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Don't Give Your Users Shit Work (zachholman.com)
410 points by vijaydev on Nov 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

He's right in that Facebook was helpful by auto-creating certain "groups" of friends for you based on profile information. Where this completely breaks down is once you move past the trivial task of auto-populating categories for your location, school, and work.

As I see it there are three modes of sharing:

The first is where my post is quite innocent and generic, so I just want to declare it to the world. This goes in public.

The second is where my post is pretty irrelevant to most of my friends, and is really only directed at a portion of them. So to prevent clogging the feeds of the rest of my friends, I submit it to a specific group like "Biking Buddies." Facebook can't learn this or automatically set it up. On the other hand, I rarely care enough to only post to a group instead of public.

The third situation is the opposite of the second: there is a very specific group of people that I don't want to see what I'm about to post. Planning a surprise party or uploading party photos from the night before fall here. In that circumstance I only choose to post to a specific group of close friends. Again, something that Facebook can't deduce from my profile.

You can't get around #3 without doing shit work, except by not posting it to begin with. As a developer you can't avoid this: sometimes manual labor really is the only solution to a problem. Until we invent mind-reading, of course.

Reading your three situations, I have another one which I've been thinking about: a post which is informative and in some way beneficial to the public, but which a significant portion of the people you know simply do not care about.

For example, you may have an excellent piece of commentary about the history of Unix and the state of X, Y, Z in modern operating system design. Most of your non-technical friends, along with your family, in all likelihood do not care about this and will not find it interesting, so it's just noise to them. If you post it publicly, it's worthwhile to the Internet at large, but annoying to a select group. If you post it so that only the relevant individuals see it, and no one else, then the public potentially lose out.

Is there a simple solution here which I'm just not seeing? Is there a social network that deals with this appropriately? With Facebook, you can "unsubscribe", which means hiding a user's posts from your feed, but that seems like overkill. How do prominent developers deal with this? Do they just make their posts more generic and mainstream, and move the technical discussion elsewhere? Or do they just let their non-technical friends and family Deal With It?

Perhaps one solution is to mark a post with "Family don't need to see this", then skip the post for anyone in Family who views their stream/feed/timeline/whatever, probably with an unobtrusive notice which says "post skipped". But then there's added complexity, and — getting back to Zach's main point — it's more shit work.

I see what you mean.

My personal "solution" is that I typically share personal stuff exclusively on Facebook (non-public posts) and what is more "technical" (comments or questions on tech, products, etc.) on Twitter. (and HN)

For example, I didn't announce the birth of my daughter on Twitter, because I've known the people who follow me in mostly professional settings. Some of those might be friends too, but if they are, they're probably on Facebook too.

Works well for the most part, except when I'd be interested in the opinion of Facebook friends that are not on Twitter… But it won't work for everyone either.

I realize that it's possible that I am missing out on opportunities to create stronger personal relationships with people on Twitter by not discussing personal matters there, but that's honestly getting too complicated. :)

I think that's the easiest solution. Twitter and Facebook have two different atmospheres - you don't get 20,000 followers because you have 20,000 friends, but because you have 20,000 people interested in your role as a professional authority and your posts about product trends, etc. Similarly, Facebook isn't tailored to disseminating a lot of information to a lot of people quickly and consistently - the number of people who'd really care about your personal life is almost always much lower than the number of people interested in new product information from your company (presuming they have a professional stake in it).

Though, in my case, I'm still working on establishing my professional authority on Twitter… :) As a matter of fact my number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers are dangerously close.

I think the answer is what I call 'subscribable circles' in this blog post: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/12261287667/in-defense-of-the...

Which actually works a lot like RSS. You have certain named feeds, e.g. "Unix." Then people looking at your profile can subscribe to that feed if they're interested in what you have to say about Unix.

Back in the day, we called that "Usenet".

I'm constantly annoyed by this on twitter. 1 in 100 tweets are on the topic I'm interested in.

Two possible solutions:

Channels: You create a few outlets, for example "technical", "personal", "food-i-ate-today". Then I could subscribe to your "technical" channel and ignore the res. Guess this is close to what joebadmo posted.

Tags: Almost the same, but a post can have many tags.

The problems with these "solutions" is: what heppens when you create a new tag/channel? Maybe one should auto-subscribe to all of them, and then ppl could remove those they don't want. Might be shit work though.


While I find the use case relevant, I think ultimately, the point is that a post like that simply does not belong on Facebook. Sure one could argue that you should be able to post whatever you want, but the reason it seems so convoluted and confusing is because you've made it that way.

A post like that belongs on a blog. I like to think of a blog a place for people to learn about a specific topic. Facebook is for people trying to learn about people.

What about the case where it isn't a long-form post, but something more casual like a retweet or a link to some website? I can see the blog solution working out there, too (cf. Daring Fireball), but you might not want to have that full setup for more ephemeral (yet interesting) stuff. There also might not be one specific topic. I'm not disagreeing with you, I just wonder if there is a way to use a social network like Google+ for Everyone, as they market it, which is sensible. Maybe not.

If you really just think about what you're sharing, it's likely going to fall into one of three categories.

1. I want to share this with my friends and family, it's ephemeral, will interest them, and expresses more about who I am.

2. I want to share this with my coworkers and colleagues, it is relevant to our professional interests. This category also happens to be the "Public" category for me in a lot of cases, because anything I share professionally, doesn't need to remain private.

3. Anything off topic here. Something that lands in this category (while interesting and relevant to you) is, for the most part, uninteresting to the audiences you've made yourself available to.

To be honest, even retweets and links to blogs I wouldn't show interest in on Facebook. It's not a matter of a post being too long for me to read on Facebook, or I would. It's a matter of expectation. On Facebook I expect to see a personal opinion about the way politics is being run, not a link to a professional discussion about politics. Both happen, but the second is likely to see much more action on a medium like Twitter.

I see a couple things needing to happen, then this sort of thing will largely be dealt with automatically.

1 - determining the type of content based on words, size, etc. based on the type of content the system would automatically filter it on the receiver's end. if the receiver has typically ignored or deleted 'history of unix' type stuff from me, the receiver/reading app will file it away, and note to the receiver that something's been received, but it's probably not important. Like 'spam/ham' filtering, but as another dimension. (yam? tasty for some, untasty for others?)

2 - using signals of other people in the ecosystem as more signals in the 'spam/ham/yam' algorithm. If I post something that all my geek friends read/share/comment about, those interactions should count towards an 'interest' score on that piece when it's presented (or not) to my mom, for example.

I see statuses all the time I really don't care about. It's not necessary for someone to restrict me from the group able to see it for that reason - if your friends dislike seeing posts they don't care for, why are they browsing the newsfeed?

So to prevent clogging the feeds of the rest of my friends, I submit it to a specific group like "Biking Buddies." Facebook can't learn this or automatically set it up.

I think Facebook already does this. No, they don't setup actual groups, but the ratio of stuff your friends (and pages you've liked) post to what ends up in your feed is probably 10:1. That might be way off, but the point is that FB is filtering the feed based on your relationship with the person, how often they post, the content of the post, etc. At least this is what I've gleaned from reading about this in various places, but I'd love to be corrected or get more detail if anyone has it.

The author seems to be missing a gigantic point of order here. The reason why Facebook is algorithmically able to determine groups for you is because you, the user, have already entered in fields for Work, School, Location, etc. So the user has had to do a small amount of shit work for Facebook to do its magic.

Of course, that's a very small amount of work relative to manually placing friends into circles. But G+ does not (yet) have the same kind of parsed personal/profile information, which would require the same mechanism that FB has (deciding who to reveal what parts of your profile to)...and which, as far as I can tell, is not trivial to implement, or to graft on to the existing Google Account structure.

Of course, Google can ALREADY do this for you. No doubt they have mined enough information about each user, including locations of IP addresses, to fill out most of your boilerplate profile info. It doesn't take the EFF to realize the privacy implications of auto-filling your circles with people who don't realize that Google's algorithm has correctly guessed their location, age, school and workplace and is now implicitly exposing such information.

I think that the part where entering your info into Facebook appears less like shit work is that it's typically factual and structured: I worked there, I studied here, these people are family members.

Google +'s circles are completely up-to-you, for better or for worse, and you hit ambiguous parts more quickly: is that guy a friend or an acquaintance? Should I put him in "Tech", "Ruby", both?

But of course, as you go deeper in either product, you'll soon find the same ambiguities and amount of shit work.

No disagreement there...I think it's just extremely difficult for Google+ to do auto-circling without either:

a) Creating a Facebook-like profile system, with more regimented fields and discrete data.

b) Totally disregarding users' privacy by doing it for them.

All of these are technically possible for Google, but they also have their major drawbacks. Where Google has been able to do it without downside - your private list of closest GMail and GChat contacts - it has.

> But of course, as you go deeper in either product, you'll soon find the same ambiguities and amount of shit work.

The point here is that for facebook when your contacts change their details, changes to their inclusion in your groups are automatically cascaded.

It's orders of magnitude less shitwork than Google+ where you have to manually curate / update circles.

Griping about an optional feature? Really?

Circles have great utility for me for two reasons.

1. Like Twitter lists (which I use, thanks Tweetdeck), I want to see information from certain groups of people for different things.

2. I want to disseminate different types of information to different groups of people.

If you don't find either of these use-cases compelling, there is nothing stopping you from ignoring them completely.

I will never ever ever trust an algorithm to get this right, except for the most trivial cases, and if the case is that trivial, I will default to public.

I think ultimately the problem is that these features are trying to replicate offline social context, but only getting halfway there. I've written more about this: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/11670022371/intimacy-is-perfo...

Optional? I don't think so. Google Circle _is_ the main feature. That's everything Google+ is about.

Circle management is optional. If you want to use it like Twitter, you can. Just dump everyone in one Circle and spray your content indiscriminately to everyone in it.

The point is that to use this feature (which is potentially a great feature) requires you to do shit work.

Yes it's an optional feature and people can not use it but frankly the whole product is optional and people can not use it.

If you're going to put a feature in your product then you should do so in a way that makes it as good as it can possibly be - and that includes reducing the associated shit work.

> Just dump everyone in one Circle

To me, this is shit work (that the author was talking about).

Then you've never actually done it. It's two clicks. You're just looking for something to complain about.

But you don't need to use every Circle - you can dump everyone you know in one Circle and leave it at that.

I've got to say, this is very much a complaint that doesn't appear to have a good solution. Beyond any sort of simple AI that groups based on last name, school or employer (like Facebook does, I guess), there's not much to go on when it comes to automatically creating Circles.

Ummm. No.

I use Google+ heavily and I've put everyone in the same circle.

It's a great marketing feature though!

I'd really love for a social network to correctly anticipate all the people i'd like to share something with, and to automagically categorize stuff like that. It'd be sweet. But it seems like the worst-case scenario if it gets it wrong could be pretty terrible.

He's absolutely right, though, that a key problem with circles and lists and other shit work is that it's very rarely well integrated into the clients.

(I also want disagree with the claim that "no one wants to do shit work". I believe the entire genre of MMORPGs -- even, dare i say, RTS' -- stand as testament against. They also suggest how high peoples tolerance of shit work is if it is well integrated into a client ;)

Yeah but in MMORPGs, people do shit work to get rewards...

It's funny because I was sort of nodding along through the beginning. I am one of the very people he mentioned with a bunch of stillborn Twitter lists. But then he went on to reference a Merlin Mann article:

> His main point is that adding an assortment of labels, tags, and priorities to your email inbox only serves to give you the illusion of getting work done.

Which I understand, because Mann has a tendency to get into the fiddly bits, and so do I, but what's missing is that these things do potentially have utility. Case in point: I get dozens, sometimes hundreds, of non-spam emails a day. I used to use Apple Mail until it couldn't really handle the volume very well, then I switched to Gmail and learned the keyboard shortcuts. Eventually I got into labels. The UI makes it super easy to apply labels, and I label every important email. This could be considered "shit work", but it provides a solid ROI because it allows me to browse through project summaries, and makes it much less likely for things to slip through the cracks. It's amenable to automation in that I can create rules, but mostly it relies on my ability to tag every single email. It sounds like a lot of work, but once the system is in place it doesn't actually take any time to hit 'l' and autocomplete a label or two.

Meanwhile, Google's attempt to improve productivity without shit work—Priority Inbox—actually provides me negative value. It doesn't matter how good it is because if it's less than perfect I can't trust it, and it can't ever be perfect because countless externalities affect my idea of priorities. In the end, the assigned ratings become more noise that I have to deal with.

So while the point about not letting busy-work make you feel productive is a valid warning, it doesn't follow that if it can't be automated it isn't useful. It's all about ROI. I think the problem with Twitter and Google+ is that they just aren't useful enough to sink that much time into unless there is a direct professional purpose.

I disagree with one point. Priority Inbox tells me which email subjects to skim and which to open every time. For the few important emails that make it into the non-important bucket, skimming the subjects always brings them out. However, EVERY email in my important inbox is important (I haven't had to mark one as unimportant for months). When I sit down to go through email (2-3 times a day) I read everything in the priority inbox because I trust that.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't understand the compulsion to post potentially embarassing information about yourself on the Internet.

I can't believe people are arguing about the right way to do this.

Twenty years ago, it was rare for someone to call everyone they ever knew and scream into the phone how drunk they were. I might have done that only once or twice in my life. (If I called you by mistake and woke you up at 2AM, I apologize.)

But today, if you can't provide a web-based service that not only allows you to do that very thing but protects you from the consequences of it, people will complain.

I think you are confusing push and pull communication. Twitter does not ring up every single person on the planet whenever I share something, but what I share does appear in their feed once they care to check.

If it were push communication, you'd be right to complain, but since it is pull communication, other rules of etiquette apply.

Sometime shitwork can be a very good way to find new possibilities. A lot of people do shitwork that's immensely useful, like editors on Wikipedia, moderators on reddit and forums, people who enter all the data into imdb. I don't see how those people could be replaced by algorithms with what we know now.

Sometime shitwork needs to be done because you can't simplify. I'm doubtful that Facebook's auto-group feature would work for me. Maybe me doing shitwork on Google+ is what work for me, because I value my freedom to control my information online.

When Google+ released, I remember being somewhat confused that they opted for user defined Circles rather than using user relations as a gauge for friend "closeness". As the author of this blog post points out, users almost never want to get stuck placing hundreds of people in groups that could change at any time.

In fact, one Google Research paper[1] opens with the line: "Although users of online communication tools rarely categorize their contacts into groups such as "family", coworkers", or "jogging buddies", they nonetheless implicitly cluster contacts, by virtue of their interactions with them, forming implicit groups."

I'm curious what the eleven authors of this paper thought as they saw their Google co-workers developing a system they knew couldn't work.

[1]Suggesting (More) Friends Using the Implicit Social Graph (http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrust...)

Circles is a great marketing feature.

By pushing the privacy aspect of Google+ it allowed Google to differentiate themselves compared to Facebook. That message has persisted.

Users say they care heavily about privacy, but in practice they don't[1]. Circles isn't a bad solution to that, except for the small minority of people who feel the pressure try to build themselves a compete categorisation of everyone they know.

[1] Occasionally people do care - picture sharing is one case where people are somewhat careful. Circles caters to that case quite well.

The problem is that, anecdotally, no one seems to use Lists

That anecdote is not really worth much. Especially because those lists are probably very important for those who do use them.

Most people won't care about filtering their social relationships, until they do care. At that point, you want them to have the option.

The problem is that the cost/benefit of creating lists & circles isn't high enough.

Many developers obsess over the edge-case of "how do I post secret information that is only shown to the correct list?"

When in fact, normal people just want to post "Going to Aunt Edna's tomorrow!" to their family list, because it's irrelevant to non-family.

It seems Facebook agrees, with their loosey-goosey smart lists.

But, but... I like putting my friends into Venn diagrams.

Seriously. The 1 click it takes to put someone is a circle isn't really "work", and if it saves me awkward calls from my mom because she read a post intended for my drinking buddies, then it was well worth it.

I agree. But the author is making a point about how justified these features are and how arbitrary they can be for users. Personally, I never distinguish who I publish statuses too. But I can understand why that's a useful feature. And he DID praise that feature for Facebook.

What he isn't praising is when a user compulsively uses a feature which is superfluous. A huge assortment of different tags and labels in email isn't really justified. Sure, you can find a use for it. But most users arguably organize their entire mailbox into these neat categories, and thereafter, half of them are never used again.

I know people who are compulsive about having a clean Gmail inbox, and who derive lots of value from tags. I also know people (like me) who are perfectly ok having 10k messages in their inbox, and searching for stuff as required.

The nice thing is, Gmail supports both of these use patterns equally well.

Ideally, that's how every product should treat it's more advanced features. If a user spends the time creating taxonomies they'll never use, well, that's more the user's fault than the software's...

I think you're missing the point. You now need to maintain that circle and groupings over the next years you use Google+.

Check out Nokia Pulse. It's pure Venn, nothing more, nothing less.

Ah, this argument again. Simplicity rules.

I disagree. I like being able to set filters and granularity. I like having the option to give me the information I want, in the way I want it. I'm prepared to do the extra up-front setup to get the better end experience; I have hundreds of filters set up on my email, for example.

Don't give me forced simplicity; give me the option to tune it to my needs and give it the power to make it actually useful.

It's not about simplicity vs. complexity, or whether complex features are A Bad Thing. It's about matching complexity with utility. You shouldn't force your users to do a bunch of work (in this case building Google+ Circles or Twitter Lists) and then under utilize that investment of user time.

Still, it would be nice to be able to create groups to watch and filter repositories and users on GitHub.

That's a good answer to Zach. I'm having problem of too much noise when I follow a lot of projects and people on GitHub.

What are you trying to accomplish by following projects on github? Maybe they can make activity on projects more meaningful, like show you more activity if you're a committer or only big commits if the project is very active but you don't often click on activity items.

That's the point: it's very difficult to automatically determine what someone wants when they follow a project. Sometimes I only want to bookmark it because I know I'll find it useful in the future. Other times, I only care when a new stable version of it is released, with a changelog. When I'm a participant I want to see more details, like new issues or commits.

Instead, because of the lack of options, we're left with an unusable wall of notifications. Smaller projects get drowned out by larger ones, and it tells me every little detail of what is going on with every single project. I'm pretty sure I've never clicked on a single link from it in the past few years of using GitHub.

Plug: I built a Chrome extension called "GitHub Feed Filter" https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jcpkhafkpnaljjbgdg... precisely for this reason. The notifications are just too many when you follow too many projects.

Absolutely right. I am finding that, especially with mobile, you have to really think about the design so that shit work is cut to a minimum. For example, I am in the process of making an iOS app, but it interfaces with an external appliance. I don't want to ask the user to input host, port, etc., so instead I'd much rather do the extra leg work and implement uPnP detection and then ask the user as a last resort. Apple has figured this out. 70% is in your face while the rest is within hands reach.

As an analogy, Circles is driving users to a brick wall hoping they will climb over to see what is the big deal is. Assuming they care. Assuming they aren't in the middle of something when they get the invite.

Which makes me think about the "Find My Friends" App on iOS. If Apple flipped the "social" switch, they would have creatively acquired a power which no other social network would be able to grasp without huge privacy backlash - knowledge of where you and all of your friends are at any given time. Here's the sell: You already have the app. How does this relate to shit work? Well, you'd be apart of a social network where you, your friends are already members, your latest photos are already there (iCloud), you know where your friends are and what they are doing - and you did very little work.

Agreed. This is the primary reason I don't use Google+. I haven't got the time or inclination to split people into groups or even figure out what those groups might be. I did try but found it a taxing process.

Automatically coming up with criteria to filter by is a great solution. I'd love if I could send a tweet just to my UK followers or to those who tweet about "Ruby" a lot. This is all easily solved by machines and doesn't require me to do anything by hand.

> Some people still like shit work. They can spend an hour moving Twitter accounts to special Lists, and then at the end of it look back and say “Boy, I spent an hour doing this. I really accomplished a lot today!” You didn’t. You did shit work.

This made me laugh.

I half-agree with the post. There is an element of "shit work" that actually makes users feel engaged. For instance, my iGoogle homepage has feeds set up with sites I've had to hunt down an RSS for and manually enter. I've had to invest time into rearranging the layout to my priorities.

It's 'shit work' in that it's manual and somewhat trial-and-error, but it leaves me feeling more invested in the product if I'm ultimately more satisfied with the end result.

Disclaimer: I am a PC/ubuntu guy, so I understand that mine may not be the mainstream opinion.

I use twitter lists, in part because Tweetdeck makes them easy to view. I like to follow the various food trucks around town, but usually I am only interested in them when hungry. Having them collected in a list keeps them out of my main feed.

They are a pain to maintain, however.

One under-appreciated feature of lists is that they can also be followed. For example someone else could follow your carefully-cultivated list of food trucks! (I do this with someone else's list :) )

I think there are 2 camps of users - I'd rather organize my own lists than trust Facebook to do it for me. I honestly don't trust Facebook to do it...

The author of the article hasn't completely thought this through though. He's saying it's shit work which Facebook automates for you but then he goes on to say relationships are complicated and some people are in overlapping "circles."

He shoots himself in the foot right there. Facebook's auto-populated groups can't figure out the complicated nature of our relationships with people. I have many shades of friends and people who have varied interests even within those shades of friends. It's too hard for an algorithm to be able to deduce this very human aspect of relationships.

This article makes no sense... You are rightly pointing out that it takes some effort to maintain your privacy and think about managing your circles of friends on G+ and then you compare it with nothing that provides that ability on Facebook. Yes, thinking is hard. If you are ok with saying everything to everybody then you don't have to do it. But Facebook making a few broad automated groups for you solves none of the problems you describe... How does Facebook know who you want to share your drinking stories with? At least Google puts it up front and makes it part of the whole fabric of their product... you always think about circles... just like in freaking real life.

Totally disagree. First, if you don't want to categorize, then don't--use one big circle. I actually want to have fine-grained control over who I publish to, and Facebook's auto-discovered groups touted in the article don't do it for me. The whole "Don't embrace the shit work" is not relevant either because you can't judge the value of a product by people who don't use it productively. BTW, Most time spent on Facebook period isn't REAL work. This is precisely why I don't have a Facebook account and don't spend tons of time on Google+. But circles are crucial to my use of Google+, and Facebook's lack of a good implementation of the idea is the reason I never used it.

I don't disagree, but then, I'm not sure you can make a good comparison between Google+ and Facebook. One is meant for productivity - Google+ was marketed from the start as a more business-inclined way to interact with people (conferences, setting up meetings, etc.). Facebook isn't really trying to be productive, so perhaps the author shouldn't have used the comparison at all. Facebook is really just about interacting vicariously through the internet, with no rhyme or reason to it.

This is why I don't have any interest in buying an Android phone: everyone I know who has one, all the excitement I hear about is their fancy keyboard replacement, or the aftermarket launcher they found to replace the sluggish stock one. Now, I do understand the appeal, if that's what you want to tinker with. I tinker with Volkswagens — I know they're not the finest car I could get my hands on. But when it comes to a smartphone, I'd rather buy the best thing in the store. Even if you're excited that your platform gives you the "freedom" to replace its crappy stock components, that doesn't negate the fact that it's just the freedom to do shit work. So, y'know, flame away.

And yet I still have to explicitly click the 'Mark all notifications as read' button after reading, and closing a pull request on github...

Edit: That probably came across more snarky than I intended. The point was that this is easily said, but hard to do right.

Just bc some people are lazy it doesn't mean that there isn't a sub of people that equally value the outcome of their so called shit work and would seek an alternative to the product if it didn't have the features.

Motivation is a big factor as well. G+ the motivation is vague, what benefit do you really gain? I know a bunch of people that jumped on Facebook's lists bc of privacy concerns and desire to limit dissemination of their content to unwanted people. For them their privacy >> a base amount of "shit work"... so author not quite right

Or at least make it fun (game).

Or make it more valuable. If being on specific Twitter lists drove more followers or was perceived to be important then getting people to put you on specific lists would be important.

But it isn't. Now.

Twitter Lists may not be popular, for exactly the reasons you describe, but they're really useful for two purposes: if you follow a LOT of people (for whatever reason), you can use Twitter for 'people whose posts I actually want to read' and if you use it for news consumption, you can make lists for that. I use it especially for the latter; being someone who follows iOS jail breaking, 99% of the time, Twitter is the original source for all of the news related to that.

(Sorry for hijacking)

In the new GitHub project page (e.g. https://github.com/cocos2d/cocos2d-iphone), it really took me some times to figure out where is the DOWNLOAD button..Please put the download button back to the top right area (next to the watch/fork buttons), and don't give your users shit work... Thank you!

(Btw, I agree what you said in your article!)

I think the list scope and features differ with respect to the nature of the type of followers. Twitter is a broadcast medium. Thus, Twitter lists are very different than Google+ Circles which are asynchronous sharing vs. asynchronous follow. There are also 2 types of shit work:

1. List Creation

2. List Maintenance

These are two different activities that in different networks require varying attention and utility out of the effort.

I agree. Something I said a few months ago:

I think most people have relatively clear friend/work boundaries, but even then I encountered a few "Hmmm" moments when putting people in circles. I suspect that most people don't actually want to group the people in their social network - it can take a surprising amount of introspection. Time will tell if that's true.

This is similar to the problem that Picasa has. Their facial recognition technology is really cool, but the work that I need to go through is so immensely tedious that I stopped bothering. Having to approve tens of thousands of faces just doesn't work. And then if you move the photo directory, you lose everything.

"immensely tedious"

Aye, there's the rub. IT'S NOT FUN.

Disturbs me that on Netflix I've rated six-hundred-and-fifty-four movies - that's a huge amount of "$#!^ work", yet I did it compulsively and enjoyed it. That's the whole thing about "crowd sourcing", "data mining", etc. - persuade people to WANT to do the work, and they will with little complaint. If your users are viewing it as "$#!^ work", you've done it wrong.

Alittle OT, but the thing that struck me while reading is that organizing should be a means to and end and not the end itself.

If you organize to speed up your "real work" great. If you organize to organize, that's shit work.

I'm not sure what category g+ circles are in though..

Is organizing your bookshelf in iBooks shit work? After reading the article, I'm sure the author would classify it as such. But Apple is smart enough to figure this stuff out. In fact, they're experts at it. What's Apple's reasoning?

Funny, how soon we forget that shit work is what Myspace was all about. That was the use case. Typing in a giant, unstructured list of your favorite artists or installing some way-too-busy image as your profile background in order to impress your friends was the highlight of the "social network" as it existed in 2004.

People, mostly women in my experience, loved that "shit work" the same way they loved putting on makeup or shopping for uncomfortable clothes.

Some work is enjoyable. People do it for fun. Like gardening, or knitting, or cooking. I believe social networks are kind of like that, for at least some subset of the population. Privacy probably shouldn't be that way, but sadly, I think we all know how scarce people are who actually care about their privacy.

> People, mostly women in my experience, loved that "shit work" the same way they loved putting on makeup or shopping for uncomfortable clothes.


It could very well just be the people I know. It isn't meant to be sexist.

My point is that people enjoy putting effort into their public persona and appearance, and put up with a lot of crap to perfect it.

Peter Drucker said something along the lines of "there's no greater form of waste than doing that which shouldn't be done at all with great efficiency."

Google Circles is an elegant solution to the wrong problem.

Having people manually set up circles is an O(n^2) solution. Having people join circles, is an O(n) solution.

Not exploiting that circles are (approximately) equivalence classes is borderline criminal

Google+ doesn't tap into any of the 7 seven sins. Facebook does. Case closed. I'm willing to do shit work if it taps into my desire for vanity.

it's all in the sell, as Tom Sawyer realized.

Our app "Groups" is praised by people who can use it to ... organize their contacts :)

Guess what's next ... a social network.


To summarize: don't forget people are lazy.

Great point. Terrible positive example.

This guy is becoming my "hero"! =D

Completely agree.

For one, I don't really feel like the expletive in the title helped his cause at all. A better title would have been "Facebook suggests groupings of your friends for you!"

I also thought his example was contrived. I mean, is there anyone who's so worried about their social networks that they will hem and haw over whether someone is a coworker or drinking buddy or whatever? And if there is someone like that, well thank goodness Google+ supports their neuroses!

Some of the author's point was precisely that being neurotic - and by extension, highly organized - itn't in of itself completing any work. Up to a point it's efficient, but then it becomes very unefficient. It's like someone continually micromanaging folders on the desk instead of actually completing the paperwork.

I don't understand the point of your comment. What are you clarifying or trying to refute? What is your opinion on the matter? The author never even uses the word neurotic. That was my word. His point is that people who like to dilly dally with trivial organization are wasting time; not being productive. I certainly agree with him. My point was that if there's someone who enjoys that kind of thing, well more power to them and it's great that there are social networks out there that support that behavior.

I know it was your word, not the author's; I was agreeing that being that tidy is not productive and offering a comment on the point.

I think it's a perfect example. Setting up Google+ Circles is a lot of work - work that I really wish I didn't have to do. And yes, there are plenty of people who have to be very careful about who sees what posts on social networks, especially when coworkers are involved.

I'm envious. If dragging and dropping some icons constituted "a lot of work" in my life, then I'd be a very happy man.

It's not just "dragging and dropping some icons", it's forcing you to evaluate each of your contacts based on some criteria you come up with. That takes work I'd rather not waste my time doing.

"Shit work" is a common enough phrase that it seemed appropriate to me.

A phrase is not deemed appropriate solely because it is common. There are and have been many inappropriate common phrases in use over the years.

The author had an interesting point, but I found his use of "shit work" over and over to be distasteful enough to not want to read his blog again. It is an overloaded and crass term that only served to hurt his otherwise interesting argument.

I felt it was appropriate because the phrase, even if it was crass, exactly captured what he was talking about. I like it when people use the best word or phrase to describe something, even if it's a crass phrase.

Perhaps "poo work" or "feces work" would have been more apropos.

But those are not well known phrases. If you mean "shit work," say "shit work." To do otherwise is bad writing.

When I think of shit work, I think of working in a manufacturing plant at one station for 12 hours a day, getting two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. When I think of organizing lists on Twitter, well, I think of that as a fleeting annoyance at worst.

Facebook also supports my "neuroses" [sic] too. And thankfully. I have tech friends, family, and high school friends that don't know what "linux" is. I like to share articles, a lot, for discussion. I'm "neurotic" because I like to target who I share that stuff with?

I just checked and the wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurosis uses the word "neuroses" as a plural several times. What is the correct way to spell this word if not the way I spelled it? (I'm genuinely curious)

It's "neuroses," it's like crisis and crises.

Right, I know. That's the word I used, and it was marked as spelled incorrectly by someone who replied to my original comment. I was wondering why?

I apologize, my first glance indicated that it was a misspelling. I still find it condescending to imply that targeted posting is indicative of a mental disorder.

It was meant to be condescending :) And I hope it was also a little tongue in cheek!

Don't like Lists? Don't use them. I have almost a dozen lists on Facebook and I use them extensively (as if they're Circles basically). The only annoying thing is that Facebook decides to change my default publication privacy every time I publish to a specific list.

I don't understand, are the features themselves bad? Who's forcing you to use Twitter lists, or Facebook lists, or even Circles?

I think you're reading the article from the wrong perspective. The author isn't speaking to the people using these features, he's speaking to the people making these features. From a user's perspective, you are absolutely correct. People can simply ignore features. In fact, many people do. From a developer's perspective, that's the problem: many people are not using the feature that you made. If people aren't using the feature, then it was a waste of time to implement it. The post is providing guidance towards making features that actually get used, and were therefore not a waste of time.

I would agree - none of the companies in question forces a user to do this type of work. Only enhances the product if that's how you want to use it.

the point he is making is that users shouldnt have to do this work. The circle feature implies that they will automatically will take care of it when in fact it doesnt. It's a lot of manual labor as he elaborates.

Why didn't Google+ import from Google Contacts? I have done a fair bit of organizing there. I would communicate similarly on Google+ as I do by email.

So, it's not magic because it can't read my mind, thus it's a bad feature because it takes work to fully, fully utilize? I guess I'm still missing the point. It'd be nice if Google knew my relationship with these people or somehow knew my best friends from my colleagues or tech interests, but that's asking a bit much.

It's a suboptimal feature. Most developers like to write code that gets used a lot (at least I do). If a feature that you hoped will be popular is only used by a tiny subset, then you probably failed.

In Facebook's case, they may have written the initial lists feature as way to show they're "doing something" about privacy, so simply deploying the feature is a win.

But in Google's case, they've made Circles a central feature of their platform and it's coming up short (so far at least).

Google (or any network) could make it easier for us to use the feature. Facebook has figured this out and actively has some features to help.

The main ones that come to mind are the ability for other people to create relationships, whether personal or work related. This eliminates some of the work when building your profile. Then Facebook implemented the auto-grouping of lists depending on employers, previous interaction, locations, etc. And lastly, they monitor your graph on a daily basis and serve up possible additions to your friend lists which can be added with a simple click.

Google could have done a little of this using Google data such as Gmail lists and all, but they haven't (yet). Personally, I think Facebook's lists and grouping feature is far superior and I'm actually finding out from non-technical friends that they're actually using the friend lists. I suppose this has to do with Facebook automatically pushing a number of default lists to users...

It's not a bad feature, it's just not as good of a feature as it can be to accomplish that task

Yah, I agree, I don't think these features are at all bad. People just don't use them because they're lazy.

The hard problem is to figure out how to machine categorize this stuff, for sure. But I don't think it's shit work on your users to give them the categorize features. This stuff takes a lot of machine learning and a big system graph that hints at how this stuff should be applied. I think calling it shit work is over simplifying..

The main reason that drove me to delete my G+ account was the way circles were managed. I had done pretty well so far with 300+ people in my circles but then made the mistake of importing some shared lists into pre-configured lists and ended up with a bunch of grannies posting in my Node.js circle. To comb through, curate and modify a 600+ user circle proved to be way too much shit work than I was willing to do, so I just went ahead and deleted the account.

And I didn't even begin to address the amount of shit content replicated across all of my social media accounts by the same people.

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