Circle overload and the trouble with Google+

Google+ is about 1 week old and people are already posting stuff like “G+ for noobies guides“. I, for some reason, find this hilarious. On the other hand, I’m already starting to struggle with this wünder-socialnet myself.

The big problem right now is friend management. Google has this concept of circles. It’s based on this insight that people do have different sorts of friend relationships and that these relationships so perfectly modeled by the existing services like facebook, twitter, linkedin. There’s also, what seems at first, like a great drag/drop UX for managing G+ circles.

But there’s several problems with google+ circles.

  1. It’s labor intensive. You can’t just add somebody and be done with it, you have to cognitively evaluate what circles(s) each and every contacts of yours belong in, you then have drag each of them in there.
  2. Real world friend circles have fuzzy edges. Real human relationships don’t fit cleanly into one circle or another. And as an author, you can’t necessarily predict who will or won’t be interested in your musings. Is it really so easy to define who is a “friend” and who is an “acquaintance”? Does it often not depend on context?
  3. Just trying to remember who’s in what circle. Sadly, I’ve already lost track of who I have and haven’t added yet and to which circles. For better or worse, I have thousands of contacts on each of gmail, twitter and linkedin etc. So far I’ve added at least a few hundred to G+. As a result, I’ve already blown past my mental dunbar number of keeping track of who’ve I’ve added and who I haven’t to which circles etc. Every day I wake up and to another notice that x dozen new people have added me on Google+. I love you for following me, but fuck me if I can remember I’ve added you yet or not.At least with other social networks it’s a binary relationship. You’ve either added someone already or you haven’t. Here the current google UX falls down because it’s never clear from their suggestions of users if you already added these people once before or not.
  4. Scaleability and friend overload All of these problems with Google+ are exacerbated by the number of contacts you have online. Categorizing a few close friends isn’t too hard, categorizing a few thousand is an incredible chore. Google either needs to do a better job in the UX of bulk managing contacts, or we’ve got to just say fuck-it and blindly refollow absolutely everyone in one giant circle (essentially defeating the purpose of circles).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like google+ to work out. I just don’t know if they’ve got the magic formula yet, particularity when it comes to have any more than a few connections. What does inspire me though is that g+ circles could rather work really much better in an enterprise context. In an enterprise context, circles are a lot easier to define, between teams, extended teams, communities of expertise etc. I’ve been waiting a long time for a decent realtime social sharing app for the enterprise and G+ might just have the right DNA for it.

Sadly though, for personal use, one week in and I’m almost ready to declare friend bankrupcy on google+. I just can’t find the time to keep up with the influx of people to the service.

If you’ve got any good tips for this G+ noob please do let me know.

Meanwhile, you are welcome to find me on google+ here. Do go ahead add me to your cuddliest inner circles.

photo credit: Andrew Kuo

  • Anonymous

    You’re talking about thousands of people that you don’t actually know? If you want to keep things simple, just put them all in the Following circle — assuming you’re actually interested in seeing what they’re sharing. If not, don’t bother adding them at all.

    “Here the current google UX falls down because it’s never clear from
    their suggestions of users if you already added these people once before
    or not.”

    Notifications -> Added to circles. That will show you a reverse-chronological list of everyone that’s added you to their circles. It also shows which of your circles, if any, they’re in, and you can add them right from there.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tip. Been thinking of doing something similar, just creating a big circle called “everybody”.

    I already just make all my G+ posts to “public”. But that may be because I am stuck in trying to use the service like it’s twitter.