How Google+ Turned Me Back Into a Blogger - and Four More Things I Wish It Would Do
Back when I was self-distributing my feature film "Robot Stories," I was blogging constantly on multiple websites using MovableType. I loved the software -- after years of handcoding HTML pages for the early incarnations of my websites, any automation felt like heaven. And the blogs on those websites combined with good old fashioned email newsletters were critical in building an audience for the film and getting the word out about screenings.
But over the years, I've fallen away from blogging. The constant deluge of comment spam made maintaining the MT blogs an annoying burden. I disabled comments and largely gave up on the blog style and form, using MovableType just as the engine for updating my websites with the latest news and reviews, with just an occasional first-person post. Twitter became a much easier way to crack wise in the first person and get the word out quickly about new projects and events.
I signed up for Google+ without any clear notion of what it would become for me. I never fully embraced Facebook, so Twitter was my point of reference. And I've largely used Google+ just like a longer version of Twitter, taking advantage of the no-character limit to post more fleshed-out thoughts about the work I'm doing or other things that interest me.
And suddenly I'm blogging again, with a better interactive experience with readers than ever before.Three big advantages of Google+ as a blogging platform for me:
1. Automatic hyperlinking and almost effortless attachment of images/video.
I hadn't actually realized how big a deal this is until I'd been playing with the site for a while. Almost subliminally, I'm prepping for a bigger project when I'm posting something using Movable Type. I have to code some links, upload some pix to my FTP. There's just more prep involved. But with Google+, I'm just writing -- I don't have to think about the technical side of the process nearly as much. Given the fact that any blogging I do is on the side in my free time, saving a few minutes and effort with every post is a big deal.
2. Built-in audience outreach via Notifications and built-in audience building via the "share" button.
When a social network like Google+ is up and running, a huge number of people are engaging with it on their own throughout the day. That's not true for most folks' personal blogs or websites. My gregpak.com
website will always be critical for me -- it's where folks who are searching for me will find the information they need to buy my books, go to my events, or hire me for gigs. But it's not a daily-visit kind of site for most people. If I want to get immediate attention for a post there, I need to plug it via Twitter or my email newsletter. In contrast, anything I post on Google+ instantly shows up in the streams of all the folks who have circled me. And the share button allows and encourages readers to instantly share something the like with their own circles. A Google+ post has the chance to reach thousands of people in moments.
3. Very positive commenting experiences.
So far I've seen virtually no comment spam (though this will change, of course). Even more importantly, I've noticed a remarkably positive/constructive vibe among comment threads across the line. While I share many of the concerns of those who have argued for allowing pseudonymity on Google+, I don't doubt that the use of real names has contributed toward less hit-and-run jerkiness in comment threads. Four things that would make Google+ an even better blogging platform for me:
1. Ability to save and preview a post before publishing.
I've had to edit a post multiple times within minutes of posting after noticing glitches that would have been avoidable with a preview option. Also, I've lost multiple posts-in-progress due to accidentally clicking on something outside of the text window. The ability to save while writing would eliminate that frustration.
2. Ability to delete individual comments others make on my posts.
As far as I can tell, a Google+ user can delete her own comments -- but not the comments of others who are commenting on her post. So far, I've had almost no unpleasant commenting experiences. (Because all y'all are awesome!) But eventually someone will post something offensive. And as far as I can tell, my only recourse is to block that person or shut down comments. I'd like the option of deleting an individual comment.
UPDATE: +Michael Johnson
has informed me via the comments that you CAN delete comments! Select "Report or remove comments" from the menu activated by the button to the right of your post. And that enables an "X" mark next to each comment allowing you to delete it. So, awesome!
3. Ability to give posts categories or hashtags.
MovableType lets me categorize each post and create index pages of all posts within a specific category. That kind of functionality would help make a Google+ page a living archive rather than a snapshot. Certain kinds of posts kind of embrace the Twitter-like disappearance into the ether. But if you're using Google+ for more extended blogging, it would be fantastic for readers to be able to click a category link and see all the posts you've made about a specific topic. Hulk fans, for example, would no doubt have fun seeing all the Hulk-related posts I might make.
4. Ability to incorporate Google+ posts and comments into an outside website.
I'd probably be incorporating Google+ posts and comments into gregpak.com
right now if I could. That's probably the ideal situation -- to be able to frame everything with my own logos/branding/website design but have Google+ tools and content at the heart of a page.