Warning: This is about Google+, so if you’re not on it, it’s probably going to be a little confused. Hell, I’m confused.
I’ve been on Google+ for a couple weeks now and the thing that continues to perplex me is the Incoming stream. From what I can gather, the only content that goes in there are posts that are a) from people who have added you to their circles, but who you have not circled back and b) people who have chosen to share a post to their Extended Circles which pushes content to their friends’ friends.
Point “A” I can understand, even if it is a bit like spamming people. I mean, why would you add someone you don’t know and intentionally push content to them? It’s kind of vain, and could lead to crazy amounts of abuse. But at least its in a separate stream, and you can block the major offenders and report them as spammers. So, not so bad really.
But what I don’t understand is Point “B.” You may know me, but you don’t know my friends, nor do you know how I may have chosen to divide my circles up. Sure, a few of my friends may be interested in your random content. But who do you think you are? Is your post so important that you’re trying to push it to people who might be interested just on the hopes to get more friends? Do you think you’re not famous enough? Are you desperately searching for more readers, but too lazy to go making actual connections with people that you resort to sending messages to FOAFs?
Extended Circles is an option that should be used judiciously, as should all of them, but this especially. If something is generally acceptable to be made a public post, then do so, and all your circles will see it. If you only want your circles to see it, then only select which circle should see it. If, however, you’re interested in sharing something that you seriously believe is important enough to randomly notify people you don’t know please think about limiting it to a specific circle and only to their extensions.
Let me give a couple appropriate examples of use for extended circles.
Say you have a circle full of people in your industry. These are a combination of people you know and people you’re following. Say you want to find people who are interested in presenting at a conference. You could broadcast to that specific industry focused circle, and their extended circles, and boom, more of the right people know about your conference.
The Hottest Party Ever
You know a lot of local folks into a particular hobby. I’ll leave the hobby to your imagination. You want to have a kickass party around that hobby, but you want to cast a wider net. So you invite your hobby friends, and their extended circles. This sends the information about the event to their FOAFs and you wind up getting a great turnout for your party.
Now in each of these cases you’re capitalizing on your own ability to sort out the folks in your circles, and you’re also banking that your friends have other friends in the same field. Generally that’s not such a bad bet, but you’ll still wind up pushing content to those unsuspecting folks like me, who are like “WTF is this post about, who sent this to me, and why me?” Some may pick it up and run with it, and others may just tune you out.
The other thing you would have to consider is signal spreading. You may want to announce, out of courtesy and your best interest as well, that this post is going out to extended circles and that it’s okay to share with other people’s circles and extended circles within a particular sphere of use. In the case of your awesome party, you may wind up with way more than you bargained for, especially if you want to keep it a little contained.
So please, be kind, don’t overshare unless you’ve got a damn good reason.