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Google+ | The Circles: Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing

There have been many articles and posts explaining the use and power of circles but there haven't been any decent and practical examples to demonstrate that. Therefore, inspired by the excellent ideas of +Chris Cho and +Jacqueline Passey Mason, I've reorganized, prioritized and nested my circles. This is to show you the true potential of circles.

First, we need to understand that a Google+ Circle has two main functions, sharing and streaming:

Sharing (output): This is content that you publish. Depending on your real-life relationship with your contacts, the information you share will not be the same for your different social circles. At the same time, your social circles may overlap. This means one person may be a part of two different circles at the same time.

Streaming (input): This is content that your contacts stream to your Google+ homepage. Streaming is different from sharing in the sense that streams depend more on your interests rather than your relationships.

Hence, to achieve more control over your circles, I believe it is necessary to divide them between sharing and streaming.

Since, my sharing circles can overlap, I decided to further nest and prioritize them based on my real-life relationships with the people in my contacts list. On the other hand, my streaming circles are interest based. Hence, they're sub-divided by interests and do not necessarily need nesting.

Now, to achieve all this in Google+ is simple. Here is how I did it:

Sharing Circles
1: Friends
1.1: Close
1.2: College
1.3: High School
1.4: Others

2: Family
2.1: Favorites
2.2: Immediate
2.3: Extended

3: Work
3.1: Department
3.2: Colleagues
3.3: Clients

4: The Internet
4.1: Added Me
4.2: Google+
4.3: Influential
4.4: Who?

Streaming Circles
s: Google+
s: Android
s: Influential
s: Movies
s: Tech Talk


This arrangement now makes my sharing and streaming a lot easier to manage:

- If I want to send out information I will only use the sharing circles. If I want to share with my College and Close friends, but not my High school friends, then I will tag 1.1, 1.2 but not 1.3. If I want to share with all my friends I will just tag 1 because it contains everyone from 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4.

- Similarly, if I want to know what my contacts are saying about Android, I will click on the s: Android streaming circle in my stream. If I want to know what my Family has been upto, I will click on the s: Family circle and so on.

Using this method will give you all more control with how you share and view information on Google+. While other social networking sites have also offered similar subdivision of contacts, they are by no means as easy and simple to use as on Google+.

I have also attached a screenshot to show how the prioritizing and nesting looks on Google+.

Thank you for reading through.

Cheers,
+Ahmed Zeeshan

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Helpful Feedback

+Alma Whitten (regarding nesting automation): If you want Circle A to contain Circle B, it's easy to select all of Circle B and drag it into Circle A, and since it de-dups you can do this kind of mindlessly to keep it fresh. What you can't do is define Circle A as containing Circle B so that if you remove someone from Circle A they're automatically removed from Circle B. So far I'm finding that okay though because when I'm removing someone it tends to be person-centric and it's easy enough to manually remove them from both.

(an empty circle for note-taking): This idea has been widely publicized on Google+ so far. The concept is simple where you can use an empty circle to save any ideas/bookmarks/draft-shares/pictures/posts for easy access later as per your convenience.

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Permalink to Post: bit.ly/gpcircles
Google Doc version:


This article is also available in the following languages:
French - bit.ly/gpcir_FR (translated by +Monsieur John)
Spanish - bit.ly/gpcir_ES (translated by +Varun Dadlani)
German - bit.ly/gpcir_DE (translated by +Susanne Ramharter)

If you wish to contribute a translation for another language please read this post: bit.ly/gp_trans


Other Google+ articles from me:
The Etiquettes - bit.ly/gp_etiquettes
The Early Adopter's Guide - bit.ly/gp_early
The Starter's Pack - bit.ly/gpstarter
The Average Facebook User - bit.ly/gb_fb

**************************************

Note to fellow readers:
> Please do leave feedback. It helps to improve the article and starts a healthy discussion.
> Please feel free to re-share the post.
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120 comments
 
That's dedication to curation - let us know how it works out.
 
cheers! please share it around though so we can have some feedback as to how useful such a method is to +ers ... especially the ones with 1k+ contacts.
 
My only thing is finding the time to set up the circles... :D
 
@Rdn: for a normal user with about 500 contacts, this will take around an hour (based on personal experience). As a reward you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the long run with your sharing and streaming.
 
@Ben: I used s as a short form for streams. Putting an s at the front groups the streams in one place and separately from the sharing circles.
 
this is tedious but really an effective way to organize your circles. will give this a try.
 
exactly +Ben Helstad :) even though the nested sharing circles are used primarily for sharing, you can still use them to view specific feeds of your relationships/connections.
 
This is something I was planning on doing but more well thought out. I'm glad to have caught the re-post. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us.
 
+G. Hussain Chinoy a little too much dedication is needed, in my opinion. My best filter is to just scroll through, and let whatever may come catch my eye.

And for sending updates to people, I can see myself adding broad circles, as well as specific names in, at the point of posting, just like I do in email.
 
Is this the order they appear on your home page with? ... if so ... how did you do that? .. can they be arranged?
 
it was arranged because of the numbers. After all, G+ automatically arranges the stream alphabetically. 1.2 will always appear before 1.3
 
But how do you know that the people in your streaming circles really post about the topics you think they are? They could also post photos of their vacation, their children, ...
 
@Dominik: In my case, I know the people I have added to my streaming circles and I also know that they are more likely to share information about a certain topic such as Google+ rather than something else. It's true there will be some unwanted noise in these streams but at least this way it is more refined as opposed to there being no division at all.
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan My circles are set up very similarly. I do however hate the fact the the list of streams auto collapses. Have you found a solution for that?
 
@Benjamin: Yep that's slightly frustrating. I am sure someone will come up with a Chrome extension to stop it from doing that.
Cos
 
This hierarchical organization is just what I initially wanted to do, but I don't want to have to maintain all the separate pieces and supersets, separately, over time. As I get to lots of circles with hundreds of people, it'll get very unwieldy - especially when I realize that I want to reorganize categories a little bit.

That's part of my motivation for this suggestion (which became my most-plussed post so far):
https://plus.google.com/107889643992296044717/posts/AK95u2rkejR
 
mine is similar to that, though not quite as long. I think they need to make it so we can drag and drop them and put them and in any order we want.
 
how to manage these circles
 
Yes, drag and drop circles to reorder and stack circles to sub- and superset would be nice
 
does anyone know where exactly we go to submt an idea like that to google?
 
How do you maintain the circles of circles? Do you occasionally delete "Friends", and recreate it from the sub-circles? Do you only ever add people? Do you systematically add people to a circle and its supercircle?
 
I was going to comment on G.H.Chinoy's share of this, but he said to redirect commments to the original post. One question I have about this is, do you have to add people to each level of sub-circle? So level x.y.z, x.y, and x? Or is there some way to get circles to nest on their own?
 
Hi, +Adam Prato! Like +Ben Helstad mentioned, it's a technique to simulate subsets of a venn so you would have to add everyone from x.y.z to x.y, x.y.z to x, and x.y to x to get the desired effect.
 
After I posted, I realized I could just add them to the leaf, view the leaf in a tab, select all, then drag to the parent. so that's not too hard, I just have to reconcile occasionally...
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan I think this idea is based on those people in a streaming/interest circle not sharing much things other than the kind you named the circle, as +Dominik Mayer said. In my experience, this happens very often. Probably it's because G+ doesn't have "circles" for the information, but only for the people. So a more refined idea may be needed.
 
+Ofer Inbar that's a good idea to send with feedback. I was trying to highlight how the current system can be used to bring out the best in Google Circles.

+Richard Russell In my setup, 1,2,3 and 4 contain all their inner circles. So to mass add people from 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 to 1, I use this simple trick shared by +Chris Cartland http://bit.ly/l3iOuw. As for deleting/re-assigning/adding you can always easily do that on an individual level by hovering your mouse over their name and then choosing accordingly.

+***** tags is another good suggestion and has been well described by +Jacqueline Passey Mason here in her description at the top: http://bit.ly/jHJucC
 
Too bad I didnt see this sooner... I figured out the same thing on my own, but after setting up my circles without the hierarchy :)
 
add numbers besides to order PRICELESS!thanks for sharing!
 
interesting! now i'm gonna spend all day rearranging my circles. LOL
 
What I have found helpful is: I have one empty circle called "myTIPbox"..(upps, told you the name)... if I read a helpful posting like this one I share it to "myTIPbox". Helps me keep good ideas in one place to reshare them if the same question comes up sometime later. - Google really needs to work on the search issue. - I haven't gone to creating dozens of circles yet because this is still at "Beta Testing Stage" - Who knows, what handy features Google is about to release one us ;-) ..... and I also have circles for posting to different languages.
 
I wounder why Google does not have on circle/stream for the time of this beta that all users can view and post ideas to. That would save us all a lot of double work.
On the other hand, maybe that's why they don't offer such a stream: try-and-error .
 
Yep a search box for finding posts is a must. After all google is a search engine! I noticed I can't scroll down after a while on my profile even when I click more. Does that mean old content that I posted is lost forever? :/

returning to the circles discussion, I think it's a very good idea to have one extra empty circle for bookmarks/ideas/tips/drafts etc. I've seen the idea floating around in lots of different posts so I'll add it to the original here too.
 
Just read through this post and please consider my mind blown. Deferring to +Ofer Inbar that this thoughtful circle structure may be hard to maintain as users grow. Circle drag/drop could be more 'on the fly'. In fact, moving elsewhere in the G+ experience to pull people into a circle is where I am stumbling.
 
Yes outside the circles settings area, people need to be added individually by hovering over their name/picture. The drag and drop feature has been added to the feedback queue.. lets see how quickly it gets implemented
 
It would be really nice if I could bookmark a post in a stream and get notification if someone commented on that post without me having to comment the post to get that notification. For now I have to do this workaround:
Post the link of that post to a empty circle and keep checking back on the posts.aaarg
 
Spend one hour naming and arranging your circles... it'll do wonders for your future on Google+ :)
 
Though this is complicated and crazy looking, I love it. I will probably end up doing something similar. I have about 12 LJ filters and not nearly as many people are on LJ. I'll get to work on this sometime this week.
 
How do you add another circle within an existing circle? Please do let me know about it. As you have made a circle for friends, how do you make circles within that for close, college or high school friends?
 
Basically you just name the circle 1.1 to make it look like it belongs under 1. Since the list is ordered alphabetically, it looks as if the 1.1 is under 1 then.

So what you can do is add friends to 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 and then add ALL of them to 1: Friends.
 
I understand the first part, that you make different circles, though name them 1.1 , 1.2 etc so they come one under the other alphabetically.

But how do we add all of them to 1: Friends?- So that they are all under just one head....thus, if we want to share something with all our friends (1.1, 1.2 etc), we just select one large circle of Friends that includes 1.1, 1.2 etc also..and don't have to select all of the 1.1, 1.2, etc series?
 
Yes, for that add all your friends from 1.1,1.2 to 1. That way all your friends from the subcircles of 1 will be in 1 too. To add them easily goto circle 1.1 in the circle-managing section. Click on 1.1 and in the popup select View Circle in Tab. After the tab opens select all the people from 1.1, then drag and drop them into circle 1. Here is a better explanation for this: http://bit.ly/rh1AuS
 
Thanks so much for your help and sharing a great post +Ahmed Zeeshan - I would try out what you suggested and hopefully succeed! If not, would come back for more explanations!
 
Got a little stuck with the circles coming up in alphabetical order Ahmed! I did try to do them up, taking the example given on top, for trial purposes. Somehow the 1: , 2:, 3: are coming just right, one under the other. But, 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 etc are coming differently, under the main heads of 1,2,3, - they are not coming like yours here. What could be the reason?
 
Make sure all the circle numbers have the colon.. so 1:, 1.1:, 1.2:, 2: all have a colon see? And then if they still look out of order, refresh your page and it should be fine. Oh and also, make sure all circles have number or some constant prefix
 
They do have the colons as you mentioned above and I refreshed it a couple of times as well- but still the same problem. One circle was not numbered, so I did that, and refreshed 3-4 times, but in-vain.

Also, now each one is contained in the main circle and sub-circle - means everyone is into 2 circles now?
 
I have also added a New To G+ circle. I put everyone I have invited into it and remove them once they are active on G+. I then periodically repost all the great guides on how to use G+.
 
Anthony, The streaming family circle is for reading what my family is sharing. Of course I could my sharing family circle for that too but in the streaming one I've only added family members that I like hearing from. It all depends really on your personal relationships, etc.

It's not letting me tag you in the post. This has been happening will google+ all day today. something is up
 
Thanks for letting me know about it Ahmed- would surely report it, and hope they sort out the problem so that we have our circles in alphabetical order as well!
 
Aha! If you have a mass following then you should definitely give my Early Adopter's Guide a quick read - bit.ly/gp_early.
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan Is anyone else having the problem that G+ isn't actually organizing their Circles or streams hierarchically, despite using the numbering system described above?

My current Circle order, as per Google's ordering is 1, 2.1, 1.1, 2.2, 1.4, 3.0, etc.....

My Streams are listed in this same order.

Any ideas what the problem might be?
 
+Anthony Tulliani Thanks for the heads-up. I wasn't sure about this. It seems to me that Circles and Streams are just put in the order in which you create them, which is not quite optimal.
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan +Anthony Tulliani sorry tried to add +Adam Gassner but for some reason it doesnt like you. Sorry.

I am also experiencing this issue. I hope they fix it soon. It's preventing me from finishing the sorting of my circles.
 
This is great.
Didn't know you could imbed circles.
It makes a lot of sense and will be great for sharing to speciality groups-- one of the biggest distinguishing factors of G+
 
Wow, I thought I was organized. Nice.
 
+Umair A. Shahid Sounds like a great idea Umair. I still use the Google Calendar for tasks. I can access it from the black google+ bar and it integrates really well with my android too (reminders etc.) But if you don't need reminders, then your idea is very functional!
 
Creative way to organizing these. Mashable is working on an article about organizing circles too. It may be a bit late but I'll pass this on to +Stephanie Buck
 
Thanks for this technique. I implemented the nesting technique for Sharing Circles, and now, like everyone else, I'm waiting for the Sort Bug to get fixed.

I just started playing with the concept of Streaming Circles. This is a great way to weed out noise. I'd like to be able to see posts I originate in some streams. I can add myself to the streams, but it doesn't show my posts. Is this possible?

Thanks!
 
Considering numerous circles a systematic user would have soon and a methodical organization like you suggest, better UI is deserved for creating and manipulating them. Also, some way of specifying the display order like drag-sorting of Google Reader folders. Presently it is just in chronological order of their creation in your account; not even alphabetical. Prefixing numbers or some alphabets does not work :-(. Until elaborate mechanism is provided, at least alphabetic auto-sorting will be in order.
+Shimrit Ben-Yair +Kelly Ellis
 
If I may add my 2 cents, this is about categorizing people (and/or interests). Wholly-contained nested circles represent a hierarchical organization similar, say, to e-mail folders and subfolders. A more flexible organization is present in another Google product, Gmail. As anyone who has used Gmail Labels knows, an e-mail message can belong to more than category, which makes searching infinitely easier and better reflects the real world. Can the Google+ Circles be modeled after Gmail Labels?
 
Thank you +Charles Strebor

+Mark Yuabov They will be modeled after gmail labels eventually I'm sure. Maybe you will even be able to use gmail labels as circles when gmail is integrated within g+.
 
Another great article! Fabulous points and organization system!
 
I have a large number of people who are not in a circle, and many more or are. Is it possible to quickly identify all those who are not so I can work from that circle to get them all properly allocated to other circles?
 
Is there a better way (better than removing one person at a time from a circle and adding them to another circle) to move a group of people from one circle to another?
 
+Mohammed Maaz yep! Goto your circle management section. Click on the circle you want to move people from. Then click on view circle in tab. In the tab select all and then drag them to the circle you want to move them to and drop them there.
 
Oh if what +Alma Whitten was talking about was impped this would be extremely awesome! Actually hard coded nesting for the win! Otherwise I love this. I did run into the problem with my coworkers groups before. I may want to share with a team instead of everyone that works in my building. This solves that very nicely AND I can still easily share with the building.
 
Great article and very useful tips. Thanks.
 
I created a Circle called "Saved" and added only myself in this circle. Now, when I see a post I really like, I "share" that post to myself by sending it over to the "Saved" circle and only I get it. It's my way of archiving my favorite stuff since there isn't yet a "Star"'ing system like GMail.

I know there's a Chrome extension to put a Star in posts, but that was broken and wasn't working (it was acknowledged on the extension's site). So create your own bookmarking circle for a fool-proof way to archive stuff. Up to date (unless this has changed), you can't access anything over 250 posts on G+.

Thanks again for a great tutorial, keep up the great work.
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan I used to have (well, still do, haven't deleted them yet) thematic circles for streaming, but I've found that actually that wasn't what I needed, I now have Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 for my streaming circles, the people who I want to read all the time are Level 1 (the one I obsessively refresh, hehe), Level 2 for when I've read everything on Level 1 (interesting but can live without it) and Level 3 for last (also for specially noisy people that can end up annoying me). I like having my stream a bit mixed up, instead of pure photography, say, so streaming for how interesting the people are instead of what they speak about works better for me.
 
You're very welcome +Tiffany Stone :) Glad it helped you out. It needs a little updating though after a couple of new circle features. I'm working on that at the moment.
 
Thank you so much for writing this! I've been wanting to get the most out of circles ever since I joined G+, and what you suggest in the article is the best method I've run into so far. :) I think my mistake was not separating the circles into sharing and streaming... Doing it makes sense.
 
Very interesting article +Ahmed Zeeshan and lots of great ideas in the comments section. It really improved my G+ experience!
 
Google+ circles won't be really usable until they can themselves be part of other circles. Please Google! You can do it. There are only benefits.
 
This is interesting, however I still think the idea of nested circles is more convenient...
 
Talking about circle management, I've created a chrome extension to make circle management easier and more productive in Google+. Head over to circloscope.com and install the premium edition to see for yourself :-)
 
I am completely confused. Tried it but deleted some 'following'. Drag & drop has to be a simpler method!
 
I need some help with setting up my Google account, This is new to me, just started using this year, I started with Google and now having problems. Started with a android phone and now I added a tablet. Thanks for any Help!
 
It is interesting to divide circles first based on their function: I/O. But that might not be most appropriate model for their relationship, according to Social Psychology.

What I like about this idea, is that you apply a hierarchical approach for each individual, such as Family/Friends.

I suggest we use circles as a model of our real social relationship with people, then use tags for our interest. Circle them based on the distance between you and them psychologically. For example:

A: Depended, Understood, Contacted, Known (such as family members, and close friends)
B: Understood, Contacted, Known (such as normal friends)
C: Contacted regularly, yet not met (pals, advisors, internet friends)
D: Met, not regularly contacted (met only once/twice, not contacted personally)

B always includes A. Clearly, B, C and D are independent.

Then label them based on the type of your relationship, such as Family, Friends, Work, Teachers, Students, High School Friends...

For sharing, you can always apply the intersection of your major circle (A, B, C, D) with your label group (work, professional, high school, hobby...)

This way, you model your real social connections with Circles, and easier to map your relationship with others.
P Rnext
 
Great planning!
 
Hello nice to see you, I'm Joseph from Manila.
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Great concept.  The trouble is, you have to go to the bottom of the more drop-down menu to reach your streaming circles.  Unless you move them before your sharing circles, but then they come up first for adding to circles too.
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