Pie in the Sky G+ Feature Request: "Dynamic Circles"

I know a lot of people have already brought up the idea of "public" circles, in two different ways -- either (a) the ability for me to make some of my circles visible to the outside world, and let people "subscribe" to them, or (b) circles that exist and persist outside of any single person, like a more traditional "workspace".

Those are both cool ideas, and I want them, too. There's another dimension too, though, that's maybe a little more complex, but that I think is very powerful in the long run: "Dynamic" (...or "Filtered"...or "Conditional"...or "Parameterized") circles.

Here's how I think they could work...

What They Are
These would be Circles whose membership isn't manually "built" by dragging and dropping people into them. Someone's membership in a Circle would be defined by whether or not they fit certain criteria.

What That Would Mean
For example, I might want to address a post a Circle that includes all of my Google+ friends who live in NYC. Or -- to use an example that's very relevant to me this weekend -- friends who have "plussed" Deathly Hallows - Part 2, or Dances With Dragons.

...Or whose profile indicates that they have kids.

...Or whatever.

The basic point is that I wouldn't be dragging-and-dropping people in and out of circles, based on what I could remember about who would or wouldn't be the right audience. My friends could define themselves, and I could just talk to different groups of them appropriately.

Why It's Important For Users
Honestly, I think that since managing "Circles" is fundamental to the Google+ experience (and all for the better), then "ease of circle management" is going to become a critical factor in its success.
The current drag-and-drop model is definitely slick, and I'm sure that that UI will continue to get better. OTOH, if the central essence of my Google+ experience is supposed to be fluidly switching back and forth what I'm saying between contexts, then being responsible for manually defining and re-defining those contexts, by dragging and dropping people between circles, starts to feel like a real liability.
I totally understand that I'm always responsible what I say / do online, but if you make it very easy for me to post a message to "All my G+ connections I went to high school with" or "All my G+ connections who plussed 'Sloan'", then I'm just going to be able to embrace the whole approach much more enthusiastically.

Why It's Important For Businesses
Finally, I've got to look at this as a digital marketer, and just say that making "dynamic targeting" an essential part of the Google+ experience would benefit everyone, across the board.

On the broadest level, Google+ and consumers both win if the idea of dynamic targeting is acknowledged as "the new normal". (Which, really, it already is.) As I mentioned above, better "ease of targeting" definitely improves the Google+ experience. But consumers -- if this were offered correctly, and transparently -- would also be in a position to understand and appreciate how targeting works. The more we all understand how dynamic targeting can benefit our personal interactions, the more we can appreciate the opportunity -- when it's well-applied -- in the marketing that's addressed to us.

More concretely, this approach would give businesses an almost tangible, concrete way to target messaging and offers. Imagine being able to post a message to "All my customers who have purchased in the past 6 months". Huge.

Why It's Important for Google+
Since I started drafting this post, I've seen a number of different articles pop up around "Circle fatigue". For example:


I think that this is a real, real challenge for the product -- there's an enormous tension between the invitation to "Connect to all the people you can", and "OK...now, organize those hundreds of contacts by manually dragging and dropping them between circles".

Why It's Risky
OK...one last point: This does open up the real issue that you don't necessarily know who you're posting stuff to. I understand that there's a concrete level of reassurance in explicitly adding people to a list of recipients. On the one hand, that doesn't have to go away. There's no reason people couldn't continue to build manual lists to manage sensitive communications.
The bigger issue, though, is that while that's a legitimate risk, it's one that users already court every day in "replying to all" without realizing it, or tweeting their thoughts on politics without thinking about the consequences. I don't mean to belittle the issue, especially since you could say that an idea like Dynamic Circles might lull people into a false sense of security in thinking they're speaking in private. Nevertheless, it's a risk that we all need to careful of, across the board, and I personally feel that the benefits for using Google+ far outweigh it.

I completely appreciate -- and endorse -- making the idea of "friction-free switching between social contexts" a central element of the experience. I just think that it's imperative to make "friction-free definition of my contexts" even more essential.

Just a thought.

(Disclaimer: I work with GM on their social marketing strategy, including how they use social platforms such as Google+.)
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