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Coiling the Long Tail: Why Google + Circles Is So Important, Theoretically

wrapping our niches into a central place

One of my favorite aspects of Google + is a pretty simple one: I love watching the animation of my friends as they get wound around the Circle I’ve just dropped them into. At first I found it simply amusing, but the more I pulled my contacts from that boring grid and dropped them into my circles, the more the metaphor began to really sink in: I felt like I was twisting all these individuals into something stronger, something that could exhibit force, the way coiled copper can produce electricity—that I was really thinking about who my contacts were, what fields they were in, what relationships and interests defined who I am.

Now, Circles at Google + isn’t really that innovative nor really that exclusive, and it could be argued that many will basically ignore them and just drop everyone into their Friends (in all fairness, I was over-organizing just to test things out), but this switch in defaults marks a very real anxiety over the atomistic quality of the social space, out of the newsfeed, hoping to provide greater organization and definition to the huge rooms we call our social networks.

This anxiety, I think, stems from the opposing characteristic of the internet: the Long Tail, the distribution of users over many, many niches. Ever more, as we define ourselves, we do so according to our sets of interests and, for many of us, how we go about publishing our involvement in those interests, whether it’s out to our friends, followers or blog readers.

The conflict of these two internet trends, of exhaustively complete rooms like Facebook acting as warehouse to everyone’s individual trends has been slowly crying out for an answer. One answer has been an integration of niche interest sites and software with mass social media platforms, say, posting a Goodreads review on Facebook. The adoption of Facebook and Twitter widgets or, even more so, the recent trend of signing up with new sites using your Facebook or Twitter profile, has taken off exponentially, and such integration will no doubt soon be a requirement. This is all very good news and goes leagues in bridging the mass with the niche.

But Google + Circles brings that sort of integration in-house, prompting you to post your book reviews to just your books circle. This could be further good news, but it all depends on how people use it. It’s too early to tell, of course, and much of this depends on the sorts of features and functionality that help smooth out this fledgling experience, but on a theoretical level, this kind of curation seems like a natural step. It allows a more robust, easy and encouraged way to organize one’s social content, and my hesitant guess is that users will come to enjoy that, and other developers will have to follow suit.

Tags : social media

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