I just read Marshall Kirkpatrick‘s exciting pre-piece on Google Circles. Whether Google will actually announce it today, tomorrow, or months from now, fact is it’s gonna happen. Someone’s gonna do it; it’s a natural next step in the evolution of the Web. Google has the means to do it. For Google it’s an opportunity to do something with social ahead of Facebook – for once.
For years I’ve been anticipating that this concept – for which I’ve used the metaphor of onion layers – would materialize in blogging and other open publishing systems. Within the closed environment of Nokia’s global intranet, I was fortunate to concept-develop, implement and operate an early version of the idea.
Dubbed the Central News Desk, it let on-line employees from all over the company create news and information through a straightforward web interface, then add metadata to target those articles to very specific internal audiences: business teams, country teams, the company at large… with various levels of classification: secret, confidential, company-confidential, or public.
In September 2005, I wrote:
Six Apart on Thursday announced ‘Project Comet‘, the codename for its development of a next-generation blogging service that incorporates learnings from its TypePad, LiveJournal and Moveable Type products.
“(…) Privacy. (…) who gets to see what parts of a blog (…)”
And this reminds me of the “onion rings” structure of distributed access that I’ve been looking forward to.
- She feels like she doesn’t have anything to say.
- She doesn’t want the world to see what she writes.
- She doesn’t have the time to keep up with blogs.
I don’t believe the first reason is true for most people. I believe that, if Six Apart and other blog service providers can do something about the second and the third reason, e.g. by making tools that offer more advanced access rights management as well as speeding up content creation, the barriers for people to express what they have to say will drop and make the first reason go away.
SixApart tried with Vox, but it didn’t fly. Bad execution. Shame.
In October 2007, I wrote:
“(…) Now, this is where the onions come in.
Look at the information that you “own” (i.e. you have access control over) as the layers of an onion.
The inner-most layer of the onion consists of the thoughts and feelings which only you have access to.
The next layer may consist of information that you trust to a personal diary, for example.
Then there’s a layer that represents information you share with some of the most intimate people around you.
Another layer represents what you share with your extended family and friends.
Perhaps business partners or stakeholders, parties with whom you make certain transactions, constitue a further layer.
Peers, colleagues and acquaintances could be another.
And then finally there is the most outer layer: the public domain.
In information architecture circles, I believe this onion concept is often referred to as “distributed access”.
SixApart really grokked the need that bloggers have for distributed access when they announced their Project Comet. I’m not at all impressed by what came out of that – Vox does feature a handful of onion layers, but the application as a whole is rather primitive, ugly, and cumbersome to manage.
Seamless integration will be the competitive differentiator.
Back now to Nokia Lifeblog. Sure, there is value in being able to capture, add context, and search parts of your life. But the cumulative value of being able to share particular parts with certain (groups of) people would seem so much higher.
I want to be able to do all that with ONE application. Since Nokia Lifeblog is already taking care of information closest to the core of my onion, it could offer a very compelling proposition here.
Nokia Lifeblog was a visionary product at the time, offering the company an opportunity to take a social leap in the mobile world. And, at the time, that would have meant leapfrogging the Social Web as a whole.
But after the product was taken away from the small, enthuzed, entrepreneurial R&D team and handed to a business team “with P&L responsibility”, it was left orphaned. Shame.
via Google to Launch Major New Social Network Called Circles, Possibly Today (Updated) – by Marshall Kirkpatrik on Read Write Web:
“(…) We believe that Google will preview a major new social service called Google Circles at South by Southwest Interactive today. Update: Google has now officially denied that Circles will launch here, but not that it exists. Others, including Tim O’Reilly, have also now confirmed that they’ve seen it and that it’s awesome. If what we’ve heard is correct, the service will offer photo, video and status message sharing. Everything users share on Circles will be shared only with the most appropriate circle of social contacts in their lives, not with all your contacts in bulk.
“(…) The service has been developed with extensive participation by Chris Messina, the co-creator of numerous successful social and software phenomena online, from BarCamp to Hashtags and much more. Messina declined to comment for this story. Jonathan Sposato, CEO of the photo editing service Piknik that Google acquired last year, is working on Circles as well.
“(…) With Circles, I believe that Google will attempt to accomplish something critics from the blogosphere, academia, SXSW 2010 keynoter danah boyd, privacy watchdogs and others have all called on the social networking world to do: to allow our online communication to respect the same boundaries that our offline social lives do.School and work, friends and family, the sacred and the profane; we’ve always been able to communicate different things to different people in different circumstances. Facebook, Twitter and other online social networks have collapsed all those contexts into one big bucket. We speak to our “friends” all at once, no matter what we might want to say to one group of people or another. And thus we often feel less comfortable than we might saying anything at all.
This fundamental discomfort has been, many people argue, a limiting factor in the growth, reach and depth of online social interactions. If that problem could be solved, there are big new ways that the online world could grow and evolve.
“(…) The development of Circles is likely heavily influenced by the work of ex-Google social technology researcher Paul Adams. Adams has written a book called Social Circles, which will be released this Summer and he published a widely read slide deck about what is wrong with social networking: specifically the lack of respect for context and personas. (The Real Life Social Network) Adams worked on User Experience at Google for four years, but just months after publishing his influencial presentation he left Google for Facebook. (…)”