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Posts tagged with ‘circles’

Google Buys Katango To Solve The Labor Of G Circles - Jon Mitchell via ReadWriteWeb →

What’s wrong with this picture?

Jon Mitchell via ReadWriteWeb

Ever since we broke the news about Google’s circles, it seemed like a necessary new social networking feature. The ability to selectively share with the right groups of people is an important part of being oneself on the Web. But the effort required to maintain G circles is discouraging. Facebook’s smart lists solve the problem remarkably well. Hopefully, the Katango team will help Google help us keep our online social lives organized.

A feature that is touted as ‘helping’ us with the ‘management’ of our social connections turns out to be too time consuming: the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

But instead of realizing that obsessively segregating and resegregating your friends into different cliques is a bit obsessive, and basically impossible if you have a lot of connections, the brilliant folks at Google decide to use software to be obsessive on your behalf.

Now, in some cases, having software do things for you makes sense, like backing up your file system. But there is a reason that our operating systems don’t automatically create the folder set up on your hard drive: we are too idiosyncratic about where we want to put our files. Same thing with friends.

Learning From The Google+ Experiment: Operating System, Platform, Apps

As part of the chorus singing about Google+ (see Armano’s insightful The Social Layer: Six Thoughts On Where Google Plus Is Going as just the most recent example), let me make a few observations:

It’s very hard to separate foundational concepts of Google+ from what might considered features or apps. Foundational elements would include identity, following, streams, and sparks. But Circles, Hangouts, and Huddle are best considered apps, in the broadest sense. So apps are a foundational element of the Google+ architecture, and they can closely integrate into the user experience of Google+, like Circles does.

But we are moving toward a world where most of the foundational elements of Google+ will be part of a next generation version of Android, and the things that feel like apps on Google+ will be, in fact, apps running on that future social OS.

This means that I could drop Circles, and use some other app as a mechanism for organizing my sociality. Imagine an imaginary app, called Groupings, that works very differently than Circles, but does build on the foundational elements of identity, following, streams and sparks.

But I would want to follow people not just on the Google+ enhanced version of Android, but the Twitter-enhanced, social versions of iOS and OS X, as well. So long as these two operating systems provide similar social foundations, Groupings could run on my OS X laptop and on my pal’s Android smartphone.

In this model, the operating systems become the platform, and apps like Circles or Groupings could run on either, or on a future, social Windows 9 (once Facebook acquires the phone parts of Microsoft). 

I could opt to follow someone, with a globally unique identity provided by the operating system of choice: in my case, let’s say by OS X, and the person I want to follow, David Armano, by Android. We would also be able to use those identities on any device.

Once I opt to follow, the basics are provided: I will get what he drops in his public stream, and it will appear in my ‘upstream’ — the unfiltered collation of all those I follow. What I post or repost falls into my ‘downstream’ which would be directed to everyone who is following me.

Obviously, the various operating systems have to support the fundamental protocols for this social messaging to work, and we will see this in due course, although it’s likely that we will see several contending models that don’t interoperate, and closed worlds built by the various operating systems providers.

We need the social operating system equivalent of http and email protocols to arise, so that an open social web can emerge.

We need the social operating system equivalent of http and email protocols to arise, so that an open social web can emerge.

So one thing we can learn from the Google+ experiment is this: I shouldn’t have to login to Google+, and use Circles, to follow David Armano’s writing over there. The works of those I follow should find me no matter what applications or operating systems I use. I don’t have to have Outlook running to read Armano’s email, and I don’t have to browse his website with Chrome, just because those are the tools he uses. 

And the developers of these applications, platforms, and operating systems need to be pushing aggressively in that direction, because in the meantime we are dividing the space for social discourse online into a maze of contending, non-interoperable models that don’t harmonize yet.

[…] there’s still the giant hurdle of the social network’s user retention. It’s one thing to get people to register for the service, but it’s an entirely different headache to keep them on the network — to create active users, in other words. “I think they’re going to have an issue with real activation,” says Gallette. “To take off, and hit that 750 million user mark, people are going to have to pay a lot less attention to Facebook, and a lot more attention to Google Plus.”

Unfortunately, one of its biggest differentiators, which initially attracted users to the service—Google+ Circles—may also be one of the network’s biggest turnoffs.

The issue with Circles, the feature that enables users to categorize their friends into various social groups, is fatigue. If you’re a member of the services, it’s likely you’ve already received dozens and dozens of adds from acquaintances on the network. Many found that it was initially fun to classify these contacts into groups, especially with a slick UI designed by ex-Apple “wizard” Andy Hertzfeld. But soon, some found the fun task became a chore. “I fell in love with the interface as soon as I got it, but I did realize that I’m going to end up with too many circles,” Gallate says. “I can see there being limitations in managing large number of Circles, despite how good [Google’s] promotional videos are. I can see I’m going to get to a point where I might’ve been a little bit too clever with the number of Circles I started.”

George Gallette, cited by Austin Carr in  Circles Fatigue: The Dark Side Of Google+

(h/t mediafuturist)

As I wrote recently (see Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze?):

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.

We’ll see.

Facebook and Twitter are broadcast design models; Google Plus is a sharing design model - John Tropea →

John Tropea takes a pass at explaining how sharing works on Google+ (Google Plus):

John Tropea

How is it different to Facebook and Twitter?

As an online relationship model; Facebook is symmetric, Twitter is asymmetric, and Google Plus is asymmetric


  • Follow (asymmetric) - enables you to follow people (those people don’t have to follow you back in order for you to see their content in your stream…you are basically their fan)
  • Public - your posts are shared in the public


  • Friend (symmetric) - you cannot read and send each other updates unless you both follow each other (this is called “friend”)
  • Private - you posts are not shared in the public, instead they are shared with all your friends only (this is called a “walled garden”)
  • Selective Reading & Sharing - you can also read and share with just a selection of people (this is called “Lists”…this isn’t a primary design feature and isn’t used that much as far as sharing goes)
Google Plus
  • Follow (asymmetric) - enables you to follow people, just like Twitter, where those people don’t have to follow you back
  • Public and/or Private - your posts can be shared in the Public, or just shared with All Circles or a selection of Circles
  • Selective Reading - you can also read posts in a stream from just a selection of people you follow (this is called “Circles”)
  • Selective Sharing - you can also share posts with just a selection of people (this is called “Circles”)…BUT unlike Facebook, unless “those people you follow in your circle” follow you back, they won’t see your post in their stream, instead they will see it in an alternative stream called “Incoming”.

Posting to Circles

I post about my trip to Melbourne and limit this to my Family circle (this circle has 6 people in it)

Because I’m so used to Facebook I have assumed that all those 6 people will see my post.

Wrong? Only the 4 people that have followed me back will see that post in their “Stream”.

The other 2 people will only see that post if they look at their “Incoming” stream.

The 101 - when you choose a Circle only the people that follow you back will see your post

Posting to Public

It simply means that all people that follow me will see my post in their stream

Just say Judy follows me, but I don’t follow her (therefore I don’t have her in a circle)

And just say I post to a Circle, and not Public.

This means Judy will not see my post at all.

Posting to Individuals (Mentions)

This has nothing to do with Circles.

But just like Circles and Public; Individuals are a selection you can make in choosing an audience to post to.

The way you can post to Individuals is pre-fixing their name with an “@” or a “+”

The difference in limiting to who sees your post using this selection is that it will also send that person a notification that you have “mentioned” them. Which kind of makes it very similar to the Twitter @mention feature. In Google Plus there is a stream called Notifications where you can view all these pushed mention posts.

Google+ requires me to create a mental model: the intersection of actions that I have taken, such as following others or putting them into circles, and the actions they have taken, most importantly whether they have followed me or not.

One snag in this is that there isn’t a simple way to know who exactly will see what you post in Circles when you do so. Another snag is that your stream is defined by the union of all those you have Circled, which is another thing that is not easy to find out.

A confession: I am not currently using Google+ actively. I am sitting out the surge of interest because I actually don’t have a burning need to use it, and the social dynamics remind me of Friendfeed, with the same people advocating it.

Google+, Twitter, And Tumblr

I haven’t been spending much time in Google+ — waiting for the self-referential nature of the system to die down a bit — but Danny Sullivan has been plugging away, and he compares Google+ to Twitter, which is my primary (nearly exclusive) social netwrok:

Danny Sullivan, Google+ Vs. Twitter: A Personal View

On Twitter, my top ten items all came within one minute — and there were more within that same minute, if I’d gone down further. On Google , the top ten items stretched across a seven minute period.

For me, Google is currently less active that Twitter. My gut feeling is that this is due to there still being less activity on Google as a new network than because I’m not following enough people.


Circles Are Exhausting

As for the Google+ Circles feature, which lets you can organize people into particular groups, that’s now become work to me.

When I first saw Google+ in testing months ago, I though the idea of a new network using the circles concept would be a great “reset” for me and others who felt they’d “done it wrong” in friending on Facebook. Since its launch, I’ve seen many people remark that it is indeed a good reset.

But you know, what I follow on Twitter is a nice collection of people and sources I trust, that I’ve built up over the years. I don’t have the time or energy to try and match that manually on Google+, nor are they all there.


Right now, what I need more than anything from Google is for it to automagically recreate all the people I already follow on Twitter. Since that’s not going to happen, I really need it to let me easily find people by subject areas. People in technology, in search, in other areas – I want to browse and easily select these groups. Maybe it will come, and certainly if we could publicly share circles, it would help. But I really need it now.

I wrote last week that Circles was going to be too much work (see Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze), and Danny seems to echo that.

The Twitter ‘import’ seems like a no-brainer, but I guess Twitter would block hitting the API for that purpose.

However, Danny’s thoughts on curation of Google+ users and perhaps content seems an interesting path, and obviously something Twitter does, in part. The best example in this area is Tumblr:

Stowe Boyd, What Twitter Could Learn From Tumblr

Tumblr, like most blogging tools, has rich and deep support for tags. In the editor, the user can add tags to posts.

And knowledgeable users can take advantage of the tags, for example, typing in the URL to access posts with a certain tag, like ‘’, which leads to Tumblr creating a tag page (or pages) with all the posts with the tag.

Perhaps even more interesting is the recent push by Tumblr to integrate tags with curation in the relatively new Explore capability. Basically, Tumblr has decided that a list of a few dozen very popular and broad categories — like ‘Tech’, ‘LOL’, ‘Comics’, and ‘Fashion’ — should be curated by a mix of algorithm and editorial oversight. Like a media company might do.

Google might want to look at Tumblr, who has been quietly innovating while we are all comparing Google+ to Twitter.

Oh, one last thing: imagine if the debut of Google+ led Twitter to drop the 140 character limit on messages?

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.

Life As A Mosaic, Not A Monolith: What Google+ Means

My recent brief experience with Google+ (or, as the URL says in reverse polish) has led me to some observations about how we might be shifting our personal and collective use of tools, and thereby our sense of self in the increasingly media-augmented world we inhabit.

Google+ is a suite of social tools sharing a common core. At the heart of that core is the user’s profile, which acts as a key to open the Google door, on one hand, and on the other as a handle so that others can choose to interact with us. Google+ offers us a collection of user experiences, such a reviewing other folk’s profiles, reading and commenting in streams, and entering into other, more specialized contexts for interaction, like the video-chat Hangouts.

Leaving aside the specifics of whether or not the Hangouts stream fast enough, or the way Google+ does or does not do allow us to share audio or not, one thing is clear: Google+ is designed to support many different tools on top of the basic social framework that underlies the system.

I think Google has taken a giant step forward, in that regard. Although Google+ is currently a browser-based experience, and one that will run in any browser, the company has positioned itself for the world just over the horizon. And what is that world?

The future of computing will not be based on a unitary, all-encompassing user experience, where we use a sprawling, general purpose social context to interact with others. Our online lives will soon be based on using dozens of disparate, highly focused applications, like those that Google+ provides.

Life is a mosaic, not a monolith.

I find myself using more extremely narrow applications instead of general ones.

I enjoy Instagram because it is fun and focused on the social sharing of pictures, and I increasingly use Flickr as a repository. Instagram is a comic book, and Flickr is the Library of Congress.

I like using Path's new With app, where I simply post that I am with someone, and take a picture of them (optionally) wherever it is that we are together. I found that Hashable's elaborate syntax for various sorts of encounters, and its relatively clumsy integration into Twitter, more of a puzzle than a benefit, so I stopped using it.

Even with something like my calendar, I find that I am growing more tolerant of a mosaic instead of a monolith. I long ago switched to Tripit for travel tracking, and their iPhone app is where I go to check details on my travel arrangements, not my general purpose calendar. Likewise, I use Plancast to track conferences I plan to attend. I have subscriptions to these services show up in my Google calendar, but those are secondary, and I often have them unselected.

I am using Simplenote for note keeping, and there is a clever app called NoteTask that allows me to manage a todo list within Simplenote. But I am also managing notes on my contacts within Rapportive, which integrates with Gmail.

I am also testing out a new app called Diacarta, which provides a very ideographic way of thinking about your day, shown above. You pick icons to represent the sort of activity you are going to be involved in, and you attach it to the central watchface to indicate time. Here you see three activities, one which was a webinar, and two meetings involving different sorts of beverages. Diacarta doesn’t sync with other calendars yet, but will be soon, and I imagine I might use Diacarta like an icon-rich wristwatch, rather than the way I use a calendar application. But I am growing more fragmented in tool use, choosing tools for a specific purpose, like ‘Diacarta as a wristwatch’.

[update: Diadarta’s new version, available now, does support syncing with the native iPhone calendar.]

But I don’t want to be sidetracked by the specific reasons for adopting these tools over others, except to make the case that my natural drift — and I think other people’s too, in time — will be away from massive all-in-one tools, and toward a mosaic of highly specialized apps.

Behind this are a pair of twinned trends, major threads in the liquid media theme I have been developing over the past months.

The first is the transition toward connected apps, courtesy of the rise of genius mobile devices (genius = way beyond smart), like the With, Diacarta, and Simplenote apps I mentioned.

The flipside of the rise of apps is the fall of the browser. The browser is a kludge, a way to shoehorn the web onto PCs, made necessary because the operating systems around when the web was invented were inward focused: they were all about applications, files and folders on the hard drive. But we have gone far enough toward always-on that we will have dozens of web-aware and web-dependent apps on our genius devices, and only occasionally open the browser for old-time website browsing.

Apps are the tiles of the new mosaic, our composite life online.

And Google+ is a deft straddle, with one foot in the old world and the other in the new. Google+ is currently a browser based system, but it is relatively easy to imagine the core functionality implemented in a next generation Android, and all the tools — like Circles and Hangouts — accessed as complementary apps, along with dozens or hundreds of others built by Google or a growing ecology of developers.

Of course, Apple will respond in kind, and is perhaps a step or two ahead with its Twitter partnership, and its plan to integrate Twitter into iOS 5. So we can expect a similar flowering of iOS 5 apps that build on a core of social capabilities, and that will allow app developers to leverage profiles, following, streams, and other foundational social componentry at the OS level.

By lowering the core elements of sociality into the infrastructure, Google and Apple will be setting the stage for a new generation of app development, and therefore, user experience. Which will mean an acceleration of the transition for us, as users, from monolith to mosaic.

Google+ shows that Google is going to make that transition, and it will be Apple and Google that will be defining the next ten years of the social revolution, as a result. Facebook and Microsoft may be fated to fall into each others arms, just to catch up, or survive at all.

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