Landing : Athabascau University

Google to Launch Major New Social Network Called Circles, Possibly Today (Updated)

It sounds like Google is heading in the same direction that we are heading on the Landing, offering different ways of interacting with different people. This is necessary in the evolution if social software. It will be interesting to discover whether they are also thinking of personal as well as social contexts - not only do we present different facets of ourselves to different people at different times (and the same people at different times - a much trickier problem) but we also adopt very different roles at different times in our personal lives. I think differently, need different things, talk to different people and read different things depending on what I am doing and what I mean to do.

That's the idea behind the poorly named 'context switcher' that is being developed at Athabasca - to adopt different personas at different times and different contexts both for other people and for our own personal purposes. I Just wish we had a better name that made the meaning more obvious. 'Circles' is pretty good in a social context but less meaningful in a personal context so I would reject that. Lately I've been thinking that 'facets' captures the meaning better (it is about different facets of ourselves, whether for our own benefit or the benefit of others) but 'facets' is (like context switching) maybe a little technical. It works well for me and anyone else who has ever read Ranganathan, but maybe lacks popular appeal.

Any and all ideas appreciated!


  • Avatar or sock (puppet), maybe? I'd go for sock.

    Heather Clitheroe March 13, 2011 - 8:38pm

  • Wow that was a quick response! I like that thinking. There are some very fine folk that I know whose wonderful e-learning alter-egos are sock puppets - see for some great insights into online learning by monsters made of socks.

    Jon Dron March 13, 2011 - 8:51pm

  • I think that avatars are more suitable for when participants seek to post anonymously; perhaps adding a "role tag" option can address the issue of context-switching?



    Glenn Groulx March 14, 2011 - 11:28am

  • Nice suggestion. 'Role' is a good word, though maybe swinging in the opposite direction to 'avatar' - the label needs to encompass both a personal perspective (for which 'role' makes good sense, I think) and a presentational perspective - the views on our world that we show to others in different social circles. I'm not so sure it captures that so well. What does anyone else think?

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by 'tag' in this context - could you elaborate a little? A tag implies to me a means to filter and find stuff, whereas the idea behind the context switcher is at least as much to do with presenting different perspectives on things - not just a filter but to show different sets of content with a (potentially) different look and feel. It would be fun to find a way to do that with tags, but I think it might be conceptually hard to get across.

    Jon Dron March 14, 2011 - 1:35pm

  • I like "faces" or if you're a fan of Jim Carey it could be "masks". For me "faces" denotes what we present, and "Masks" denotes (for me) what we hide, so I prefer the "faces".


    Eric von Stackelberg March 14, 2011 - 4:46pm

  • I was thinking of giving contributors the choice of icons (similar to the icons of the thumbs up/thumbs down for like/dislike) to indicate if the role is personal (face with baseball cap or hair down) or more formal (face with hair up, clean-shaven with glasses and/or tie)

    I was just thinking of adding contextual themes (skins) so that contributors can add posts to their more formal space or less formal.

    Glenn Groulx March 14, 2011 - 8:48pm

  • Ah ha! Interesting. In theory, the access control rights should already be usable to specify an audience as you suggest. Technically that can be done already using collections (you could create a collection of people you are following that are friends, say - in effect you are tagging them by putting them in a collection) but they are not simple to use: something like the icons you suggest might help with that problem - it would at least make it easier to identify the people you are looking for when, like me, you have a really long list of groups and collections to choose from. 

    The context switcher is meant to allow people to create an indefinite number of spaces (well - screen limitations and usability probably limit that to a handful or two in real life) that can be formal, informal or whatever you wish, but they are not going to be places that you post things into as such, though you could set them up to mostly work that way if you like. The way it works is that each space (context/facet/face/avatar/etc) can contain the same varieties of widgets you currently only have on your profile and dashboard, configured and arranged differently in each space to show different things to different people in different ways: much as you can now on those pages, except that instead of being limited to doing it on your private dashboard and public profile you will be able to create further widget-filled pages (technically, as tabs of your profile) and we will give you increasing control over appearance, content and layout. You could therefore create a tab that only showed things in widgets that are accessible to friends, if you wished, and another for everyone else. And another for your course tutors to show off your work. It's very flexible! We'll also be doing the same for groups.

    Jon Dron March 14, 2011 - 9:23pm

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