogging platforms offer). Maybe that’s what those people meant?
One other reason for not using Google+ instead of a blogging platform is not a technical one but an important one to bear in mind in terms of limiting your readership: not only isn’t everyone in the whole world on Google+, not everyone can be on Google+. There are people who are unable to use it because of Google’s names policy – ok, they’d still be able to read your public posts, but they won’t be able to comment; and if they’ve been thrown out because of the names policy, they might naturally feel a bit less than happy about visiting. I’m carrying on using Google+ despite the Nymwars issue, but I have friends who have chosen to leave rather than wait to be thrown out, I know people who have left as a way of expressing their disapproval of this policy, I know of people who have actually been thrown out, and so I feel it would be quite wrong of me to play the “G+ is a wonderful place for everyone” game by using it instead of a blogging platform which really is open to all, like WordPress, where anyone with an email address can comment, anyone with an email address can subscribe to my posts, and – oh yes, there is that too: I’m not in danger of having all my posts disappear off the ether if at some point Google decide to throw me out.
Oh, and there’s Preview of course. Which I just did as I always do before posting here. Saves me lots of embarrassment. How can a blogger survive without a Preview feature?
p.s. There’s also the ease of sharing to consider – on the blog I can provide share buttons to make it easy for people to pass on links to my posts, which is naturally something I want to encourage as I want more readers. And it comes across neatly, because the posts have titles. On G+ what’s easy is resharing the post within G+, but in order to share it with the outside world you have to really want to… you have to click (and know where to click) to get the permalink, then manually go to wherever it is that you want to share it and drop the link, and say something about it because there isn’t an obvious title to a G+ post…
A few updates @ 21.5.2013:
1. The Nymwars have been over for a long while now. Google changed the names policy on Google+ and they no longer require people to use their real names, so those who require a pseudonym are no longer barred from using Google+. However, I still stand by what I said about not wanting to limit my readership. Not everyone is on G+ and I see no reason to limit my readership to just those who are there.
2. Multiply is sadly no longer in existence.
3. About tags: G+ now includes a system of hashtags, which means you can find old posts more easily – but it is not easy to find posts with a particular hashtag written by a particular user. Nor can you see anything resembling a tag cloud when you visit a user’s profile. So it’s better than it was, but still not anywhere near what we have here on WordPress (or on other blogging platforms).
P.S. And this edit reminds me of something else that annoys me on G+: when you edit a post, it changes the date, so you can no longer see when it was originally posted :( Aug 2013: They’ve fixed that now.