Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blogging versus Google Plus

Google Plus is a bit like blogging. So should you just choose one or the other?

Most people I know aren't on Google+. Not in any useful way, anyway. Same with most people I follow on Twitter, they're not on Google Plus either. I'm not really on, or in, or whatever the preposition is, Facebook, but I suspect there would be even less overlap there with G+.

Doesn't matter. Though it's often called an interest network, or as +Guy Kawasaki says: Twitter = Perspectives, Facebook = People, and Google+ = Passions, Google+ is thought of as a social network, but it doesn't have to have anything to do with anyone you actually know. I'll settle for total strangers like +Trey Ratcliff , +Fraser Cain  and +Robert Scoble  giving me interesting stuff that stimulates me, over the kind of stuff you tend to get on other social media networks from people you actually know.

But that's an unfair comparison, and I want to avoid the cliche of comparing it to Twitter and Facebook. All of the learned commentary that insists on contrasting it to those two sites, Facebook in particular, is missing the real comparison. And that's to blogging. Oh sure, twitter was once called microblogging. But it's not blogging. I'll still keep tweeting, and I'll still keep on more-or-less ignoring Facebook, but it's my blogging that has come under the microscope, and that will probably be affected by my use of G+.

Flickr photo
FlickrKing Kong vs Godzilla, by mondocoyote. I can't decide which one represents blogging and which one Google+

I'm not about to go all Scobleizer, mind:
"It’s too late to save the common web. It’s why, for the past year, I’ve given up and have put most of my blogging into Google+."
Such grandiloquence. But Scoble gives good Google+ so he gets a pass. No, I want to keep my blog going.

So, how would Google Plus affect and influence my blogging? One thing I wanted to do more was post shorter and more frequently, like Smarterware by Gina Trapani, or Koukla House by Tina. I recently had +Chris Johnson get in my face and tell me that my blog posts were tl;dr. So, an obvious start would be to keep shorter posts to Google Plus, and post longer on my blog.

Here's an example of the sort of shorter posts I'm talking about, one I wrote on Google Plus, a particularly dry one about ASP.Net Web API:

[Google+ activity goes here]

(By the way, I emebedded that Google+ post using the API for G+: there's no option that I know of to get the HTML to embed a post.) Anyway, that was all I wanted to say at that time about Web API: a full blog post wouldn't have suited. Now, is there any way to tie that post back to my blog? How can I integrate my Google+ stream with my blog and vice versa? How can you make them greater than the sum of their parts? That is the question.

Here's my suggestion

I gave this a fair bit of thought, and the best idea I came up with is this: post frequently on Google Plus, then aggregate those posts on a weekly basis using the Google+ API on my blog. If you use a hashtag it allows you to insert the search key you're going to use in a by-now natural way in a post: there's no provision specifically for searching by hashtag in the API. What I mean is, if I say "Today at work I did this and that #DailyDevNotes" at this stage it reads normally. At least it does if you've ever used Twitter.

Incidentally, my first hashtag, #DeveloperDiary, threw up some what-the-eff? Witcher 2 post, so that was disappointing. #DailyDevNotes is unique, and better describes what I'm doing to boot, so that's the one I'm using.

So, the plan is: do regular - yes, daily - posts on Google+, then on a weekly basis scaffold up a blog post using the basic API call for those posts:
https://www.googleapis.com/plus/v1/activities?query=%23dailydevnotes&pp=1&key=[myAPIkey]
In this way my blog become my own Google+ aggregation service. I'm going to have a weekly blog called "Developer notes" or something, collating a week's worth of G+ posts. But I have a problem: at the moment there's no way to search by date range with the API so I have two ways to filter by dates:
  • Get all of them all the time and filter by DatePublished for that week's posts. Inefficient, and increasingly so, but straightforward.
  • Schedule a fetch of all my posts "#DailyDevNotes" posts on a regular basis, save to my SQL Server 2008 database from where I can query for posts by date more efficiently. More work up-front, subject to sync lags, but probably better in the long term as the post number grows.

There you go: that's the best I've come up with so far. It means I get a weekly blog post that's quite different to the usual ones I've been writing, which have cleaved to a single idea and existed alongside my Google+ account without the one being in any way integrated with the other (with Twitter it's been different: I embed tweets into some blogs so they are part of the blog post). This therefore is my attempt to bring the Google+/Blog holism.

Edit, 13/1/'13: +Shay Shaked mentioned this article on a post on (where else) Google+, so that was nice. I commented to the effect that I've had to rethink my approach here since feed readers like Google Reader don't allow JavaScript, so embedding Google+ posts, or indeed Flickr photos or tweets dynamically is out. I still embed those things, just not dynamically.