Google+'s best feature: The power to shut fools up

Google+'s best feature is that it gives you the power to block people from you, your information, and your messages. Once you do that, they can never darken your social network doorstep again.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

On Google+, unlike most social networks or online forums you can actually have civil conversations.

On Google+, unlike most social networks or online forums, you can actually have civil conversations.

Google's social network. Google+ has many great features. Circles, which make it easy to talk to just your friends, co-workers, family, whoever and free video-conferencing via Hangouts. But its best feature, for those of us who've been on mailing lists, online forums, discussion groups and lately social networks for ages, is the ability the power to tell people to shut the heck up and make it stick.

Say hello to the new look of Google Plus (screenshots)

You know what I mean. There you are, talking with people online about Linux, the Cubs, whatever, and some jackass starts going completely off-topic; declares that someone else is an idiot, and on and on. We used to call people who did this trolls, and the arguments they could start, flame wars. Anymore though, I don't know if we need special words for them. Trolls are everywhere and people flame others with no real reason what-so-ever. I guess these people's dogs ran away so they kick people around online because they don't have dogs to around to kick anymore.

Be that as it may, while I can't do much about these twits in most online forums, Google+ gives me the power to enforce civil behavior in my discussions. First, Circles let me pick and choose who can see particular items I want to share. In those, if someone in say a circle about rock and roll can't stand someone else in the same circle, I first ask them to not let their personal animosity spill over into the conversation. If they can't, but they're otherwise civil, I can just drop him or her from that particular circle.

But say you're like me and you tend to put a lot of stuff up for anyone and everyone to see and comment on in your public steam, what can you do about J. Random Idiot from hijacking the conversation? Google Plus' answer is a feature that my fellow writer buddy J.R. Raphael likes to call One-Click Jackass Control™, but its official, and much less entertaining, name is Block someone.

When you block someone here's what happens:

  • You won't see their content in your stream (even though you'll remain in their circles).
  • They'll be removed from any circles of yours that they appear in.
  • They'll be removed from your extended circles, even if you have mutual connections.
  • They won't be able to add new comments to your content. However, comments they made before you blocked them will still be visible and can be deleted or reported if it you think they've violated Google's content policies.

In addition, after being blocked:

  • They won't be able to see your comments on other people's posts.
  • They won't be able to view any of your posts that you share after blocking them.
  • They won't be able to mention you in posts or comments.

Put it all together and what do you get? You get a comment system where not only can your jackass not see your messages, they can't even see anything you say on anyone else's posts or-and I love this part-even mention you by your Google+ handle on any of their posts or comments.

True, all this only works if someone is logged into Google+. Therefore, if they're not logged in, they can still see your public posts, but since they must be logged in to comment on your posts , they still can't come back to bug you. Think of it, in Linux/Unix terms as the "kill -9" of social networking.

So, how do you do it. There are several ways. The basic one goes like this:

  1. Go to the annoying person's profile.
  2. On the side of the profile click Block [person's name].
  3. Confirm that you want to block that person.

If someone is in one of your circles and you want to block them, , you should to to the circle editor and

  1. Select the person you'd like to block.
  2. Click Actions in the top corner.
  3. Select Block in the drop down menu.

Finally, let's say you're in a hangout, that is a video conference, and someone is really bugging you.

  1. Hover over their video feed or image on the bottom of the screen, and you'll see the option to Mute or Block the person
  2. Click block.
  3. Confirm that you want to block the person.

What happens then is a little different from blocking them in the other ways.

  • The person will not be kicked out of the current hangout but, they won't be able to join future Hangouts with you.
  • During the remainder of the hangout you will not be able to see or hear each other.
  • Everyone will see that you've blocked the person, including the person you've blocked
  • Others in the hangout will be given the option to block the person as well. If everyone else blocks the person, they will be removed from the hangout.
  • If you try to enter a hangout with someone that you've blocked, you won't be allowed to enter. In order to join, you'll have to unblock the person first.
  • Conversely if someone you've blocked tries to enter a hangout you're in, they won't be allowed to join and they will be notified that someone in the Hangout has blocked them.

This is all in stark contrast with other social networks, like Facebook, where you far less granular control over who can see and respond to your posts and actions and who can't. True, in Google+, anyone can follow you, but between circles and the power to block people, you have complete control over who can see what you're posting and doing on Google+.

By the way, with over 10,000 people following me on Google+, I have my own terms of service if you want to talk with me. It runs:

Hi, and welcome to my circles You're a guest here. You're welcome to disagree with me. You're welcome to disagree with other people here in these circles. But, if you're mean, insulting, attack people personally, or just otherwise get on my nerves, you and your messages, are out of here.

If you don't like my rules, no problem. You can talk any way you want on your circles and set your own rules. On mine, I like conversations to be civil.

Thanks for your understanding.

And, you know what? It works. I actually have, dare I say it, calm intelligent conversations in my public Google+ streams. For the first time in ages I feel like talking to new people online is actually worthwhile again. This is a welcome change!

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