A dive into Google+ Events

A little more than a month ago, you couldn't really turn around without hearing about how Google's excursion into social media, Google+, was a ghost town: a complete failure of the search giant to place itself firmly in the current of its users' lives. Robert Moore of RJ Metrics claimed it had "weak engagement." Soon after, Fast Company, Fox News, and BusinessWeek all reported the study's findings. Pundits and bloggers across the internet weighed in, describing tumbleweeds and how users didn't log on after a first post. Google was quiet. When pressed, Googlers spoke of increased user engagement across the board and a flurry of new signups.

At this year's Google I/O, Google announced a ton of new features, programs, and hardware, not the least of which is Google+ Events. The Official Google Blog hypes the service as "for all of the moments that matter - before, during, and after the event." Google+ Events throws a wrench into planning activities online. By adding the ability to personalize invitations with video or custom themes and animations along with instant calendar integration, Google offers something for planning gatherings that the the other social media solutions don't.

Come join the party

Most important to the Google+ Events idea is the Google Party feature of the Google+ mobile app; not only do your guests' updates instantly appear in the stream for the event, but so do their photos and videos. As more guests participate, your Event "gets a pulse", as Google puts it. There's a live slideshow option, so you're never "far" from the action.

A Party Mode notification. Woo.

Now, I didn't attend Google I/O, but I was certainly watching the live feed (Apple, you could really learn from this!) and as soon as Google Events was up and running, I installed the Google+ app. Of course, I wasn't alone, and I quickly joined one of the first Events I saw, called "Checking out Party Mode!" by Web developer Jeremy Reger. I'm not sure how he selected who to invite (you can ask him!) or not, but 45 of us "attended." It was free-for-all of mostly random images and replies on the Event thread, but it was awesome in that wild way that new things are.

Creating an Event is incredibly easy; simply click Events in the left menu, and then complete the options that you have available:

Title, locations, details, time, and who you want to invite; it's that simple! The invite includes Google+ Events' largest strength: It's an online invite-only party with instant-upload photos and chat, running on the desktop of anyone who's invited as well as any mobile users running the Google+ app in Party mode. It's simple, elegant, and brilliant, not to mention fun.

At least, for a little while.

Where there's a Wil, there's a spammer

It didn't take long for the spammers to take note of the free-wheeling aspect of Events and use it to troll and spam many popular Google+ users. Wil Wheaton, Star Trek's Wesley Crusher in another life and current author, actor, and geek superstar, posted the following to his Google+ page:

"Did G+ roll out some new 'invite everyone you follow to an event' thing? My feed is completely overwhelmed with 'everyone's invited to XXXXX event' notices, and I'm having a hard time actually seeing posts from people I'm following.

Oh, and the spammer scumbags have figured out that they can make an invite to an event that's nothing but spam.

Is there a way to opt-out of event invites from people I don't follow or have circled? Is this yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly?"

His posts quickly became more angry and frustrated, and Robert Scoble, the startup liason over at Rackspace, posted a video on Tech Crunch's Gilmore Gang to share his opinion of what Google had done, vulgarity and all (video is not safe for work).

Improvements under way

It didn't take Google long to see what was happening and institute some changes. The very next day, Wheaton posted that Vic Gundotra had posted regarding the spam, promising changes to how Event invites went out. Scoble also posted regarding Google's quick reaction to the issue, and the fires of rage seem to have dampened a bit regarding Events.

Admittedly, Google could still improve how Events work. I still see invites from other countries in my stream (the Debian Conference above in Managua, for instance), though not nearly as often as I did before.

My personal experience with Google+ is mixed. When it first came out, it was awesome. I have seen the engagement slowing down as so many others have reported, though I dare say that calling it a "ghost town" is unfair. The way Google+ Circles work lead users to post only to their created sets of friends and family and not publicly, which could be skewing the results of surveys and analysts.

That said, I see big things coming with the addition of Events and Party mode if Google can, as Robert Scoble said, turn down the volume a bit to keep our streams clear of unwanted spam while allowing our Circles to flow freely.

What has your Google+ experience been? You can circle me here, and be sure to circle TechHive as well. Don't be afraid to let us know what you think of Google+, good or bad.

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