What is better than a suggested user list?

I've been thinking about this all weekend long. Last night I caused a bit of controversy, even getting onto Techmeme http://www.techmeme.com/110904/p4#a110904p4 because I asked Google to remove me from the suggested user list. Google+ exec +Bradley Horowitz said he was surprised by my post, but complied and I no longer am on that list.

I was actually surprised by the emotion that poured back in reaction. I knew there was some there, but didn't know how deep the emotion was. Why did I know it? Because I hate Twitter's suggested user list. I had been put on something I hated.

It seems that Google didn't quite understand the hate of these things. I think hatred of Klout and other scoring systems is also bubbling under the surface, too. Every once in a while I see a post or comment that shows that there's a loaded powder keg of emotion waiting to boil out in conversations.

Heck, I didn't even understand the hate of the suggested user list and I'm pretty advanced on understanding of these things, having talked to hundreds of people about them over the past few years since Twitter made that list.

So, for the past day or two I've been asking myself "what's better than a suggested user list?" Also, "how would I build a new user onboarding system that would get better retention of new users?"

New users are folks like my dad.

He has some attributes:

1. He has no idea who to follow. If you force him to, he'll follow people he already is familiar with, like celebrities, family members, or personal friends.
2. He probably has some idea of topics he'd like to know about, but he already probably has a forum, or a place to go, to discuss those things.
3. He has probably been told to join Google+ by someone (either media, like during the Superbowl, or by a friend or family member). That will color his first expectations (his family members will probably say "come here and you'll see more photos of the kids" and the media will probably say something like "follow your favorite football players and behind the scenes videos here").
4. He probably doesn't know how to find or discover other people or brands that might make his experience better.

So, does a suggested user list really help someone like my dad? Oh, yes, a bit. It gives him popular people he might have heard about to follow. That does help him out.

But, is it the BEST way to help him out?


"OK, smartypants Scoble, how would you do it?"

I'd have a group of community managers pick one post each a day and show that to my dad.

Put the focus where it should be: on the content that people can discover here.

Why don't we have a list of recent great posts in tech, politics, photography, science, education, entertainment, music, media, economics, etc?

Why do we need to focus so much on people?

There are reasons why this focus on people really sucks too for Google to do:

1. Facebook owns people. If Google thinks they are gonna be able to change that in any real way they are smoking some good dope over on the GooglePlex. Copying Facebook is going to position Google+ as something lesser than Facebook. Not good.

2. Twitter did the suggested user list first amongst the big services and did it halfassed. So, copying Twitter is going to position Google+ as something lesser than Twitter. Not good either.

3. By focusing on content Google's staff can reward behavior it wants to see here. That is a very useful "stick" to use in community management. Does it want us to share more videos? Then put more videos on the "post of the day" lists. Does it want us to write more helpful content? Then post more helpful posts on "post of the day" lists. Right now the suggested user lists just tell us to focus on being more popular. Not really good memes to feed a community.

Now, this won't remove all the controversy. Especially if more popular posts get ignored on a regular basis (which will bring into question whether the Google+ team is biased) but if they have a philosophy and mission that's written down they probably can explain away most of that stuff.

What do you think? Wouldn't a list of "posts of the day" be far better for new users to see than a list of mostly celebrities or folks who were already popular on Twitter?

In fact, that's what I'm going to do over the next month. I'm going to focus less on my lists of people and more on finding great posts to share with you.
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