Google+, Circles, and Cognitive Dissonance

I’ve been on Google+ for two weeks now, and overall I really like it.  The system feels like a good combination of Facebook and Twitter.  However, from the first circles I created to the first notifications I receive about being added to others’ circles, I’ve had cognitive dissonance about how to setup my circles.

I have circles for friends, family, tech, photography, etc..  Everything seemed clean.  But then two things happened: 1) I started following some popular (read, geek famous) people and 2) complete strangers started to add me to their circles.

So what’s the problem, you ask?

The Dual Nature of Circles, that’s what.

Everything in G+ revolves around sharing to circles you create, which is great.  But these circles are also what funnel everything to you for viewing.  This is fantastic for people I know personally, but just breaks down with people I don’t know and make me think far too hard about what circle(s) (if any) I should put someone in.

Let’s take the first case above – I start following someone like Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, or Trey Ratcliff.  Now all of a sudden my stream is flooded with everything they post publicly.    This results in me either un-Circling (is that the term?) them or growing blind to what they say, when in fact there are some things in there I’d like to see.

Now the second case where I’m experiencing random people add me to their circles, likely due to participation in some photography discussions.  After they’ve added me, I can see things they share via the Incoming stream.   Perfect.  Except there’s a lot of crap in the incoming stream, which makes me want to “rescue” the good posters by adding them to a circle.  But now, I’m seeing anything they post publicly, in addition to what they share with whatever circle of theirs I’m in.  That is a lot of stuff I don’t care about from these people.

As an aside, I’ve created a circle titled Random Photography People.  If someone adds me to a circle and I see something interesting from them, they get promoted to Random Photography People almost as a way of bookmarking them – but they’re on probation.   Too many animated Gifs get shared? They’re gone.  Sure I won’t get to see any of the amazing photos they create down the road,  that’s the cost of clogging up my stream, I suppose.

Ultimately, Google wants us to both share and experience content via Circles.  But they’re incomplete right now.

What’s Missing

We have granularity when we post things.  Total control, it’s very nice.  But once we agree to circle someone, we get their full fire hose (Public + whatever they explicitly share with me).  What’s worse is that when someone circles me, I don’t know why they’ve Circled me.   Did I get added to a Photography-related circle?  A tech one?  To me, this greatly impacts how I want to share with them.

We need the same granularity on the consumption side as we have on the creation side.

A Solution?

I propose Google introduce the concept of a Public Circle.   They would work as follows.

  • Public Circles you create are visible to the world.  You can see that I have created a Public Circle called Photography.  And another one called Technology.
  • Anyone can add themselves to anyone’s Public Circles.
  • Public posts aren’t transported through Public Circles – none of Joe’s Public posts will show up on Bill’s stream if Bill has only added himself to Joe’s Public Photography Circle.

This would give us:

  • The answer to What is this person looking for from me?
  • More control over what goes into our streams. If I subscribe to your Public Circle on Paper Making, I don’t have to wade through your kitten photos.
  • Discoverability


I’m I imagining this problem?

Surely I’m missing something obvious.

Care to share (here or on G+ obviously 🙂 ?






8 responses to “Google+, Circles, and Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. EJ Avatar

    After some thought, I propose they call them Public Squares.


  2. Anton Gully Avatar
    Anton Gully

    I couldn’t agree more with you. I was commenting and posting about this a few days ago, I think I even used “granularity” at one point in a comment.

    You need to circle for posts and circle for follows – some people will be in multiple circles.

    Your idea of multiple public circles are basically tags, so you should be able to follow someone and filter according to the tags they’re using or as you say only pick the public streams you want, a la carte.

    I’m most annoyed right now about the Incoming stream which is full of stuff I don’t want but all I can do is block, ignore or file them into the Ssshhh circle. Blocking seems heavy handed as it cuts someone off from participating in comments, ignoring isn’t an option so if you want to be kind you put them somewhere out of the way where they don’t bother you. I’ve given up reading my full stream and I only have a couple of dozen people listed. I’d like the option to select which circles appear in my default stream. I suspect it’ll come in time.


  3. EJ Avatar

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks this may be a good idea. I’m up for any way Google can give us granularity, bonus points for it being elegant.

    The hardest part will be making it simple for the former-Facebook masses.


  4. Grant Tregellas Avatar

    A short while before Google+ was launched I pretty much abandoned Facebook on a personal level. My big issue was the amount of random people that were apparently my “friends”. I really want Google+ to be a better platform, but I’m struggling with these 2 issues you also bring up. Who are these people adding me? Why? So that they can spam me? I just don’t get it. To me, it’s worse than Facebook.

    Are they saying that I can just randomly add people to my circles and then post whatever and they will see it? Or am I missing the point or something?

    The other big problem is: my “real” friends ie” people I know in real life, don’t seem to interact much. So, now I’m just left with getting incoming posts from people I never even asked to be in connection with…


  5. EJ Avatar

    I know what you mean. That disconnect between Circles and your Incoming, as it relates to spam/strangers, makes Incoming nearly useless.

    I have gotten involved in several photography-related discussions which has resulted in the majority of my “circlers” being photographers, so at least my Incoming has some great photographs to look at. It it weren’t for these, I don’t think I would ever look in Incoming.

    There’s a big piece missing in here, and if they don’t get it cleared up soon I don’t think they’re going to have much of a chance.


  6. Robert Fishback Avatar
    Robert Fishback

    I found my stream was useless from the start and became more so as I added and gained followers. I do not mind people following, as they are my audience. I have circles broken up by type, Photographers, Tech geeks, Fashion Industry, and so on. This way I create the stream I want to view. I have an elite Circle of Photographers that only has 8 circled. By categorizing and using the circles to filter your content you see what you want when you want.


  7. EJ Avatar

    Thanks for commenting, Robert.

    When you post, do you do so mostly as Public? Or do you post to specific circles, blocking people you may have mis-judged their reason for following you?


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