The Google+ Project: targeted sharing

Having spent a little bit of time using the Google+ Project I thought I would share some initial thoughts and reactions.

From the very beginning it is all about people, as always with these new network tools it is about adding people into your space to enjoy and share it with. I was immediately impressed with the Circles feature which helps you organise people into different groups. The user interface is really nice and it was easy to grab people and drop them into the right Circle for them.

You can create lots of different circles and name them whatever you like. Once you are using and sharing if there is someone who either adds you to their Circle or you see their name mentioned, all you have to do is roll over their name, then the Circles icon and then tick which they belong to in the pop up window – really easy.

Within Google Apps for Edu I can see each class having a specific Circle with which you can share content.

As many people have said, this level of organisation is much more like real life as we have distinct and sometimes overlapping connections with people. What is currently missing seems to be (amongst other things):

  • to share a whole Circle with others
  • to add inner circles to a group – say for groups within a class
  • build on other social media groups, LinkedIn or Twitter lists

This compartmentalised approach to our social networking behaviour is very much at the core of what the Google+ Project seem to be developing. When you look to share any type of content you can be very refined about who you share it with. As Vincent Mo from Google explains:

On Google+, anyone can add me to their circles, and they never see more than what I share with them. It’s as easy as not adding them to a circle. That means people can add me all they want. If I post something private, I’ll only post it to a circle, and they won’t see it. Go ahead. Add me. I don’t care.

So the focus is on the creation of Circles of connections which then allows you to dictate who you share content with. Vincent Mo says that Google+ is “built around targeted sharing”. Seems obvious – and Google have executed these crucial elements really well.

Even if you have not had the chance to use Google+ I would be interested to hear your thoughts regarding the Circles style of organisation and how it differs to what we are used to.


Pic: Flickr’ng lights by josef.stuefer


  1. Thanks for the comment Neal – it will be interesting to see how the
    structure works when in an institute using Google Apps – and how the flow of
    contacts and circles plays out.

  2. I’m sold on the concept for classrooms also. 
    Wondering though, just because I put someone into a Circle doesn’t tie my permanently to the same Circle on the pupil’s profile. So they could easily throw me into a Circle they have and show me things I’d rather not (or perhaps should not) see! this is the one benefit of Facebook groups – everyone signs up to the same group and therefore is isolated from both sides.

    Having said that, I know I’ll take Google+ any day over Facebook – still haven’t worked out why though.

  3. The only thing that will be a constant in terms of using the G+ platform will be the fact that things will change. They are constantly changing and improving during this field trial – crucially, I think, is that this is a community platform that will create a common thread throughout other Google apps. Will be interesting to see how it is rolled out for Edu.

  4. Possibly, although too early to say at present. I am entirely confident in saying facebook will move to neutralise whatever advantages it perceives G+ to have.

  5. Agree with your point about Apps – this could well bring it all together in the sense of a rounded community tool. Will be interesting to see how that pans out. In terms of the difference between Fb and G+, would you not think that G+ is defining itself by putting Circles/lists front and centre from the outset. And not as a bolt on like Fb?

  6. There’s no real difference between Circles and facebook’s friend lists, which virtually no-one uses. Except that Google is promoting the Circles idea, which facebook will almost certainly ape. So what is the significant difference between them? If you work in an institution which uses Google Apps, that’s one big one.

  7. Hi Tom,
    Since I don’t have a an invite or account it interesting reading the positive reaction here. I’ve been getting a more mixed account elsewhere:  Dave Winer: Why Google’s “circles” are likely to fail., xkcd: Google+ etc.
     From the comments here it looks like Google+ will get used in teaching from the start which will make it different from a lot of other online tools (blogs, wikis, facebook) where the tools were adopted by educators when they had been around for a while. I wonder if that will make any difference.

  8. I intended to use Facebook as one of my social networks this coming school year with my 7th/8th graders.  After hearing some of the comments concerning Google+  I believe that particular platform might work better in a classroom setting.  What I want to do is have a place where parents, teachers, administrators and students can interact and at the same time keep everyone in their appropriate realm, something I was worried I’d have a hard time doing with Facebook.  I hope I can access Plus soon so I can pilot it and see how well it works for me.

  9. My first thought when using G+ was how university students and classes will likely start using the tools for collaborative work.  Then, it will grow from academic to personal use.  If G+ attracts this generation of college students, then it will start to eat into Facebook’s turf, big time.

    It has applications for any collaborative project management.  I’ve seen students use tools like BASECAMP in the past, now, why bother?  G+ does all that and more (share calendars, maps, videos, etc. all within a CIRCLE).

    It’s a brilliant move by Google.  They didn’t create a social network, they created the tools for people to build their own multiple networks.

  10. Hi Jill thanks for the comment – yes it will no doubt provide a great community platform for institutes and as Apps does, it will continually improve, not the case for many VLEs (or if they do at a much slower pace)

  11. I just wish I had an account to play with. This sounds like it could really move us forward in Norfolk. We have just rolled out Google Apps for Education to all of our schools – 132,000 accounts. Many teachers who have been using a learning platform miss some of the functionality that Google Apps don’t have – hopefully this could be the answer!

  12. Really loving Google+, love the targeted sharing via circles which fits in with my model of thinking when I seek to share something online. This same thinking sometimes stops me from actually posting as my intention would be to only share it with a few, rather than all.  

  13. Sounds like a superb idea, looking forward to it coming out of Beta.  I have just taken on innovation and new technologies at school so this could be something to push with the more technically savvy staff.

  14. Thanks for your comment Kelly – the fine-grained nature of sharing content makes it much mor flexible a resource for schools.

  15. Making Circles an object that could also be shared would seem the right idea, like you say. So that you can fine tune the visibility of each one much like the content you post.

  16. Very, very easy to restrict information. That whole concept of who actually gets certain types of data is what the platform seems to have been built around. The idea of targeted sharing does sort of define the space. So it all rests on the quality of your contact organisation. It feels like this could be a great space for an institute to be working, sharing and creating – I know Google are keen to get it just right for all the different Apps products so is taking it slow. I think you can only assume that it will compete strongly with other community platforms.

  17. i agree; the sharing (or not) couldn’t be easier, and i feel more in control of MY everything, in comparison to facebook, which i find clunky and annoying when it comes to separating what gets shared to whom and how. as a secondary teacher, i think google+ will both interest the kids more (many of them are fading away from fb already, even though they just migrated over about 2 years ago) and make our conversations more real-life-like.  i have already set up circles for my scholarship class as well as my public speaking group (both with kids who like tech). looking forward to providing some fb on their experiences.

  18. Re: Sharing whole circles – I think they’d have to have an extra option to make whole circles visible or not.  At the moment the approach is that you can see who is sharing information with you, but you can’t see which circles you’re in.  My friend who works for Google (the one who invited me, obviously) described it like this:

    “You can see who each post is shared with if you click on where it says “Limited” at the top of the post (it might say “Public” for some posts.)  Note that you only see the names of people; it will never tell you the names of my circles or who is in them, and the same is true for other people seeing the make-up of your circles. You can safely create a “people I would sleep with (but only after 3+ drinks)” circle, and no-one else will know it exists or who’s in it.”

  19. Tom,  I am loving the idea of groups of kids, how easy is it to restrict information?  Or can you have multiple accounts so I could have a school one?  How different is it in that respect from a good VLE?  We use FROG and will it compete or integrate?


  20. I agree, think Google + has some very interesting possibilities for learning. Really like the idea of sharing photos and vids from phones into specific “circles”. Also the opportunity for students to communicate with each other privately and personally has huge benefits for metacognotion.

  21. I have a feeling they are changing stuff this weekend as a result of lots of feedback about that. We will have to see.

  22. Just saw a video from the engineers explaining some features they are adding this weekend based on the initial feedback from users. They are updating quick, same for the Android app too.

  23. Just saw a video from the engineers explaining some features they are adding this weekend based on the initial feedback from users. They are updating quick, same for the Android app too.

  24. I think G+ could be the platform that many educators are looking for – especially those using Apps for Ed

  25. Yes you can add people to as many circles as you like – sorry can’t currently invite anyone 🙁

  26. I would really like to be able to keep some circles from resharing. Not sure that is possible. If you tag someone they can automatically see the entire post even if re-sharing disable. hmmm. Will change the way we interact within classes and without.

  27. Google+ has impressed me very much the more I use it. I agree that being able to share circles with others would be a great addition to the sharing experience, after all this is not just a social network like Facebook but a social collaborative network. At the moment it ticks many of the boxes that I wish to see in such a network and I’m hoping the developers of Google+ will add more features and take account of those that its initial user base are calling out for.

  28. And I should have said – I’m looking forward to it being available on our school Google Apps account.  We’ve been looking for a nice way for staff to share online a la facebook or twitter or blogging and be able to keep that separate from pupils on the same network if they choose to.  This should be perfect for this.

  29. It does sound like a much more sensible approach. I’m intrigued as to whether you can add someone in your social graph to more than one circle? My contacts form more of a crazy Venn diagram than a series of individual circles. 

    PS: If you have an invite available Tom that would be fab 😉

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