A lot of people are complaining that power users such as myself and Robert Scoble and others are causing too much noise in their stream. Scoble’s wife even quit the service because of it (and I can’t even convince my wife to use it even though I created an account for her). It’s nothing new, though – this is a problem Friendfeed had when they first released their real-time stream (Just Google “friendfeed noise” to see what I mean). However, there are ways of managing it. I’d like to share some of the ways I deal with the noise.

To start, let’s cover what generally causes the noise:

  1. It’s not necessarily about how many people you follow. Scoble follows thousands. I follow several hundred more personal contacts. However, as long as you don’t use the main stream as much, the number you follow really doesn’t matter. What matters is who you interact with.
  2. It is about how many conversations and what types of conversations you interact with. For instance, if you comment on one of my posts, you’ll get notifications for every comment on that conversation. On my posts, and people like Robert Scoble or Chris Pirillo or others, that will be a lot of notifications!
So, how do you fix this problem? At the moment Google+ doesn’t have a whole lot of noise filtering options for people. In some ways that’s why it’s growing so fast. It’s in your face, and forces you to interact. At the same time that’s pretty overwhelming for many people. Friendfeed overcame much of this by creating a pause button, and causing the stream to pause when you moused over it. They also collapsed many of the longer comment streams (Facebook does this too) so that only the first or last comment appeared. I imagine Google+ will do this in the near future. I don’t doubt they’ll find a solution. However, until that happens here is how I deal with it:
  1. Turn on your email notifications and ignore the big red circle. The first thing I did when I joined Google+ was turn off the email notifications because they were becoming too overwhelming (you can do this with the little gear icon in the upper-right of Google Plus). It turned out I found myself becoming too obsessed with how many things were happening in my stream, and it kept reminding me on every Google product I participated in. So I turned them back on, but with one caveat:
  2. Uncheck “Email” for “Comments on a post after I comment on it”. I leave every other email option checked. If you leave this checked, when you comment on one of my posts or one of Robert Scoble’s posts you’ll very quickly be overwhelmed by email. Not even I can handle that! The other options can be managed though, and won’t be nearly as frequent. If someone in one of those threads wants your attention, they’ll mention you with a “+your name” and you’ll still get an email (this is because “mentions me in a post” is still checked in your settings).
  3. Use Gmail. Gmail provides some great management tools for managing noise. First of all, you have priority inbox which you can train to not mark Google Plus posts as priority. You can create filters to send them to another label and skip the inbox if you like, and you can just skip over your notifications as you have time. And the best part about Gmail? Grouped conversations! Me personally – I like the notifications so I keep them in my inbox. Here’s what I do further though to manage that type of flow:
  4. Mute. Mute. Mute! When you’re in Gmail, just press “m” on your keyboard when you have a Google+ thread open, you’ll never see that thread again appear in your inbox. If you want it to appear again, just search for it and press “m” again and it will turn on the new messages to your inbox again. You don’t lose any messages this way. They just skip your inbox so you don’t have to pay attention to them any more. Also, in your Google Plus stream, if there’s a long stream that’s bugging you, you can just click the small triangle in the upper-right of the thread and select “Mute this post”. The post will no longer appear in your stream – no one ever knows you muted it.
This method has worked really well for me so far. It’s the same method I use on Friendfeed to manage my stream mostly. Please let me know how it works for you, or if you have any better ways of managing the noise in your stream better. You can do so in the comments below:
As always, you can follow me on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/107833107845497630206.

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