SiliconFilter

Google Voice Gets the Google+ Circles Treatment

/

I have my doubts about Google's drive to add Google+ features to each and every one of its apps and services, but here is a new Google+-related feature that actually makes perfect sense: starting today, Google Voice – the company's VoIP telephony service – will integrate with your Google+ circles.

Here is how Google describes this feature: "Circles give you more control over how you manage your callers; for example, calls from your “Creepers” circle can be sent straight to Voicemail, only your “College Buddies” circle will hear you rap your voicemail greeting, or you can set your “Family” circle to only ring your mobile phone."

Depending on how you use Google+, this is indeed a really useful new feature, especially given that Google makes it very easy to set rules and even different voicemail greetings for every different caller.

Sadly, No Circles Interface in Google Voice

It's worth noting that this doesn't mean you can now drag and drop your contacts into different circles, though. Instead, this feature is actually a bit hidden in the Google Voice contacts settings (click on Contacts, then select a group, then click on Edit Google Voice Settings.

Chances are, if you follow a lot of people on Google+, just a few of these are likely to ever call you. This feature, then, is probably more interesting for those who are either very meticulous about how they organize their Google+ circles and those who use it as a very personal social network and less like Twitter or Facebook.

 



10:55 am


Google+ Circles Are Now Sharable – Not the Twitter Lists Clone You Expected

/

Google just announced that users of its new social network Google+ can now share their meticulously curated circles of users with the rest of the world. Owen Prater, a software engineer on the Google+ team made the announcement on the service earlier this afternoon and noted that Google hopes that this new feature will allow users “to share and find lots of great content in Google+, while still giving you important controls over how you read and share.” Sadly, it’s exactly those controls that make this feature somewhat different from Twitter’s list feature – and likely not quite what Google+ users expected it to be.

No Subscriptions, Just Copies

While lists on Twitter, for example, are automatically updated for all subscribers when you add or remove accounts from the list, shared Circle won’t reflect these updates. What you are sharing then, in effect, is a version of your Circle as it looks today and that is frozen in time.

Google shared list example

Because of this, you can’t “subscribe” to somebody’s circles either. Instead, you can only make a copy of a circle and add it to your account. That’s easy enough (just give it a name and you’re done), but it’s not quite the same as having an automatically updated list of people that a curator is keeping up to date for you. For power users, that’s a bit of a letdown.

Some of the privacy mechanisms, of course, are smart. When you share a circle, for example, you have to give it a different name, helping you to ensure that you don’t inadvertently give away the derogatory name for the Circle you may have used in private.

This new feature is currently rolling out to all Google+ users, so if it’s not available in your account yet, just give it another hour or two and you should be able to share your Circles as well.



10:25 pm


Katango: Organizing Your Facebook Friends Has Never Been Easier

/

Google+ was developed around the concept of Circles – groups of people you organize according to your interests and relationship with them (tech bloggers, family members, etc.). While Google was working on Circles for its new social network, though, another company – Katango (formerly known as Cafébots) – was also working on a similar concept for organizing your friends. While Google makes you organize your groups manually, though, Katango developed a set of very smart algorithms that can automatically organize your Facebook friends into groups. Today, the company – which was funded by Kleiner Perkins’ sFund – is releasing its first product that uses this system: a group messaging app for the iPhone.

screen02This app, which is also called Katango (iTunes link), takes a look at who you are friends with on Facebook (the company plans to start working with other networks in the near future) and then organizes them into groups and lets you share content with them.

Using an Algorithm to Organize Your Friends

Unless the algorithms work very well, this kind of approach is obviously prone to being more of a hassle than just manually setting up groups, but luckily, the app actually works very well. The company’s VP of product Yee Lee gave me a demo of the service’s abilities earlier last week. Seconds after I gave it my Facebook credentials, Katango had organized my friends into instantly recognizable groups. The service, for example, recognized all my old work contacts from my last job at ReadWriteWeb and put them into one group. It also set up groups for all of my friends in Germany, as well as for my family members. I don’t have a massive amount of friends on Facebook, but according to Lee, other users with more contacts will also see groups based on where they live, who they play sports with or go to church with and share other interests with.

In the iOS app, users will also be able to add their contacts to groups. None of this data is ever made public, so while the service gets a pretty intimate look at who your friends are, none of this data is ever shared with anybody.

Having groups, of course, only makes sense if you can do something with them, so Katango focuses on sharing photos and other content with your friends. If your contacts are on Facebook but don’t use the app, they will see your content on Facebook. If they use neither, they will get an email.

Feature or Product?

To some degree, of course, Katango is really more of a feature than a standalone service and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Twitter, Google or Facebook would take an interest in buying the company. Lists, after all, are now a central part of all major social networking services and being able to automate this process is something most of these companies are likely looking at.

As for acquisitions or partnerships, Lee was obviously tight-lipped, but he did note that the company has talked to the “big two” players in the social networking space (I take this to mean Twitter and Facebook).



11:34 pm