Much has been, and will continue to be, written about Google+ -- The latest offering in the fast paced Social Networking market.

Unsurprisingly Google+ is a Google product!  In true Google style it is currently on an invitation only basis while the product is in beta testing mode.  G+ was launched on 28 June 2011 so let's see how many years it is officially in beta; both Gmail and GoogleDocs were stuck with the 'beta' tag for years despite their 100's of millions of users.

The idea behind the 'invitation only' concept in theory to keep the number of users under control, however there are those who will argue, perhaps correctly, that it is a marketing ploy to create hype and make people feel part of the new gang; those not with an invite often put a lot of effort into getting an invitation to the club.

Introductions over, on with the body of the article.

1. G+ is invitation only?

Correct.  If you want an invite and you know someone on G+ just ask as they all have invitations.  Do not be fooled by many of the scams going around.  Some people are buying invitations for $1 off eBay!!  Others are signing up to newsletters; re-tweeting links; boosting the egos of bloggers simply to 'score' an invite.

If you want one, ask and I will email an invite -- no fuss, no scam, no sign up, no 'like', no cost.  Simple!  Fire off an email to daj@theOnlyCog.com.  Please bear in mind I am in the UK so there may be a time difference  (I may be asleep).

Google+ currently only allow users who are at least 18 years of age.

2. You need a Gmail account?

Wrong.  Google+ requires a 'Google Profile' to operate.  If you have already signed up to any Google services you have a profile (if you have a gmail.com for example).  However, getting a profile for your own address, say hotmail.com, is just as simple.  Go to https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount and use your existing email address.  Job done.  You will not get Google eMail obviously but you will now be able to sign in to most Google services (and have a profile) -- you can see where this is going?!

Now you have a Google profile you can sign in to G+.  Ask someone to invite you using your own email.

If, like me, your domain name (theOnlyCog.com) is hosted by Google Mail then you can not use it to sign in to G+.  Annoyingly Google have yet to activate Profiles for Google Domains so you will need to wait or use another email address.  Personally I think this is an epic fail for Google but I am sure they will fix it in time.  I simply created a gmail.com and signed in to G+ with that.

3. I've used an email address that I do not want anyone else to see.

No problem -- whatever email address you sign in to G+ with is never shown on your profile, unless you show it!  So I am signed in to G+ with a-made-up-email@gmail.com but no one knows, nor cares!

 4. How Secure is G+?

The simple answer is 'as secure as you wish'.  Google have clearly been listening to all the chatter on security in Social Networking and taken it on board.

Everything you post within G+ has security enabled, including your profile.  When you put anything in your profile you decide who sees it, or not.  When you post a comment, again, you decide on the viewers.

Another brilliant innovation from Google is the ability to see how your profile looks to others. (including public).  When editing your profile look for the button at the top 'View Profile as'.  This will let you see how others see your profile AND exactly what you are sharing.

One small note -- currently your profile picture and gender can not be hidden/secured, however I understand G+ will allow this soon.

5. Circles -- what is it all about?

Think of circles as a way of grouping people together.  G+ comes with some pre-defined circles but you can add your own and you can add people to one, or more, circles.  When you come to post something in G+ you then decide which circles can see the post.  There is also a 'Public' entry so if you make a post Public anyone can see it on the web.

You can currently have up to 5,000 people in a circle.

As an example, I have Friends, Family, Followers circles.  The first two are obvious, the third I add people who interest me with posts but I do not know directly.

When I come to post something on G+ I can then decide if Friends, Family, Followers, Public or any combination of those can see it.

Others can see that you have them in a circle but are never told the circle name.

6. I can not post to someone directly.

Wrong.  When creating a post press the + or @ then type/select their name.  This is directing the post at that person specifically.  When you Share the post you can then decide to share it with others circles, or just the named person.  Sharing with the named person only make it private between the two of you.

7. Random people have added me to their own circles, what do they see?

If someone adds you to their Circle you will be notified.  You can then add them to a circle, or not.  If someone has you in a circle it is not a big security issue as they can only see anything you Share as Public; they are not in  your own circles so when you share to a Circle they do not see it.  It's a bit like Twitter -- people can choose to follow you and see public posts.

If you really want to you can 'block' a person so they will not even see your public posts.

8. Can I edit posts?

Yes.  Unlike FB and Twitter, if you make a typo you can simply edit it.  No need to delete and re-post.  You can also do some basic formatting of a post.  Enclosing a word in * make it bold; - is strike through, _ is italics.  Example *Hello* world will make the world Hello bold when you Share the post.

9.  I am getting too many emails from Google+

G+ will email you 'notifications' as events happen.  For example, someone comments on one of your posts; someone adds you to a circle.  If this is all too much information click on the Cog top right of the screen and change your Google+ settings.

10. How do I share my profile?

Hopefully G+ will come up with a shorter version of the web address to share your profile with others, however for now click on your own name, then the About tab.  The URL shown in your address bar can be copied and shared with others.  You can email people this link and when they visit the page they can Add you to thier circles.  For example, my profile address (URL) is...

https://plus.google.com/u/0/100954346594779302330/about (add me to your Following Circle!)

There are some shortening services out there too, one example...http://gplus.to

11. How do I find friends?

If you are looking for your friends in G+ use the bar at the top labeled 'Find People' and start typing their name.  This is the only way to find people.  You can not, for example, search by email address.

12. I am an Organization, should I be using G+?

No!  not just yet.  Google have been quite clear that G+ is currently for individuals only.  They are working on non-user (as they call them) pages.  In the coming few months you will be able to add your Business to G+.  For now Google say they are actively deleting fake accounts or those that are non-users!  You have been warned!

Happy Google+'ing and if you need an invite just ask.

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