Closing the circles to build conscious communities

Tons of reviews and thoughts on Google+ are published already, positive and negative, believing in its success as much as believing it will not succeed. Hard to predict. I’m not gonna review the service or predict the future for now. But one aspect is interesting to pinpoint. Google+ is really leveraging on the trend towards more closed communities, or maybe better put as the new conscious communities.

At Reboot 2008 I presented some thoughts on ‘virtual gated communities‘. I was thinking at that moment we would transform the new communities to more closed groups based on shared values, and was thinking how to connect to these more closed communities. In the end it took some more time to move into this more closed circles. In facebook lists it is possible, and in Twitter lists and private accounts are signs people feel the need sometime to talk more privately. Services like Path and Instagram are more private by default, based on the concept of ‘strong bonds’. And now we have Google+ of course.

It looks like this presentation of a year ago is directly linked to the design of the new service of Google. It is a great exploration on the models of making different layers of social friendships, just like real life. Google did choose with Plus to make a different approach. It is remarkable how fast the service is adapted by the users.

There are still a lot of user interface issues to solve in Google+. The whole process to create the circles should be more smart and fluent. And the mental model from invisible circles in the stream have to be plain intuitive and transparent. Than we can build the conscious communities we want to use to communicate. And of course it need more integration with other services. I have stated here before that the message center function of Facebook will be more important in the competition with Google. As we hangout more and more in the social networks messaging will be more in our known circles. If Google+ will succeed in a fluid creation of the circles and integrating this with the other services, they can leap the new landscape of the platform Internet. We will see if a kind of BondRank will be the new EdgeRank and PageRank.

Facebook of course did some strong construction work with the like-ecosystem, and with the huge installed base will be a strong player. But the war of the ecosystems has just started. Google+ will be a serious player, just as Apple with Twitter will be, and Facebook still stay. Combining sharing with no barriers with powerful messaging on different layers will be the key. In that sense it looks like Google chose the right angle.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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