Google+ Circles: lots of potential, lots of questions

The news about Google’s social project, Google+, has me pretty excited. I’ve been mostly off Twitter today because I wanted to crank out some work, so I haven’t seen the chatter there. All I’ve read so far are the TechCrunch, Wired and Reuters writeups about it that people have already emailed and IMed to be (UPDATE: if you’re looking for a good quick read to catch up, start with the TechCrunch one; for deeper analysis, head to the Wired one; and the videos in this Engadget post are a great way to get a good overall feel for the whole Google+ project), but I’m already really stoked, in particular for the potential of Circles. It could be the answer to something I’ve been yearning for for ages. Or, maybe I’m just wishfully hoping it is. And I still have many questions. Namely:

  • The Google+ demo makes it look like you can only add a contact to a single circle, which doesn’t seem right. It seems obvious you’d want to add people to several circles, like my coworker who’s also a bike buddy and a foodie friend. So I’m assuming this is just bad user experience in just the demo.
  • Related to that: oh please please make it so that the concept of circles is like tags – from the demo and the videos it doesn’t seem that way unfortunately. One thing that drives me crazy with Facebook lists and Gmail contact groups is that I have to sloth through my entire list of friends and contacts each time I want to create or edit a list or group – and I inevitably end up leaving someone out accidentally. Instead, I should also be able to go to my coworker’s profile/contact, and add them to my circles of coworkers, bike buddies and foodie friends from there. It may seem like a small detail, but I often feel like the world has not fully grasped the concept of organizing and managing taggable objects. Sigh.
  • Suggested Circles based on contact metadata: it would be awesome Google+ could autos-suggest circles, but I haven’t seen any mention of this yet. In it’s most basic form, it could suggest Circles based on people’s addresses for example – so like, suggest a Circle for all my friends who live in Atlanta or New York.
  • I pray that one day Circles might access contacts beyond Gmail and Google Contacts – from what I’ve read, that doesn’t seem to be the case yet. To take the address/geography example again: I travel a fair amount, and when I’m in a city, I love to connect with people I know there. But it’s so damn hard, pretty much near impossible, to easily track down which of my friends from Facebook or Twitter live in a particular place. Imagine if Circles could auto-suggest groups based on their data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, like where they work, live etc. Circles could even auto-suggest adding some of my contacts to my bike buddy circle because they’ve listed biking as one of their Facebook interests/Likes for example. I’m constantly discovering I have common interests, musical tastes etc with friends that I never suspected, but right now I discover those things so serendipitously.

Anyway, that’s why I think Circles has so much potential – am I totally off base? What do you think? I can’t wait to try it out for myself and see what becomes of it and how it integrates with the core Google product. Let’s just hope it lives up to at least some of my expectations.

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  • Dani Fankhauser

    I think you’re right on with the tags — Circles is a great concept, but many things like this could go wrong. Relationships work like a massive Venn diagram more than separate circles. Sounds like a Google map with your contacts’ current locations would be helpful for you! (or their most recent check-in a la Foursquare). 

    Overall, I hope the first release *doesn’t* include all the features that are desired or possible. Will be best to make it simple enough to adopt, then add the flair. 

  • Mathilde Piard

    Love the Venn diagram comparison, why didn’t I think of that! Much more straightforward way of putting it.

    And you’re right about keeping it simple at first, from their perspective, if they want large adoption. Google Wave was way too complex. Facebook got more and more complicated over the years. I have no idea how I’d navigate it if I had to join it now! But selfishly, I’d love those features I was talking about asap ;)

  • Joseph

    I agree with you that there is a lot of potential here. Personally, I am interested in what the value of a “+1″ is compared to a “like” or tweet.
    Here is my take

  • Mathilde Piard

    Yeah, it certainly seems like +1 is becoming a lot more similar to Facebook like. As in, it’s not just about liking a link or website anymore, it’s also about +1ing (sigh, such a terrible verb / brand name) as a reaction to stuff people share and their comments. That’s what I noticed at 0:45 of this video: at least.

  • Jereme Guenther

    Yes, lots of potential, but I think the Circles should map to my google contact groups.

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