Use Google collections to take control of your social stream

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

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It has been just over a month now since Google added a new feature to the social network known as Google+. The new feature is called collections.

Before I go into what collections are, I want to give you a little background. When Google+ was first conceived, the way we connect with people in real life was implemented within Google+ in the form of circles. Simply, as in real life, you can put people into different groups or circles. Obvious ones (which Google create for you when you first create an account) are your Family circle and your Friends circle. It doesn’t stop there, because you can create any number of different circles for different groups of contacts and there is nothing to stop you from adding people or pages (brand pages and the like) to more than one circle. So if you are really close to one of your work colleagues, you can bung them in amongst your Friends circle as well as your Work circle. It’s up to you.

The way circles work in practice is twofold. Firstly, when posting something to Google+ you can choose who sees what based on your circles (in addition to posting publicly). As soon as you choose a circle (or an individual) and remove Public from the list, your post is considered private. It is dead easy to do and means only the people you want to be able to see your post get to actually see it.

The second way circles are used in Google+, is to control what appears in your stream. You can for example, just view posts by people in a specific circle. Alternatively, you can turn down the amount of posts you see in your stream from a specific circle.

What Google did was to answer a need, by giving you more control over what you and your contacts see. They have done it again, this time in the form of collections.

Imagine a collection as a folder of related stuff which you and others can dip into whenever they like. Now when posting on G+, instead of posting publicly or privately via circles, you can choose to post to a collection. Collections themselves can be either public, or private (using circles no less). To give you an example, I have several collections set up for various things. One private collection is simply called ‘The Kids’ and is only visible to members of my family. Other public collections which I have set up include ‘Green Technology’ (, ‘Cool and Strange’ ( and oh yes, ‘My Technology Columns’ (

Collections can be followed or unfollowed independently of a person’s own profile. What this means is that you only need to follow the content you are interested in. If you circle someone and find out they post a lot about a particular subject which you have no interest in, you can simply unfollow that collection of posts. It will never bother you again. Similarly, if you see a collection you like, but aren’t interested in anything else the author has to say, you can just follow that one collection and ignore the rest.

As I say, it has been over a month now and for me collections are working out beautifully as I look forward to an uncluttered social media experience.

Alan Stainer