Sharing vs broadcasting

Even since I started playing with Google+ and its Circle mechanic, I've been trying to figure out why I don't like it. I thought it sounded great when I heard about it, but as soon as I started using it... meh :P

I still haven't quite figured it out (although I mostly think it's the neither-chicken-nor-fowl aspect, along with it adding back ~500 useless "suggestions" from random Python mailing list contacts that I had already purged once), but it's certainly helped me see the way I communicate online in a different light.

For a long time, my only real online presence was regular postings to Python mailing lists, commenting on various sites and the very occasional post here on B&L.

After enough of my friends joined, Facebook was added to the mix, but I do everything I can to keep that locked down so only acquaintances can see most things I post there.

After going to PyconAU last year, and in the leadup to PyCon US earlier this year, I started up my @ncoghlan_dev account on Twitter, got the "python" category tag on here added to Planet Python, and started to develop a bit more of an online public presence.

Here on the blog, I can, and do, tag each post according to areas of interest. As far as I know, the 'python' tag is the only one with any significant readership (due to the aggregation via Planet Python), but people could subscribe to the philosophy or metablogging tags if they really wanted to.

When it comes to sharing information about myself, there's really only a few levels based on how much I trust the people involved: Friends&Family, Acquaintances, General Public pretty much covers it. Currently I handle that via a locked down FB for Friends, Family & Acquaintances (with a "Limited Access" list for people that I exclude from some things, like tagged photos) and completely public material on Twitter and Blogger.

The public stuff is mostly Python related, since that's my main online presence, but I'm fairly open about political and philosophical matters as well. FB, by contrast, rarely sees any mention of Python at all (and I'm often a little more restrained on the political and philosophical front).

Where I think Circles goes wrong is that it conflates Access Control with Topic Tagging. When I publish Python stuff, I'm quite happy for it to be public. However, I'd also be happy to tag it with "python", just as I do here on the blog, to make it easier for my friends to decide which of my updates they want to see.

This is classic Publish/Subscribe architecture thinking. When Publishing, I normally want to be able to decide who *can* access stuff. That is limited by closeness, but typically unrelated to the topic. Having, tagging as a service to my subscribers, I am quite happy to do. When Subscribing, I want to be able to filter by topic.

If I publish something to, say, my Pythonistas circle, than that does more than I want. Yes, it publishes it to them, but it also locks out everybody else. The ways I know people and the degree to which I trust them do not align well with the topics I like to talk about. I've already seen quite a few cases where the reshared versions of public statuses I have received have been limited access.

The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to stick with my current policy of using it as a public micro-blog and pretty much ignore the fact that the Circles page exists.


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