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Over a month has passed since the debut of Google’s latest product, and traffic has already started to decline. Regardless if G+ is a Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Tumblr/Orkut slayer, or if it is destined to be the next Wave/Buzz/Video slain, the new social network is definitely is worth a look. Or, at least a cursory glance, barely researched with few sources.

The whole project seems to have two main purposes: nab a piece of the social media pie, and to better integrate users’ Google products into one account. For the former, I’ll spare you yet another summary and jump to the analysis: Circles, as many have said, make it easier to cordon contacts to groups with different privacy settings. The entire concept is aimed at criticisms of Facebook’s at-times lax approach to privacy. However, despite its clean, intuitive interface, Circles is not as flexible as it could be, failing to reach its potential.

Suppose you have a Circle for members of your Gun Club. One Saturday there was a particular private duck hunt, of which Earl and his group of loudmouths were unwelcome, and so are blocked from viewing your Picasa album of the event. Would you be able to create a new Circle by simply duplicating Gun Club and eliminating Earl’s coterie? Or better yet, selecting his group from the list of members in Gun Club, creating a new Circle, and slapping a privacy setting on them? Circles does allow such simple set theory! Yet this could easily lead to a massive proliferation of Circles for many different events and cases for differing privacy. Circles’ presentation, while straightforward, does not show different Circles as being subsets of each other, reducing all of them to the same rank. In this situation, Gun Club, Sat-May-2-15-Hunt, and Earl’s Jerks would all be unrelated, equally important Circles.

In a much more general case, adding new contacts could be a more streamlined process. Most contacts can be reduced to a general category such as “friends”, “family”, or “colleagues.” When you add a new contact, he or she should be immediately assigned a primary Circle. Then, secondary Circles can be assigned, placing greater emphasis on specialization and customization of social circles. Instead, right now all Circles are equal, and so have equal weight.

Incidentally, the positive buzz about Circles is not simply a plus for Google, but highlights one reason to dislike Facebook. The New Big Blue too often introduces new features, revamps, and alterations unannounced with little explanation. How many users truly use lists to organize privacy settings for groups of friends, instead of simply categorizing them for the benefit of Facebook Chat? That is, FB Chat prior to several weeks ago, when listing friends was unceremoniously dropped. Much like Google or Apple, Facebook can act like a silent monolith at times, changing the user experience at a whim while allowing no option to switch back to classic mode, and leaving no easy way to contact support.

Ironically, I actually prefer Facebook’s approach of organizing friends- lists are totally optional, and seem to revolve around giving certain people specific privacy settings. But viewed another way, they tie into the idea of having a primary, generalized identity for a friend- parents, neighbors, classmates, etc. Groups can then be created for specialization- church congregation, rave partners, heist team, etc. Of course, the difference there is that Groups are meant for distinct purposes and have an element of interaction (members writing on the Wall, having discussions, uploading photos), but the list/Group difference at least creates some hierarchy. Whereas Circles just has Circles.

This entry ended up way longer than it was intended to be, so I’ll continue my largely unsourced look into G+ in the next one.

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