Google + comes off as an Advertising Board rather than a “Social Network”

What is a social network anyway?

Ok, so you can make an argument about what a social network really is, but what you can’t deny is that the Google Plus network has no Hangouts-325x325features that resemble a place on the web to be advertised to. But after all, it makes sense, considering that what Google does boils down to advertising in the end.

So what makes it seem like an advertising avenue than a legitimate place to socialize with people you know? And the answer to that is this: it is the way they collect and show your information.

This sounds familiar to a techie that knows about the behind the scenes of Facebook (which by the way looks weird to me having a capital letter), and of course everyone else who doesn’t know how Facebook really works, just that it does. A quick explanation, is that Facebook analyzes each person’s feed to give you an ordered list of what they may want to see the most. There is too much information being posted by everyone you know to show you everything in one page, so Facebook tries to order this of importance to show you the most important updates first. Pretty ingenious really.

So how is Google + different, and why don’t people use it the same way?

Both Facebook and Google put together a list of pages that you follow, pages that you like (or +1… I guess), or groups or “communities” that you are a part of, and give you updates on all of them at once. But what is each one focusing on? Google is focused on bringing you content from what you follow, where Facebook is focused on bring you content from your friends and family, and of┬ácourse random pages that you like. Right when you join, you are encouraged to join “communities” in Google+. On Facebook, you are encouraged to find people you know, and just “like pages”, rather than join them.

So a main point that this comes down to, is would you rather see information from random people in communities or posts from friends and ocassional updates from pages? The answer is: occasionally both, but more likely from friends. And who may want random posts? Maybe smaller, less general communities will offer some value, right? Probably could.

But what do these communities offer? Well it is a fantastic place to get your word out to a good number of people. And you see where I am going with this… this is what advertising is. People who post about what people may most want to read will be the ones in the spotlight with Google+.

Don’t get me wrong though with this, Google communities are honestly a great concept and I have made my own myself. But Google + as a whole network falls short in being a platform that people want to get updates from.

Why won’t people post their photos and statuses on Google+?

Honestly, I’ve used Google+ for a little while now, mostly to create Community pages and meet and talk with people there. But when it comes to photos, I can see it becoming a really confusing interface to use. Google automatically can sync photos from your phone to your Google profile. This is truely a fantastic service that has a ton of potential! But when you land on your profile, it shows your photo highlights, as if Google somehow knows what your photo highlights are for you? So you click to see all your photos, but they are not a part of your page just yet. In fact, you can’t even add the photos to an album easily unless you click the small checkmark and share it with arbituary circles, or go into the individial photo and click a “more” drop-down. How anti-intuitive! Why can we not easily organize our photos, when we can so easily organize our ‘circles’? This is a question I would ask the designers of the interface of “Plus”.

Is Google+ a good place to put my business information?

Google + is actually a great place to put a page of information about a business, especially after they integrated services with google maps and youtube. However, take the service with a grain of salt. While it is a great place to have some short ‘n sweet info for a person passing by, that is what most of the traffic will be: a quick glance at the company profile. I would spend just a little time putting in the information that people can quickly reference, but that is all the effort you would really need.

Should I get involved with Google+?

That is the thing. People are not using Google + very much, and probably because of some of the reasons I mentioned above. When you create a social network, you need to explain to people how they recommend you use their service. People like to be on the same page with each other, and not “be going in blind”, so-to-speak. People want to understand the concept of what is being presented, so that they are not guessing at what they should be using it. If it is too complicated, redesign the interface. If the concept is not understood, explain it. People like a standard to follow, but the freedom to explore past it if they would like, and that standard really hasn’t been established that well with this platform. Remember the campaign with the “YOU” circled with a bunch of arrows around it? Its great that Plus is about ME, but what can I really use it for, and how can I use it? It is probably too complicated to explain to many people, and if it is not complicated, then maybe too disorganized.


TL;DR version: Google focuses on generic communities, does not focus on a simple photo organization service, and does not focus on connecting friends and family as much as Facebook does.

When should I use Visual Studio Lightswitch?

I have had my hands on Visual Studio Lightswitch since its fairly earlier stages. Back a few years ago, there were bugs with the designer that had to be addressed periodically. Now the project is much more robust and can be used with major implementations. But not all implementations would go well with how Lightswitch is designed.

Lightswitch now has two methods of rendering a project: the Silverlight client and an HTML5 export. Silverlight is used for a few major applications like Netflix and some smaller applications for web input. Of course, Netflix has announced that they would like to move away from Silverlight to HTML5 when it is feasible, as Microsoft had announced the end of support for silverlight by 2021.

So why is Silverlight being phased out?

Although Microsoft Silverlight is a proprietary software it is meant to be compatible with most devices. Silverlight is in a way similar to Adobe’s flash player plugin, only that it can focus on data driven applications much better than flash, where flash is more of an artistic solution. But what is the same is that both forms of media require a browser plugin in order to use the software. Some see this as a security issue, others see it as an inconvenience. Microsoft probably realizes that a

Difficulties with Silverlight

I have been working on Silverlight software for the past couple of years with Lightswitch to organize everything into one location that is easily manageable. Along with this, every person using the software now had to make sure that they had the Silverlight plugin installed and activated, which was not always the case. This is extra maintenance that goes into ensuring that the users are properly set up to use the application.

Now with the Lightswitch Silverlight client, it is very easy to publish to the web server once you have the server properly configured. However, the client itself is a full-page application that by default will take up the entire page, and only provides tools to edit the Silverlight application. Furthermore, when loading all of the controls into the browser, the Silverlight client can take up a considerable amount of RAM and CPU processing power while using it, compared with an HTML form.

The Lightswitch Application

The Lightswitch clients both output complete pages of the application you are trying to make. It uses your data model and provides a framework to reference your data within your application, as you will most likely need to code some attributes under the drag-and-drop layout design at some point. With the complete page, each client has a built-in navigation that is displayed on top.

You are also limited to what you can use inside of the application. For example, Lightswitch does not come with any complex forms of reporting. There are plugins available, for example from ComponentOne, but it does cost more than a professional-level license of visual studio. You can also include web pages into the screen with some coding, but is not a good strategy considering that you now have web content inside of Silverlight content.

Okay on to the main point: Reasons to Use Lightswitch

Lightswitch makes it easy to publish an app to the server and make any changes it needs to. When installing the Lightswitch deployment package for the server, it attempts to configure the server to what is needed to have the application work properly. Although, this often does need to be fine tuned to fit your needs. It also will work with Windows Authentication quite nicely, avoiding the need to even sign in manually or messing with group permissions between a file server and the app itself. This alone is a great reason to use this kind of software: compatibility.

Lightswitch is meant to make it easy for developers to quickly create an app to display and edit information from their database. The advantages of this method is being able to generate the underlying information needed for the controls and data that is used. Of course, you must be sure to follow the procedure of working from the data-level, updating the data-source in Lightswitch, making any necessary changes, then publishing the changes. You must also be sure that the clients refresh and have the latest version of the application that has not been pulled from their cache.

Recently, they have also improved their HTML5 client, that is able to be run on any device. This can be especially useful when using tablets or other smaller and simpler devices to quickly get and modify information. Being able to export in both formats while using the same data back-end is especially impressive and can save a lot of time.

It provides a way to quickly generate forms and grids that allow you to edit and display the content of your database. It provides good controls to quickly show a pop-up window, or choose a date or select from a drop-down list to filter results. Each screen can be created from a list of organization groups and controls, and can even be modified while testing. But that could be the extent of it before it gets complicated.

Problems with Lightswitch

Microsoft advertises Lightswitch as an easy solution that developers do not need to have much knowledge of programming in order to build applications. Depending on the applications you want to build, this may not be the case at all. While it is great to quickly create forms to edit outside of the database-level, it can get just as complex when working with more advanced applications. When the demands are getting to the point where information is being moved around, default values are needed based on how data is added, or disabling or highlighting grid rows, programming will be needed.

Using the Silverlight will require the user to have the plugin installed and need it to be activated. This is an extra step needed that is better than having files of MS access laying around for example, but is not as expected from an internal website. Luckily, Microsoft has introduced the HTML5 client that can work on any device to help solve this problem, but it is not quite the same as using traditional web forms, as this export is intended to be used with mobile and touch-screen devices.

Overall Conclusions: Should I make an App using Lightswitch?

Lightswitch is a software that has the ability to be used on any device, is easy and quick to develop with from a variety of data sources, can publish easily and quickly to a windows server, and can use windows authentication. I’d like to stress two things here: easy, quick, and windows authentication. I’d also emphasize the fact that it is also quite limited, so your requirements for the application should be fairly minimal and straightforward before coding becomes fairly involved.

I see Lightswitch as a good tool for creating quick ways for users to access certain information without having to use other ways to do it (ex: MS Access, Excel, requesting SQL Management Studio access, etc.). In which case I highly recommend giving it a try.

But, when creating more involved software, you may want to consider using web forms, actual applications, or other solutions that specialize in this area. Lightswitch controls are not always customizable to what users would hope for, but that is at the expense of using an organized and built-in control interface.

It is also important to understand how they want to be using the software. Lightswitch does not have any built-in reporting, unlike Silverlight applications that can use these controls with less problems, built right into a webpage. There are other forms of reporting software out there that might be easier to use than Lightswitch, like in Microsoft Excel, or other web solutions.

PROS: Rapid development, Simple and organized interface with built-in controls, easy data-source import, easy publishing to Microsoft server, Windows Authentication

CONS: No included reporting abilities (costs extra), often requires programming when working on anything more complex, uses Silverlight client for desktop approach, can be restrictive in design needs and capabilities.