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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Choice within and out of Google +

Google+ is the rage…much as Google WAVE was, but people seem to be sticking with + in a different way.  It’s interesting to me that circles were such a  big deal when it first began, but no one seems to be talking about them any more. I have to talk about them. They’ve been bothering me since the beginning.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying I don’t use G+ with family or my “going places with” friends.  I use it professionally, as I do Twitter, almost 100%. So please read the rest of this knowing that I’m writing with that lens.

I went into my G+ account when I had about 100 or so people and began to put them in circles, trying to be thoughtful about where to place them. I found it impossible and I also found that I was putting pretty much all of them in the “following” circle. I found trying to sort my PLN by value so that I could listen to them or not (without reading what they had to say) foreign to my values of an open PLN. So I left G+ that day and decided to let it sit a couple of days. I couldn’t figure out quite what was bugging me, but something was not feeling right about making those circles. I felt like I was participating in creating in crowds and out crowds, sort of.

Then I saw a tweet by Alec Couros who said he was just putting everyone in his “following” circle and using one–the idea of sorting them didn’t suit him either. But I wasn’t able to really describe what was bothering me about this whole sorting idea until I asked on G+ if everyone had abandoned Twitter.  I’ve gotten responses of yes, I have, no I haven’t, yeah, sort of, etc.

I understand making a circle for a specific project–like those involved in a specific task for a job, or co-creating a conference presentation or something like that. I get that there might be explicit times it’s perfectly appropriate to have conversations where you wouldn’t want to involve the world. But mostly, aren’t we on social networks to engage in conversations with and learn from one another?

Honestly, though, Tony Borash’s comment struck home and hit the nail on the head of why I have been struggling with this whole circle thing.  He said, ” …circles, which I still find odd, given that it should be the listener who filters what they hear & not the speaker who filters to whom they speak…”

I agree with Tony 100%. I had been bothered by the fact that I was trying to sort who would hear what from me. I shouldn’t filter to whom I speak and that’s what circles does–unless I send to all of my circles, and in that case, what’s the point of making them?

I WAS creating in crowds and out crowds–I was choosing who would be able to hear what I had to say, so some of what I said would be exclusive comments to only selected folks in a chosen circle (edtech, early childhood, etc.). YUCK!

I speak to be heard and to converse with people. I write for people to respond, so that I can be challenged in what I say and so that I can think about my beliefs deeply and in different ways. If I choose to only speak to selected others, then I don’t meet new people or hear thoughts from various others.

I want my listeners/readers to filter what they hear/read.

I want, as a listener/reader, to be able to filter for myself.

I don’t want to filter who hears/reads what I say/write.

I DO, however, want to choose the people with whom I engage–and I do that be responding (or not) to other’s words–their posts, their response to my posts, etc.

I think I was looking at circles as a way to choose with whom I want to engage–but it’s much bigger than that. It’s really about filtering. By placing people in circles and not sending your thoughts out to all of your circles, you are taking choice away from your potential listeners and people who could learn from you. You are filtering your listeners…and shouldn’t it be the job of the listener to filter what s/he listens to and chooses to hear?

Thanks, Tony, for helping me clarify my struggles.


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


8 thoughts on “Choice within and out of Google +

  1. i’ve found the circles work to filter the streams of who i’m listening to. then, i just post things i want everyone to hear to public or send the direct message (like, “would you like to have dinner”, or “yes, i can give you a ride to the doctor’s on thursday”) to who needs to hear it.

    Posted by amanda at venue X (@venueX) | August 10, 2011, 8:28 am
  2. There is a way to talk to everyone and select who you want to hear from. When I post on Google + I select EVERYONE as my default option 99% of the time, though there are a few times when I want to speak to just the librarians in my circles or the dog people. By putting people in circles I can select the groups I want to hear from. Am I only interested in hearing from techies? If so, I select to just see the stream from my techie circle, and I can do this with any of my circles (sometimes I select just my “People with the last name Black” circle [oddly, none of them are in my family], though I have to say they’re not an active group.

    I learn a lot from Twitter, Facebook and Google+. They can all be good teachers, but my favorite is the teacher that gives me the most options, and that is Google+. Just like our students, we don’t have to use all the options available to us, but it is nice to know they are there.

    Posted by Deven Black | August 10, 2011, 8:34 am
  3. Deven,
    I understand that you can talk to everyone. I just don’t see/believe, from my stream, that many people are choosing that option, seeing as how a ton of people have added me to circles, but I don’t see a ton of stuff in my stream.

    I also find it odd that conversations aren’t easy to find/participate in, and I am not the only one who feels that way, apparently. Just this morning someone posted, “There are some good conversations going on if you are lucky enough to find them :)” It’s that “lucky enough to find them” that bothers me. The circle aspect of only speaking to certain people, for me, is akin to protecting Tweets.

    I’m not saying others shouldn’t use G+, or that anyone has to use it like me. I’m all for people using the tools that work for them. I’m simply saying the filtering aspect of G+ to have exclusive conversations is not for me, (except in very explicit circumstances.) So if you are in my circle, you’ll see whatever I post.

    Thanks for sharing how you use it–I appreciate your transparency.


    Posted by Paula White | August 10, 2011, 8:47 am
  4. I don’t see enough value in Google+ to inspire me to invest there the time I usually spend on my reader, blogs, and Twitter network. What am I missing?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 10, 2011, 12:45 pm
  5. Hey Paula, I’m agreeing with Chad above, that I haven’t made a commitment to G+ yet given all the other platforms I try to stay active on (unsuccessfully, I might add).

    With my young activist crowd Facebook is already so much the place to be that I’ve made a renewed commitment to spending more time there, although I’m worried by the constant streams of invitations to attend high school reunions and talk to people I sat next to in math class in the 10th grade on Facebook. Haven’t I been working for some 3 decades to erase those memories?

    Denial, kick in.

    So I REALLY get your point about insider/outsider issues with Google+, and wonder why there hasn’t been more talk about this. Sounds, in a kind of eerie way, like tracking–that ubiquitous school practice of deciding who’s in and who’s out.

    Thank you for making what is so obvious as to be invisible visible.

    That’s cool and great and I love you for it,


    Posted by Kirsten | August 11, 2011, 11:59 am
  6. Paula,
    I have a G+ account, but to me it seems that without buy-in from many more people I already communicate with in other places- Facebook & Twitter, I can’t really see the point. You can already create groups in FB and share your location and links via Twitter, what does G+ really add aside from putting those services in one place? If that’s it, then it feels like starting from scratch, and I don’t know if I’m ready to make that commitment yet. Am I missing something?

    Posted by Genevieve | August 12, 2011, 2:32 pm
  7. Paula,

    I appreciate your thinking about google+ – I am working hard to make sense of it as another space for co-learning, but struggle with how that works. Trying to keep up with the circle requests is like the old Star Trek episode on Tribbles -multiplying faster than can be accommodated. When I look at people’s faces from an “in or out” or what circle to place them in, it feels exclusionary and a bit too much of FB which I’ve not ever adapted to either. Perhaps it’s a generation preference. I still like twitter’s connectivity to anyone- and for learning purposes. thoughtful post- I will continue to work on it and am reminded when you connected me to twitter that it felt alien as well.

    Posted by pamelamoran | September 3, 2011, 10:56 am
  8. Paula- just ran across this post, and wanted to thank you for asking the question. Not sure that I would have tried to clarify what I like/dislike about the various networking tools had you not “shared the problem” with all of us in such an inquiring way. So thanks, Paula, for helping me clarify my struggles! 🙂

    Posted by tborash | October 13, 2011, 7:17 am

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