Mohamed Mansour has released a proof-of-concept app for the Google Plus API called Stream+ that tries to bring some order to the chaotic Google Plus stream. "It uses machine learning algorithms to automatically classify the posts into categories," Mansour says in a public post. Stream+ is among the first releases to take advantage of the parts of the API that Google made available last week.Software engineer
The app itself is not very useful yet, but it's a start. "Some categories are not meaningful," Mansour says, "and I am trying to optimize it further which is quite difficult." But Mansour's insights after developing for the API are instructive. On the Stream+ website, he says that the API was "very easy" to learn and use, but that it suffers from "extreme slowness" in practice.
The API Looks Solid
"So far, the API looks solid," Mansour says, noting that he built Stream+ without prior knowledge of AppEngine or OAuth. "Props to the AppEngine team, you guys really did something so easy. ... I just used the examples online given by the Google+ team and hacked away with the API. I am really impressed."
Mansour is a committer to Chromium and a Google Qualified Developer for Chrome Extensions, and his experience developing for the Google Plus API seems to parallel that of using the social network. It may not be capable of much yet, but it delivers simply and effectively on the features that have been released.
He did note, however, that the API is not very responsive. "It takes 30+ seconds to query the public stream (not many posts) and another 5+ seconds to classify them in memory!", Mansour says.
Proof of Concept
As far as the Stream+ app itself, I'd have to agree with Mansour. "Some categories are not meaningful." In fact, not very many of them are. The app does take quite a long time to load, and when it does, it presents an overwhelming list of past threads and an inscrutable list of topics. Examples of weird topics in my list are "Think this New," "Hear," "Long Time" and "Little," but others, like "Social Media" and "Web News," make more sense.
But keep in mind that this is not Mansour's forté as a developer. In fact, Stream+ at least tries to solve a crucial problem with Google Plus: organizing the stream. The Google Plus stream is currently this avalanche of multimedia madness, and drilling down by circles doesn't really help make sense of it. At least for public posts, an application like Stream+ could impose some topical order on it. (Side note: Where is Sparks? Isn't this what Sparks is supposed to do?)
Mansour has opened the future of Stream+ to discussion on Google Plus, noting that "it will always remain free," and that he hopes to open-source the technology.
Just The Beginning
Mansour has at least proven that something can be built on the Google Plus API as it exists right now. Even if the app isn't very helpful for end users, Mansour found the process of developing for Plus relatively easy. The long response time is a shame, but the Google Plus team is working to make this API easy and useful.
When Google announced last week that it was opening the first part of the Google Plus API, the public response was lukewarm. The release only gave developers access to public data; any info that is less than totally public, including circles, is still unavailable. Management of circles is one of the most painful parts of using Google Plus, and developers would love to get their hands on it. But alas, that will have to wait for a future release.
What kinds of Google Plus apps do you want to see? Let us know in the comments.