Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze?

Paul Adams – who worked at Google and now is at Facebook – wonders if the effort involved in managing and maintaining Google+ Circles is worth it:

Paul Adams, This Is Just The Beginning

Most user experience problems can be defined with the simple equation: Is the effort I need to go through worth the perceived benefit? Is the effort of creating circles, and managing them over time, worth the perceived benefit of sharing to those circles? Is the effort of figuring out who is in the audience of someone else’s circle worth the perceived benefit of the value derived from commenting?

I am not a fan of Twitter lists, for example, but others use them productively to subset their Twitter experience. So I suppose the same logic will hold with Circles: if you are trying to partition your social experience into separate fragments within a large general purpose tool, Circles may hold some promise for you.

But because the folks you add to your Circles are not in on the taxonomy you are using, there is no shared context: it’s not a little cocktail party where all the guests are aware they’ve been invited, and know who the others are. It’s a one-sided filter, and so no shared context or conversation can arise. Circles are like cutting out pieces of books by different authors, pasting them together, and pretending it happened at a salon.

I think Circles might be helpful on a different level. Imagine if I could use Circles as insta-context for other tools, though. If I could create a Hangout limited to Social Tools Maniacs, for example, or a Huddle involving Big Thinkers (as defined by me). Then the point of a Circle would become evident operationally to the circle of people invited, and the object and context of the discussion becomes shared.

Until tools can use Circles, I think they are just a filtering device: useful for some, but pedestrian.

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