Sometime last week, one of my g+ peers shared a New Orleans circle that had 350+ people in it. Before g+ introduced the “valve” for circle streams (meaning that I can control how much of an individual circle gets posted to my main stream with the grain of “never, few, often, all”), i would have never considered adding such a massive circle to my stream, but the circle valve is a big game changer for g+ (which will become evident as the entry progresses), so i decided to add that circle to my, um, circles and put the stream valve on “few”. I told myself that this would ensure that my stream wouldn’t explode too much and if i found something or someone that caught my eye, i could “promote” them to my “everything” stream, and if someone didn’t interest me, i could remove them.
In the time since i’ve done this, this has had two significant effects. First, it’s given me some clarity as to how Circles drives content with a different flavor than facebook (and consequently twitter) now that my g+ stream is getting a more comparable steady flow of content like my fb feed. Second, it’s given me a stronger idea of how to create my own circles in a way that takes the most advantage of Circle’s power of flexibility – both as reading circles and as content filter circles.
First let’s deal with content. I think two things contribute to how g+ content works. First, it employs the more twitter-like paradigm of non-mutual circling rather than the facebook-(pre-subscription)-like model of “you have to be my friend in order for me to be yours.” Second, circle creation succeeds at being simple to understand and flexible in how they’re created.
What this creates is a powerful paradigm for content versatility that fb and twitter can’t match; it has the ability to be “broadcast” in nature for public and extended circle sharing, but also has the ability to be content specific or personal/intimate for small circle sharing. A few power GPlussers state in their introduction what kinds of circles they want to be included in and/or what circles they have set up for content that you can specify to be added to, and i think that this is a great way for one person to filter another person’s content to their liking, especially if that person is a very prolific GPlusser.
From a content filtering perspective, i don’t know exactly how this applies to me other than the filter i’ve already created for students vs. non-students which is a necessity of my work paradigm. If my posts start to have certain kinds of trends that i feel need to be circle specific (right now most of my posts are public or all circles) i may start to employ that model, but right now i don’t think i have the need.
From a reading perspective, adding the NOLA circle and seeing how the circle valve concept works helps me get a great grasp of how to create circles from now on. It shouldn’t be defined by things like “we all play DDR” or “everyone from my old days at West Chester”. Sure, those circles can exist if i want to hone on specific topics or a specific moment (i’d click on the DDR circle if everyone is at a tournament that i can’t attend but am intersted in, or i’d click on the NOLA circle during mardi gras to see what everyone is up to during Mardi Gras), but what defines what i want to read from people on the primary stream is a combination of how well i know them and how much i am interested in them.
So that’s how i think my main circles are going to be defined – i create 4 Main Reading Circles – one for each valve level. The people who i know personally and care about combined with the people who i am most interested in goes in the “push all content to main stream” circle. People who i have some interest in but am not invested in completely go in the “push most content to main stream” circle. People whose content i’m into but post lots of rapid things that are just straightforward reshares of things i find on my own or don’t care about go in the “push occasional content to main stream” or “push no content to main stream” circle. Things that are NSFW go into the “no content” circle. When i add a big group of people such as the 350 NOLA people all at once, they start in the “few content” circle and then can individually get shifted to one of the other circles. And then anyone can get shifted from one circle to another as time progresses, and sometimes get removed entirely.
That way, my main stream is comprised mostly of people and things that i’m interested in mixed in with a flavor of random things that may not be the most interesting to me but is still manageable. The circle valve is brilliant in this; i could easily add a circle of 1000 people and just stick them in a single “few content” valve and slowly manage where those people really belong as time progresses in a way that would be much more difficult to deal with on facebook and is impossible to deal with on Twitter.
Additionally, I’ll probably have some other reading circles that are more content specific that are just muted on my main stream; things that if i’m interested in it i’ll click on that stream to grab that stream’s specific content. Again, the DDR circle or NOLA circle comes to mind here, as well as a specific NSFW circle for the people that tend to post more risqué content that i’m interested in.
This feels like a good base model for Circle management; i’m sure it will evolve as i start to build the model and see what the effects are. As this is still early development, i’m open to any commentary or suggestions about the whole thing.