Google just launched it’s Google+ social network. I was very curious, probably more so than the avg person to see their system. The result was somewhat a “bittersweet” moment for me. For nearly 5 years I have had a concept for a social networking site. The concept was “Circles”. I even endeavored to register some domains. As you can imagine circle.com and it’s numerous variants are taken. Even Sircles.com wasn’t available. Up until a few weeks ago the concept was one I still hoped to implement. I’ve been really surprised that it’s taken this long for a company to implement some of the concepts.
That said, there are several aspects to my social network design that have not been implemented in Google+ “Circles”. So I am sharing them below. Perhaps Google will implement some of them in the near future.
And sure, there is a small part of me that wonders did someone read one of my “suggestions” to Google. Maybe, if they did, it’d have been nice if they contacted me during development. But I believe it more likely that the Circles concept is just a “common sense” idea that was waiting to happen. These concepts are what we do day in and day out on a sub-conscious level. Implementing them into a social networking site isn’t a noteworthy or patentable thing – or at least it shouldn’t be. Rather it’s just an evolutionary process of bringing ourselves into the digital world. I’ll just be happy to have an alternative to Facebook. An implementation I greatly dislike, I am hopeful that Google implements key components below. If they don’t, they will leave the door open for somebody else to do so. And perhaps it’ll be me.
A significant issue with all current social networks is the “tides”. Flood of information in and out…Circles assist in part with the tide going out, but only in part. It needs to be related to a concentric layer of circles for the individual. This enables a social network to respond as we do in real life. So far, no social network has realized this elementary concept. That “Ogres are like Onions – they have layers”, and people are like Ogres.
Congratulations on Google being the first to “get it”. I’ve have the concept of a circle based social network site for approx. 5 years. Even tried registering a variety of names based on “circle”, “sircles”, etc. Had several ideas for commercials as well.
Google’s implementation is a good start, and I figure it’s that…just a start. Well, seeing as I probably won’t be getting my site off the ground I will share some of the concepts I had. I did attempt. Right now, Google’s almost implemented part 1 of my concepts.
I. Circle based grouping, allow for overlap and nesting (ie: sub-groups). Right now I can create “Friends”, but I want to sub-divide friends. “Old College Friends”, “High School Friends”, etc, etc
II. “Ogres are like onions.” – People are like Ogres, we have layers. The biggest failing of most social network sites today is a lack of layers. Right now on Facebook I can read a group, or I can read a whole smackdown of EVERYONE. The end result is that I see a lot of crap from people I don’t care about. And nearly 100% of the time I miss the stuff that’s important to me.
So take the individual and divide them into 10 concentric layers (circles). Now, I take Joe Schmo that I knew from High School and I put him at layer 5. John Doe I just met at a club I put at layer 9, my good friend and drinking buddy Charlie is at level 3. My wife is in circle 1.
Now I define my reading level. If I set it at 4, I will see the posts by my wife and Charlie. But not those of my other associates. However, a few additional options exist in my concept. One is shout-outs, a couple of times a year a person can do a shout-out post (e.g. “I’m getting married!”, “It’s a boy!”, “I just lost my job, got any leads?”). The shout out posts would be readable 2 levels higher. So in this case. Joe Schmo who is in circle 5 shouts out “It’s a boy, 9lbs 4 oz”. I would see this, and be able to congratulate him. Where as most of his posts would pass me by.
If I’ve got one of those friends that is always posting (like 30 times a day, we all have one of them). I can lower the circle level he is in. This provides a stream that is truly relevant to “ME”.
It’s not just individuals which are assigned to a specific circle of ME. Entire groups are set to a level. So I might take everyone at work or church and assign those groups to level 7. Now any individual in that group would be granted level 7 status. But I could still grant an individual a higher status.
Information Access. For each bit of personal info (email, direct msg, phone, address, etc, etc) I would assign it to a circle layer. So someone with layer 7 access could see my email, circle 4 members could see my phone. Where as circle 10 would only see my birthdate mm/dd and only be able to msg.
Furthermore, when I post or upload a photo, I could set a circle layer level. (eg: this post is level 5, so anyone with level 5 access or in a group with level 5 access could view it). This would be on top of making a post or uploading an image to a specific group; which would then only be visible to those group members.
Negative circles. Creation of a circle that overwrites other circles in a given post. For example, I could create a circle “No Mature Content”. In this circle I would add those in my circle who are minors, my mom & dad, and some of my uber-puritan religious friends.
Now when I make a post, and add that negative circle, my post would be viewable by anyone EXCEPT those in any attached negative circle.
III. Thumbs Up/Down (+/-)
Another way that posts might show up in a stream is if they receive enough thumb’s up. If a post is highly ranked it might be viewed one reading level above it’s normal viewing. This is nothing new. This concept has existed since BBS days. The only change is the applying the effect to raise or lower a post’s position in an individuals read feed. These aren’t all of the ideas I’ve had. Just thought I’d jot down a number of them.
IV. Break the Box
One of my intentions was to break the “squareness” of the net. The icon/profile pics were going to be circles, not square. We were going to apply a mask over the image so that all a viewer saw was a circle. Furthermore it was going to be modeled after a “coin”; with a heads and tails side. One side would be a profile pic and the other side an avatar. Yes, two profile images. One the actual you and one iconic. Viewer would be able to flip or spin to see the other side. Yes, it is a total gimmick, but it was to help break the square feel.
I also intended to break it further. If you clicked on a circle of a user, it would split into four and then slide away to become the corners of their profile. The result would display their feed, posts, etc.
V. Display of Posts – I envisioned a number of aspects with posts. The ability to post just a subject, which would act as a tweet or microblog. As well as an ability to read differing modes. One could read just the headlines. Essentially having a more twitter feel, but be able to expand those items with full posts. Or one could view in full.
I also felt one should be able to re-share a link. Essentially, it’d be a subject and a link. Twitter does this both well and horribly. Twitter does re-sharing of links amazingly well. But it fails in the actual link implementation. A link should not, IMHO, take up your tweeting space. One should be able to include a msg+link. This little change would do wonders for a microblog service.
VI. Ability to save/archive a post as a memory. Could be your own, or one you are tagged in.
When I got my iPhone 3G, I had envisioned an app that I called “Forget-Me-Not”. The idea was to have geo-located tasks that were triggered by proximity or departure. (ie: “pick up milk on way home”, an alert would be triggered when leaving your work office and when passing by the grocery store.) At the time, Apple’s policy of no background apps put this idea on hold. Along with my lack of an Apple computer to develop on. I was quite glad to see Apple’s announcement of a similar feature for iOS5.
To me, Forget-me-not, circles, etc. Are all no brainers. Things that should have been implemented 2-5 years ago.
Sad to think these ideas have been sitting in my head festering. Really wish I was a better coder and could have implemented all of this. But maybe that’s a tad insane, if Google is having a challenge. Maybe it really was more than one mediocre programmer could have implemented.
So how to deal with having ideas and not being able to move forward?
If I could sit down with Google’s Eric and Sergey, I would endeavor to convince them of a new strategy. Patent sharing.
So many out there have patent ideas. I’ve got numerous ideas from magnetic firearm holsters to external vehicle airbags. Problem is, that for many $750 for a mere provisional patent is outside our economic abilities.
So imagine if Google, decided to offer a program to help people pursue provisional patents. Google would cover the fee, in return for being listed as co-inventor. Google would also have the choice to cover conversion into a full patent if they chose to do so. And maybe even an option to pay the inventor $10,000 and to place the idea into public domain. Google would implement an easy to access patent licensing system. Then split the licensing proceeds 50/50. It’d be interesting to see how much more stuff would enter public domain or be easily licensable.