Saturday, July 30, 2011

Google+: Circles are for both access control and subscription lists

The Google Reader UI lets me manage people who post once a year and newspapers that post 100 articles a day.

For example, the NYT Science feed is in both my Science folder and my NYT folder. The Science folder I read closely. The NYT folder I scan, and I "mark all as read" after picking a few interesting headlines.

So Google Reader can handle all kinds of traffic volumes, but G+ used to overwhelm me. A few high volume posters were clogging my read. Then I finally realized I'd misunderstood Circles.

Circles, I thought, were about access control. I thought Circles defined collections of people (once we called these mailing lists) who were able to read what I posted to them (notify and access).

I was partly right. Circles are access control. Circles, however, also define subscriptions or streams. They are, in this sense, analogous to the folders in Google Reader, where each person is a 'blog'.

It's not hard really. Circles are just collections of people. Those collections of people can be used for both access control (who you post to) and who you read (stream) [1]. So a person may be part of a Circle I post to, but I may rarely read their high volume posts (Guy cough Kawasaki cough).

Most of my posts are to "Your Circles" or "Extended Circles". That's a big set. On the other hand, my primary "stream" is a set of people who post a few times a day and have something interesting to say. I call that circle "Conversational".  "High Volume" is made up of the yackers with thousands of followers.

With the G+ web interface Streams are on the left side, but only the first ten or show Circles created display there. "Conversations" wasn't showing until Google+ added Circle ordering. Now "Conversations" is first on the list.

On my iPhone's it's not obvious how I csan follow my "Conversations" stream. It's buried away in the app's oddball UI. Here's a rough guide:

  1. Tap Circles
  2. In Circles screen there are two tabs at the top: People and Circles (yeah, that's weird). Tap the Circles tab.
  3. Tap a Circle ("Conversational" in my case)
  4. In "Conversational" there is a list of people, and at the bottom of the screen there are 3 buttons/tabs to press. Press Posts. There they are.

Did I mention that the UI is as incoherent as post-Jobs OS X (ex: Lion)?

I think Google could have done a better job of explaining this. Looking at their iPhone app I suspect they didn't fully understand Circles themselves.

[1] Fellow Geezers, think radio station.

PS. I still want iTunes style "Smart Circles".

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