Over the past few months, I have moved most of my social networking from Twitter to Google+. I like the longer, more graphical posts provided by the Google+ format, and while people are sharing a lot of links, they are also writing extended commentary on those links that the Twitter character limit doesn’t allow. Because the comments are right underneath the post, it is also possible to have extended conversations about a post. But Google+ doesn’t seem to have the detritus, the meaningless conversations or the commercial flotsam of Facebook (at least not yet). You can follow me on Google+ here.
However, as more people have joined the network, I have noticed how much harder it is to keep up with all the content flowing in. You can add people to circles divided by subjects of interest, but all that content is still pumped into your main stream. If you follow any particularly prolific posters, it can soon become overwhelming.
That’s why I was glad I discovered the Plus Minus extension for Google Chrome. This handy tool lets me control via simple checkboxes which circles contribute content to my main stream. Whenever I log onto Google+, only the posts that come from the people who are most important to me show up on the main page. Another useful tool provided by Plus Minus is the ability to “shrink” posts, so that I can hide what I’ve already read or what I’m not interested in just by clicking an arrow.
Now that I can control the firehose of posts going into my main stream, I found that it was also necessary to control my reading. Otherwise, I’d browse Google+ all day and never do anything else. I created circles around my primary interests, such as news, geeky stuff, cooking, politics and books. I assigned each circle a day of the week, and on that day, I only pick posts from its corresponding circle to read. This helps me focus on the reading rather than feeling like I have to wade through an ocean of content.
As for posting, I try to post one or two public items per day so that potential followers know what kind of content I’m sharing. For the rest, I try to confine posting to that circle of interest. Personal posts typically are limited to friends and family. This takes advantage of Google+’s most powerful feature: circles. If you are in my Geeks circle, you’ll only see my science and tech posts; you won’t be bothered by cooking or political content. Of course, many people occupy multiple circles. Fortunately, when I shrink a post in one circle using the Plus Minus extension, it stays closed across all circles, so I don’t see it multiple times.
With Plus Minus, Google+ has become more fun and more manageable. I definitely prefer the content I’m seeing there to what can be found on Twitter, which isn’t meaty enough, or Facebook, which usually isn’t relevant to me. Of course, if I still want to share on other networks, there is a service for that: Plusist. It automates posting of public Google+ items to either Facebook or Twitter, or both.