One of the biggest problems with all social media problems is noise control. You will inevitably end up with a lot of content that just doesn’t appeal to you at all. Despite the various ways that platforms attempt to address it, none of them manage to really figure it out.
Inevitably, the problem is that you have to categorize people rather than the content they produce. Facebook’s Lists feature requires you to push people into one category, making no distinction between the pictures of their kids and the celebrity gossip they post. Google+ has the same problem; you can put people into several Circles, but it just means their content shows up in multiple places. Unsurprisingly, Twitter creates the same problem with Lists. Some clients can apply per-column filters, but they aren’t persistent.
A similar problem shows up when you publish content. Both Facebook and Google+ make the assumption that you want to publish content to specific people. While this can often be a good option (especially if you don’t want your co-workers seeing that you went to that ball game), what about when you just want to give people the option to partake of your various types of content? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for the people you know to self-select the content you categorize?
We already have a system that does this: blogs. WordPress lets you tag and categorize all of your content. A subscriber can then pick a category- or tag-specific feed to get just that content, or they can take the whole shebang from the main feed. Why can’t we get a similar system from social networks? Shouldn’t we be able to keep functionality that’s been around for years? It would certainly help cut down significantly on noise, decrease user fatigue, and increase user participation. Right now, I have to guess if someone wants to see content of a specific type while in the process excluding everyone else from acting on it.
The rumor mill says that Google+ is working on this right now. I sure hope so. If they can’t find a good way for us to control noise from both ends, we’ll be right back to FarmWars crapola.
Diaspora has implemented something similar with tags in their activity stream.
I really tried to like Diaspora, and I think they did a lot of really good things. The problem, though, is audience. I was connected to a whole 8 people and I was the only one posting. It really ended up just being a tool to use to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook.
Google+ has done a good job borrowing a few features so far, so I’m hoping they’re willing to poach some of the other good things that Diaspora accomplishes.