Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Setting Up Your Google+ Circles

In case you're new to Google+, let me start with a very quick overview of Circles. Even if you're not new to Google+, you may still find this helpful or may wish to share a tip of your own — please do!!

When we share things in 'real life' - we may not give it much thought, but we do tend to filter who we share what with. We may tell a few close friends and neighbors we're going on vacation for a week and ask them to watch the house and water the plants, but it's not likely we would post a sign for anyone who just happens to be driving by. Also, if we hear news about an old friend from high school, we're inclined to want to share it with others from our class, but it's less likely that our current co-workers, members of our bowling team, extended family members or fellow genealogists would find the news of any particular interest.

Google+ anticipates that type of filtering and selectivity. By establishing groups (called Circles in Google+), you can more easily control what you share and with whom you share it. As you might expect, Google+ enables an individual to be in one or more circles. So, if your best friend from high school also married your sister and later took up your passion for genealogy, you can include them in more than one Circle.

There are a few ways to navigate to the Circles feature, but one of the simplest is by using the Circles icon which appears at the top of your page, just to the right of the Google+ logo and to the left of the search box. There are currently four icons — Home, Photos, Profile, and Circles. As you hover your mouse over each icon, you will see a small box of descriptive text appear so you'll know you're headed in the right direction.

Practical Recommendations for Circles
The great thing to know as you get started is that you can always add, change or delete Circles at any time, so no need to stress over the initial setup. The next great thing to know is that you can now change the order in which Circles appear, placing your most important or most frequently used Circles higher in your list and the less important or less frequently used ones toward the bottom. This will make more sense as you begin using Google+ on a more regular basis.

Although you don't need to worry about alphabetical order, I always find it helpful when working with computer files to keep in mind the default sort order for files and folders. Numbers sort before letters, and certain characters sort before numbers.

SO — no surprise that like many of you, I have quite a few friends (and business contacts) that share my interest in genealogy. One of the first Circles I created was called just that, Genealogy. I could have named it anything I wanted — Gen, Geni, GenPeeps . . . you get the idea. Now, when I share genealogy news or am seeking genealogy advice, I can direct my comments and questions to those in my network of contacts who are most likely to read it (and my other friends and family won't have to figure out what a GEDCOM or SSDI is or why I'm STILL trying to find someone in the 1880 Census!

Next, I wanted to distinguish between my immediate family and my extended family. I did this by having two separate circles, one called Family and another named Family_Ext. I often use the underscore, but could have just as easily used a dash (Family-Ext) or a period (Family.Ext) or a space (Family Ext) as a separator. This is just personal preference. There are benefits to having things separated this way, especially as you and your family begin using Google+ on a more regular basis. As of now, just a few of my family members are on Google+, but I'm trying to win them over (and wean them off their Facebook addiction).

Another group of contacts I have are my co-workers, past and present. Having worked at a few different companies over the last three decades, I find it helpful to group my former work contacts based on the company where I was working. My choice was to name each group beginning with the word 'Work' followed by the name, stock symbol or abbreviation for the respective employer.

Now It's Your Turn
Those are just a few of my observations to get your thoughts flowing. Once you jump in, you'll see that it will take you less time to create and begin organize Circles than it did to read this post. Stay tuned for more tips in the weeks ahead.


  1. Thanks Dan, makes it a bit more clear but one area I am struggling with is my Genealogy circle is now huge. I'm thinking I might need to split into perhaps Australian and Overseas or whatever. Shauna

  2. I agree Shauna. Interestingly out of my accummulated contacts through Facebook and Twitter (both personal accounts and professional ones) genealogists are my largest circle on Google+ by far. Librarians are the next bigger but a much much smaller circle. Family and friends trail way way behind. One of my soapbox items these days, is against those who decry genealogists as being barely computer literate. My argument being that a large percentage are early adopters since the AOL chatroom days!

  3. I can relate to the family with Facebook addiction issue!