Make Google Plus more useful: Follow these 10 techies

Google+ has introduced its suggested user list, including top picks in tech. Unfortunately, it's not very useful. Here's who to follow instead.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief

Last week Google+ unveiled its recommended user list of "interesting and famous people" on its social network. The list includes a subcategory for technology, but I agree with JR Raphael that Google's list is not very compelling. It's mostly just a list of famous people in the tech subculture who happen to have Google+ accounts. In other words, it's not based on the quality of what they post.

Since, in the past, I've created several lists of tech experts to follow on Twitter in order to help make Twitter more useful for technologists, I figured this is the perfect opportunity for me to step up and provide a list of techies who post quality stuff on Google+.

However, before I give you my list, I'd like to pause for a quick reminder. Those of us who write about technology for a living are constantly in danger of losing perspective and getting trapped in a bubble of the latest buzz about the newest tech products. We tend to forget that most normal people -- even most IT pros -- aren't using the new stuff that came out last month. A lot of them are lucky to be using the new stuff from last year.

I was recently talking to a local technologist and friend, Keith Stevenson, about Google+ and he told me that I was one of the few tech writers he followed on Google+ and that was mostly because he knows me in the real world. He said he doesn't follow Robert Scoble or Mike Elgan or other big tech writers because they post too much and overwhelm his feed. While I follow both Scoble and Elgan, I think that's a valid point that techies don't just deserve to be on a list like this just because they post a ton of stuff. That's the other end of the spectrum from Google's recommended user list, where several people are on there just because they have an account even though they don't post much (or at least not much about tech).

The bottom line is that my list is not a "Who's Who" of tech thought leaders on Google+, but rather a list of "Who's Useful." I also tried to pick a real cross-section of different types of people from different geographies, and some non-media types. Here's my top 10, and a few honorable mentions.

My list

1.Harry McCracken - Two years ago, I put Harry at the top of my list of techies to follow on Twitter, and for the same simple reasons -- he posts interesting stuff and is discriminating about what he posts -- I'd put him at the top of this list of Google+ techies.

2. Jillian C. York - She's the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and she posts excellent links on global issues in media, freedom of speech, and international human rights in the digital age.

3.Alexander Howard - If you want to keep tabs on what's happening in the public sector as it relates to the digital age then Alex is your guy. As he says, he focuses on "the intersection of government, citizens and the Internet."

4.Vic Gundotra - Vic is the Google executive in charge of Google+ and the great thing is that he's very active on the service, and even uses it to announce new and upcoming features and occasionally provide a peek behind the scenes. It's a positive 21st century trend to see a leader so visible and accessible.

5.Patrick Beja - To include international flavor in your Google+ stream, I'd highly recommend Beja, a French podcaster. He posts a lot of interesting stuff (especially videos) on geek culture topics. Don't be turned off by the fact that some of his posts are in French (if you've ever taken French, it will quickly help you recall some of those old high school or college studies).

6.Julio Ojeda-Zapata - This Midwesterner and tech veteran posts lots of good stuff, especially about tech in the real world and in business.

7.Baratunde Thurston - If you want to make your Google+ stream a lot more fun, then the Onion's Baratunde Thurston is a great place to start. He has an irreverent, liberal take on current events (which is good-natured even if you don't like the political bent) but also provides good insights on tech and new media. And, he's just legitimately funny.

8.Dwight Silverman - Dwight is an old school journalist with the new media savvy of a Millennial. He's been writing books and newspaper columns about tech for decades, which gives him great perspective and skepticism, but he also gets Twitter and Google+ and knows how to use them to share appropriate stuff, ask good questions, and engage with the audience.

9.Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols - For a dose of hard core IT, SJVN (as he's affectionately known on the Internet) provides a lot of great links and insights on business tech as well as the open source movement. But, Vaughan-Nichols, who has previously worked for NASA and the US Department of Defense, also has a nose for interesting geek culture topics, too.

10. Patrick Smith - While Trey Ratcliff has become the celebrity photographer on Google+, I'd actually recommend checking out Smith, first and foremost. His landscape photography is sensational, plus Smith is highly technical and regularly goes to great length to explain how he got his best shots.

Honorable mentions

You can find me on Google+ as +Jason Hiner.

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This was originally published on TechRepublic.

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