My Disappointment with Google+

When Google+ first arrived, I jumped on the bandwagon very quickly and looked forward to moving my social activity over from Facebook to the new service. I'm a longtime Google fan, and their new aesthetic really appeals to me. Moreover, their concept of Circles is exactly what I wanted out of a single social sharing system.

I have three very distinct groups of people I interact with online, and rarely do these groups of people intersect. I share things with friends and family, with the Drupal community, and with indie game developers / enthusiasts. Until now, I've interacted with the first group over Facebook, the second over Twitter (and on, and the third on a variety of blogs (including my sparsely updated Rogue Wombat.

Rarely do I need or want to share something with all three groups of people. This means that friends and family / indie game developers and enthusiasts are likely to be annoyed by my constant stream of Drupal updates on Twitter. It also means I don't "friend" a lot of people on Facebook from the Drupal community unless I actually consider them people who might actually care about seeing notes about my adventures in parenting.

Out of nowhere Google+ comes along with the promise of being able to categorize everyone into one of these three circles and share appropriate updates with people in the different circles all through one service. It was too good to be true - in fact, as I said above it was exactly what I wanted at the time as Facebook's lists and default status update settings had really failed me.

So, what did I do? I set about adding the first couple hundred people I knew to my Drupal / Friends and Family circles. It was great - I could target updates appropriately and not worry about turning anyone off or sharing personal family photos with the internet at large. However, as my circles started filling up, my Google+ stream suddenly became nothing but noise. Any time I went to look at Google+, I saw posts in languages I didn't know from people who obviously weren't practicing selective sharing themselves.

The problem, though, is that I have to put someone into my Drupal circle if I want them to see my Drupal updates. In other words, I am forced to practice a "follow back" policy on Google+ if I want to target my updates, a practice which I stay well away from (e.g. I follow a mere 88 accounts on Twitter compared with the 2,461 that follow me). I just don't like a noisy stream - I only want to see posts I care about, but those posts could come from any of my main circle areas.

So, what to do? I could just make all my Drupal posts Public so I'm not forced to follow anyone random Drupaller back just so they can see relevant information from my account. However, then anyone I connect with for indie gaming and my family and friends will then see my Drupal posts, which will be uninteresting to them and create a bad experience for them on Google+. I don't want to do this to them.

A better suggestion I heard from Matt Butcher was that Google+ should allow you to make a Circle public so others can subscribe to it. Drupallers can just follow my Drupal posts and I don't even have to know about it, and I'd be free to follow those Drupallers whose posts I want to see in my stream. I really like this idea, though for recommendation and statistical purposes, it would still be useful to have those people taken into account even if I don't add them back.

I could just not use the stream any more - but that's always going to be the first thing I see when I open Google+. If that's the first thing I see, I'm not likely to go there any more. I can go see relevant posts on Facebook without any "work" (though lately I have to constantly re-sort my news feed to show recent posts first...). I could make yet another circle of people whose updates I want to read and just always switch to it, but that's always going to be my entire Friends and Family / Indie Gaming circles, so why should I have to maintain yet another circle just to make my stream interesting?

So, that sums up my disappointment with Google+. I really wanted it to be a platform for me to share targeted status updates with friends and Drupallers from around the world, but I can't do that and still make it useful for me. That means I rarely hop in there except to add someone back or post a quick status update. And if I'm not feeling the need to check it continually throughout the day, I'm much less likely to go to it to post updates - even with the status update box conveniently integrated into every Google service.

As much as I want to switch, I'm still mostly just on Twitter / Facebook and don't know when I'll be able to move further into Google+. Against the day that Google sorts this out, feel free to add me to your circles and I might just add you to mine. Wink