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How I made my online info diet healthier in May: progress with Google+
I thought I'd devote this month's report on how I made my online info diet healthier to an update on my progress with Google+. If you missed last month's report, I'll just say that I think there's huge potential for this tool, but for many reasons, too few of us are using it effectively – if at all.
…But I devoted a fair amount of time and effort to improving my G+ experience this month, and had some great rewards for that investment. Here's what happened:
Re-Circling My Circles
I've talked before about how I've removed a few hundred people from my G+ Circles. When I had first started my account, I automatically Circled back everyone who Circled me. That turned out to be a bad practice, because it made my Google+ stream look pretty much like my Twitter and Facebook feeds – overcrowded and overwhelming.
So, I got ruthless and cut every single person who wasn't posting content on G+ that I found interesting. This felt very uncomfortable at first, because obviously, nice people don't unfriend nice people. But I just kept reminding myself of the goal I had in mind – a return to a focused and interesting G+ stream.
It was a big project, and had to be done in a few stages, but oh! What it's done for my G+ feed! Now, when I pop in there, I almost always get to see something interesting. And I don't feel overwhelmed.
The other thing I did with my Circles was to create a lot more of them, with a tighter subject focus, as you can see above. This Circle structure may not be for everyone, but it really helps me to be able to see people's posts by theme. I can focus my mind on one subject at a time instead of sorting out a big jumble of ideas.
I don't read my unsorted G+ feed at all anymore; I just make my way through each Circle's feed.
Making a Practice of Discussing
The other thing I started doing this month was posting a Wednesday discussion topic to G+. As I mentioned last month, I don't have much interest in using G+ to do the same things I do on Twitter and Facebook, which is share links and momentary updates about my day. If I'm going to use G+, I want it to be about interesting conversation.
…And so, attempting to be the change I want to see, I instituted this little weekly practice. So far, I'm loving it! We've had some very interesting discussions this month, and one that fell flat. But I'm learning a lot about what makes for a good discussion-starter, and I'm really enjoying hearing everyone's perspectives.
(Interestingly, I've had to promote these G+ discussion posts over on Twitter and this blog in order to get good participation. But that makes sense in this time when so few people in our community are using G+ actively.)
Making a Practice of Responding
…And lastly, I've also made a point of going into my G+ feeds a couple times a week, and looking for interesting stuff people in my Circles have posted, and then – you guessed it – commenting on it.
As usual, this little practice is a really big key to having better conversations online. It's so easy for us to fall into Producer Mode, and pump out our content, and wish more people were commenting on it. The problem is, when we're ALL doing that, who the heck IS supposed to comment?
Image by Nomadic Lass, via Flickr
…And I hear people making a sort of stultifying "should" out of commenting all the time: "I wish I had more time. I just can't do everything else I need to do online and comment, too."
Here's my take: if it's important to you to have online discussion, you'll find a way to make the time. And if it's not important to you to have online discussion, you won't. It's okay if online discussion isn't important to you. Unless, of course, you want others to discuss with you without you having to discuss with them. The web is, after all, a community sport.
All soapboxing aside, this one little practice has also greatly increased my enjoyment of Google+. Now that my Circles are clean, and I'm focused on the small group of people who post things I find interesting, it's really nice to stop and take notice of this regularly.
…It's not all that different an experience, honestly, from what reading blogs used to be like back in 2006. There were fewer of them, so you could really dig in and enjoy them, and be in conversation with most bloggers.
Going forward, I'll be working to keep my G+ experience as enjoyable as it is now. I think it's about constant stewardship, and staying in control of what you want from the tool rather than letting it control you.