When I first heard about Google+ I thought that circles would be my favorite feature. I thought having an easy way to filter who I published things to would be great. And, so far, it is. However, there is another aspect of circles that I like even more. They are helping me find people who share my interests and who have interesting things to talk about.
For example, with this Blog I talk about development stuff leaning mostly towards Cold Fusion development. Thus when I was defining my circles I created a ColdFusion circle and put some folks like Sean Corfield and Marc Esher in my CF circle. They both usually have interesting stuff to talk about in regards to CF and so I’m happy they both also put me into a circle that also seems to deal with development topics.
These relationships were previously defined though. We’ve all communicated in some fashion or another online either via twitter, a forum, or facebook. Because of these relationships I trust that the people they are talking to about development stuff actually care about it and probably have something to add to the conversation at some point. Thus, when one of them posts about a development topic to a limited audience I can look at the other members of the limited audience and instantly find other people who share that particular interest. I can’t, necessarily, hear what they have to say - but I can begin to form a new relationship with these people by putting them in one of my circles.
Once they are in my circle they will start to see some of my content on that topic. If they like what I have to say they will most likely add me to their development circle and then I’ll start hearing what they have to say and we will begin an online relationship around our shared interest in development.. If they don’t like what I have to say they will just ignore me and the relationship will be terminated - which is fine.
This works for any topic I’m interested in. I might have a C# circle or a Disc Golf or a Mountain Bike circle and, in each, I might find; via the extended circles, others who share my interest and who I might want to have a lasting conversation with.
Circles, for me, aren’t as much about filtering for who hears what I have to say but are about finding people who have something to say I want to hear.