How I made my online info diet healthier in April (and, a plea for Google +)

24 Apr 2012

Beaverton Market, 6/11/10

So, this month my thinking about online information diet health centered around Google+. Boy, would I love for it to be a better social media tool for the craft community.

Don't get me wrong - it is a wonderful social media tool. In my opinion, much better-designed and usable than Facebook. (I've made no secret of my feelings about FB here.)

…The problem is, I just don't see much of interest going on over there from a creative standpoint. When G+ came to town, a bunch of us signed up and then I pretty much saw one of two things happening:

  • People simply feeding their blogs, tweets, or Facebook posts over to G+
  • People posting momentary Twitter-style updates


I've already talked about the first of these - if you're going share the same information I already follow elsewhere, then I can't tune into you on more than one channel. And the second approach makes sense from a human-nature standpoint, but to my eye, it doesn't really make for very interesting G+.

Every time G+ comes up in a crafter conversation, I hear a lot of "I just don't know what to do with it" or "I don't really need another social network." And I think this is simply because we're not using G+ to its full potential.

I agree that if you love Facebook, then you'll probably see too many similarities to really get into G+. But I think that for those of us who love Twitter, G+ gives us a wonderful opportunity for real, substantive discussion, without the character limit that can sometimes hamper us in going very deep on Twitter. For those of us who love blogs, G+ allows for the comment discussion without needing to go through all the work of producing full blog posts.


"Substantive" is another problem - and here's where I might sound like I'm being mean to crafters. That's not my intention at all.

I do think that we crafters have become accustomed to two broad categories of discourse online. On blogs, we're often holding up things we've made and saying "Isn't this cool?" and then people reply with some variation on "Yes, that's really cool!" And in social media spaces, many of our conversations are based around "This is what I'm doing right now." and "I'm doing that too/I understand doing that/I wish I were doing that."

Are these things bad? HECK, NO!!! I love both modes, and participate in them constantly. It's just that G+ affords us a clean slate on which to build a new kind of conversation. If we could stop imposing our habitual online conversations onto it, then imagine what we could be doing over there:

Mosaic Scroll

Image by AEJHarrison, via Flickr

  • With the G+ Circle system, we can converse with much better flexibility and specificity. On both Twitter and Facebook, we basically have only two communications options: we talk to everyone, or we reply to one person. But on G+, we can share/converse with smaller sub-groups that have more tightly-connected interests. Thanks to Circles, we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about who we share with and what we share with them. We can have any support communities we want, and we can move beyond broadcast thinking and into a whole new level of connecting in many substantive ways with many people, with less overload.


  • With G+'s 100,000 character limit (yes you read that correctly), we have an opportunity to go beyond "I'm standing in line at the post office" and talk about what it really means to be a creative person, how we cultivate and manage our creative lives, and what our work means. We can not only share links to articles on the web that we found meaningful, we can also go beyond "Great post!" and share what we actually thought when we read it.


  • Since G+ has embedded live chat (and video Hangouts), we can schedule awesome salon-style discussions of specific topics. We can come together in focused spaces and go really deep in conversation, learning from each other in the process. I love the idea of learning communities, and I think crafters are naturals for those kinds of spaces.

Purple Peppers

I am not saying, by the way, that G+ should replace either Twitter or Facebook. I'm not saying anyone "should" be on G+. I'm just saying that here's a tool that can bring us a whole new (and to my mind, deeper) social media experience, if we'd only be willing to approach it a little differently. We're creative souls and nice people, and if we could get past using it as yet another promotional/broadcast tool, it seems to me like we could do some wonderful things with G+.

What are your thoughts? Have you used Google+? How is/was the experience for you? What kinds of conversations are missing for you online?


I love that idea, Isaac! And your "big plus sign in the sky" image. :-) I do think it comes down to those of us who are into it modeling the behaviors we'd like to see on G+. And it probably involves some trial and error and splashing paint about, but I'm pretty darn excited about it, too.

You, too, are awesome!

Diane, I'm a I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing-with-Google+-so-I'll-just-repost-my-blog-articles kind of user. But I don't like it, either. I want the big plus sign in the sky to be useful and interesting to me, but I'm not currently finding a lot of value in it.

However, I'm willing to try. You actually gave me an idea to use my circles as a sounding/discussion board for new blog ideas and things I'm thinking about, as my efforts to start conversations on Twitter have been pretty fruitless.

So let's see what we can make of it, shall we?

As always, you are awesome.

Dear Diane,

I have intentionally stayed away from Facebook and Twitter. How much meaningful communication goes on there, really? The privacy issues are what really keep me away. But then I started blogging this year. I always said I was too busy living my life to blog about it. But then I realized that blogging is another way to connect with my sewing students, and reach a bigger crowd to teach 'em my best tricks.

I stumbled onto your blog about a month ago. I find the topics and discussion very intelligent. After reading your take on Google+, I'm almost willing to take the plunge.

Meaningful conversation? That sounds good to me. It is too easy to fill the internet with "cute, good work" comments, and so rare to connect in a deeper way.

I'm all about stretching technology and new ideas to their limits, to find out what can be accomplished.

I think a similar stretching needs to happen in our discourse as a community, too. Your privacy concerns are founded, MaryLiz (especially where Facebook is concerned), and I'd recommend a read through Google's Terms of Use before taking the plunge.

As I was just commenting over on the G+ thread I started for this subject, I'm thinking it might take something small and formalized to get some regular attention flowing over to G+ - like a weekly discussion or something. I'm doing a lot of thinking about what this might look like. Thanks so much for commenting!

I think this is a very worthwhile point, Elizabeth, and on some levels, I agree with you - what I'm describing (except for the "live time" option) is pretty much what a blog can do. I guess I'm reaching for G+ for a few reasons:

- As we've discussed elsewhere on this blog, people are just reading fewer blogs regularly. More and more are abandoning RSS readers and using Twitter and Facebook to let links float by their field of view, clicking sometimes and not others. It's an evolving reading environment, and I think this has really changed the nature of discourse in the online craft community. It's harder and harder to get a substantive conversation going on a blog these days - you almost have to post on something really controversial, and then re-share it on social media over and over, to get many people to comment. I don't love this development, by the way. I just notice it.

- ...Whereas in social media environments, people have grown accustomed to talking more, because it feels easier. So I feel like there's more fertile ground for conversation. And definitely, there's conversation going on 24-7 on Twitter and Facebook, but I do think it's harder there to make it substantive, because there's so much habituation already. (And as much as I love my Twitter, I've grown pretty exhausted with trying to have any kind of deep discussion over there - that character limit really gets in the way for me.)

- The thing about writing those blog posts that engender conversation is, it takes time. It takes me at least a couple days to write a post like this one. The celebrity post took me years to write. You have to think deeply about what you want to say, and write and edit re-think. (I know you know what I mean!) Whereas in a social media environment, I can share something, state the main points of what it made me think, and then invite opinions. Boom.

I do tend to think that G+ won't reach a massive level of craft-community participation - FB is already too entrenched. But in a way, this is a good thing - if even a core group of us who love discussion congregated over there, I think amazing things could happen.

I agree with the points you're making - I think you are sucking me in....

I like that addition to your already-great analogy!

One great analogy I heard was "G+ is like I got to the party too early and had to have a conversation with your uncle until everyone else arrived." :-)

I agree, Amy - we need more people using the tool regularly before any of this can happen. I've been thinking a lot about how to create more of a draw - maybe by setting up more email shares when I'm hoping to get a conversation started, instead of waiting for people to get around to checking their G+ accounts.

That may be the best analogy ever.

I think there are subtleties to effective G+ use, and I think the Circles thing is one of them. I'm still working out how to structure my circles. Interestingly, I think that the more deeply you know people, the more effectively you can build Circles.

So, for instance, a circle of "Crafty Folk," like I have now, is really too big to anything but broadcast - which is NOT what I want to be doing. Ideally, I'd have separate circles for people who use different media, or people who have different kinds of crafty businesses, or people I've discussed a particular subject with. Then I can share in a more targeted way, and likely get better discussion traction.

As I mentioned in the post, on Twitter (and to an extent, FB), you have two options: talk to everyone, or talk to one person. It's no wonder we're having challenges adopting a much more flexible and personable option.

Well, interestingly, (and an indicator of what a blank slate there really is on G+ right now) there's conversation happening on that public post, and on the post I shared with my Circles before that, and on Twitter where I brought it up this morning, and here on the blog.

I think that it's possible to create more conversation, but there's definitely an art to creating the kinds of subjects and questions that actually spark discussion. I do think that we all get so much shared with us in a day (and like you said, not all of it is relevant), that we crank up our filters. We really do need to be drawn into conversation at this point.

But I will say this: I have had an excellent day on G+ today, after re-doing my Circles and removing a lot of people who weren't posting things I was interested in or had stopped posting altogether. From my newly-smaller and newly-reorganizing place, I hope to model the kind of discussion I'd like to see.

Have you posted this on G+? It seems like this is just the sort of thing that would get a conversation started there.

I'm on G+ & actually have found quite a few crafty folks besides myself. There's not necessarily a *lot* of craft stuff being posted, but that's likely more due to:
a) we're all interested in more than crafting and so intersectionality happens (crafty people I know also post about politics, disability, feminism, LGBT issues, school stuff, Civil War history, goats, chickens, & other critters -- and all of that is just *one* of the crafty-sorts I've circled);
b) I've also got lots of non-crafters circled;
c) I don't post that much crafty stuff myself unless I've just finished something or am having questions about how on earth do I get myself out of the corner in which I've managed to put myself;
d) errr... there was something else but I've forgotten.

I sure did!

I think it's awesome when crafty people post about their non-crafty interests on G+ - in fact, I think it's preferable to a purely-crafty stream, in this context.

p.s. Okay, when I can't figure things out, I start thinking in analogies. I wrote a post awhile ago where I said that for me, Twitter is the town plaza where everyone hangs out, and FB is my front porch where I catch up with family and friends. Along these lines...Google+ would be the coffeehouse? The place where you go to meet your friends and really talk things over?

I'm you're target audience for this post. I don't need another platform, even if it IS awesome, and I don't really know how I'd use it. Your descriptions of possibilities are wonderful and they draw me in, but then I think, "this sounds like what most people are trying to do on their blogs."

In particular, "talk about what it really means to be a creative person, how we cultivate and manage our creative lives, and what our work means. We can not only share links to articles on the web that we found meaningful, we can also go beyond “Great post!” and share what we actually thought when we read it." This sounds a lot like what I do on Things Bright. Doing it all over again on G+ seems like... a lot.

I would be interested in smaller gatherings and hangouts where a specific topic was discussed. The group/round table aspect is really the only thing about G+ that I find different enough to enter into again.

I'll having to keep thinking on it. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. :)

you described me well. I signed up for it and now just post my blog posts to it because I don't really know what to do with it :) It does feel overwhelming to try and learn a new form of social media.

I love Elizabeth's analogy! It's perfect! My front porch got boring. One can only take so much reading of "Can't wait to get out of work", "Done with my workout!" and the irritating "I'm bored". Or maybe I just need to drop some "friends"... I've added you, Diane, to G+. I'm looking forward to it!
Thank you for writing a great blog!

Just added you back, Linda. I hope to try some interesting experiments and see if we can't make some good discussion over there.

I think the biggest problem with +G is I keep forgetting about it. At least with twitter I open up tweetdeck and get reminders on my phone about it. G+ just disaperas a bit... I will try to check it out more, and try to start some discussions there too. Thanks for the reminder!

I've just finished going through all my G+ Circles, and I see this happening a ton. And I've forgotten about it for long stretches as well. But I'll say this: I went in and completely reorganized my Circles this morning, doing away with the big, broad ones like "Friends" and "Acquaintances" and instead creating many smaller circles for people's main interest areas. And BANG! Already the info streams are so much more interesting and useful.

Totally, totally in agreement here. I've been thinking about ways of better using G+ in a crafty sense. I want to host Craft Salons, basically informal discussions amongst 2-4 people about craft ideas, tricks, tips, topics. Maybe a little show and tell? I've always been fascinated with the how and why people make stuff. I also think it would be a great tool for me to keep in touch with crafters I'd like to participate in Toronto Maker Faires.

I'm wondering Diane, how much you're limiting your circles though - because when I first saw this post (on G+, not the blog) I could only read it, I could only read the last two comments and I couldn't comment at all. Perhaps you'd get more feedback if you published your G+ posts publicly? Just a thought.

GAH!! Excellent point, Michele, and thank you so much! I thought I had shared that publicly, but somehow missed that selection when I shared it. Oops! :-) Just re-shared as a public post. And I'm so grateful for the extra set of eyes!

...That said, I'll admit that I'm struggling a bit at the moment with the question of whether I really want a wide audience on G+ - as opposed to a smaller, discussion-focused group. Still, you're more than right - the way to start this conversation is to start it in a widespread way.

I adore the idea of Craft Salons, and would love to do something similar - either in the text chat or video chat spaces. Lisa Clarke plans to host a trial video Hangout on Friday, if you or anyone else is interested:

Isn't it bizarre how circular our internet usage has become? I remember the Internetz only ever being *just* discussion - literally just text - which dates me, I suppose! I find getting together with crafty-liked minds just to chat is what inspires me, and I'd like to create a virtual space for that.
I'm going to participate in Lisa's hangout today and I'm going to flesh out how I envision a salon going... I'm going to contact you about participating!

I found this blog post on Google + and followed it here to your blog. As always you provide information that makes me say, "I hadn't thought about THAT". And the comments section is equally informative.
I'd love to join up with a circle of crafters who want to talk as opposed to sell me whatever their latest sponsored post is selling. I'm finding I need more substance with my online interactions. Must be that now that I've worked from home for a year I'm finally wanting to interact with people again. Now that I'm in recovery from the soul sucking job. :)


PS. I made my google + page one of the home pages on my browser so it comes up with the other home page(s). That way I don't forget about it. In fact, I check it once or twice a day now! :)

Amen - I think the search for substance is becoming a bigger and bigger theme for our community. I'm going to try using a schedule of weekly discussion topics on G+ for now, and have completely re-structured my Circles so I can better attend to a smaller group of people who are posting interesting things (and thereby be a better responder).

Interestingly, I've tried to either form or participate in Circles where the stated intent was "good conversation," but so far, these endeavors have fizzled out - I think maybe because we're all still figuring out what good conversation looks like on G+, and also because, let's face it, it's way easier to respond to something someone else said than to post a good discussion-starter.

...But with persistence, I believe we can create this substantive environment we're seeking! Great tip about your homepage!

Wait, (as of 4/26 noon PST) are there more than 2 comments on the G+ side of the conversation?

I've been using G+ sparingly. Mostly I use it for small conversations that, otherwise would be done via email - but somehow the G+ format seems more transparent with no worries of someone forgetting "reply to all". With people I might call to arrange something, but asynchronous communication works a little bit better sometimes. I also use it to share and discuss links with very specific people. But really I know a pool of 4 people other than myself using G+.

I too forgot to check it since there isn't a lot going on, and my friends who do use it tend to post things I have little interest in. I've also always struggled with the idea of conversations in blogs (forgot to go back and check for more comments), and in twitter. Actual conversations online, anywhere, feel few and far between.

Sweet! And I'll see you in Lisa's hangout today, too. Would love to talk Salon whenever you're ready. Let's make some new discussion - Woo-Hoo!!

I'm not on G+, or Facebook for that matter. I thought about setting up a Facebook account but too many times the security settings were opened up with no notice to users. And I'm not sure what I'd do with a G+ account, either. Besides, I'm a bit peeved at Google for taking away the "+" operator in their searches.

I'm really looking for good ways to restructure my Circles now... it's tricky, because it's tempting to want to lump people together by their relationship to me (which is how G+'s default set of Circles works). But really, it has more to do with what kinds of info people are interested in, and that's harder to suss out. But suss, I will. :-)

I've been on G+ a long time, but I admit I haven't used it much. This has given me food for thought, because I honestly do not enjoy being on Twitter as much as I used to or on FB at all, mainly because I don't want everything I have to say or ask to go out to everyone on the site. I like the idea of circles, but have not learned to use them much. This is a worthy use of my time, as I feel like with the other venues, it's an all or nothing proposition.

I DO have a G+, and I have found I haven't yet really found where it fits in my online life. I really do agree it's a great platform. I think the problem is that I don't have that many crafty blog friends on there right now (just you and a few others). I'm never sure whether I should post things public or just to circles (if it's not private).
But I'd love to figure out a good way to use it!

So, if anyone wants to find me on g+ and circle me - you can find me at (Yes, I created my own link off of one of my domains to my googleplus page)


I just added you. I got on G+ when it was very new and like it, but very few people I knew were using it. I'm not on Facebook, I can't stand it, it makes my skin crawl, not to put too fine a point on it. I wish online courses would use G+ as a hangout instead of the ubiquitous Facebook group, because I miss out on that part of things. So anyway, I *would* use G+ but it's kind of like shouting into a barrel at this point.

I think your point of people kind of being social networked-out is a good one. I am set up on G+, I just don't think to open it most days. It has become full of people pushing products and giveaways for anyone I am following, and heck, for that reason, I created a 2nd twitter account b/c my 1st one is just full of stuff.

I was just in a panel discussion at our local comics festival, and one of the speakers was talking about using social media in bold new ways - "not in its traditional marketing sense." That sentence kind of broke my heart. Social media was NOT created with marketing in mind, for pete's sake. But it sure has been shoehorned that way.

I have to admit that I don't really want to sign up for yet another platform. The thing I dislike most about Twitter and blog comment threads is the way they seem to discourage real discourse. Not that I mind happy, quick comments on my blog. I certainly participate that way myself. But I do wish for more interaction. Perhaps G+ is the way to fill that need.

And your description of the G+ benefits and potential...sounds suspiciously like an introverts haven--deep, focused and varied discussions with fewer people. Just the thing I'd like more of.

Heh! An apt description. But as an introvert, I really love sorting and focus and depth in conversation. I do love the water-cooler aspect of Twitter, since I work from home, but I'm really craving more depth.

I plan to put energy in the coming month into trying to create more opportunities for G+ discussion. So if you end up joining, come find me - Diane Gilleland!

Just as soon as I finish up with the current deadline sewing, I'll check it out. I will definitely come find you.

Are you familiar with "Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality" by Elias Aboujaoude, MD? Interesting stuff.

No, I'll look for it - thanks!

I don't mind so much being on (yet) another platform - I think different platforms have different qualities. My 'problem' with G+ is that 1) I didn't quite get it and 2) not many of the people I usually converse with are on there. To my knowledge anyway... Maybe it's just me but I don't often see crafty peeps link to/mention that they're using G+ ..?

But your description of G+ makes it sound more interesting/useful. I don't like Facebook either, but like you I'd like to have more in-depth conversations than what is possible on Twitter.

So, now. I've added you on G+, Diane - dazzle me! Or something. ;-)

HAHAHA! Let's dazzle each other, then! :-)