When I first saw Google Plus circles, I thought this was a great idea. On Facebook, I have a bunch of “friends”, most of whom are people I talk to only rarely, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years.
With Google Plus, I can categorize these “friends” into different circles. How awesome is that? Most of the people I’ve had contact with on Plus are people I know through programming, so I made a “Geeks” circle and started filling it in. Right now that circle has 113 members, compared to 8 in friends.
This really appeals to the uptight organized engineer in me, but then I realized that this doesn’t solve any real problem.
I’ve never liked Facebook, and circles don’t make me like Plus any more. My problem with Facebook isn’t that I need to categorize the incoming stream of info based on my relationship with people. The problem is that the incoming stream of info is almost entirely uninteresting!
With circles, I now have multiple streams of totally uninteresting info. Here’s a sampling of what I see in my Geeks stream this morning:
- Robert Rothenberg says that it’s raining.
- Robert Rothenberg asks “Have you looked at the source code of a G+ page? It’s all JavaScipt, and dynamically creates the page from a data structure. Interesting….”
- Piers Cawley still has to write some slides for OSCON.
- Curtis Poe posted a video of his daughter.
- Kang-min Liu (aka Gugod) posted something in Chinese.
- Karen Pauley made some chili con carne.
I’ve categorized people based on my relationship to them, but what I really want is to categorize the things they write. Of the items above, only two of them are geek-related, and only one of them is really interesting to me as technical information.
So what did doing the work of putting people into these circles gain me? Absolutely nothing. I’m still left wading through a torrent of stuff to fish out the few interesting bits.
This is exactly the same problem I’ve always had with Facebook.
Of course, this problem is already solved. The solution is called “tags” or “categories”. I care more about the topic than the writer, though both are important. Just knowing who wrote something isn’t very helpful.
And yes, I know that circles do solve a real problem for some people. If I posted a lot of personal stuff on Facebook then circles might actually be useful for me.
Disclaimer: When I say that your content is “totally uninteresting”, I mean to it’s not what I am interested in. I’m sure Curtis’s daughter is totally adorable.