2013-10-31 New Google Plus Usage

Google+ Communities When I started using Google+, I added a few shared circles full of gamers. I ended up with more than a thousand people in my circles. It felt weird, however. Many of them never posted. Others posted stuff that wasn’t related to role-playing games, politics, or other issues I cared about. Others posted way too much.

At first, I thought all these problems could be solved via Circles. But in practice, that has been harder than I thought. Problems I found:

  1. People don’t automatically know in which circle to put you. You need to have some public posts indicating your interest, or your need to write about them on your profile, and you need to trust other people to take this information into account. There used to be a lot of posts saying “put me in these circles, if you have them”.
  2. If you realized that a person posted about topics you cared about and topics you didn’t care about, it was socially awkward to ask them to remove you from one of their circles. Some people also posted everything public and felt that this was what they were like, as a person, as a whole, and if you didn’t like it then perhaps you were better off uncircling them entirely.
  3. A lot of people never seemed to write a word. Are they even real? Are they snoops, monitoring everything I write? Is my writing different when I believe to write for a private “circle” compared to writing in public? What if these circles have more than a hundred people in them and are essentially a public?
  4. As the circles of sender and recipient are not coordinated, you might put a person writing about topics A and B into the appropriate circles A and B on your side, and if you write about A or B, the right people will get to see the post, but if they write about A or B, their posts will end up in both your A and B circles. Reading circles to sort incoming posts by topic don’t work for people in your circles that post about multiple topics.
  5. When I started uncircling agressively, I realized that it would take forever to get rid of the estimated 950 people in my circles.
  6. Communities seemed to solve many of these problems: Posts are generally on topic. I can read by topic. If I really like a lot of what a person posts, I can still circle them. I expect to do that for a very small number. Communities have their own problems, unfortunately. The thing I find most obnoxious is that some people post things I don’t care for to communities. Do I need to block them in order to curate my community stream? Right now this is just a very minor annoyance.

I needed to figure out whether the effort spent on circle maintenance exceeded the effort needed to curate my communities. Right now, I think that communities work better than big circles. So I did the obvious thing: I ditched my almost all of my circles. No more RPG, Emacs, Copyright & Patents and Typography circles. I’ve uncircled practically everybody. There are but 12 people in my circles right now.

I’m giving communities a try.

If you want to make sure I see a post or comment of yours, you’ll need to plus-mention me. I guess you had to do this when I had a thousand people in my circles, too. :)

I still read the blogs.



I wonder if it would make sense to subscribe to tags instead.

Radomir Dopieralski 2013-10-31 19:21 UTC

Good point. Perhaps the first reason this didn’t cross my mind is that I hardly ever use tags myself. I also just saw on Google+ that Saved Searches are going away (such as for tags). Strange. There’s also the hope that small Communities on Google can turn into “real” communities where you know the people. I don’t know how you’d kickstart this process for tags. How would we discover new tags? Perhaps if Google supported them better. Do you feel that tags work well for Stack Exchange?

AlexSchroeder 2013-10-31 22:31 UTC

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