Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Google's new "+1" widget on sites and in search results is a quick way to let people know what sites you find helpful and see what your friends find useful too.
What are those +1 thingamajigs at the bottom of your articles? Some have counts, others have zero. I'm starting to see them on other sites. What's the deal?
Those "thingamajigs" (it's not every day that I get to use that word :-) ) are Google's "plus one" feature.
Think of it as something along the lines of Facebook's "Like" button or a thumbs-up icon. It's a way to indicate that you find a page helpful, useful, or whatever.
Clicking on the +1 does more than just increment a counter.
"+1" is a feature that Google is adding to leverage the social nature of the web.
You'll see the +1 widget not only on websites that choose to implement it (like Ask Leo!), but in Google's search results as well. (As this is written, it's available only on English searches and search results on Google.com.)
The idea is that when you find a page that is particularly helpful, cool, or whatever, you'll "+1 it", clicking either on the +1 widget on the page or the +1 icon in the search results listing.
Clicking a +1 widget requires that you have a Google account. The first and most visible thing that a +1 does is add the page to your Google profile:
That page can be public (as mine is) or private, serving as a personal list of pages that you found valuable.
As I mentioned, you'll start seeing the +1 indicator in search results. While it's early, the idea is that you'll see:
A +1 icon that you can click on to "+1" the search result yourself.
An indication underneath the search result that shows which of your friends (typically, your Google contacts) have +1'd that page.
The later can actually be helpful to indicate that a given search result might be worth clicking on.
There's thought that Google may use the +1 indications on a page as input to its search results. They've certainly not indicated that this is the case or even the plan, but it seems that it could be a useful data point in helping Google figure out which pages are the most relevant to people.
I'm sure that along with that possibility comes the chance that the entire +1 system could be gamed. Given that all that you see right now is +1 information from your contacts, the benefits of gaming the system are limited at best.
However, I'd be shocked if Google didn't pay just a little attention to the data that the +1 system gives it.
If you have a Google account and you find a page useful, why not +1 it? It'll help your friends find useful information and provide valuable feedback to that site's owner about what is and is not valuable.