<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=796653390456830&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
  • Share this:

3 min read

Is Google+ Circles Sustainable?

In an earlier post I observed that Google+ Circles is a simple and elegant way to manage contacts and functions just as email lists have always functioned. The circle metaphor and UI design are lovely, but will it pass the test of sustained use? I see some significant challenges.

In an earlier post I observed that Google+ Circles is a simple and elegant way to manage contacts and functions just as email lists have always functioned. The circle metaphor and UI design are lovely, but will it pass the test of sustained use? I see some significant challenges:

1. Managing your circles is a tedious and a huge ongoing burden.

Clustering contacts into topic-specific groups has never been easy. I’ve studied this problem closely over the past few years, since automating this task, at least in the context of organization-based teams, is one of key challenges we are addressing with the Jostle organizational platform. As others have observed, with Google+ Circles, as the enthusiasm of a shiny new interface wanes, the tedium and relentlessness of maintaining contact lists returns:

Pete Pachal, news director of @PCMag comments:

“People want things easy, and Google Circles isn’t easy. It puts the burden on users to take the time to think about each and every contact and put them in a specific bucket. To use the feature effectively, users will certainly have to create new Circles, and that requires even more thought. After using Google+ for a few minutes last night, I was often unsure which Circles to put certain people in and, more to the point, which to leave them out of. And what if you create a new Circle that should include some of the people in other Circles you already have?”

Christopher Allen, in his blog comments:

"In addition I review a few of my Circles every day. I do so by going to “Manage Circles”, then selecting “People in your Circles” and sorting by last name. I choose that letter of the alphabet that corresponds to the day of the month and hover my mouse over each name. (For example, I look at names starting with “L” on July 12th, as “L” is the 12th letter.) Google+ highlights the Circles that each person is in. If they’re in the wrong Circle, I move them. I might even click on some people and review their profile so that I can see who they are—or (if I already know them) see what they are up to lately, update my address book, and maybe send them a brief email. At the end of the month (on the 27th through the 31st) I review my overall Circles lists. This way, over the course of each month I briefly review my entire social network, without spending too much time on it. (I try to spend 10 minutes or so a day.)"

2. Privacy and streaming content at this granular level is too cognitively taxing.

Users will be taxed, having to manage “who gets what and when”... Although the "who sees what and how" view mode is slick... it is still too granular and needs to be micromanaged. Posting to a limited list of people is a big change from existing social networks such as Facebook, where posts are sent to all mutual friends by default, or Twitter, where posts are public. This change forces you to think more deeply about your social graph and who should see each item you post. You must explicitly say which “Circles” you wish to share with. Tedious.

3. All or nothing.

You need to be tribal and exclusive to Google products in order to squeeze much value of Google+. Mike Elgan, for example, has “given up all other social tools and is currently on a 100% Google+ diet”.

In his “Google+ is the social backbone” blog post, Edd Dumbill comments:

“… one company alone should not have the power to manage identity for everyone. A workable and safe social backbone must support competition and choice, while still retaining the benefits of the network. Email interoperability was created not by the domination of one system, but by standards for communication.”

We live in an ever-evolving, rapidly-changing, app-enabled world. Products either need to do a point task extremely well, or they need to glue the point solutions together in a simple and open way. Surely we are at the point where “mega-silo” and walled garden approaches cannot win.

Google+ may be the rapidly growing seed of a web-wide social backbone, and the catalyst for the ultimate uniting of the social graph. All it will take on Google's part is a step of openness. As internet search connects people to documents across the internet, the social backbone connects people to each other directly, across the full span of internet-wide activity.

My guess? Google will play for dominance, Circle fatigue will set in, and Google+ will struggle along in the footsteps of Google Wave or Google Buzz.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will explore the most positive aspect of the “new” Google – their shift to people-centric visual design.

David Humphrey
@dbhumphrey

Read more by
Jostle

  • Share this:

Add your comments