Google+: The Circles of Life

Anyone who follows technology news learned that last week both Facebook and Google were making announcements of “awesome” new products.

Facebook announced integration of skype video chat…zzzzzzz

Google may have changed the world.

OK, a bit of hyperbole, maybe, but I think that the new Google+ social media platform might have taken everything learned with Twitter and Facebook and combined them in a one stop communications platform. This new way of “doing social” may provide new openings for integration of the strengths of the medium without many of the privacy concerns.

In a nutshell, Google+ uses many of the conventions of Facebook. Users can post statements, pictures, video, links, and location which appear in a “stream” to intended viewers who in turn can comment. The brilliant idea of G+, however, is the recognition that a person doesn’t share on only one level or with one group of people. Rather we have “circles” of friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers, and we want some to see some comments and others to see different ones.

As friends are added, you put them into one or more circles. The platform comes with a number of pre-named circles, but these can be renamed and you can add additional circles. For each post, you are able to select “public,” in which case all registered users can see the comments if they follow you (much like Twitter), “all circles,” allowing the comment to be seen by all your approved followers (like Facebook), any particular circle, or even an individual (like nothing else right now). This ability to select level of sharing post by post in a simple one-click protocol is what sets G+ apart from its competitors, and what will most likely give it the legs to move forward.

Now family photographs can be shared with only family members, an education discussion can be focused to a group of teachers (and not polluting Grandma’s stream), and you can shout out to the broader world. Two other neat options are the ability to write longer posts, leaving the limits of 140 or 420 characters, and the ability to re-edit an entry after it is posted without deleting it and starting over.

Turning to education, suddenly the inherent weirdness of having students on one’s Facebook page is mitigated by adding them to a students-only circle. The students will now not see anything that is not intended specifically for them. There are layers to this that still need to be sorted, and like any new platform one should never trust privacy absolutely (which is why one should always write as if writing in public), but directing comments in a circle including school administrators provides a greater degree of focus, usefulness, and protection.

There are other aspects to this platform, but we will leave those for another day. Until that time, if anyone still needs an invite to Google+, send me an email at and I’ll try to send one along.

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Date: Tuesday, 12. July 2011 22:47
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    […] at the launch of Google's social network (I believe in my zeal I may have used the words, “Changed the world”). The ability to put contacts into “circles” and to carry on many levels of […]

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