Over the last few days I pretty am sure folks may have noticed how things have been a little bit quiet over here in my blog, to the point where some of you may have wondered whether I am ready to go ahead and ditch it and instead point people to my Google Plus Profile, like some rather prominent and prolific bloggers have been doing as of late. The truth is that I am ready to make plenty of blunt moves on redefining my social networking presence out there on the Social Web, and I will be sharing some further insights on that regard very soon, but one thing for sure is that at this point in time my blog will remain where it is. I am not planning on muting for good my personal voice, my-self, my own thoughts out there on the Web just yet. However, in the last couple of days, I have been playing, experimenting and learning quite a bit more about Google Plus itself and how it will be redefining the way I interact on the Social Web. Yes, to me, so far, Plus is a keeper! And at this point I guess I am now ready to write another blog post, the fourth of the series, on the topic of one of its most disruptive and fundamentally paramount features: Circles.
Circles, on its own, makes it totally worth it working with Google Plus. I would probably even venture to state that perhaps it will be one of the most critical key capabilities that this new social networking site would have to offer to the whole Social Web. Yes, it’s that good! It’s an opportunity to help you decide and define how you would want to work and interact with your various social networks in a single space, without going crazy, or without having to create multiple identities. Or without having the system dictate how you can do it with very little interaction from your part. David Armano has put together an excellent blog post that describes, pretty nicely, the kind of impact that Circles will have with how we manage and participate further within our social networks. Worth while a read, for sure.
Ross Mayfield also put together a rather interesting and enlightening blog entry on this very same subject of Plus’ Circles along with a rather nifty, eye-opening and educational deck under the heading “Visual Guide to Circles in Google+“, which I have embedded below, so you can flip through the Slideshare slides quickly to get an idea of what they are and how they work:
To add further up, my good friends Dave Pollard, Alan Lepofsky and Stuart Henshall, amongst several others, have put together a couple of rather interesting and equally revealing posts, respectively, that describe for themselves what the actual main benefits are from using Circles in G+. And along with some other interesting reads made available out there in the last few days I guess we are in pretty good shape to understand how they work. But if I would have to pick up another article that would be rather instrumental in helping describe what Circles are and how they operate, I would probably have to point you folks to one of my favourite KM bloggers out there, my good friend, John Tropea, who a few days back put together “Facebook and Twitter are broadcast design models; Google Plus is a sharing design model“. One of those essential, must-read articles that you cannot miss to perhaps get exposed to some of the most comprehensive writing available out there on this particular topic. It’s a rather long blog post, but, believe me, it will be worth every single paragraph of it. It’s just brilliantly done!
Ok, so now that we are through with that introduction to try to explain Google Plus’ Circles, and its many many benefits, I thought I would spend the next few minutes sharing with you folks how I have actually set up mine initially, so that you could have a glimpse of how they are actually working out for me. The interesting thing is that, to begin with, I didn’t start them from scratch. I actually copied the same model I have been cultivating and nurturing with my Twitter Lists for over the last few months. Thus the first thing I did was to delete the already existing default ones and start mimicking the model I have for Twitter, which is, finally, working out just fine, after several failed attempts to look for a model that would work the way I wanted.
So what I am about to describe next is basically my own model for social networking out there for two of my favourite social networking tools which I have developed over the course of the years after experimenting and playing with multiple options. The good thing though is that in G+ it’s been much much easier to implement, because of the already existing work done with my Twitter timelines. So I just had to reproduce it and move along with it. And the way I got things going was with the initial creation of three magic circles (Or Twitter Lists). The ones where I spend most of my time at the moment out there on the Social Web and which, I am sure, as soon as you read about them you would be reminded of the Dunbar’s Number, although you will see how I have gone beyond that initial 150 limit, because for each of those three circles I haven’t established a maximum number of folks. I have let it develop and grow itself and see how further it would go. But let’s see it more in detail:
- One50: This is the first Circle I have created and in it I have grouped those folks who I have been following for years, way before social networks became mainstream, interacting and learning quite a bit from all of them over the course of time. They are my mentors, the ones who have got my highest level of social trust, although most of them don’t know it. They are the ones who have made and shaped what @elsua is today. They are the ones that I would want to follow and continue to learn from even when I am no longer participating actively on the Social Web. My essential core network that would transcend the world of the Web. The ones that I would want to keep in touch with on a regular basis no matter what. My closest friends and daily source of inspiration, if you would want to put it that way.
Interesting enough, from my One50 Twitter List, this is the group with the lowest number of folks who have moved over to Google Plus, and still, on its own, the main reason why I will keep making use of Twitter. At least, for now.
- Two50: This is the second Circle that I have created, and following a similar model to the one described above, it’s the one that I have used to group all of those folks who have similar roles, interests and affinities to the ones I have, folks who are interested in Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Communities, Social Computing, the Social Web, etc. etc. The group from which I learn plenty of new tricks and further insights every day on everything social, where a good number of conversations take place on the stuff we are all truly passionate about, i.e. helping accelerate the adoption of these social tools, both inside and outside of the firewall. These are like my pals, my partners in crime, the ones I trust to brainstorm, with whom I share across plenty of ideas, learn, collaborate and share my knowledge with without asking for anything in return. It’s based on a mutually rewarding and nurturing relationship of helping each other grow further in our collective sense of the network. The power of the network.
From this group, and like I was expecting it, almost all of them are in Google Plus already. It’s actually one of my largest Circles at the moment, so, since I treasure the conversations I have with them quite a bit, I have moved that Twitter List into a Circle knowing that unfollowing them in Twitter will not cause any damage, because we already know where we can find each other. Or, at least, I am hoping we know where we can find each other… hehe
- TheRest: This is the third Circle I have created and, probably the best way I can think of to describe the group of folks who are part of it is by mentioning that this is my group of acquaintances. Folks I am interested in keeping up with after an initial first contact, good conversation, knowledge sharing experience, etc. etc. knowing that at some point they will move up to Two50 or, even, One50. This is the most diverse group of them all, because it includes folks from a wide range of the interests I have in multiple topics, not just some of the ones I mentioned above. I probably don’t get to interact with them as often as with the other two Circles, but, at least, I make an effort to check, once a day, what they are up to, to keep up with those loose connections, hoping to strengthen them over time.
From my Twitter List, once again, the vast majority of them are already in Google Plus, so, just like I did with Two50, we have moved the conversations into Plus and I went ahead and unfollowed them on Twitter to help avoid cross posting of repetitive timelines and become a bit more focused on the conversations themselves, rather that the broadcasting nature of Twitter itself, which is eventually what Twitter will be turning into for me over time.
And that’s it! Those are my core Circles in Google Plus. But also in my Twitter Lists. What I have done though is a natural split of considering Twitter a broadcasting, messaging, notification system, whereas Google Plus will be the place where I plan to curate top-notch, best of breed content along with the conversations that may surface over time. So, yes, not planning on abandoning Twitter just yet, but certainly starting to redefine my new relationship with it, including a reduction in the amount of time I spend there on a daily basis. It’s no longer going to be my main method of engagement and participation on the Social Web. At least, for me. Just another broadcast mechanism. The one that has gotten that #1 spot on my daily social interactions is now Google Plus and will stay like that, for a while, judging from the depth and engagement of the conversations I have been having so far within each of those circles.
But, as a side note, I guess I should also probably mention on this blog post, to wrap it up, how these Circles are not the only ones I have. I have got a bunch of others that I have created as well from Twitter Lists, but that they have a very specific context that I am sure would become self-evident as soon as I share their names with a one liner annotation:
- Customers: Indeed, got a specific circle with the good number of customers I have already been interacting with on Twitter over the years, and which I have invited to come along and hang out with in Google Plus. Most of them are already in there and the experience has been rather pleasant; even more when we haven’t exchanged a single email but kept it all happening out there on the Social Web!
- IBMers: Of course, I put together this circle to group my fellow IBM colleagues AND alumni, who have been flocking like crazy to Google Plus, since the experience is pretty similar to what IBM Connections has been doing for us for years. And that way they have managed to make obsolete my split personality in Twitter with my @elsua_b account, so that account is just about to hit the floor and go into a dormant status very soon.
- BlueIQ Ambassadors: This is the group of IBMers I work with on a daily basis helping accelerate the adoption rate of social software, both inside and outside of the firewall. They are all social software evangelists and a very enthusiastic bunch of folks who truly live social and who so far have been rather instrumental in helping IBM become a social business. Still with plenty of work to do, for sure, but their help has been tremendous over time, and it’s always quite a treat to keep in touch with them and learn from their experiences, shared knowledge, stories, connections, how-how, etc. etc. Thus if you are a BlueIQ Ambassador and you are reading this and we haven’t connected yet in Google Plus, reach out to me, please! I would love to have you in this Circle
- And, finally, Weak Ties: Yes, indeed, this is the last circle I have put together (Coming along from my Twitter Lists) and, as you can imagine, this is the list of folks who have added me into their circles and whom I am trying to figure out whether they would be able to make it further along on my other Circles, whether One50, Two50 or TheRest (Or any of the others for that matter!). They are the ones I check out every so often to see what they are doing, see who they converse with, who we share potentially common connections with, and who provide me with an opportunity to figure out whether we will be working together in the near future or not. This is where facilitated serendipity happens at its best, because time and time again I have been having numerous occasions where what may have appeared as a weak tie, it’s essentially a strong one when you dive through their core networks. Small worlds, indeed!
Well, I guess that this long blog post will close down, for now, the series of blog entries about my first impressions on my use of Google Plus, where the initial reaction is “It’s a keeper!“, “It’s both the aspirin and the vitamin I have been waiting for all along” and I am hoping it would be for most folks as well! From here onwards I will probably keep blogging about related topics to G+, but, more interestingly, about the inspiring and engaging conversations that are starting taking place over there, right as we speak! So if you would want to reach out and connect with me on Google Plus, here’s my Profile. Let’s connect!
The waters are lovely … Looking forward to seeing you all there!