Notifications on Google Plus are Broken

    August 22, 2011

In the last few weeks, I’ve grown to really enjoy working with Google Plus, the search engine giant’s second attempt (third attempt?) at a social network to rival Facebook. Clean, elegant, responsive and fast for people to engage, I’m liking it more than Facebook in a lot of ways.

Except that Google hasn’t really thought through the entire issue of how to share with a user who is following them, and it means I’m not paying attention to people who I really do want to have a symmetric relationship with on the service.

That’s the big difference between G+ and FB: Google Plus is asymmetric, meaning that you can follow me (in the Google Plus world it’s referred to as “circling” because you add someone to one or more of your follow circles) without me having to follow you back. On Facebook every relationship is symmetric: we can’t be friends unless we both green light it. Huge difference and one that I really like, actually.

Except now I find that 300-400 people each day are “circling” me and I have no idea who the majority of them are because there’s just insufficient information from Google shown about how we’re connected, if at all.

Here’s what I mean:

google plus notifications

You can see four people shown here, one of whom has their name in Chinese, three of whom in English. But who are they? Do we know each other? Have we connected or followed each other on a different social service? Do they have a Web site that points to my online content?

The pop-up I am showing for John Yaeger is an improvement because it shows the number of people we have in common (e.g. that both of us have circled). That’s social proof, and that’s darn helpful as a first step. In fact, it’s that “people in common” count that I’d like to see next to each and every person so I can quickly scan and say “ah, 17 in common, what’s the story with this otherwise unrecognized name?”

But there’s a deeper issue here. Google owns the search engine space and has rich, deep and sophisticated profiles on each of us, profiles that include our interconnectedness. Why isn’t that data included here somehow so that I can have a quick visual clue who has circled me that I should be paying attention to versus those that are followers or just building up big circles but that, realistically, probably won’t make it into my Friends circle?

Imagine if G+ was using predictive analysis behind the scenes and that it had a five star scale next to each name that offered a quick clue about who it believed I was most likely to circle up? Or maybe just added a star or slightly changed the background color of the box that included people that have a non-zero “people in common” list? (better, let me have a slider so I can say the minimum for them to be highlighted is X people, not just 1).

There’s more to be done with Google Plus for sure, and this is one area that’s increasingly failing for me. What’s in the cards, G+ team?

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