1. Stop forcing me to show my close friends to my coworkers!A correctly implemented social network would isolate and protect friend lists just like other data. Users shouldn't have to have a separate account to keep their coworkers from seeing their family.
This approach might be difficult for some novice users to understand. So, an easier feature is to just have an "Insulate this Circle" checkbox so that people in that circle can only see each other and that's it.
Now, when someone in my Family circle looks at my profile, all they see in my friends list is other family members.
2. Stop misrepresenting fans as friends!Currently, Circles shows fan relationships as if they are more important than mutually agreed friendships. If this doesn't get changed soon, then the value of the network will degrade as people mistakenly friend people because the site misleads you into thinking you know the same group of people.
Here's an example, I have an invite from Moda Brasil to be friends, so I click the link to look at the profile. Here's what I see:
This list is located in a prominent place when viewing users' profiles... like it's the most important thing that I need to consider when deciding if we're friends. The fact that this person and I both want to follow Larry Page's posts means next to nothing. It's probably more important to me that Moda has 2766 connections than it is that we both have pending invites to Larry.
It's not just a problem here. The page where I have to decide if I know someone is even worse.
I created a test account "That Guy", added Larry Page, Sergey Brin and then invited my primary account. This means that my account, TomN, is the Observer and is looking at an invite from That Guy.
Here's what I see:
|Screen shot from my pending invites.|
Read my prior post discussing social currency if it's not obvious why this upsets me so much.
3. How can I keep something secret if I don't *know* it's a secret?!?If someone looks at a friend's profile, I see all sorts of interesting data. The only problem is that I have no idea what they consider non-public.
All Circles has to do is put a special glyph next to non-public data, including the friends lists once they get #1 done.
Also notice that "People in common" is now a useful "Mutual Friend". And, "In circles" is clearly labeled as "Is a Fan" as I mentioned in point #2 above.
Other minor recommendations
There are lots of Circle reviews out there pointing out other obvious stuff, so here's a pared down list of other recommendations:
- Keep around the Invite Tree (who invited whom). If a user starts to spam, cut off whole branches aggressively and quickly. Reinstate accounts as needed. Let people know what they did wrong. Hidden rules frustrate users.
- Add some automated way that real names can be validated. Maybe a credit card authorization check?
100% dependency on the social Turing test doesn't work for famous people.
- Consider never going with open sign-ups. Everyone must be invited by somebody else. If nothing else, it keeps the Invite Tree consistent.
- Get a very open API out soon and make it powerful.
ConclusionI just want to stay how impressed I am with the Circles UI and integration with exisitng Google products. Clearly, a heroic amount of cross-team coordination and effort was required to launch such a stable and compelling beta. It's easy to be on the outside and second guess what the roadmap should be. My suggestions are really just that, suggestions.
Keep up the great work!
[edit: changed title to reflect article better.]