Should I review a product that you can’t use?

Tuesday, Google launched a new social-media service called Google+ that almost none of you can use. A long blog post by engineering vice president Vic Gundotra about Google+ touts such flexible info-sharing options as “Circles,” “Hangouts” and “Sparks,” then offers an apologetic note in red, italicized text in the third-to-last paragraph:

We’re beginning in Field Trial, so you may find some rough edges, and the project is by invitation only. 

Well, then. A notice on the Plus sign-in page comforts shut-out users that “it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone,” but in the meantime you may face a Twitter stream full of invited Plus users yammering on about the service and whether it’s a Facebook killer or just a Tumblr killer.

(Google has refrained from describing Plus as a killer of anything. Good idea: Calling your new product a “[fill in the blank] killer” usually guarantees its imminent demise in the market. Just ask all the companies that bragged about their iPod, iPhone and iPad killers.)

After an initial rebuff by Google’s PR agency and a subsequent appeal to a contact in the Mountain View, Calif., company’s D.C. office, I’m told that I have an invite on the way. (Disclosure: I’ve spoken at a couple of Google events.) When that arrives, I’m certainly interested to see how Plus works–and if it lives up to the hype or will flop just as badly as the enigmatic, since-shelved Google Wave communications application or the initially privacy-deprived Buzz sharing service. And yet: Since I probably won’t find my closer friends on Plus–and can’t extend them an invite–I’d only use a subset of its capabilities.

It’s not an easy question, but I’d like to know what you think. Should I join the in crowd and review Google+ for Discovery or anybody else? Or should I direct my attention this week to something that you can use without getting on a guest list? (The likeliest candidate: HP’s new TouchPad tablet.) Take the poll and explain your vote in the comments.

Update, 7/1, 12:41 p.m. Thanks for your votes. I went ahead with the Google+ first-take analysis, which you can now read on Discovery’s site.


9 thoughts on “Should I review a product that you can’t use?

  1. I just don’t know how you could adequately review it when, presumably, so many of your friends and associates are locked out. How will you build your Circles and test their effectiveness? Establishing the invite-only policy worked for Gmail, but it can’t possibly work for a social media network website. It’s just counterintuitive to its progress.

  2. Scoble, in a comment on TechCrunch, claims Google allowed early reviewers to invite 15 of their friends. So presumably when they get you the invite, you’ll have at least 15 people to share it with (hint: am a good friend of yours since I followed you from WaPo).

    Seriously though, I see your point. I’ve read some of the reviews and they look great.But I can’t test it for myself. And sadly, that’s becoming the norm these days. Everything is in “early release mode” with exclusive admission by invitation only.

  3. “Review” might be the wrong word. You should “report on” Google+ because, as your survey question says, it’s a newsworthy company and an interesting venture. Insights you gain from testing it, hobbled as you describe, might be helpful in developing your insights about whether you expect it to be useful, to flop, to kill Facebook, to fill a niche, etc. I’d read that for what it’s worth, which knowing your work would be a good bit. But I wouldn’t expect a full *review* yet, because your friends aren’t on it, and for now that’s okay because no matter what you say I don’t have a choice about whether to use it. I hope you’ll report on it now and, if your report says it’s worth keeping in mind, do a full review of it when it’s available to me.

  4. There are plenty of products that for one reason or another that I cannot get. Most because they cost too much or because I really can only have one phone, laptop, ebook, etc. That doesn’t make reviews about those products any less valuable.

    I can’t help but think that google has been trying too hard lately. While I might appreciate when it makes a suggestion that I typed something wrong in my search, but I totally think the Google Instant search makes searching slower as the content loading prevents me from typing my search. I might get a few minutes of fun from a new doodle, but I don’t really like leaving my computer idle for hours on google if they have an animated game/program running. The simple white page with a search box I once loved so much is slowly adding too many new features that seem to annoy more than help.

    It is hard to render a good opinion of something that is not being used to its full potential. You won’t really know what you love or hate about it until it reaches critical mass, but a good review could generate the buzz needed to speed development and rollout to the general public.

    Just to provide a contrasting opinion, as a web developer, I am getting tired of reviews of all the cool things you can do with HTML 5 and the latest version of the web browser. It is good to know that the future looks bright for web development, but I still need to support people using IE 7 and other browsers that cannot take advantage of the new capabilities. Too many people think that anyone not using the latest browser should be forced to upgrade, but for most, it is not in their control. Too many IT departments have control over which browser is used. I need to develop for the browsers people are using and NOT for the browser they could be using.

  5. Don’t see the point of this post. Review it if you want to. If you do, you will help others understand what its all about and get across your point of view. If you don’t, there are many other people out there putting up detailed reviews of it.

  6. IAW Doug. Report on it, don’t review it. Better yet, see how well it works on HP’s new tablet. Two birds, one stone!

    If tundey is right about the 15 invites, I could help you out. 😉 by reporting on how it looks on a Nook Color and an LG Ally.

  7. Since the intention is to bring it to the masses eventually, why not go in and get your hands dirty with it, and give us your opinion as to whether or not, once allowed, we should do the same.
    Better you waste your time than we waste ours…

  8. Pingback: Weekly output: SLS explained, skepticism for Warner Bros. Discovery, wireless carrier cell-site location data retention, security-patch severity, Twitter opens Circle feature, Samsung’s 8K pitch at IFA, electronic eccentricities at IFA | Rob Pegorar

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