Google+ users should be able to select their own content, rather than you doing it for them
I was thrilled today to see this article today calling for what I think it crucially necessary for Google Circles: a way for people to choose what content of different users that they see. The “follow” Circle is really useless without it, unless you’re following a person who ONLY talks about one subject publicly.
The way I think it should work is much like the way I have my different Twitter accounts set up: I have a personal account, which is just kind of a dumping ground for my random thoughts, including sports and politics; I have my professional account, where I talk mostly about tech, web services and business and is set up to be completely open, public and findable; and my music account. I mix up the content every now and then, getting personal on my professional and talking about music on my personal account, but I’ve found that the division works pretty well.
But it’s still three separate accounts, and while Tweetdeck makes it pretty easy to manage them all in one place, it’s still far from ideal. To let other people know that I even have the other accounts, I have to retweet something every now and then or send out a promo tweet on one or the other. What would be great (and this is what the author of that article proposes for Plus) is to be able to have a single account, but to specify which subject it goes in, and when people follow me, they select which content areas of mine that they want to see. They’re deciding for themselves, not me for them, which is guessing and exclusionary.
There’s two things that the article misses that I think are crucial to making this work.
- You’d have to be able to make certain content groups private (user has to get permission before seeing the content) and have the option to block people from seeing certain content groups.
- You should be encouraged (by the process) to have a low number of content groups. I think that you should be able to create content groups and call them whatever you want, but if someone hauls off and makes 20-30 content groups, it could be confusing for the people choosing to follow you. I would have no more than 4-5 groups.
When you get down to it, it’s making the basis of Google+ more like blogs than like Facebook. You’re creating content and defining it and then people can see the parts of it that they want to, opting into and out of the types of things you write rather than into you as a whole. And that makes a hell of a lot more sense than the ridiculous “real life social networks
" theory that Circles is based on.
Google Circles breaks two simple rules: simple steps & refusal to learn
There are two rule-type ways of thinking on processes and usability that I’ve come to believe very strongly in.
The first rule is this: the more steps involved in a task, the higher the desire of the user has to be to finish it.
The second rule: if people aren’t interested in learning something or lack incentive to learn it, they won’t learn it, regardless of intelligence.
I’ve been reminded of both these rules time and time again lately because of Google+’s Circles, which breaks both of these.
To be clear, I’m not saying that to use Google+ requires a tech intelligence, or that people are going to reject it because they’re lazy. I’m saying that to force users to make categorical decisions for every single person they add on Google+, and to then have to constantly mull over and edit those categories (rule one) when there isn’t a compelling reason to do so (rule two) is ultimately going to cost them users.
Don’t think of Google+’s success in terms of the tech curious, who have already adopted Plus and will likely stay, or for the technophobic crowd who have a difficult time understanding these things no matter what the payout. Think of those people who were reluctant to use Facebook; the folks that resisted for a long time and then finally got on just because it was the only way they could see pictures or because they felt like they were missing out on a lot, and even while using it every day, still feel kind of unsure about it and could, at any given time, take it or leave it. These are the people that I think Circles is going to have trouble turning into regular users.
Constantly deciding how to neatly categorize everyone in your life is a pain, no matter how much freedom you have to create your own categories and how many categories you can add them to. I actually find it kind of depressing to have to do this. Why should I have to define the people in my life so rigidly? It’s not difficult and it’s not complicated, but it does involve processes and decisions that are odd and annoying enough that they’ll likely to dissuade anyone except those people who are actively interested in using the product or highly value the content they get from it.