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Google+ UX: Fostering a Sense of Community
In a comment to my post on the Empathy Graph, +Yonatan Zunger , the chief architect for Google+, agreed that what set Google+ apart for him was the sense of community.

Yonatan wrote, "...my own experience has been like that too. I thought I was unusual in this regard. If there's something about the dynamic of this place which is encouraging greater empathy and community, then it's something I want to encourage as much as humanly possible...And do you have thoughts on what would encourage it further?"

How do the dynamics of the Google+ user experience foster a sense of community? This is such an important question that I’m going to turn it over to my community here on Google+ as well as write my own (very long) answer below.

Rules for This Thread
I want to focus on what is working and how to leverage that to make it work better. What I don’t want are the same grumbles and complaints that we’ve hashed out on our other threads. We are here. We are using Google+. We’ve had some great experiences. The conversations, despite the perceived hurdles, go on. What works? Be specific and concrete. Offer solutions.

In order to do that, be personaI. I want you to think about some of the best conversations that you’ve had while you were here and what lead up to them.
• How did you meet the people in that discussion?
• Did you already have existing ties?
• What specific elements of the user experience provide the special dynamic that entices you into these wonderful conversations we have with each other? What makes you engage with strangers? Stop and leave a comment? Circle someone you don't know?
• What design elements could be incorporated to encourage greater empathy and community?
• Is there anything that's holding you back?
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Terminology
I know these terms are cringe-worthy but until someone coins some new ones, this is how I'm defining them.
• social graph: the map of your existing connections.
• interest graph: a network of people sharing information centered around common interests, topics, or causes (such as political activism). A connection may exist but is not required.
• empathy graph: a sense of community, a support group. The connection usually evolves from shared interests as conversations move from public topics to more personal ones.

A sense of community stems from a sense of ease. You can't share your innermost thoughts and feelings until you feel comfortable. The level of inhibition in a discussion varies wildly both by topic and by the personalities types of the people involved. (I've written elsewhere how Google+ has created an environment that has made those of us more introverted comfortable.)

Case Study: Me
Dynamic: A Fresh Start, Egalitarianism and Meritocracy
From the very first day I've been on Google+ I've encountered helpful people. I think the initial sense of community stemmed from the fact that we were all starting from scratch and, in that sense, as equals. Members of the Google+ team actively engaged with us. Tech gurus conversed with tech newbies.

Because we were all starting fresh, Google+ provided a place to establish a reputation . In my case, I didn't need to be a big tech journo for people to listen to my advice; I just had to give good advice.

[Aside. Google+ all but destroyed this sense of community with the Suggested User List. The feeling that the best would rise to the top, the motivation to be one's best self, was replaced by a sense of unfair favoritism. When even a big name like +Robert Scoble says, "I'm not going to play that game. Take me off the list." you know that feelings have soured. Does anyone starting on Google+ today have that same sense of the possibilities, of working together, as we did eleven months ago?]

Dynamic: Real World Interactions: Friendships Develop
In the real world, not everyone you interact with is a friend. You aren't born with friends. Friendships develop over time based on proximity and interactions. Thanks to the Internet, our friendships are no longer constrained by proximity. The focus here is entirely on the interaction.

Google+ does a much better job of modeling this than Facebook. In a social network, you define your perimeter (your existing connections) and then you act within it. On a sharing network, you share what interests you and that attracts people who share that interest.

+Yonatan Zunger said, “All of my such experiences started out as discussions about interests, but veered off as we got to know each other more.”

I think that's exactly how it works. In my own case, I once mentioned in a post that I was currently out of work. +Youssef Hachhouch left a commiserating comment and said that he was in the same boat. That little pat on the back raised my awareness of him. So a couple of days later, when he wrote a post about some frustration, I stopped by and left a word of encouragement.

His post was a turning point for me. It turned into a conversation with half a dozen people that went on for over three days. Have you ever been at a conference where you strike up a conversation with a small group of strangers. As things close down, the conversation is so intense that you all move to a bar to keep talking. And you talk late into the night, animatedly, full of discovery and the recognition of "Wow! You do that, too. I thought I was the only one!" That was the dynamic.

What elements of the Google+ interface made that conversation possible?
1. Notifications.
The participants frequently addressed each other by @ name, which sent a notification and drew people back into the conversation. This was especially important because not all the conversation happened in real time. The participants were scattered across Europe and America over many time zones. I'd write something, go to bed, and wake up to find that half a dozen people had left me more questions or comments. Then I'd have to scroll up the long thread, read what had been written overnight, and respond with questions for them.

These days, I notice that people other than the author of the post, now use notifications in order to call someone into a discussion. This is just as it should work! Unfortunately, notifications get bad press. I think because of the potential for abuse by spammers, that notifications are mistrusted and poorly understood by a lot of new users. A lot of people overly limit them -- cutting off the potential relationships. Certainly there have been times where I've had to tell someone not to spam me but I allow notifications from "Anyone" and have had few problems with spam. People need better education on the power of the Notification system. The wording in the interface could be improved, too.

How to Improve Notifications.
Notifications are the equivalent of an Inbox. Reading notifications is the first thing I do when I get on Google+.
1. Make it easier to get read them. The redesign, I'm sad to say, has made this more difficult because there is no longer a special button for the Notification stream -- you have to click through the Notification window to get to "View all notifications". When you are having an involved discussion, you have to move to the post view. It's just too hard to read in the little notification window.
2. I wish I could use the j-key shortcut to click through my Notifications stream (when in the main window).
3. The Notification window seems unstable -- I've lost too many comments there while typing them.
4. I still get the sense that I'm missing notifications. I see things via email Notifications which float away in the stream of the Notification window.

Bookmark to Read Later.
People have started leaving a comment in post to "bookmark it" so that they can come back to the discussion later -- pinged by Notifications that the conversation is ongoing. Google+ needs a star system like Gmail. A star, which bookmarks a post for the reader, is different than a +1, which is feedback to the author.

2. Comments.
Conversations are the soul of a community. The one-line cheer or boo, the LOL, the "Awesome" are not conversation. They are surface chit-chat. The +1 button handles that transaction. A +1 or an online comment may produce a kind of community spirit akin to rooting for the same sports team. A pat on the back is also always appreciated. But these are just the baby steps toward developing empathy. True empathy is when you move to the next level and have that heart-to-heart (or mind-to-mind, for us T-types) conversation.

In a conversation, comments are essential. This should be obvious but even calling them comments gives off the connotation that they are less important, merely annotations to the main text.

In the original Google+, a post could be anything. It could be a blog post, where someone is broadcasting and the audience merely cheers or boos in response. Or it could be a discussion where both halves of the interaction are equally important.

The Google+ redesign changed the feeling that a post could be anything. Comments are muted (originally almost grayed out). The focus is on the author and on the post. Communication is one way. Now Google+ feels more like blogging than talking. This subtle but important change retards the sense community because it hinders discussion. And from the initial reaction to the redesign, you must have seen how people noticed it.

On the plus side, Google+ comments work now because:
a. They're easy to leave. You don't have to sign into a blog or be friends with the author. (See note below.)
b. They feel conversational, like messaging, but one isn't limited by length. This encourages people to tell longer, more involved stories, just like they would in real life. It enables people to move from the superficial cocktail chatter, to some really deep discussions.
c. We can edit our comments. (This is probably the biggest reason I've abandoned blogging, Twitter, and even Gmail for Google+.)

[*Note: I've seen a suggestion recently for Google+ to implement some sort of karma score to alleviate the problem with trolls. I don't have problems with trolls, nor do I see it much in my circles -- so I may be insensitive to this problem. I know that some people have said that they can't have a public discussion on a controversial issue because of troll attacks. However, I'm wary of any system which would make it harder to leave comments. Again, I think it is the egalitarian and open nature of Google+ that has made it possible to form communities.]

How To Improve Comments.
Many people involved in intense and meaningful discussion leave long comments which I want to refer to. Comments need to be objects in Google+, just like posts. We can already +1 and edit or delete them, as we do posts. But we need to be able to reshare and link to them, too. This would enable us to spin conversations off, for example, from a public post to a private aside or a smaller discussion.

3. Dynamics: Trust and Safety (Sometimes Strangers Are Better Than Friends)
The people who are the most supportive aren’t necessarily the people who are in your existing social network. In fact, just the opposite. Strangers can be encouraging because they don't know anything about your backstory. They don't know your baggage. Moreover, it doesn't cost them anything to offer encouragement. Strangers aren't going to suffer from the consequences of your decisions. So it's easier for them to say, "Go ahead and go for it! Live your dreams." than it is for your friends and family.

How to Improve Trust and Safety
Google+ blew it on the nym wars and drove off a lot of people who would have been here building support communities. I hope that when the Blogger integration comes, that you are more sensitive to the kind of anonymity people require when asking questions of sensitive personal nature -- the kinds of questions that are too sensitive to ask even their closest friends. The needs of that kind of personal support community are like the needs of people at an AA meeting. (Maybe there's no place for them on Google+.)

[Tangent: Is it possible that after we establish an account with our real names, that there could be community support pages which we could access via a pseudonym? Google+ could track our pseudonym but that connection would be invisible externally. This would be a non-voting pseudonym which would be allowed to comment only on these specially created discussion forums/pages. For example, let's say there were community support pages on autism, drug problems, spousal abuse, or job hunting.]

4. Dynamics: Discovery
First of all let me say that there is not a single person from my social network with whom I engage on Google+. Not one. Some of my existing connections have accounts here and I sometimes share things with them (or cross-post links to Twitter or Facebook to entice them over). I occasionally receive comments from a friend of a friend. Nor did any of my online friends from blogging or Twitter follow me to Google+.

That means my entire sense of community grew entirely from the interactions I've had on Google+. Currently 12,000 people follow me on Google+. I follow about 1200. I distinguish between my sources (the people I follow) and my audience (the people who follow me).

So how did I find anybody? My community began with the openness and the helpfulness of the Google+ team in the first weeks of the beta -- your willingness to talk to us users provided the sense that we were collaborating on this new system. You, +Yonatan Zunger were one of the first people I followed. From there, I just started adding people who seemed (from their comments) to be particularly helpful, curious, or insightful.

In addition to comments, I also look at who the person I thought was interesting was following. Unfortunately, the habit of most people circling anyone who followed them and adding people they don't know via Shared Circles has pretty much ruined this strategy. It is impossible to know who are "real" connections and who are strangers under evaluation. When we had the Incoming stream, we could evaluate people without following them. But no more.

How to Improve Discovery
To recap, the natural evolution of our relationships starts with discussions over shared interests which then veer off onto more personal tangents. Thus the most important way to improve the empathy graph, our sense of community, is to provide tools for the interest graph.

1. The discussions on how to do this are out there: tagging posts (categories are not the same as keywords), community pages and event pages, better search tools, suggested topics lists...help us find each other.

2. Don't give us a better social network. Understand that there are a lot of people on Google+ because we don't want the Facebook experience. We don't want a different model of car. We want an airplane. Google+ has it within its grasp right now to give users something Facebook can't provide: the interest graph and a sense of real community.

3. Don't destroy synchronicity. Don't box me in. Don't limit my options.
The best thing about the original Google+ was the sense of equality. A post could be anything. Anyone could talk to anyone. We were all exploring this new territory together, discovering new ideas, and making friends in the process.

The worst thing about the Google+ redesign is that in an attempt to simplify Google+, there is a sense of favoritism, of sacrificing one group for another, a feeling of limiting our options, of dumbing down, the loss of egalitarianism. Post content is favored over comments which in turn means blog type posts are favored over forum-like or discussion posts. Graphics are favored over words. Celebrities are favored over non-celebrities. The feeling of meritocracy is disappearing. Existing relationships are favored over the potential of discovering new people. (This last thing isn't a tool dynamic -- it's a problem with education and marketing.)

Summary: Simpler is not always better.
The richness of human life comes from the complexity of our human relationships. Embrace complexity.
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Now I'm calling on my various communities to answer the question: How do the dynamics of the Google+ user experience foster your sense of community?

• The people always willing to lend a hand, who reach out to the newbies and provide that sense of a helpful friendly Google+ community: +Mark Traphagen +Ryan Crowe +Johnathan Chung +Ardith Goodwin +Denis Labelle +Marc Jansen +Rahul Roy +Jaana Nyström +Christina Trapolino +Tetsuya Kitahata +Ronnie Bincer
• My fellow bridge-builders: +Brian Titus +Eileen O'Duffy +Debbie Ohi
• The group at the bar who got me talking excitedly about things other than Google+: +Daniela Huguet Taylor +Youssef Hachhouch +Armida Evony +Amy Knepper +Alex Schleber +Anita Law +nomad dimitri +Paulissa Kipp (and all the introverts who are uncomfortable being mentioned by name...you know who you are). Also the people who stop by frequently to chat: +Greg Cunningham +Cara Evangelista Reynolds +Meirav Berale
• The people who have been changed by their experiences here: +Ted Ewen +Eli Fennell or who love the convention/conference feel of it +Cliff Roth
+Max Huijgen who sees in Google+ the potential for the MOAF (Mother of All Forums). All the tl;dr writers, warriors in the war on words, people fighting for the interest graph, and Google communities : +Alexander Becker +Dieter Mueller +Colin Lucas-Mudd +Peter Strempel +Tormod Renberg Lerøy +Bob O`Bob
• And +Kimberly Chapman who brought the suggestion of karma ratings for comments to my attention.
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128 comments
 
I have so many thoughts about this but really need to read it on my desktop in the morning to get the full message. I am sharing it with myself to come back to it. Lots to consider!
 
+Ardith Goodwin Understood. It took me a long time to sort through all my thoughts, too. Yonatan asked me this question last Thursday night and I've been mulling over it ever since. Actually, I guess I could say, I've been writing about it for the last ten months.
 
Holy cow I printed this off and it was eight pages long! :-) I need some time to read and digest, but I do have some thoughts and feelings about community on Google+ that I am willing to share.
 
This one's going to take some thought, +M Sinclair Stevens. I'm now reading through it more thoroughly after having skimmed it. Hopefully relevant comments to come!
 
This could well be the smartest thing ever written about G+, seriously. I have nothing to add until I've gone away and digested it.
 
Wow. A lot to chew through. But I think right off the bat... this is what is interesting about G+. That the platform allows for this sort of long form content that begs for discussion. That we can expect there will be interesting discussion to follow. Both because there is a community of interesting and thoughtful people but also because the platform itself can invoke it and support it.

Another immediate thought is on the topic of simplicity. Simplicity is a rather dangerous double edged sword. I understand that complexity can be daunting and that the new, simplified interface presents a much more inviting introduction to new users. But for those who have their heads wrapped around the basic concepts, some additional options to expose power even if that also invokes complexity. Right now, the left sidebar is just a hair away from being #whitespace for me.
 
+Edward Morbius I would disagree with you partly. Circles aren't a problem - they're a damned fine way to handle ACLs and compartmentalize our relationships with others. The problem is that, lacking anything else, we're also using them as subject filters. Circles are horrible at that.
 
"We want an airplane"... or maybe a general-aviation airport, with multIple FBOs, shops and hangouts. Much grist for mill here. Will probably need to print a hardcopy with wide margins to scrawl in. Thanks for the stimulus!
 
Thanks for the +Mention!
I did not know Anybody I now know on Google+ when I first arrived... to me this is truly amazing! Not one person that I interact with was 'in my world' before I joined Google+!

My wife is only starting to start here... she does stuff with Crochet and is having difficulty finding community here... but I think she will stick with it and that will grow. (She started reaching out to knitters ;-) ) OK, back to the topic at hand...

I think we could have a better experience here on G+ if we were able to categorize our activity. Using #hashtags helps but they only are helpful as 'markers' I can search for if they live inside a post, not inside comments. I think there are some very insightful comments that go on in G+... and they might even be tied to a so so post. (not this one of course!)

It would be nicer if we could add some type of label to posts we read and to comments we read. I could then focus my attention in certain areas when I care to do so and browse around outside of those areas at other times.

I have met more and more new people via their comments. I have expanded who I interact with via comments... so I love the comments (as you can tell). If we could somehow 'find those great comments we liked so much at a later time, I think that would be a great improvement.

I have another area for improvement and that is with G+ Pages. I think they need a lot of help. I think they are not given the authority they need in order for the smaller less well known businesses to get found. I am an Internet Marketing Consultant. I focus on Video and Video SEO to help people do marketing online. But how can I, as a business, communicate with others without constantly asking others to 'look at me' as a page?

I think that Google+ could improve here in one main way: Let a Page interact via (you guessed it) Comments!

If Pages could reach out to people via comments and those comments were insightful, helpful, useful, etc. (just like some people's comments are) then the person receiving the comment from the Page may decide to check out the Page and see what it is all about... the beginning of useful engagement.

Sure there will be abuse of this new found/desired function by some Pages. But if G+ lets the user receiving spammy comments 'block' the page from commenting any more (like they let us 'block' spammy people from commenting/interacting) where is the harm?

So there you have it... my 2¢ about G+, who I've met and how, and how it could be improved slightly from my perspective. Thanks for reading! ... Leave a comment. ;-)
 
+M Sinclair Stevens wahoo I'm in the bar group! Seriously flattered and the feeling is mutual :)

I agree with you about the Notifications problems. Notifications are responsible for most of my negative G+ experiences. Point #3 about writing a comment which disappears because you accidentally click outside that stupid little window - YES. Ultimate pet peeve. That one thing has literally caused me to scream with rage and abandon G+ for the rest of the day, especially if I tried to rewrite the comment and it happened again. Call me click-challenged, but on a MacBook Air G+ is complete hell. And with the importance Notifications have taken on since the re-design, the lag problems have become an urgent issue.
 
Just got back from visiting family to way-too-many notifications. Don't have anything positive to add right now about what does work, and most of my gripes have been heard, so I'll just mention again that I've started a Page +G+ Community Builders intended to promote and organize exactly these kinds of discussions about making this product work better for communities. First, I think those of us interested enough to make proposals and suggestions should become a community for that purpose, and IMO one of the best tools already available for that is +Pages. Far from great, but it can be used to foster community.
 
+Edward Morbius I absolutely agree with your point on tags. I think we really do need some way of filtering our stream with quick pre-sets and I think GMail's labels have the best example of that ability. We try to use Circles to do this because that's the best tool we're given and Circles are horrible at that. But Circles are good for grouping friends, family, business associates, etc. Circles are for trusts. I think anything else to establish trusts gets too complex without much gain.

But again - Circles make horrible content filters. And that's where G+ really needs to shine, SHOULD shine, but doesn't. Sparks and save searches would be a pretty decent way to create a "there" (or at least a more organic way than Pages). But neither Sparks nor Saved Searches ever got much attention. And now they're even more buried than they were before (oddly enough - every time this topic comes up I keep thinking "I need to use my saved searches more" and I keep forgetting them - that's telling).

+Yonatan Zunger has said he doesn't like tags and thinks there should be a more elegant way to handle the problem. But I don't know if I can trust an unseen algorithm to either take over from my direct control or understand my mood / interest at any given time.
 
Wow, this is a lot to think about, both in the OP and in the comments. :)

Some top-level thoughts:

WRT the SUL and letting anyone make it to the top: This is actually a big theme that I'm interested in. We recently did a major change to the What's Hot ranking system to make it easier for less-known people to bubble up, for example, and we have a lot more planned in that direction. I'd like to use our automatic suggestion mechanisms to help catalyze meeting people that you might like.

WRT notifications and comments: Ack. WRT the karma issue, there's a sense that something needs to happen because of trolls: but the trolls are very non-uniformly distributed. Change your avatar picture and listed gender to something decidedly female for a few weeks and watch what can happen... but NB that a karma system designed for eliminating trolls is very different, and far more gentle/transparent, than one designed to bubble up "good" content to the top à la Slashdot.

WRT linking pseudonyms: You can do exactly that with a +Page. :) That said, I'm very leery of encouraging people to use that for pseudonymity, out of the nightmares I get when I think of someone who has a real, life-or-death reason to maintain pseudonymity in some context using a system where we ultimately have the knowledge of the connection. If their threat model includes, e.g., anyone with subpoena power... well. I don't want people to misunderstand what privacy guarantees they get when they do that.

It sounds like I'm hearing a lot about the importance of making it possible to make those first meetings, to encounter interesting people that you may not have heard of. I think that part of this is UX but a big part of it is also simply scaling: in a community of XXX million people, the well-known have a built-in advantage which is much more visible than in a smaller community. We need active technical measures to counteract that natural tendency of the dynamics of large groups – which I agree with you, 100%, is something worth doing.

And taking something from +Edward Morbius' second comment, I think that a big part of this has to be around nucleating communities around shared interests: having a bigger space within the product that's driven by non-social commonalities, through which the initial relationships can be made which can develop into social ties.
ez ten
 
I think it is interesting that there are so many post telling people how and what they should do with Google+. No matter what it is still just a social network.
 
I think the biggest thing we need to foster communities is a better way than search result for finding the people who care about the same topic(s) that you do. Communities form around topics. Shared interests.
Discussions tied to search results are a step in the general direction, but I feel we need something to go a lot farther. Perhaps a new kind of page -- a topic page -- public and searchable, but at the same time, when you contribute to such a Page, that does not automatically push everything you say into the streams of people who don't follow the Page.

This would be a new kind of share distribution. One which is public, searchable, and visible to anyone who comes to the page to look. Content gets pushed to the streams of those who follow the page. But not to your circles unless you go to the trouble to add them.
ez ten
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lmao if the user got to put so much effort into making it work then maybe Google need to make it work from the start... Now G+ seems like a social mind game than a sharing network... easier to just text you the info I want to share... or email...
 
I like Google+'s higher level of interaction +M Sinclair Stevens
I categorize each person that interacts with me, and revisit those circles regularly to build my relationship with them. I've posted my method a few times to maybe help someone interact with their circles more.
What sets Google+ apart for me is that this interaction is non-discriminating.
I've been witness to +Yonatan Zunger jumping into a post where a user was leaving G+ because she unhappy with some issues, he checked out her claims and got back with her about it.
There's no comparison to this.
 
+ez ten raises an interesting point. And it reflects an attitude towards G+ that is entirely unlike mine.

I'd like to note that I rarely use G+ to interact with people I know offline. For those people, I have email.... and IM... phone numbers. So yes - if I know someone it's certainly easier to email them. But if that were the case, I wouldn't be using G+.

I'm largely using G+ to talk to strangers. I've found interesting strangers to talk to via searching and watching comments on shares from other interesting strangers. I've found more now that circle sharing is available (though this leads to overload - I'm not entirely sure of the value of a shared circle).

What interests me isn't exactly the people themselves. I suppose some day I might meet someone from G+ offline - more than a few conversations have shown people who'd I'd love to share a couple drinks / good meal with. But I don't expect to. So much of the drive of "social networks" is absolutely lost for me. What I want is interesting conversations, new perspectives, and the occasional curated cool shiny.

What holds me back from commenting is the knowledge that I am in full public, is searchable, is being indexed, and will likely live on in perpetuity (within Google or not). Not that I'm embarrassed by any particular comment (easy to say now). But rather I should sometimes maintain distance from particular discussions that may betray confidences of my employer or personal contacts.

My wife sees G+ on my screen and comments "oh - talking to your stalkers again?" There's a certain truth to the banter.
 
I don't wish to flood this comment stream with my ideas about topic pages, so please c'mon over to +G+ Community Builders and we can have a thread there. I'm working (though slowly) on a proposal sort of document, to spell out lots of the ideas I've got just in disjoint notes. Might be ready to share that in a couple more days. But an important point is that They won't have to be formed immediately on demand. I've got a mechanism planned by which a formative community can demonstrate that there's sufficient demand to create their requested topic page, in a way that can be mostly automated on Google's part. Oversimplification: start a thread about your topic proposal, discuss it in the comments. When the thread hits the 500 comment limit, then submit it for review with a proposed community charter. Of Google's role, the most human-intensive part may be just slogging through 500 comments to gauge whether most really are non-trivial.
 
Just a short interjection, I won't have much time to discuss here this week, there would be so much to say...

One thing I am immediately thinking concerning discussions, is threaded comments. I always cite reddit.com as example, I think they are doing comments 100% right! (I don't like the downvoting possibility, though).

And reliable notifications, I still have the strong impression that I miss a lot of them.
 
I discovered a number of people sharing similar interest with me by proactively searching for people who has just shared the same link/article in G+, of course I will also read what they wrote about the article. When suggesting some new people to me, instead of just a name and a profile pic, it will be good if G+ also tells me this person interest which is similar to me and had shared which same articles I shared...

Sometimes I will also try to mouseover the cursor to the +1 button in a webpage to see who also +1 the page same as me (you know, unlike Twitter, most often there are only one or two +1's in some less popular articles), only to found out that I cannot see who is that person. I know this is due to privacy but how about adding this to algorithm of suggesting people? If there is some kind of interest lists it would be more awesome.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens You hit the nail on the head with topics for me. I like the idea of circles that we create to organise how we publish information, but there needs to be another mechanism on how we subscribe to information.

I've read +Guy Kawasaki's excellent What The Plus book, where he encouraged posters to make their presence felt with relevant posts. I've tried to be a command control technology scanner, and tried to shape my posts as such. But there are times when I just want to gplus about my other interests like soccer or the arts. Over-doing that might cause the followers for my #techscan posts to be inundated by irrelevant posts.

Implement topics using #hashtags and allowing followers to subscribe to well-known #hashtags of that publisher. This means followers of my #techscan posts would not be flooded with my other posts that do not contain this tag.

Help both publisher to publish a variety of content and subscriber to read what they want.
 
Basically what +Yonatan Zunger writes adheres to my #MOAf concept, but why doesn´t google provide us with the (simple) tools to use this as a content sharing platform. That´s my question to him and +Chris Messina
There is a long list of basic improvements but most of them I wrote down last November. They reached the desk of +Louis Gray but so far nothing has been done with them.

I don´t want to turn this thread into the repeat loop of complaints, but it needs to be worth my while to really contribute to making Google see the value of what +Yonatan Zunger and so many others have discovered.

Initiatives (like a recent one to connect on a common interest like the F1 sport with a billion viewers worldwide) got a friendly nod from +Natalie Villalobos but if I look at the inviting emails I get for my unused accounts, I can see the focus of Google is on completely different things.

I have hundreds of ideas to get this #MOAF working, but as long as the overall direction by +Bradley Horowitz and +Vic Gundotra stays on the ´social´ graph with broadcasting celebs and low effort engagements it doesn´t make sense.
I did my job to please the powers that be by making a what´s hot post, just like last weekend. Just a picture of a text and voila 1500 plusses. Exactly what Google wants and what is of no interest to me other than as a way to run some experiments.
 
What +M Sinclair Stevens said (I'll meet you at the bar, gorgeous!)

Heh! otherwise, first couple of thoughts, while I mull over the rest of this good red meat, are:

· Personal What's Hot: sort of, a quick way to access what's of most interest to us at the time, which is: our notifications/current conversations, and our recent posts. This could later be pimped with a way to put people into your PWH list, so that their posts always made it in there. And fixing the notifications bar, as +Armida Evony said, I've never growled so hard over g+ as with the frickin' bar (well, copying and pasting content on mobile, but you don't want to get me going).

· VERY IMPORTANT! Keep notifying past 100!!!: this is so impressively annoying, amazingly good discussions (just go see +Peter Strempel stream, any post will do) are getting cut short at about 100-odd comments, because the system stops notifying of new comments past that limit... so the post dies. I understand this is useful for a photo post, which after 100 "wow, cool" comments you've had more than enough of, but isn't that what mute is for? Then you have the first 15 comments or so "used up" for bookmarking (Peter & M Sinclair's posts require digestion, for example)... a real pity.

· Forum navigation?: Seeing comments above, would there be some way to create interest sections, as in forums (troubleshooting, PS3 / Xbox / Wii, etc.), and under that, posts pertaining to said category? That would belong nicely in the Explore section, and might make the MOAF and interest graph part more usable, and also help you find people and interesting discussions more easily. Just an idea.

· Notifications on app: sort of a personal request, but I'm sure many others would appreciate. I live on a tablet computer (Android), and the browser versions having gone to hell with the last updates, I mostly navigate on the mobile app... I don't get timely notifications! I keep having to go back to the main page, notifications and refreshing. We need some sort of popup or something, to keep us on top of our conversations, which is another way to keep them alive.

· Volume controls: how do they work? They seem to choose people rather than posts, eg. out of 100 persons in a many circle, I seem to be seeing 75, and the other 25 are completely silenced. Not good for keeping our relationships alive.
 
Okay, I am sitting here with my printout and my early morning coffee, and here's my 2¢ about G+ and community. I've been a social networking site addict since the Friendster days of 2004 and I've kicked a lot of tires on a lot of sites since then. I entered G+ not knowing anybody, and I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in getting my Facebook network of real-life family, friends, and coworkers to join me over here. This means that, of the 5,000 people I follow, I only know about 5 in real life, and I did not have pre-existing ties with 4,995 of them ;-)

First, a request: I have noticed that there is a fair bit of jargon and acronym-ese being tossed around in this discussion (e.g. UX, S/N, SUL, etc.) and it would be more inclusive to define some of these terms for non-techie people. Thanks :-)

I'd like to add my voice to those above who've asked for comment threading. Best solution would be to offer users a choice: threaded or unthreaded comments.

I am one of a minority of G+ people who keep bumping their heads up against the 5,000-people-followed limit. Yes, I am a crowdsurfer :-) I prefer a lively stream, one that I can dip my toe in every so often just to get a feel for what is going on. I like to cast my net wide in order to find potentially interesting people to follow, but having to choose and delete old people in order to follow new people in a real pain in the ass. I also cannot add any new shared circles because of the 5,000 limit. Please, +Yonatan Zunger, consider raising the limit to 10,000 people and pages followed, for the crowdsurfers among us.

Okay, back to +M Sinclair Stevens's post.

The number one way that I have met interesting people is via Hangouts. I participate in five or six hangouts per week (Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, MovieRiffs, Virtual Photo Walks, etc.) and a core group of new friends has coalesced around them. This is a key feature of G+ that sets it apart from the competition and therefore, debugging the hangout software and adding new hangout apps should be a priority. Nothing beats the power of face-to-face communication in forging community.

What makes me engage with strangers is engaging or provocative content, something that makes me want to leave a comment. The best conversations have come from long, sometimes contentious, comment threads, and I have landed up circling people who intrigue me (then again, you might have noticed that it doesn't take much incentive for me to circle other people).

I'm going to end this comment now, and post a second one further down the thread, as I continue to read through Stevens's post.
 
Thanks, everyone who has responded so far. For those of you intimidated by the length of my answer, don't feel that you have to respond to it. Just focus on what works in your own experience. For example, how did you find the people you interact with (were they part of your existing social network) and what prompts you to leave long, thoughtful comments (especially if you're interacting with strangers)?
 
OK, here is part two of my comments.

+M Sinclair Stevens said:

Many people involved in intense and meaningful discussion leave long comments which I want to refer to. Comments need to be objects in Google+, just like posts. We can already +1 and edit or delete them, as we do posts. But we need to be able to reshare and link to them, too. This would enable us to spin conversations off, for example, from a public post to a private aside or a smaller discussion.

YES! On most discussion forums, it is possible to link directly to a particular comment in a comment thread. We need this ability desperately. Comments do need to be objects just like posts.

+M Sinclair Stevens also said:

In addition to comments, I also look at who the person I thought was interesting was following. Unfortunately, the habit of most people circling anyone who followed them and adding people they don't know via Shared Circles has pretty much ruined this strategy. It is impossible to know who are "real" connections and who are strangers under evaluation. When we had the Incoming stream, we could evaluate people without following them. But no more.

I could not agree with this more strongly. I guess you could say that my 5,000 people followed are a mix of about 150 "real" connections and 4,850 strangers under evaluation. It is because I like to have a large number of people under evaluation as potential friends that I have cast my net so wide. Please consider bringing back the Incoming stream, it was so very useful in that assessment process.

I also agree with the notion of bookmarking interesting comment threads so I can easily go back to them later. I discovered by accident that adding a dummy comment (even if I delete it later) allows me to be pinged when there's an update on a comment thread of interest. But that's not a very elegant solution.

OK, that's my 2¢'s worth. Eagerly looking forward to read what other people have to say, and more importantly, what G+ implements as a result of this discussion.
 
[i am still awol: i have decided to rebuild my mountain shack which was collapsing so i am forced to put everything else on hold. bulldozers showed up last friday. turmoil everywhere... new beginnings... and, i am still intimidated by this new UX. but i am bookmarking this post & i will start from this one, when i get back to g+. thanks for not forgetting me]
 
+M Sinclair Stevens Wanting to write a lengthy comment on a post starts by seeing that post. I don't see a post, I don't write a comment. (I discovered this post because +Yonatan Zunger reshared it and I always check my Googlers circle for interesting news in the morning.)

I've posted & suggested improvements on this at every occasion I found to get heard by Googlers...

In a nutshell: Having a realtime stream is nice, but doesn't fit all the requirements for post discovery.

The overview of what's happening in the stream could be greatly enhanced if I could:
Snapshot the last 12 hours stream from any of my circles, perform various actions: Group (group by author, group by same link shared by different people) , Sort (sort by time, ascending, descending, engagement (comments/followers) ) , Filter (by kind, video, link, photo, gif) , have a wordcloud of used #hashtags in that snapshot etc.

More posts would be seen, more comments would be made!
 
Community keeps drawing me here, as well. I may have nowhere near as many folks in my circles as I have "followers" or "fans" on other services, but I keep finding that G+ exposes me to conversations I wouldn't have otherwise discovered.
 
Okay, that's annoying. Just wrote a sizeable response only for the wifi connection here at work to crap out on me.

I'll try to remember what I wrote. 
 
+Colin Walker I always do a copy when I wrote a lengthy post before hitting the [POST] button!
 
+Claude Rieth I normally write long posts/comments offline and paste them in. The one time I didn't... ;)
 
I loved G+ from day one but little did I think that now 11 months later, it would have become such an important component of my life. I only know a handful of ‘real life’ people here on G+ and I had never known that it was possible to get to know, like and care for so many people I have never met before, nor am I likely to meet face to face.. So what has worked with G+ that hasn’t worked with other networks?
Many of the conversations on G+ are two-way, unlike Twitter/LinkedIn where the posts are predominantly ‘broadcasts’/business spam/infinite and irrelevant check-ins/links to articles with little or no comment or follow up. The ability to +1, comment briefly or at length, is an important feature of G+. I have met most of the people I follow through the comments section, rather than shared circles.
The ‘real names policy’ has helped to eliminate the anonymous, spiteful and cowardly trolls that I have seen on other networks. (Yes, I appreciate some people cannot use their real names for various reasons and that is fine.). In addition on the very odd occasion when there is abuse, the ability to delete/block/report abuse has ensured a great community experience.
I think G+ is getting better and better all the time and the occasional bug / design update isn’t going to take away from the fantastic sense of community and togetherness.
Thank you +M Sinclair Stevens for another great analysis.
 
I haven't had a better social network experience than I've had on Google Plus. There is no better place to find people with whom I can discuss common interests. I remain discouraged by the absence of my close friends and family on the network. As far as the nuts and bolts suggested improvements, I like the idea of being able to bookmark posts to read later. I would also enjoy the ability to post a photo in a reply, so long as it's hidden in a clickable link as it is in Twitter.
 
+Ryan Schultz Technically, yes, but I would like to be able to upload the photo from my computer directly to my reply and have the link automatically created and installed within G+. When someone chooses to click on the link, it should appear right under my reply as in Twitter.
 
I've only been really active on Google+ for little over a month, and I've never been particularly active on social media before.
People like +M Sinclair Stevens is the reason why I got interested in the development of this service.
I am skeptical towards the evangelism, but the overall quality of the meta-discussion and general abscence of deluded fanboism really moves the interaction beyond Google+ and touches on the many facets of social media itself.

What is?

It strikes me that many users want Google+ to be something specific, while for me it is the very lack of specialisation which makes it such a dynamic and interesting place to be.
In this regard I find myself agreeing with +Dieter Mueller . I enjoy interacting, and if I want to I will do so regardless of what the service is called.

We are not so different, you and I

The cringe-worthiness of empathy, social and interest graphs lie in the problematic use of the terms. To me it is a matter of seeing how these three factors facilitate the quality interactions which Stevens and so many others, including myself, praise.

I tread the path cringe-worthy and suggest something like this:
Social + Interest + Empathy = Interaction
Not as a measure of quality, but as a reminder that all of these actually make up the interactions that take place here and in any other social media.

I would like to see a higher degree of acceptance for the many layered nature of this community. The text crowd and the picture crowd does not have to interact much, but the fact remains that we read, write and post about things we like, and at various points we meet up in that common social, empathy, interest mix.

Finally, if you ever hear me say that I am interacting to increase my social media footprint and to provide a networking platform where I can get a real ROI, you should know that in that you have my ZMOT. A quick SEO will reveal that I am in fact poking fun.

P.S. Add an 18+ setting for posts and end the censoring. Censorship of that kind is simply childish and protects only those with overly delicate sensibilities :P
 
+M Sinclair Stevens : thanks for the mention.
Personally, in the past 2 months, I have been building my Google+ according to what I want to get out of it (and was waiting for).
To make a technophobe like me overwhelmed by his experience here (especially with the new design), says a lot.
+Bradley Horowitz was right and kept his promise: "Google+ is Google". And I am leveraging on this "bouquet" of Google products to the max... thanks to Google+.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens, you've really captured many of the subtleties about the G+ experience in your post; hard to add much!

I think about how I "fell in with" the group of people that are in my circles now, and I agree, much of it had to do with the early-adopter mentality of the beta. Since there was no one else here that I knew, I think I started by following the Google employees and community managers, and basically bumped into people from there.

I guess early on it was kind of like Brownian motion... just a random walk among names and topics to land upon the ones that seemed right. I wonder if I started fresh today, what my circles would look like?

Maybe another way to think about it is this: What if one morning I found that all my circles had been deleted, and I could not remember any of the names of the people in them. As a head start, I could, however, remember the content of comments and posts. Would the tools available in G+ today help me get back "home?" I think the answer is a big "maybe."

I actually spend a lot of time on G+ trying to figure out and/or remember who said what when. And that's when I can remember names & circles. Most of the tools here feel like they either only half-work, they don't work together, or you don't know how they work. If Google looked at every tool and asked those questions before making changes, I think we could get somewhere.

So, for some examples-- we have Search, but it only half-works, because you can't easily find comments on threads. Also, we have Notifications, which are extremely important, but you can't search them. And then we have "Relevance," which operates via a mysterious secret algorithm, which is not available to us.

These tools all function to some degree, but it also feels like we are constantly working around something. As though what we're using this platform for isn't what it wants to be used for.

But, to answer your questions... to me, the things that right now power conversations and discovery for me are:
Notifications. As much as we grouse about them, without notifications, we would not be able to follow what's happening here. How to improve: Make them searchable.

Plus-mentions. Hand in hand with notifications, the plus-mention works on multiple levels. It's a way to bring someone into a conversation AND it's a way to let others know you've connected some dots. How to improve: Not much here; there are some mechanics that could be improved; like when you copy/paste a draft, you have to go in and re-plus people. Also you have to leave space around the text to insert one in an edit.

Formatting. It's amazing how much the rudimentary bold and italic formatting tools allow us to fine-tune our comments. Love it. How to improve: Add some simple paragraph formatting - indents & bullets. A rich text editor would be awesome too. Baby steps...

Comment editing. Another key element that allows for better expression and fine-tuning. It would be easy to abuse editing, but I don't see it happening; rather I see posts that are much better written than they otherwise might be. How to improve: This actually works great; I don't find myself doing work-arounds for editing. While I'm thinking of it, spell-checking works very well for me also.

Circles. OK, I know it's a huge can of worms. I'm now using circles as a way to help me organize my browsing only. Occasionally I post something privately to one of them. I have my Circle of Quality and my People to Read circles to help me keep up with the people I want to keep up with. Everyone else is scattered across the chaos of the stream. How to improve: Start over.

You've actually hit on most everything in your original post, but I wanted to give my 2 cents. I will probably spend the rest of the day trying to catch up on all the comments!
 
There has been a lot of good comment already and the OP is extensive in itself, I first tried to read it when I got up for work at 4am - bad move ;)

I can only really add a couple of personal points and echo some of what has already been said.

Community

Personally, I was lucky to have a ready-made community on moving to Plus which was a number of contacts I had made on Buzz. Some of those had also come from FriendFeed so we had a long history together. This helped enormously as the users made Plus what is was irresepctive of any design decisions or specific functionality.

Existing users kicking the tyres and working out what "made sense" to them and then actively spreading this to new users was/is a big factor in people feeling welcome but can have it's downside.

While users are very descriptive and individual Googlers are really helpful and jump in all the time I feel there is a lack of corporate guidance. We also receive conflicting reports of exactly what Plus is. As we all use social differently and for different purposes some are less than receptive to the "do this, do that" posts from the self styled gurus but I don't think this will really be resolved until the social layer is fully integrated.

It is widely acknowledged/accepted that Plus is for meeting like-minded individuals and discussing topics of interest (interest graph) rather than a place to catch up with family and friends (social graph) because we already have Facebook for that but is this really the case or just a reality that has been "imposed"?

Circles

We all agree that circles are not an ideal way to manage our interest graph as our categorisation of others and how they post are not aligned but was that really their purpose?

If we are to use Plus primarily as an interest graph then there must be improved tools to manage this. We currently have saved searches but even these are tucked away under our circle list and need to be more functional and accessible in order for us to discover more relevant content.

Discussion

Without a doubt, one of the reasons Plus resonated at launch was because of no limits imposed on the length of posts and comments. Twitter will alwyas stay at 140 characters and Facebook was still very limited so Plus (like Buzz before it) allowed for fully fleshed out conversations to be conducted which, in turn, lets us get to know each other better and foster an even stronger sense of community.

Overall, I would say that it is the enthusiasm of both users and individual Googlers that creates the sense of community here.

(unfortunately, I had to retype this and I can't remember exactly what I wrote first time)
 
+Colin Walker said:

It is widely acknowledged/accepted that Plus is for meeting like-minded individuals and discussing topics of interest (interest graph) rather than a place to catch up with family and friends (social graph) because we already have Facebook for that but is this really the case or just a reality that has been "imposed"?

And I agree with him; how much of this "interest graph" is a construct that fits because Facebook has already gobbled up the "social graph" space? One of the biggest problems I have had is getting my Facebook contacts onto G+, because even if they come over here, I am the only social link they have and they expect it to be like Facebook. Once they see that nobody else they know is here, they leave and never come back. I don't have a solution for that, but I've seen it happen over and over again. Nothing keeps them here.

G+ needs more features (like hangouts) that distinctly set it apart from Facebook and similar competitors. It's going to be those extras that bring people over and make them stay, in my opinion.
 
I have been abusing circles to make for opt in discussion topics so people only get the stream from me they want (https://plus.google.com/u/0/100273072319786804189/posts/8NvxLFaZbXb)

I wish there was a better way to implement this!

I lose a fair number of people circling me because they never opt in, but that is ok.

This really works for me because I fear boring people I like. In general written form communication helps because it makes it easier to skip over stuff that isn't interesting. However long streams can mean that my yammering still bores.

Giving people the ability to only read what they want relives me of that risk in very obvious ways (my adult topics filter) and in less obvious ways (when I am feeling interactive and want to post 20 things a day and have a long personal discussion) and in ways I didn't even think about (someone on my stream can't have dogs, so they have opted out of puppy pictures because they are depressing)
 
I agree with just about all the ideas and suggestions here, both by +M Sinclair Stevens and particularly +Edward Morbius , +Paul Hosking and +Ryan Schultz.

I also need to agree with +Max Huijgen that the main goal seems to be people engaging on a superficial level - and that is exactly what the current functionality/user interface (UX?) supports. It seems to be a kind of mixture of fb and twitter. Also, these ideas and complaints have all been voiced many times before, among others by the effort this winter of +Miguel Rodriguez , +Brian Gundersen and a number of others which culminated collaborative efforts, two of which were then published on Mashable. Just last week, +Gideon Rosenblatt shared a wonderful post with many of the same ideas, including some great mock-ups of possible implementations.

Sounds trite but is true: by trying to be everything for everyone, G+ will wind up being not much of anything for most so: Google will need to decide a direction for this platform. Already a significant number of contacts that I have made here have moved their interactions to fb and/or LinkedIn and_I'm not sure if Google+ is meant to increase the usage of facebook or LinkedIn_

As a user from the start (July) I agree and love G+ for all of the reasons already stated and really appreciate having made contact with so many smart, funny and great people here. However, to we need some support for more serious engagement.
Threaded Comments,
Links to comments,
Better editing capabilities (prepare drafts for posts, insert links to others' posts and comments to gather information together before publicizing)
And yes, most of all the often called for possibility to deal with topics - either as tags, or categories, whatever you want to call it, as proposed here: http://mediatapper.com/improving-google-plus-more-ideas-by-actual-users/ or in Gideon's suggestions here: http://www.alchemyofchange.net/googleplus_engagement/

enough, RW is calling, just saying...
 
Very interesting post, I am still digesting this, though I'm in broad agreement with most of what has been said here. I'll probably come back here and expand on this comment but wanted to catch up and see what more comments are made.
 
I agree with +Susanne Ramharter that there should be a way to save a post as a draft while working on it. To be able to do this, I have a circle with only myself in it, called Notes to Self, where I save posts as drafts.
 
How does Google Docs/Drive work? For long posts, I draft it there, since it saves on the go, but when you share that, is it a link, or the post itself? Never tried it, always copied and pasted. Anyway, seeing as they talk about integrating Google products...
 
SUL means Suggested User List (I think that's what the person who used it above me means)
 
"Focus on what works. "
I see it in the initial post. I see it repeated in some of the comments. I have yet to notice anyone able to do just that.

Everything about G+ almost works. Circles were hoped to do a fair list of things, but they can only do one of them well, for each person. I choose to use Circles principally to remind myself how I became aware of a person, in what context and along with who else. That one thing works well for me with Circles, but since I do it that way, very little else about Circles works well for me. I wanted to have one set of circles for that information and also put everyone into multiple circles to use for sharing distributions, but because of the #dailylimit, I have been prevented, by (totally unnecessary) technical means, from accomplishing the maintenance it would take. I have complete confidence that there are many many other people who are able to do one thing well using Circles. And that most of those people choose a different one thing.

Most of G+ is like that. Powerful because we can make those choices, and weak because we are forced to choose.
 
The thing about Google+ is that the dynamic was set by the initial user group.

I feel that there was a large number of people for whom 140 characters weren't enough, and even the limits on wall posts on Facebook were restrictive.

The biggest reason for the dynamic we have here on Google+, in my view, has been in timing. I was writing on a blog site every day, but not meeting new people. Twitter seemed inane, and Facebook was not a place where I could dig deeper into the concepts I wanted to discuss.

Then here was Google+, and the landscape changed. A great many people, freed of the restrictions of character limits, found that it was more effective, and less likely to cause drama, if people wrote well thought out posts and equally well thought out responses.

And the effect of that initial community carved out a niche on Google+ for more of the same. We read more about how each other's minds work, and therefore we're gaining an understanding of how the proverbial they think.

A least, that's how I interpret my experience on Google+
 
Wow, +M Sinclair Stevens. I do not even know where to start.... I need some time to collect my thoughts, but wanted to let you know I AM thinking about this... ;-)
 
What worked for me? It definitely was work. Starting with a blank slate, knowing no friends or family from my social graph were using G+, it is hard. I think we lose people right there.

Anyway, I knew I had to network, I wanted to find other moms that I could form a new interest graph with. I searched, I circled, I sent personal 1-to-1 messages introducing myself to complete strangers that were posting about being a mom or even indicated they were a mom. I stumbled upon a couple girls that were making mommy circles, we shared our circles and put them together. I am lucky that I stumbled upon +Sivan Rehan! She welcomed me within the first week that I started.

WRT developing empathy, I want to have an impact in encouraging other moms, because I need encouragement sometimes, too. But it can be hard to keep track of even as few as 15 people on G+.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, people can quickly get lost and be forgotten if they don't post as actively or the timing allows us to miss them. I wrote up a suggestion: Group Digest.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/105362396286763527156/posts/KHMFzkPvLwj

It is essentially this: If I could see 15 posts, the latest post from each of 15 people, those individuals wouldn't sink into the abyss of my mind. I could keep better tabs on them, and I'd be able to see the date of their last post. Also, frequent posters wouldn't drown out the quieter ones. I think this would go a long way toward developing and encouraging that empathy. Without empathy, we get a few comments and +'s from a random sampling of the thousand(s) of people that have circled us, and no good continuous connection or relationship.
 
1. Bookmark the "View ALL Notification" page to your browser's toolbar.
2. Use your email notification for G+. Archive them in Gmail and use PRIORITY INBOX.
3. Yes, I hate writing a comment in the floating little sandbox notification window. Just go to the permalink of a post. ...open new tab.
4. Use Pocket (formerly Read it later) or Evernote, or Readibility to save a post. (sign up for accounts.) You can also plus one the permalink of posts. They will be saved on your +1 tab on your G+ profile page.
5. Send Feedback to Google about what you want.
6. G+ needs a subscriber service to subscribe to all or just a few of a person's interest.
7. G+ needs a PUBLIC, FOLLOWERS, and INTERESTS (drop down menu to select individual interest subjects) Streams for viewing post
8. G+ needs hovercards that show at least the first 5 posts of a person.
9. I could go on and on. I have written about tons of this stuff and no one shared my stuff. lol
10. A MUTE ICON on every post. Single step.
11. SEND FEEDBACK TO GOOGLE.
Hint: Make a great detailed post of what you really want in Google Plus that hundreds of thousands of users can agree with and then have them copy and paste that same post and send it as FEEDBACK. Simple, right?
 
Thanks for tagging me in this discussion, +M Sinclair Stevens. I'm honored to have been "at the bar" with you. That discussion significantly altered my expectations for the G+ experience, and has changed the way I post and comment ever since. :)

I'll try to make this short and easy-to-read.

My Experience
1. When I joined, I saw the need for more people who shared my interests. I went to an active homeschool forum I belong to, pleaded my case for the awesome potential of Google+, and got about 200 people to organize a flurry of invites and circle ups. Not all of them got the hang of it. Many quit after a few weeks.

2. While finding more lists of homeschoolers, I happened upon a circle of writers doing NaNoWriMo. I figured that would be a good opportunity to build a larger network, and I added the entire 300+ people. As I started sharing some of my own things, I ended up in a shared circle of Geeks. I added that circle too.

That got me involved, at least. I treated G+ like a new forum. Every time I join a new forum, I lurk for a while, see how everyone does their thing, and then jump in where I can. I did the same here. With the huge number of circles, I was able to see how most people were using it and then act accordingly. I posted comments on public posts, and saw that it was mostly Average Joes doing the same.

3. The more I commented, the more I conversed with others. I started to see the same people and recognize names. These people were moved into some of my more specific circles. People started commenting regularly on my own posts.

4. After a few months, I started weeding the circles. The process continues to be excruciating and time-consuming. I actually deleted an entire circle of about 300 people, figuring if they hadn't made it into one of my more specific circles, they weren't going to make it.

It was a process. I'm not sure how to refine this process or make it easier for others to find their way. Perhaps seeing the most popular stuff first can lead them to those more interesting nooks and crannies, where the introverts are sitting in a dark booth discussing the deepest areas of neuroscience and personality profiling. I don't know of an easier way to make this happen.

Things That Are Awesome
- Comments are easy and encouraged.
- Sharing links or photos, along with a large area of text for introduction, is simple.
- Tagging people in comments is easy, and encourages discussion.
- TL;DR posts that print out at 8 pages! Because we can!
- The huge plethora of things people post, because no one fits tidily into a box.

My concerns
- Everything is sorted by time posted. I miss too much. If I post late at night, I get little to no activity because I'm buried. But I'm not on in the mornings, when most things are hopping. And there seems to be a sense that once a post is more than a day old, it's gone stale.
- Not everyone comes from a forum background, or understands how to jump into an environment like this. I can see that it would be very daunting to newbies.

Things I'd Like to See
- Better filtering options.
- An Interests Stream of public posts, able to be filtered by number of comments, number of plusses, number of shares, etc.
- Bookmarking/Starring/Favoriting of posts or comments.
-Better Circle Management Capabilities! Sorting people is a nightmare. Part of me wants to delete everyone and start over.
 
Also, a pet peeve. Why are comments automatically shortened, even if you're viewing the whole thread? The "Expand this comment" link irritates me. I want to see everything if I click on a full Comment thread.
 
Hi +M Sinclair Stevens .
Nice to meet you.

I started here on the first day as my brother was a Google employee who worked on the project.
The secret to finding a community here is actually understanding which community you are looking for. For me it was mainly Android. I have many other interests but in the real world it was hard to find so many people who where as enthusiastic as me.
I was lucky to meet few enthusiasts in the early days. Through them I met more and more people and when shared circles where introduced I added the Android circles.
Focusing on an interest helps a lot on Gplus IMO...

As +Shannon Jennings mentioned, I also met many good friends through the common interest of parenting.

Another very important key is interaction. If you don't interact, even if thousands have you in circles ,but no one has you in the circle that they actually read, you will be in the grey zone. Invisible and ignored.

I often check who regularly +1ing my posts and comments and I add them to my priority circle. So I can see their posts as well.
 
Thanks for the mention +M Sinclair Stevens!
A well thought out post, great insights, and equally great comments.
You ask what it is about G+ that has fostered a sense of community. My answer is, hands down, the "comments".
I was drawn to G+ by the idea that I could "follow" interesting people. The fact that those interesting people actually commented back and there were these fantastic conversations happening really took me by surprise. During the process of commenting on various posts, people got to know each other. We "saw" each other on various posts, followed each other, and slowly but surely actually got to know some of the people in a more intimate way.
Comments are the heart of G+ and (as many have said) they need to be:
1) easily and properly searchable. That means that finding a comment I made last week or last month on someone's post should not be like finding a needle in a haystack. It should be as easy and plugging in my name and some key words.
2) I should be able to link to the comment. This is not only useful to provide to others but a great way to save and keep track of my own past comments. Often, we talk about similar topics on various posts. I should have my own comments at my fingertips so that when I spend 1/2 hour writing a comment, I don't have to do it all over again. In fact, many comments later turn into posts. So I should not feel like my time was wasted with the comment - I should be able to pull it up and/or save it easily.
3) drafts - having both comments and posts automatically "draft" (as is done on Gmail) is priceless. Not only does it allow for edits before posting but if I have to leave the post or comment, it does not disappear.
4) notifications need improvement! The notification system has a lot to be desired in many respects and comments is no exception. I need to a) get them in a timely manner (not hours later), b) be able to access the posts which I have commented on in a much easier manner than sifting through a long list with names.

I probably will have more thoughts to add but this is all for now.
 
+Amy Knepper if you click the timestamp and view the post at +M Sinclair Stevens profile, all comments will be expanded. I hear your peeve though, wish there was a way to expand all within the stream.
 
+Brian Titus I certainly feel like that little bitty Time Stamp trick is one of the best kept secrets of G+ (focus on one conversation, see all the comments opened up, return to the original post) All in one Click! Just Sayin'
 
+Ronnie Bincer -- "Comment Bombing"... what?! huh? Trust me they love FEEDBACK.. the more the better. That's what Feedback if for. There was/is a G+ forum, but the best way is to use the FEEDBACK link and send feedback. They do listen. And if tons of people want something, they will try their best to bring it to us.
 
Focus on what is working: this thread. Long posts, long comments. Letting people express their whole idea if they wish. That is working throughout G+, and makes nearly everything else since USENET look limited/throttled/choked ... because they are
 
This is pretty much the best forum I've seen since Usenet for interaction and expressing ideas. I'm trying not to discuss how to improve it, and that is actually considerably limiting my response. It's kind of like G+ does so many things almost completely right that you can use many of the way you'd like, even if that closes off other means.

But in the main, it's surprisingly easy to find and meet many people with similar interests, even with a complete lack of any way to aggreggate discussion along topics (oops, critiquing again).
 
Oh, I realize I didn't answer how I got started: my husband got an invite in July from an internet celebrity here in Spain whom he followed on Twitter, and the same person gave me an invite too. Obviously, I circled him on coming in... and that sort of opened me up to circling well-known people, a la Twitter (which I don't have). And it was a bit quiet and boring for a few days, until my husband said one day, "hey, there's this guy David, friend of a friend, who makes the greatest comments on his posts! You should circle him." And I went to look at his profile and posts, and he really was very entertaining, and THAT opened up my mind to circling outside my social graph. So I did a couple of searches, and circled a few from there, but most of them have been from comments seen on posts, or circling back interesting people who circled me. I've never added a shared circle, I can't decide on so many persons in one go, and I really have to know somebody half-way decently for me to trust their recommendation, 'cause what interests you might not interest me... and vice versa.
 
I'm trying to think how I got started. Mind you, I've been online a long time, so I really don't have problems just jumping in. I found a few people with similar interests, started following them. Paid attention to who they were sharing from, and paid attention to who showed up in comments. I also commented a lot. I don't have a big following or anything like that for myself -- I don't /want/ a huge thing since I don't use circles to control my input or output (I put everyone I follow into one circle, read my full stream & post 99.9% publicly). I did get involved in #nymwars pretty much right off the bat, which introduced me to a bunch of very interesting people with broadly similar interests but widely differering backgrounds. So I found it very easy to get started and to go where I wanted to.

But equally since I've been online for so long, I keep seeing ways things could be better and actually interacting with people who also see these things has been another source of people-meeting -- I've caught up with/spotted a huge number of people I haven't seen since I was last active on Usenet, which was throughout the 90's. That part has been very cool.
 
Another thing: At the beginning I used nearby a lot. It got me started.
 
+Brian Titus you hit the nail on the head with "These tools (search, notifications, relevance) all function to some degree, but it also feels like we are constantly working around something. As though what we're using this platform for isn't what it wants to be used for." I would go a little further and say it seems like Google hasn't quite decided what this platform is for, or maybe there are power struggles going on or something. I get that G+ is still very new and in beta, and I love that there are constant improvements, but sometimes it almost seems like a bunch of competing features are tossed into the mix for some type of Survivor contest.
 
The platform is GOOGLE....seriously... It's all going to be GOOGLE. It's not a typical social network. It's the Platform of Google. haha. It's true.
 
I also notice that a good number of the people commenting here are just leaving placeholders so they can reply after they've had time to think and/or get into an easier typing environment. That in itself sums up a whole category of the suggestions/complaints here.
 
Yep - contributing on mobile sucks, but that's not all the fault of the app. Most people want to use mobile access to skim and then use their full keyboard, etc., later to reply in depth.
What's missing from all the mobile clients is any kind of self-bookmarking "to do list" feature. https://plus.google.com/106587101791064367906/posts/ajjwEjhBMCi
(it needs to work on all platforms, for example one may spot something worth a followup while taking an authorized break at the office)
 
+Brian Titus: Thank you so much for the time stamp tip!!

I've spent more time reading the other comments and wanted to touch on something +Julian Chow said. He wrote, "I like the idea of circles that we create to organise how we publish information, but there needs to be another mechanism on how we subscribe to information."

I use my circles in the absolute opposite way, similar to how +Brian Titus says he uses them. I have resorted to posting almost everything publically, since I don't know who might be interested in what kinds of posts I have. (I've made the posts asking for people to sort themselves, but if there are nearly 2000 people following me and only 20 respond, then I know it's not working).

Circles for me are now a means of sorting what kinds of people I'm following. And as I continue to sort, they are becoming more of a means of leveled engagement. I don't want to miss the people who have become "friends" by engaging consistently with me. They get a top circle that I hit first. Then there are the second tier people who are interesting, who may or may not care what I'm about but always share interesting stuff. Sheesh, it really is like the seven circles of hell with me... I even have a limbo circle for people who I may or may not feel like engaging with in the future.

Perhaps that's the magic of the flexibility of Google+. How you use it may not be the same way I use it. Your needs are not exactly my needs. And we may never agree on what makes it good. Maybe we're all just guinea pigs here creating a new experience.
 
I now follow exactly the same methodology you use, +Amy Knepper - for precisely the same reason.
 
Today I am dropping a bunch of people who have not posted publicly since Feb. 29th, 2012 (using the Chrome extension Uncircle Inactives+), in order to free up some space to add new and interesting people (note that it would be great to have more tools/extensions that provided overall metrics on private as well as public usage, but I realize that's not going to happen and why).

Two groups of people added today:

1. A G+ friend posted a shared circle, and I added the people in his circle that I had not already circled (reasoning that I likely have something in common with friends-of-friends, or at least would get along with them); and

2. I'm going through this comments thread, and I'm adding people I haven't already circled (since there are a lot of thoughtful, engaged people here).

Both 1. and 2. have been my two main ways to circle new and interesting people lately. I do review each new user's profile first before I add them, just to weed out anybody who's posting nothing but cat pictures :-P
 
One more thing: Dang... people too long-winded. Do people really have to write BLOG length comments. I just scan them and I rarely read super long comments. How many TL:DR have you seen on G+?? I've seen bunches.
 
+Margie Hearron that's actually something I like about G+. There are some very thoughtful people here who have a lot to say. I sometimes skim if I'm in a hurry, but more often than not I really appreciate the comprehensive and detailed comments.
 
+Margie Hearron This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say, "How you use G+ may not be the same way I use it." If you follow +M Sinclair Stevens, you know he's into TL;DR posts -- many of us are. If you're not, that's okay, but please know not everyone agrees with you. Many of us love these huge discussions that wouldn't take place on another platform.
 
I don't follow him. I'm fine with people using Google Plus in anyway that works for them and doesn't cause others headaches. I READ the entire post, but it was too long, but I understand that the person needed to get some things off their chest. I get that. I don't care about having everyone to agree or disagree with me. I'm just giving my thoughts on the posts like everyone else. I like a discussion. I'm not trying to read a book. I can't get my friends (very diverse group of people from various backgrounds and mostly all college educated) to use Google Plus because they HATE the long forum type posts that they run into on here.

Some people love those long .....tooo lonnnnnng... posts on here, but a lot of us wonder if it is necessary. I just feel if you know how to get your point across you can get it across in fewer words if you really know what you are doing.

The density problem is also an issue on G+. If all the post were a similar size, we could all scroll faster through our streams and take in more posts than just a few at a time.
I would love for G+ to figure out a way to make posts more uniform in size.

I'm not stepping on anyone toes. I'm not attacking or commenting on your opinions.

This is my opinion about the TL....I did Read post above.

:-)
 
Sure, I get that, Margie -- but then there's plenty of forums that limit your posting length so that things don't get TL;DR ish. If I'm not feeling the love here, I can drop in on twitter and scan thru that to my hearts content. So there's not actually any real reason to begrudge G+ the longer lengths.

I do wish that comments could be treated more individually though. There's been knockout comments on various different threads that I would have loved to be able to reshare, for example. I think that's one thing I like particularly about G+ -- the ability to get really good stuff in comments, not just posts and it'd be great to have ways of highlighting and reinforcing those.

Hm, I think I kinda skirted the line on OP's request there, again... it's hard tho: like someone said earlier, there's all these marvelous features, but once you use them in certain ways you're stuck in how you're using them. Or there are these marvelous things that only go so far...

TL;DR: I like long posts.
 
+Yonatan Zunger said, "WRT the karma issue, there's a sense that something needs to happen because of trolls: but the trolls are very non-uniformly distributed. Change your avatar picture and listed gender to something decidedly female for a few weeks and watch what can happen... but NB that a karma system designed for eliminating trolls is very different, and far more gentle/transparent, than one designed to bubble up "good" content to the top à la Slashdot."

One of the things I've always said about Google+ is that we need to implement both tool solutions and social solutions. We've already seen how the Google+ community responds to new users by putting out a helping hand and trying to make everyone welcome. What can we users do as a community to moderate the trolls?

I'm not saying that we should have a single bland community standard or etiquette or some slavish devotion to political correctness. I support a wide range of standards of behavior when people are on their own (or friends') threads. However, when people are discouraged from writing public posts because of the high overhead in deleting comments and blocking people, then there's a problem. (Similarly, I finally turned off comments on my blogs just because dealing with the ad spam just sapped too much time. No longer having to deal with that -- just being able to have conversations again -- was one of the appeals of Google+.)

We may be tempted to say "That doesn't happen to me, so it's not my problem." But if the Google+ team feels that they have to respond with a tool solution, and if that solution changes the commenting dynamic for the worse, then we will all suffer the effects.
 
you mean like gray-on-gray text?

(I use an extension to force it to black)
 
+Margie Hearron The problem with posts of a uniform size is that everything starts to blur together and you end up with the "least possible engagement" (minimum effort applied to a response) which is not a good thing.

I fear, however, that this may be where things could be heading if the new iOS app is anything to go by.

With uniform posts G+ would become another Twitter full of banality. There are already some changing how they post purely to gain a greater response as we all know that visual posts will garner more response (even if it is just a bunch of +1s).

That's not engagement and we can get that on Twitter with favouriting and retweets or Facebook with Likes. We do not need Plus to become a Facebook clone even if the two are growing ever closer by the day.

Unlimited post lengths are a major selling point of Plus (why do you think Facebook increased its own character limit) and long posts should be encouraged by those who want to dig in to the meat of a matter rather than superficially gloss over the top. 
 
Some are also commenting as a way of subscribing to a thread. Should be a way to do that without ticking down the 500 count limit on responses to a thread.
 
I really want to be able to share block lists, that would be so much better than Karma for me.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens Sometimes you will see people posting warnings about a particular troll and if there are repeat offences a move to block and report. If there are enough reports Google will take action so we can be self policing to a degree. 
 
+Cindy Brown Completely agree. There should be a "notify me of responses to this post" option like we get on forums or blog commenting systems.

It would also give social mavens and marketers another metric to obsess over ;) lol
 
Only if they get to see the sum total of that kind of /subbing :-) But honestly. We should be able to sub OR mute comment lists without affecting our access/searching of the post itself (or for that matter, the comment thread). Sometimes threads are just noisy, but right now muting them takes them out of your search radius (say what?). Some of the tools we have seem to be just sledgehammers.

OK, for the other side of the coin, I do find that I can pretty well control my own level of desired participation through the number of people I do (or don't) follow. I actually only follow fewer than 200 people. I don't know or care how many follow me. That's kept my participation at a level I like; I add new people as I find I interact with them. It's worked out very well for me to have a small group of diverse people I'm reasonable engaged with. (That said, I tend to reshare posts along various specific interests, I don't tend to write independent posts. In contrast, I will write extensive comments.) So for the most part, my own comment threads don't get out of hand. But I'm not always involved only in my own comment threads, which is where more delicate management tools would be very helpful.
 
To help the TL;DR crowd, I wish G+ had a way where we could choose the excerpt to be shown when the <expand this comment> link is there. Personally, I think the collapse feature overcomes ALL of the too long problems. I guess we could adopt a style where we add a four-line capsule summary to the top of any that grow long.
 
+Colin Walker Twitter posts, Facebook posts (the majority of them), and Chime.in posts are very uniform and you can expand the posts and there is plenty of engagement. If people would create a good, short dynamic title and use a good lead in sentence or paragraph , they would more than likely get tons of more interaction on their posts. A nice uniformed sized post that has the functionality to expand and collapse will make reading through the stream a snap.
 
+Melissa Hall +Edward Morbius +Yonatan Zunger We have to keep in mind, too, that just because I've blocked someone doesn't mean that they are malicious. Sometimes they are just too noisy, not to my taste, or whatever. It's a personal choice.

There is the opposite (and very real) danger of people being unfairly blacklisted because they disagree with a political or social sensibility, a danger of censorship.

For myself, I would rather err on letting 99 trolls go free than block one innocent person just because they weren't someone else's cup of tea.
 
+Yonatan Zunger the moment this part of your statement I think that a big part of this has to be around nucleating communities around shared interests: having a bigger space within the product that's driven by non-social commonalities, through which the initial relationships can be made which can develop into social ties.
is a serious one, I´m your man to advocate my #MOAF (Mother Of All Forums) concept.
Happy to write a new summary what´s needed and how it could work, but like I said before so far we have only seen in a direction towards the social graph. Social as in broadcasters with minimum engagement by plussing.
If there is any change to promote the interest graph and build or enhance the tools I will gladly summarize my #MOAF vision again and in more detail.
 
+Edward Morbius I typically avoid following "big names" and just go read their posts from their profile pages. I really do wish there was a Google+ RSS -- because I like to read several posts by one person as a way of catching up with them.

BTW, you've said a lot of things earlier in the thread that made me think you were reading my mind about future posts I'm working on -- especially in regards to "topically structured discussion" and usenet and organizing information by other means than the timeline.
-----------------
Although we do spend a lot of time discussing Google+ on Google+, it has not been the only thing I talk about for a long time. In addition to having many limited view discussions on more personal topics, I've discovered some great people who write fantastic public posts on a variety of non-tech topics. Check out this circle: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110168665701189567035/posts/YBFJinfnREb
 
+M Sinclair Stevens - another small "what does work" ... if we use it intelligently ... is that when we block someone we can choose not to also report them. If ten thousand people block me, that's just a statistic, but if thirty of them reported me, that probably should be investigated.
 
Hmmm... I find that I am now wishing I'd taken a few minutes to respond earlier because I have since lost my train of thought, and am now rather too tired to try to see if I can track it down again.. ;-)
 
+M Sinclair Stevens Here's an RSS feed of your public posts - http://rss2lj.net/g+/118011560178264222649. Simply plug in the G+ ID's of others you wish to follow. I've been using this service for several months without complaint.

BTW, I'm really enjoying all the solid feedback on this post & must admit to agreeing with much of +Edward Morbius's criticisms thus far. It'll be tremendously disappointing if the ideas discussed never get implemented at some point in the future.
 
+Bruce Bane Nice. Thanks. That's what I'm talking about. What it is about this place that fosters such a friendly, helpful community?
 
+M Sinclair Stevens one thing to ponder is that G+ actually houses multiple communities and subcultures. And while I wouldn't say that any given community has cornered the market on being friendly and helpful, I would note that not all communities are.

I do tend to see different tones in reply conversations with more niche individuals than what one sees in what I term to be those who act as a sort of community nexus; people who are highly visible - high-visibility Googlers, industry figures, minor celebrities, and more to the point major celebrities. It's easy to avoid this if one doesn't spend much time interacting on posts where cultures collide.

Which has me wondering... are we simply the polite cocktail party that's managed to ignore and be largely ignored by mob of rowdy neighbors that moved in next door?
 
+Paul Hosking said, "one thing to ponder is that G+ actually houses multiple communities and subcultures."

Absolutely! I've been pondering that ever since week one when someone wrote the first post on Google+ etiquette. I balked at the "one size fits all" approach. My standard for what is acceptable at "my house" (on my threads) should be different than your standard for what is acceptable. How boring it would be if we were all alike.

I'm aware that there is a "mob of rowdy neighbors" next door. And I celebrate their right to be rowdy on their turf (as long as none of them stumbles drunkenly into my house and assaults one of my guests).

Going back to the main point, I think one of the things that fosters a sense of community is that so many different types of communities can exist. It goes back to a post can be anything. There are people who love long thought-provoking discussions and people who refuse to read anything where they have to push "Expand comment". There are people who post only publicly, those who post only privately, and those who mix it up. There are people who write original content and people who curate other people's content. There are people who share cat gifs (just not in my circles). There are people who post mostly photos. Or who only come for the Hangouts. There are introverts and extroverts. It's not an either/or situation -- it's all of the above.

It's a big, messy, complicated world and there is no one right way to interact. I love it.
 
You make good points on the inequality of comments being grey, the lack of j/k scrolling in the Notifications window, etc. BTW, each comment does have a unique #anchor if you look at the source but attempting to use it fails because G+ attempts to handle browsers that can't set the page location by overloading # and grabs the anchor before the browser gets a look in; something G+ could fix.
 
Ah, +M Sinclair Stevens I'm late to this wonderful post but in this case later is better. Thank you for taking the time to do this so very well. I personally couldn't have done it nearly a hair as well. I don't have anything to add...I only wanted to underscore that a bit of attention needs to be paid to Notifications. Eons ago I'd suggested that perhaps there could be a Read/Unread system, like in Email programs so that we could keep track of those Notifications we haven't gotten to. I know I miss a lot of wonderful posts and at the moment my job is limiting my time on G+ so I rely heavily on Notifications.

Thank you for this summary review and pointing out what can be improved without bashing G+...and thank you +Yonatan Zunger for being interested and caring!
 
+Bob O`Bob Thanks for sticking with the "what works" theme (even as the rest of us drift). I did not mean to restrain the conversation to just facile rah-rahing. It was more along the lines of, "Hey, let's hear some stories from the people who are still here using Google+, why are they still here, and how can we build on their positive experiences."

We have to provide +Yonatan Zunger with concrete use cases or he won't be able to advocate for us, the users (specifically us users who love to read and write long discussions) when design decisions are being argued. (Thanks for providing the forum, Yonatan.)

Like you, Bob, I have written many posts critical of the Google+ UX and will continue to write them. But that's because I enjoy my experience here, I get frustrated when something thwarts it, and I want Google+ to succeed so that I can continue enjoying myself. The original design was so full of potential; the "simpler" redesign comparatively clumsy and restricting.
 
It has been in a way refreshing to me, to put a different filter on it for this thread.
I spend a lot of time criticizing G+ and pointing out what I think is wrong and what changes I think would help. In fact by most measures I spend far too much of my time thinking up those things for G+. But only because I care enough, and am enthusiastic, even passionate enough, about what I think G+ could be and could do. That's because it got a few things really right in ways which foster the kinds of topical conversation I have deeply missed since USENET faded out of my life. Even though it's completely lacking the organization that USENET had, so it's behaving as if there was just one huge "gplus.general" group.
I don't spend a lot of my time or my words on praise for G+ because the fact that I care enough to criticize is how my appreciation generally manifests, for most things. Otherwise I would Just Walk Away. It's been said that the true opposite of love is not hate at all, but indifference.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens looks like this thread has covered and revisited just about all of the pertinent points, I'll have to rib you just ever so slightly for breaking your own "rule" of staying away from the gripes... ;)

In my mind, the absolute number one reason for being here or Facebook, despite the numerous issues with, and gripes about BOTH services are 1) the people and 2) the conversations. The only difference being the kind of people one connects with here vs. FB, and the different conversations that thus result.

But make no mistake: If I could import you and about 200 other of my favorite users into a different (hopefully easier/faster for text-heavy conversations) system to have our discussions there, I would not hesitate for one second. Speaking with +Alexander Becker IRL yesterday, we mused that in the last 10.5 months, 1-2 months have been used up in managing, discussing, and working around conceptual issues, bugs, and outright roadblocks that Google put in our way here...
 
+Bob O`Bob said, "I don't spend a lot of my time or my words on praise for G+ because the fact that I care enough to criticize is how my appreciation generally manifests, for most things. Otherwise I would Just Walk Away. It's been said that the true opposite of love is not hate at all, but indifference."

That's exactly how I feel. If I'm still arguing, I still care. When I stop arguing, it's not because I agree. It's because I don't care.

+Alex Schleber I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it. :-) Actually, I think the reason the redesign floored me was that I had finally stopped thinking about how to use Google+ and was just using it.
 
Just marking for notifications. Too much to read on mobile.
 
+Marianne Tamminen As we are now at 125 comments, I'll be curious to know if you receive any notifications of new comments (not including this one where I addressed you by name). The evidence we have is that once the comment count hits 100, no more notifications go out, thus effectively killing the conversation unless people are mentioning each other by name.
 
I do still see the trending list (sadly).... ;-)
 
+M Sinclair Stevens Came back here to confirm that I do not receive notifcations from this discussion thread anymore . That is really a STUPID limit, I'm getting pretty enraged over that, this deliberately kills discussions! Grrrr... +Yonatan Zunger Can you please set the limit for sending out notifications to at least 500 (same as comment limit) , people still have the mute option if that much notifications annoys them!

Edit: I'll check back later if somebody answered...
 
I can´t judge if I got a notification as I got plusses on comments as well which certainly trigger notifications.
I know from the posts I make to play with the system which end up in what´s hot that you keep receiving notifications for plusses and shares even when both categories go well above the 500. However you get them in aggregated packages which is good as 1600 plusses in six hours would otherwise just flood you.

I do know that some discussions apparently went on without me noticing so it could well be that there is a notification limit on posts.
 
+M Sinclair Stevens I only need one notification. Will be offline few weeks and it will be easier to find this post via notifications than otherwise.
 
I have found it necessary to bookmark threads like this one. I don't believe G+ should keep it this way. I'd really like to know, whether from +Yonatan Zunger or another team member, whether this limit is really intentional, or another low priority bug like the #dailylimit .

Earlier today I tried to move to an additional circle just 240 people who have all been in my circles for weeks or even months. I hadn't done more than 3 or 4 circlings of anybody for a couple of days. Yet the attempt to drag 240 already circled people from one circle to another was met with the #dailylimit error message. Very very frustrating, but at least that one has been acknowledged as not being according to plan.
 
There is at least one tiny advantage to using +Pages for a community. One must choose to follow the Page, before content is pushed into their streams. Many of the people following my own profile are interested only in other topics. I don't like the option of posting just to specific circles because I want certain content to be public and searchable.

Over on +G+ Community Builders I've started a policy of having a free-form comments thread. If someone would like to initiate a thread there, I'll make it happen. The small advantage is that such a Public thread won't have to get pushed to everyone in all your circles. As owner/manager, I can add new managers, or I can build a new thread out of your comment.
 
Fostering in a weird way maybe, but here goes nonetheless:

Social graph: I did not come to G+ with making friends in mind. Being the INTP that I am, my real-life social graph was actually something I was running away from online. Which is why I used pseudonimity prior to G+ and was a lurker on social media. I even marked my ‘friends’ as people I used to know.

Interest graph: I did come to G+ with finding my interests in mind. I have been active in other communities before based on some interest of mine. But that was limited to just one main interest with some related interests in inferior roles. It was never about the whole of me, the complexity that is me. Those communities were walled gardens, making cross-pollination a lost cause.

Empathy graph: I did not come to G+ with empathy in mind. I experienced a sense of community before, but because it was centered around but parts of my personality, it remained always limited. I did connect privately with some people, but never enough with the ‘community’ as such to reach ‘real’ empathy. I only started feeling comfortable enough for the first time here on G+, using my real identity, being who I am without compartmentalizing my interests in separate walled gardens anymore. Being myself is now met with intelligent, rich, valuable comments. Useful feedback that not only rewards my efforts, but even challenges me to reach new heights.

I very much like +Tormod Renberg Lerøy's take, combining Social + Interest + Empathy to get Interaction. It seems Google threw Knowledge as a graph in the mix too. But it still doesn’t cover the entire experience for me. Sometimes I just post things without the need for any interaction. Sometimes Knowledge gets in the way of the experience I’m looking for (I won’t go into the reasons of those cases now here).

I do not want to coin a term, you can forget it the moment you’ve read it for all I care. I just want to express that I still haven’t found the ‘thing’ that defines what G+ (potentially) is to me.
So here’s my attempt: it offers me the Complexity graph.
I can put in G+ more of the complexity of who I am than anywhere else online. I have finally some hope of acting like the complex human I am, interacting with the complexity that is human life. Though if I had to guesstimate it, I’d have to say it covers about 1 or maybe 2% of who I am. See my problem? Do I really want to scatter 99% of who I am over the rest of the Internet? That’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years now. I’d like to find the one place where I can increase that %. G+ is looking better than anything else. Google as a whole looks even better. It’s still far from enough.

”Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Well, again as the INTP that I am, I read this as simply making everything I want to know available to me. That includes social. That includes all of my interests. Making it really useful would result in empathy, interaction, complexity. Like I said over and over and will keep saying as long as I can be bothered: creating a global network of communities. With room for any community you can think of (that is not proprietary).

Just when +M Sinclair Stevens was thinking of a proper answer to give to +Yonatan Zunger, resulting in this post, I was commenting in +Gideon Rosenblatt‘s post on the Engagement problem this with regards to Community:

”It has been said before that Google didn't get Social. So I'll do you one better Meg Tufano & Clare Cosgrove: Google doesn't get Community. At all.”

”Asking for ambassadors or more community managers, paid ones even (Google has the means), is useless as long as they don't understand community. They couldn't manage it properly to make it work. Don't forget that there are still those that claim Google doesn't even know what G+ is. So from defining over building to managing this social product, connecting communities on a global scale? Not gonna happen any time soon. They should have community managers by country just for starters, leading armies of ambassadors & volunteers. But they can't even get a unified approach to discuss features and collect feedback efficiently (let alone provide feedback), just on G+ alone, just in English alone.”

”Now Facebook doesn't get community either. Google even does a better job than them. But Facebook has a gazillion brands. Brands that created their pages to cater to their fans and community members, even replacing pages on their own sites in many cases. Those brands employ social media teams and CM's.”

”G+ to me should be a global network of communities, armed with all the Google tools to build just about anything any group could wish for.”

”But if Google itself can't pull it off, can't show us the way? Can't lead by example? Possibly not even care... are we going to do it for free? Some are trying, putting in enormous efforts, just to be met with silence on Google's part. To be met with sudden changes, putting dents into anyone's work.”

”I've been patiently waiting for sign of solutions. I've stopped repeating the same issues. I don't give any good solutions until I see the will from Google to tackle the problems. Yes, I keep what I really think to myself for now. Yes, I know this product is still young, but if someone else comes closer in the meantime or if the people I'm interested in move, I'll move too and discuss the ideas there.”

”Now you could ask: "Who are you to think you know better?". That's the whole tragedy of it. For a world leader with so many resources aiming for a global product, putting everything it has into it, going up against Facebook, I expect nothing short of the best. The absolute best should know 10x better than I do. Yet I can't shake the feeling that even on a bad day I could give them a run for their money. And that is just depressing.”

”This was not a rant by the way. This is just me saying that I'm adjusting my expectations of this place. Looking for the best use I can think of. Maybe I should give up on my dream illusion of a global network of connected communities where I could do almost all of my online living.”

(linking to a specific comment? yeah, could be useful)

Let me do a small rant in contrast, I’ll come back on the topic of Community just after that:

I would really appreciate Google to stop treating me like a child. I’ve worked on products with tweens, teens and young adults as target audiences. This platform is a joke for them, there is so much missing of what would appeal to them. Real massive activity from them would pretty much bankrupt Google if the current moderation were to be attempted. Yet, at the same time, us adults (anyone -18 commented here?) are dragged down to a level that is catering for an audience that cannot be seduced into using this space (unless it’s aimed at seducing some puritan audience, my bad then). I want win-win in everything, I’m forced into lose-lose. I cannot be myself here. The complexity of me means that I’m not going to stick around in a place that forces me to withhold from sharing things publicly that I can see on TV, in magazines and in the streets here any time of day. Got that? 18+ option by the time I’m 1 year on this platform or I’m out.

So back on topic, fostering a Sense of Community...

+M Sinclair Stevens summarized it like this: Simpler is not always better.

Like I said, I’m not going to give real solutions and will not say all that I think. I have yet to publish it for the first time in my life and such an investment is to be earned.

I’ll give a metaphor of sorts instead. I’m a gamer. You’ve probably heard of Gamification (puke, sorry, couldn’t help it). You probably also know that in games, you are often guided at the start (tutorial). Things start out easy and increase in difficulty (complexity) as you progress. You are constantly rewarded for your progress. If lack in progress results in frustration that exceeds pleasure, you stop playing.

Now there are vast games, called Role Playing Games, where players easily spend hundreds of hours. Those are complex games. Yes, you take up just one role in most. But your role will grow and evolve, often in ways you could not foresee. You even have replay value in games that offer alternative replays, with different end results.

The more complex and rich RPG’s offer you a choice of roles (types of characters) you can start with. Not everybody wants to start as a Mage. Some prefer to be the Thief or the Warrior. Some are interested in slaying waves of dragons, others just want to craft weapons. People can be different like that.

No one-size-fits all. You can’t approach a veteran hardcore player the same way as a novice player. The 13 y/o as the 30 y/o. Yet the best games succeed in being great for a wide audience. Parents can define acceptable content. Settings allow you to finetune tons of aspects of your experience. There’s single-player, co-op, multiplayer, private, public... And you have to have fun within the first 5 minutes of your experience.

So am I going somewhere with this?

In my not so overly twisted view of Life, I can see social media as playing an RPG. I decide on my role/character and how I want to present it in the world I’ll enter. I’ll go on a journey, start out noob. I’ll grow, interact, win & lose. I’ll learn new things, hone my skills, feel different emotions. I’ll get to know other players and will share my passion with them or play with friends.

Back to G+: give people the best possible tutorial to guide them through their first steps here. Give them basic choices at first to define their style (experience). Give them the feeling of success/fun (rewards) within 5 minutes. Rewards throughout their entire experience. Allow them to do some ‘Training’ activity that doesn’t ‘count’ for real. The more they grow, the more complex they can finetune their experience. Already a veteran? Skip right to the ‘hardest’ settings. Never limit a veteran to simplified basic settings and experience or lose him forever.

I am actually seriously saying that Google should take notes from the AAA game design studios. Those also know community, they know how to moderate inappropriate content, fight ‘gaming’ the system and starve the trolls.

Maybe you need to be a veteran gamer or gaming professional to get what I’m trying to say, but my comment is already way long, so I’m leaving it at this.

ps: are you really not receiving a notification of my comment because we’re >100 comments here??? This thread is dormant (dead?) for a few days now. Who would come revisit it every x time just to see if it’s still alive? There might be very good reasons that justify why there might be this notifications limitation, but as long as this remains so, I know I’ll never come close to some of the discussions I had in other communities. You know, discussions that last weeks and cover hundreds of comments. Or even get bumped up again every couple of months.
Is this Google forcing me to share this post? Yes, I sense some trust issues creeping up slowly, replacing the excitement of the initial months.
 
+Tormod Renberg Lerøy You got a notification because +Youssef Hachhouch mentioned you by name. No one else that was following this thread did. For them the thread is dead.

Youssef. Thanks for your long and thoughtful response. I hope that you turn it into a post of your own. It might be one way to keep the discussion going. (And just as a way of keeping a record of your thoughts...when you put that much work into a comment, you should have your own copy somewhere.)

I need to think about some of the things you said before commenting further.
 
Fffffuuuuu!! My tablet just updated to the new g+ app... I have things to say about it...
 
I've read your post more carefully now, +Youssef Hachhouch .

There is a lot of great stuff there.

Two things leaped out at me.
The idea of a tutorial/trial to give people a basic feel for how the system works and how they want to use it. While making a good tutorial is always hard, any new users needs to be introduced to his new tools in a way which does not alienate him/her.

The subject of complexity. I think it is important to consider how much we are responsible for adding to this ourselves. We could mail post-it notes to each other and still have a supremely complex interaction. I agree with a lot of your criticism of Google+ and social media, but actually using a platform long enough for it to mature as a community (which in my book means that the individuals using it are comfortable interacting with each other) is vital to us getting value from the system. Google will add market value, any other value is for them to facilitate and us to create, imho.

Lastly the censorship issue is important, but I believe fully that given enough serious adult attention, that Google would be willing to add this feature. It needs to be presented to Google in a sensible fashion as a feature request, rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to paternalistic tendencies to cater to those who are afraid of boobies.
This is a job for a group of people who care deeply about it and want to make it work.

The users number in the millions and Google's desire to make this work is very great. Any kind of interactivity, and any kind of group dynamic, can be created within this framework, provided the user base is aware and willing to work with and confront +Google .

Alerts for those who may be interested:
+M Sinclair Stevens +Alexander Becker +Bob O`Bob +Daniela Huguet Taylor +Rafa Él +Edward Morbius
 
I'll follow it up in one or more posts of my own +M Sinclair Stevens as soon as I'm satisfied by efforts from Google to deal with some of the issues we've discussed over and again, here and in so many other threads. Until then, I think it works better here, to avoid people having to start commenting yet again (I bet I'm not the only one starting to feel worn out by repeating myself so often in so many different threads). But the notifications issue might really be killing this thread.

Maybe you could write some summary/intermediate conclusion from your point of view as the owner here and tag everyone you feel has contributed to the discussion once in the comment? I know that it's yet another hack to work around an issue. But we're still far from the 500 comments cap, so I think it might be worth it. There were some people that left a placeholder comment that I'm still curious to hear from too.

I agree with you +Tormod Renberg Lerøy, Google should facilitate and we should add value. Community managers should be enablers for members, should provide feedback to the development and should evangelize everywhere else. But we can't build THE one G+ community. And that's my 'complaint': some efforts seem to go against enabling the creation and co-existence of as many communities as possible. If this platform by management aims at certain types of communities, it would still not block us from creating our own ones right here. But the way things are going now, it comes at too great effort. I feel people will create their niche community in better suited places. Existing communities elsewhere will stay put instead of making the move here.

Community is people and not the platform. Those that have some community feeling here already can just pick up and leave collectively for another platform and still be that same community there.
I fear that I'll have to follow the people I came to appreciate here to wherever they'll migrate to if these issues are not dealt with. Because no set of features can provide me an experience I would value as much as our interactions.

I realize that I seem to be doing just some complaining, not providing actual solutions. This time anyway. I've invested already a lot of my time in this place and I'll make another big effort before the 1st anniversary of my membership here. I'll try to put in place (my) solutions with people that are of value to me. Because of the complexity of it all, it will be a lot of work. And physical life has this habit of breathing down my neck when it least suits me. I'm still hoping Google will move faster so that I can invest my time in other things.
 
I appreciate the notification trigger, there was quite a bit here for me to catch up on. I agree that such a site can not serve adults and permit young people with a single rule set. Also a "hot button" issue for me already is the functionality of the Incoming Stream, which I still have on my tablet simply by refusing app updates. Clearly there is no function or capacity issue preventing its return. Multiple Android releases have shipped since the team said "we clearly hear you" while the place where it would trivially go remains empty. It's a valuable feature, the loss was lamented by many, yet the clear fact is they could have brought it back easily by now. I can only conclude there is a reason which they wish to keep secret. Without trust, there is no network. ...I'll have more to say when I'm not on mobile...
 
So late for the party, I hope you don't mind +M Sinclair Stevens. I try to be personal and focus on positive experience.

I have a history lurking in usenet newsgroups, forums and blogs.

When I signed in here, I didn't have any expectations. Just wanted to see what is G+ and how does it work. At first I circled few of my friends, only to notice they are inactive. So I started circling strangers. I've been wondering why it has been so much easier to circle complete strangers in here than sending a friend request to a person I know in FB. My theory is that "circle" as a word is somewhat neutral but "friend" has emotional charge.

At first I just read posts but pretty soon I found myself writing a comment to a public post. And finally making my own public post.

What makes me engage with strangers? It depends. In conversation you used as an example it was the challenge +Youssef Hachhouch threw. Sometimes it's because I find topic interesting. Sometimes just to encourage to post more similar stuff. Sometimes just urge to say something stupid. 

What has worked for me?
Comments are easy to write, edit and delete (and cancel). I'm pretty sure I've cancelled more comments than I've posted. After all, I'm reader, not writer.
Sometimes I've wished I could quote a comment to pick a point I want to emphasize.
It would also be nice if there was some easy way to access conversations I've taken part. (Notifications seem to work quite randomly and if they are limited to 100 comments they are pretty much useless in comment threads like this.) Maybe there could be a tab for posts I've commented?

Shared circles, I don't mean those random collections of "engagers" but well-curated circles on certain topics. I wish there was some way to preview a shared circle before adding it. 

Community. Well, I just cannot see myself as part of community (except hermit community). I feel more like tourist, just visiting. So, I'm not sure if I should be commenting this post at all. 
 
+Marianne Tamminen I'm glad you did comment, though. You echo many of my own impressions. I think what you say about "circle" being neutral and "friend" have an emotional charge is very true. I often think it's easier here to share things with people in passing...precisely because they are not part of real life. We are able to focus more on the content of our thoughts rather than how they impact a "friend".
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