Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Google Plus - Making it Better

After a week of tinkering with the new social network from Google I still like it, but I find it nearly impossible to keep up with the flurry of postings.  Miss a day and it takes hours to wend your way through all the content that has been added. This, by the way, with only a couple of dozen "friends."  I shudder at the thought of how much there would be if I had as many friends here as in Facebook or LinkedIn.

This problem is not unique to Google Plus but there are a couple of improvements they should make to ease the process of wading through your main stream.

For those of you not familiar with Google Plus, the main steam is a consolidated feed from all of the friends in any of your circles. Circles are how you group your friends and who sees what. On the home screen you can choose to view content from one circle at a time or the consolidated stream. Viewing the stream is like drinking from a fire hose. It comes at you too fast and contains far too many comments for each post to make it practical to read through. In my case,  I have discovered it is usually a handful of friends or sites being followed that contribute to the overwhelming amount of content. I moved these overactive sources into their own circle so I can separate their content, read or ignore whole portions of it, but they still crowd the main stream.

Google should introduce a meta-circle which would be a circle of circles. Sure, one could create and maintain such a circle but that would require selectively adding friends in two places. Nested circles would be easier. Better still, imagine you could select one or more circles to display on the main page or somehow exclude one or more from the consolidated stream. This would work too.

While we're on the topic of circles, Google Plus lacks the ability to share a common circle definition. The notion of a public circle is useful for groups of people who want to be associated with each other. Someone would have to own and manage it, but it could be shared among all members eliminating the need for each member to add every new member to their local instance of the circle.

Another missing feature is the ability to collapse all of the comments associated with a post. Facebook is easier to speed through since by default the associated comments are hidden and have to be selected to view. It makes it faster and easier to scan through hours of posts.

Google Plus does have some keystroke shortcuts. In case you didn't know, the letter J will move you to the next posting and K will take you back to the prior post. Using these shortcuts you are able to skip over all the comments. I would prefer a collapse all feature, putting more main posts on one screen and allowing me to choose the posts I want to fully explore.

Finally, I like the ability to mute or dispose of a post from your stream, but it would be better if it only removed it from the stream and left it visible when viewing the circle containing that post. In other words, let me remove the clutter from my home screen without losing these posts forever.  Why not add a variant like Mute Local or Mute Global.

What do you think of these ideas? What would you change about Google Plus to make it better?

Captain Joe

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