Google+ Communities: the Good, the Bad and the Overload



Google has taken another shot at attempting to boost the popularity of its social network, Google+.  Google announced the new Communities feature allowing yet another way to interact with peers and meet new people on the web.  Like most Google announcements, it comes with a few caveats.


Image credit Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net

The community feature is open to all users of Google+.  Once you logg into your account on your system, it’s easy to design your community to your liking. For example, I’m an advocate for smartphone photography. Note my weekly column and reader contest, called Where Are You Now here at aNewDomain.net.  

So I wanted to create a community behind this concept. The point of it is to let readers share and compare their best smartphone photos. My plan with the Smartphone Photographers Community was to create somewhat of a forum of shared interest.  I originally used Google + Circles for this functionality in Google+, but the community structure seemed like a better fit.  Circles seemed too one-sided.

This public community I started has been a great experience online. The current membership openly shares its favorite shots, tips and tricks with other members. This has led to more than just photo-sharing. It also led to great discussions.

Even though the community is public, I decided to verify all membership requests as I don’t want spammers or other non-smartphone photography related posts in the community. That’s my preference.  The term “public” on Google+ can be a tricky term to handle at times.  I wanted to make sure I was always aware of what a public community really offered and suggested.

Public posts on Google+ are seen, commented on or even reshared by anyone on the network — just as you’d expect.  Public communities will also have the same privacy issue. Moderators and members need to carefully consider that.

But the community feature has drawbacks.  The notification settings for communities aren’t as intuitive as one would like.  Users complained of getting notifications far too often, only later to realize they came from within Google Communities and not the typical Google + stream they are used to.

Another complaint is that posts from communities appear in your Google+ stream.  On launch day, it was common to see your Google+ stream cluttered with community invitations and posts.  That made it difficult to sift through the content unless you specified to it as Circle-based.

And remember how I mentioned that any Google+ user can create a community?  This leads to a “community invitation bomb” in many users streams.  With the tons of community options, it is easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out with community better fit you.  I may have to remove myself from a few communities just to be able to manage the content shared and points of discussion.  Here are a few communities I’m a member of.

As you see, too many communities on Google+ leads to potential social and sensory overload.

IMO, Google should take the community data and segregate it more from the social stream. This would make it easier to manage what’s going on with the mindless social posts versus the more thought provoking posts found in your communities.

What are you thoughts on the community feature of Google+?  I am still adjusting to the feature, but I’m enjoying it overall.  How many communities are you a part of versus how many you’re active in?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts.  Let me know what communities you’ve started!

I’m Ant Pruitt here at aNewDomain.net.  Find all of my stories here.

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  • http://dispersedthoughts.wordpress.com/ Robert Knight

    I love the communities, especially, Smartphone Photographers Community. I’m a little bias okay.

    Overall, I do find that I need to limit myself. I’ve deleted some and added some. I also find a lot of overlap, which I try to avoid, or I do a comparison of two similar communities and decided which is best for me. I was in two NFL communities, one very large one and one smaller one. I found the smaller one more engaging and easier to keep up with. The larger one was just post post post post post.

    One way to think of communities is to think of them as the new style forums or yore. In essence that’s what they are, but made a part of a more involved social structure.

    I do still use general public post for general stuff, but my community posts are very specific.

    • Ant Pruitt

      Yep. I wanted the Smartphone Photographers Community to be a “forum” of such. Bunch of smartphone photography geeks rapping about their joy and passion of taking smartphone photography.

      Thanks for reading and your comments, Robert!

      -RAP, II

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