Is Google+ the new AOL?

Google's social network wants to replace Facebook as the walled garden for our Internet experience -- but good luck getting past the gate

I've never won the lottery. Ed McMahon, bless his soul, never showed up on my doorstep holding a big fat check. On the few occasions I've gambled in Vegas, I've always crapped out. But last night I finally received an invitation to Google+, so maybe my luck is changing.

Or maybe not. As regular readers may recall, I was skeptical when G+ was announced. I think we all hit social media overload a while back. Is there really room in most people's lives for yet one more digital thing to keep track of?

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Still, I plunged in gamely and spent a few hours last night mucking about with it. Now my head is spinning in circles -– or, rather, Circles.

The trouble, I think, is that each new social media darling feels compelled to develop its own nomenclature, which is fine for those on the inside and often incomprehensible to the rest of us.

Facebook's is pretty easy: You have "friends" (even if they aren't literally your friends) and "friends of friends," just like in real life. When you want to tell the world something you update your status, post things to your News Feed or click "Like."

In Google+, you have Circles and Extended Circles. When you want to tell the world something you "share it in the stream." And when you Like something, you click the little +1 icon.

The Circles concept is pretty simple: You want to segment your friends so that you don't share the same stuff with your boss as you do with your poker buddies. Creating Circles, though, is fairly tedious. You drag an icon of each friend (or Google+ mate or whatever they're called) into circles labeled Friends, Family, Acquaintances, People I Owe Money To, and so on. They only see what you decide to share with those Circles. It's fun for about five minutes, then it gets really boring.

Where my brain starts to hurt is when it comes to Extended Circles. Just like friends of friends, right? Only not exactly. Here's how the Google+ Help page describes it:

When you share something in the stream, you might notice an option to share with your extended circles. Your extended circles are like your circles' circles. Content shared with your extended circles could appear in the Incoming stream of people who are one degree removed from you with certain conditions -- namely, that we'll only include people whose association with people you know is already visible to you.

For example, let's say Nediva is in one of your circles, and Jadon is in one of Nediva's circles. You don't know Jadon and he's not in any of your circles. If Nediva chooses to have Jadon visible on her profile among the people in her circles, and you choose to share with your extended circles, your content could appear in both Nediva and Jadon's streams.

You aren't able to see a complete list of the people included in your extended circles -- it's a collection of people that's frequently changing.

First: Nediva and Jadon? I feel like I've landed on Planet Pandora in "Avatar."

Second: What the frak? Can someone out there explain to me what this means? On second thought, don't bother.

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