My Google+ Feature Request #1: “Spheres”
Yesterday, I finally got an invite to Google+ (I'd been waiting all of a few days -- it was horrible!) So far, I like it. But there's one feature I'd really like to see added. I'll call it "Spheres".
First, in case you've been purposely ignoring everything that's been written about Google+ so far, let me explain what "Circles" is. It's a way to group your contacts so that you can more easily control who you share your posts with, and whose posts you see. (Circles also integrates with other features, but you get the idea.)
I love Circles. I've wanted this feature in Facebook. Not having it there is the reason why I don't use Facebook for business (other than to join business-related groups). If you've ever tried to friend me on Facebook and I didn't accept, you can complain to Facebook for not having Circles.But Circles has a weakness. Right now, I have 6 circles -- 2 personal, 3 business-related, and one that's sort of in between.
When I post something that I want my 3 business Circles to see, I can select them and post it, and it's only visible to them. And what's cool is that the next time I post, the same Circles I selected last time are selected by default.
But what if my next post goes to my "Family" and "Friends" Circles? I have to redo my Circle selections. And then the next time I want to share with my 3 business Circles, I have to reselect them. I've got this funny feeling that might get to be a bit of a pain.
And there's a similar problem on the other end of the equation. When I'm reading what everyone else is posting, I can either view everything at once, or view one Circle at a time.
What I want is to be able to create Spheres that I can put Circles in, the same way that I can put people in Circles (ie. I want to be able to put the same Circle into multiple Spheres). Then, when it's time to share or read, I'd like to be able to select Spheres and get all the Circles that are in them at once.
One more thing while I'm here. To connect with someone on Facebook, you "friend" them. To connect with someone on Twitter, you "follow" them. When you connect with someone on Google+, let's say you "Circle" them. Sound good?
If you'd like Spheres too, please +1, Like and/or share this post to help spread the idea around. Thanks!
July 12th, 2011 at 9:41 am
I think Facebook's experience has shown that ordinary users do not want the hassle of organizing, maintaining and using friend lists (circles). It is just another layer of complexity that most people do not need or want.
Of course the tech crowd who are testing Google +1 like this feature, and they are talking it up. But the masses who will determine whether G+1 flies or not will probably not warm to the idea, and if they initially do (as happened with Facebook) they will not use it much because such segmenting is just not that necessary at the personal level.
I deal with a lot of people trying to promote their businesses using Facebook. Most find the whole personal "friend" thing alienating, so have very little interest in trying to segment their friends. FB business pages essentially solves this problem - "You want to do business with me? Here I am."
What's more, I see any attempt by Google to reach their tentacles more deeply into our lives as a bad thing.
July 12th, 2011 at 9:57 am
You're probably right about many people who use social networks only for personal stuff -- they don't need Circles. But I do think there are a few groups who'll use it. For example:
* Online marketers, who DO want to segment their business and personal connections.
* Young people, who know their parents are looking over their shoulders, and want to be able to keep some stuff more private (while maintaining the illusion that they're sharing everything openly).
* Young people who are constantly readjusting their inner circles of friends.
I don't know how far we can extrapolate from our experience with Facebook, since segmentation is an afterthought there, isn't nearly as clean, and isn't nearly as useful.
I personally don't see how organizing and maintaining Circles is going to be that much of a hassle. In either case, you have to take some action to establish a connection. On Facebook, yes, it's a little simpler, since you just have to click a button. On Google+, it's only slightly more complex -- you have to decide on a Circle and click and drag to it.
As far as maintenance, unless you come up with a really complicated segmentation scheme where friends are ranked in multiple levels of closeness or something like that, what maintenance is there to do? Are you really going to be shuffling people around?
Yeah, it's not for everyone, but for those of us who DO want to segment our connections, Facebook doesn't even begin to compare.
July 12th, 2011 at 11:11 am
It's not really spheres that you're looking for, but rather a Venn diagram feature :P
It would be nice if Google would allow you to categorize people beyond just using circles, too. Google just wants to keep this as straightforward as possible so that it's simple for everyone. I'm sure that when Google+ comes out of beta, they'll have better categorization options.
July 12th, 2011 at 7:49 pm
At first, I was thinking "concentric circles", but that was obviously way too long and geeky. Plus, it's not accurate.
You can already do a Venn diagram by putting the same person into multiple Circles. The problem with that approach is that it's too cumbersome, since each individual needs to be put into all the Circles you want them in individually.
The "Spheres" idea also creates a Venn diagram. But it's slightly constrained, because Circles are atomic units that can't be only partially inside a Sphere. However, since each person can be in multiple Circles, it's possible to have people who share a Circle not share a Sphere if the Circle they share isn't in the Sphere.
For me, that would strike the right balance between flexibility and usability.
July 12th, 2011 at 10:00 pm
I see what you're saying. Spheres would be a great feature for Google to implement.
I just went ahead and forwarded the link to this blog post to the Google+ feedback. Hopefully they'll give it a read.