Source Guru

Google+: Part 1 – Circles

by on Jul.02, 2011, under Geeky

So, I haven’t read the planets in a couple of days – but I’m going to guess that, like twitter, a lot of people are going to be raving about Google+.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Google+, it’s a new Social Networking site from Google – and it brings a new take to the world of social networking.

In real life, we communicate differently to the different people in our social contexts.  For example,  most people will converse differently to their work colleagues than they will to their family.  They’ll converse differently with their drinking buddies than they will with their Family.  There are things that you want only certain people to know, and there are aspects of your personality that you only want to show to certain people.

I think giving an example here might be better.   This is an example of a friend of mine, who we’ll call … Fred.  Fred is a teacher.  Fred also likes to go out of a weekend and party till dawn, while consuming lots of tequila.  I, as Fred’s friend, am on a night out of drunken debauchery, and I’ve my camera with me, and decide to post lots of pictures online of the night’s revelry.

The next day, one of Fred’s colleagues logs into a Social Networking site, and sees said pictures in Fred’s profile.  Now things aren’t looking so bright for Fred.  He no longer gives across that professional image that he should do at work.  Some may say that this is Fred’s fault for going out and doing these things, but everyone’s entitled to a personal life, right?

At the moment, on Fred’s social networking site, it’s an all or nothing option.  If he allows you access to his profile, he allows you access to see anything and everything that might show up on there.  (It’s a bit more complicated than this, but let’s keep it simple for now).  Every time Fred has someone add him as a contact – he has to make that decision “Do I want this person to be able to see everything I may or may not get up to”.

Put simply, how many of you have refused someone to add you on the Social Networking site ‘du jour’ because what you show on their may be harmful to you, or give over an impression that isn’t what you want to give across.

Enter Circles.  Circles brings to the social networking scene the way we interact with people in real life.  We show a different aspect of our personality to different people we interact with.  I’m a bit of an organisational freak, and I know that there are different groups of people that either for the fact of portraying a persona, or not annoying everyone else, I might want to push in different ways.  For example, I might want to send out a “BBQ at my house, bring lots of alcohol” message to all my friends, but don’t really want my co-workers coming along and making it so I have to be on my best behaviour.  Below is a screenshot of my (current) circles.

As you can see – I have a fair few, and only a relative few people.

Now, let’s say that I wanted to send out that BBQ message…

As you can see – I’ve the option to send this to the 5 people that are in my “Friends” group (it’s currently mostly geeks on there – there are only a few of my real life friends on there so far!)

Now with only a few clicks, I’ve managed to send out a message to just those few people that I want to :)

Over the next few days, I’ll write a bit more about Google+, but I thought I’d start with an introduction into the Circles feature.  I’ll be giving a bit of feedback about what I like, what I dislike, and also making a few suggestions for what I’d like to see happen in the future (and probably use the word “siloing” a fair bit!)

For now, toodles.


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8 Comments for this entry

  • Kai

    That’s exactly what “Aspects” are for in Diaspora…it’s kinda wierd to say that Google invented this..

  • David

    Should you join G+ you may well find that, at this stage in its life there are few other users whom you know so might I take the liberty to suggest one circle, quite a decent sized one, you may find of interest? Hacker News has a circle of users.

  • Ernst

    Any invites given out yet? :-)

  • bochecha

    > “Some may say that this is Fred’s fault for going out and doing these things, but everyone’s entitled to a personal life, right?”

    Which is exactly why you (in the example above) should respect his personal life and NOT publish those pictures online without his explicit consent.

    In your example, the problem is not that Fred published something online and people who shouldn’t have seen it saw it. The problem is that **someone else** published it, and there was nothing Fred could do about it.

    Lots of the issues with social network could be avoided if people just asked their friends before publishing anything.

    I for one, ask my friends to not publish online any picture where I appear. It’s simple and effective: my boss won’t find drunk pictures of me (not that said pictures don’t exist :P )

    Other than that, this circles feature seems to be exactly what others like Diaspora or Friendika have implemented before. I’m sure Google+ has a lot of interesting and innovative features (I haven’t tried it at all, but the hangout stuff seems pretty impressive), but this isn’t anything new. (although they might be the first easy-to-use implementation)

  • Gerfried Fuchs

    How does Fred’s possibility to put people into circles regulate how _you_ put up photos of him being drunk? Your example is flawed – you can’t regulate other people’s doings, you can only for yourself.

    So actually, your example is a good reason why social media sites are troublesome: It’s too easy for others that consider it nice to share a photo which might show you in a compromising scene to their friends circle (not yours), which might contain one of your working collegues.

  • Mez


    I was basically trying to put the example of Debbie and her friends at the gay bar vs her 10 year old swim meet friends into a different context.

    Looks like I failed.


  • bochecha

    @Mez: yes, you did fail.

    The example of Debbie and her gay bar friends is in fact twofolds:
    1. Debbie doesn’t want the kids to see pictures of her in a gay bar that SHE posted
    2. Debbie doesn’t want the kids to see pictures of her in a gay bar that SOMEONE ELSE posted

    Sure, Google+ Circles (or Diaspora Aspects) help make sure that 1 won’t happen (unless she mixed her own circles/aspects up, but then the social network can’t really be blamed if she is clumsy), but I’m not so sure that they even mitigate the second case.

  • Mackenzie

    Have their been any social networks since MySpace where you *couldn’t* choose just a subset of friends to see something? Facebook can do it. Dreamwidth can do it. Diaspora can do it.

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