Google+ Idea: Control your Circles with Orbits

I had an idea for Google+, inspired by Robert Scoble, so I thought I'd illustrate it properly.

I've been playing around with Google+ today, and after starting to follow some well-known people started to get bombarded with posts onto my main stream that weren't too interesting, and since Google+ orders posts in the same way as Buzz, popular posts keep popping to the top.

A couple of hours ago I commented on a post by Robert Scoble, where he called himself the 'Scoble Virus' and commented that people should put him in a circle called "noisy buttheads"

My comment was that perhaps there would be a way to easily give preferences to circles about how visible they should be on your main streams (posts, photos, etc.)

It'd be nice to be able to 'mute' specific circles from our main stream... A bit like putting people in a Twitter list without following them... we could still select the circle and see it's stream, but wouldn't get bombarded with stuff amongst our 'closer' friends and family... perhaps a way to 'distance' ourselves from certain circles, have an 'inner orbit' for our closest friends, and outer orbit(s) for others?

I had an image in my mind as soon as I wrote that comment, so I decided I'd sketch it up to see what people think of it.

The idea

The idea would be to create orbits of visibility preferences (what messages you see in your main streams and notifications). The theory would be that the further people get the less visible you would make them, so you'd put noisy people like Robert Scoble into a far away orbit and only 'visit' occasionally.

The circle would still be listed alongside the main streams, but the circle icon would show as greyed out on stream pages where they won't show up.

Sure, you could put these toggles directly on the circles page, but I think the page would get a bit too complex. By grouping circles into orbits you have a as much or as little granularity as you desire (just create an orbit for each circle if you wish). For users who use the feature for the first time, the first few orbits could have defaults of gradually-reducing visibility settings.

What do you think? Too elaborate? Would this take care of the 'Scoble Virus' well enough? Leave a comment here, or of course on Google+ with ideas and suggestions


This is probably the best solution Google could ever implement: it would be easy to use (dragging circles in orbits would be much easier than organizing trees and subtress), easier to set preferences on circles or orbits and practical to expand one circle into an orbit.

Congrats, man. ;)
Sunday 10 July 2011 12:29 | user icon Francesco
Didi you post the idea to Google+ developers
Monday 11 July 2011 06:10 | user icon tulekbehar
This is very interesting. I do think that we ought to be able to control this granularity down to the person level, though. For example, there's a good friend of mine who doesn't use online social networks much, but I don't want his posts to get drowned in the ocean of updates from other people. On the other hand, we may have a "following" circle with dozens of people, only one or two of those being so noisy that they drown everyone else (and monopolize our scarce attention). So I think these controls are a good idea, but they should be cascading: if I add them to an "orbit" (or meta-circle), they should cascade down to every circle and individual inside it, unless more granular rules are found on these deeper levels, which should then take precedence.
Monday 11 July 2011 14:36 | user icon Waldir
What you want to do is start using the Google Chrome extension Plus Minus, it will greatly simplify the use of circles.
Sunday 13 November 2011 20:57 | user icon W.P. de Graaf

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About the author

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On weekdays I'm a Senior Software Engineer at, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.

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