Monday Jul 11, 2011

Importance of lively updates

Google Plus is giving us an example of how important it is for your interface to immediately reflect changes made by users. When it doesn't, it doesn't inspire confidence. My first experience with Google+ was adding a new person to a circle. Her posts showed up immediately (yay!), but in the list of people "In your circle", she was nowhere to be found. When I clicked on her name in one of her posts, I got "Add to circles" as an option. Adding her a second time caused her to show up in the "In your circle" list and changed the behavior of clicking her name to bring me to her profile instead of showing me the "Add to circles" list. Seems like a case of different parts of the page pulling data from different parts of Google. The piece that shows me posts knew she was in a circle. The piece that handles who is in my circles hadn't quite noticed that change yet.

In another case, I clicked over to the profile of a friend who had just signed up. From what I can tell, he entered his gender into his profile but not much else. Fair enough. I know this because his profile says "Gender: Mail". Here's what I saw on the screen though.

Google+ says "Michael has not filled out their profile yet.". First of all, Michael clearly has filled in at least something in his profile - you're showing it right there, Google. Second, the one piece of his profile he did submit was his gender. How about "Michael has not filled out his profile yet."? Once again, this looks like a disconnect between different parts of the UI, where some of it has gotten an update (gender being filled in in the profile), and some if it hasn't (the text right above saying there is no profile, and not reflecting the one bit of known data).

I'm left feeling like Google doesn't totally have their act together even though they had a cold-open with an invite-only system. On a totally unrelated note, I've notice a somewhat similar behavior in Google Calendar - if you import a bunch of ICS data, you can see it if you subscribe to the ICS calendar, but it doesn't show up in the UI for a while. Not all the time, just sometimes. Perhaps this is just a symptom of running a large distributed system. On the other hand, maybe we can do better?

I guess what I'm trying to say is... just what do I call "people in my circles"?

About

Jeff Alexander is a member of the Information Retrieval and Machine Learning group in Oracle Labs.

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