Pretty great. Probably here to stay. Not going to replace Facebook.
Before I say anything else about Google+, I want to point out two great posts which put a lot of color around my thoughts, covering views from both architects’ and power users’ perspectives:
The first is a must-read article sent to me by Phil Shevrin (who also taught me how to organize my circles) about a researcher who left Google to go to Facebook named Paul Adams. Paul conducted extensive research on people’s social graphs when he was at Google and his work helped design the user experience on google+, specifically the circles feature. The presentation is long, but the insights are definitely worth your time.
The other article is a response to the user experience by Mark Hurst. It’s also very enlightening and echos a lot of my feelings on the platform.
While Hangouts and Sparks are important features on Google+, I’m really interested in the stream right now (inbound and outbound content), so here’s circles:
The idea for circles seems to be inspired by an idea that Paul Adams articulated well in his presentation: the idea of grouping everyone together as “friends” without the ability to put our relationships into any sort of context is not an accurate reflection of how we organize our real-world relationships. Our friends from high school are not the same as our family or our friends from work. The circles feature on Google+ forces users to make decisions about their relationships by having them assign their contacts into different circles. This design is intended to allow users to control what content they share with whom; a tool that allows us to behave online more like we behave in the real world.
These are the circles I’ve created so far (my friends at GW need to pick up the adoption pace a bit…)
I think circles is a great idea, but not for the reasons that Google designed them. Google intends for us to share content with select relationships, but I am not ever going to share anything on Google+ that I wouldn’t share with everyone and I think I’m probably in the norm. I’m just too concerned that I would make a mistake, accidentally overshare, etc. I’ll keep my personal content in a (slightly more) personal channel: email.
What I do like about circles is that I can curate my inbound content. Like Mark Hurst says, my biggest complaint with Facebook isn’t that I can’t limit content sharing, it’s that I can’t easily curate my incoming content, so the most frequent posters get the main real estate in my stream (or I get fed the Top News algorithm’s best guess). People who post less frequently end up getting buried; this also happens with Twitter. Google+ allows me to easily toggle between professional acquaintances and family, so I don’t miss anything that I want to see. I love that. I think that people need to be educated about how to use circles in order to get the intended value out of them, but it’s a great stream control and I think people will like it if they invest the time to set them up.
Mobile App Is Terrible
One other thought, I think that Google+’s long-term success is dependent on their success in mobile. If their iPhone application is any indicator of how they plan to tackle the channel, I am not optimistic that they will be an order of magnitude better than Facebook. Their current application misses the value that circles provides: inbound content control. Users can’t control which circles they read content from, it’s all jumbled together in the app and the only available sorting of “incoming” and “nearby” has no connection to the web product. Right now, my entire Google+ iPhone app stream is filled with journalists. That’s not useful: