Google+, Day 11: Understanding the +1 Button
As with other social networks, when I find a post that I like on Google+, I can choose to add my two cents by commenting on it, or I can just click a button to show my support or approval. On Google+, that button is the +1 button. For today's 30 Days With Google+ post, I am taking a closer look at what happens when I click +1, and what it really means.
The +1 button is not unique to Google+. Google introduced the concept of voting approval for Web sites back in March of this year. The whole point, though--even before the launch of Google+--was to incorporate social networking elements into Google search results, so it only makes sense that Google would also bake the +1 button into its own social network.
What is it? Well, I am doing my best not to spend the 30 Days With Google+ series directly comparing the Google social network to Facebook, but the simplest explanation is that +1 is Google's version of the Facebook "Like" button.
At the bottom of any given post on Google+ there is a little square with the trademark Google red, blue, green, and yellow across the top and a "+1" in the middle. If I like the post and want to show my approval, but I don't feel like actually typing a comment, I can just click the +1 button.
Once I +1 something, my +1 vote is tallied along with any other +1 votes. The +1 count of a given post can be a barometer for choosing which posts to read and which to ignore. It might be nice to read all of the stuff that flows through my Google+ stream, but who has that kind of time? But, if five, or ten, or fifty people on Google+ or from my personal social network +1 a post, perhaps it deserves some special attention.
The content I +1 is used by Google to identify my interests and retrieve more relevant search results and also target online ads at me. My +1's may also show up in the search results of people within my social network thanks to Google's integration of Google+ content and Google search results.
Supposedly, when I +1 something, it is also added to the +1's tab of my Google+ profile. However, I have +1'd (what is the past-tense verb of +1 anyway?) more than a few things and my +1 tab of my Google+ profile is empty. Perhaps that is a feature Google is still working on.
Google explains that I have some control over who can see that +1's tab. However, it also says, "Regardless of whether you chose to publicly share your +1's tab, your +1's will still be visible to others viewing the content you +1'd. For instance, your +1 could appear as part of an anonymous aggregated count of the people who have also +1'd the same thing. Your name could also appear next to the +1 to help your friends and contacts identify which content may be most useful to them."
Like Facebook, there is no way to show disapproval. Google+ doesn't have a "-1" button for posts you don't like. One thing that Facebook does have, but Google+ doesn't, though, is the ability to change your mind. On Facebook you can "Unlike" a post or comment that you have "Liked", but on Google+ your +1 is permanent.
I'd like to see a system that implements both "+1" and "-1". For one thing, as much as I'd like to know which sites or services my friends from my social network approve of, I would also like to know which ones they think suck. As far as the +1 tally, Google could just display the net total. For example, if there are ten "+1's" and 4 "-1's", the +1 box would show a 6.
Just a thought.
[Update: Thanks to some input and feedback from readers both here in the comments, and from readers who follow me on Google+ itself, I have learned a couple new things about the +1 button. First, some readers pointed out that the items I +1 within Google+ do not appear listed on the +1's tab, but that the items I +1 elsewhere on the Web do. The Google+ page that explains +1's does not make that clear--and, in fact, seems to imply the opposite. I had never +1'd anything on the Web, so mine was blank. I went and +1'd some of the previous 30 Days With Google+ posts and verified that those do show up. It seems like the adding of +1 tracking within Google+ itself might still be a work in progress.
The second thing is that readers informed me that you can in fact take back your +1 after the fact. If you click the +1 button a second time it will switch from blue back to white (or gray--or whatever you want to call that) and your vote will be removed from the +1 tally. You can also click +1 again, and again, and again and it will simply toggle off and on. This behavior is not clearly explained in the Google +1 description, and I hadn't noticed that hovering over the +1 button after you have clicked brings up a pop-up message that reads "Click again to undo".]