Circles App Review

I’ve found the Circles app very exciting, but also very confusing to use between myself and several other federated + local users and groups.

In general, I feel this app is a critical component for both users + other applications looking to add Federated Group access. Just a few of the applications hoping to incorporate Circles support include:

Resolved Calendar - PR for sharing an event with a Circle
Discontinued NextNote - here on their Github wishlist.
Resolved Deck issue #126 with bounty.
MindMaps - sharing to a circle WORKS! with an open issue to send notifications to a circle as mentioned here on Github #11
Resolved Talk app - Could be a very useful integration as mentioned under an issue on Chat Notifications as it could add group text chat per circle.
Polls - integration request on Github here.
Resolved Tasks - Share task with a Circle request

Upon opening the app

I see a ton of blank space and No Circle Selected. It would make sense that the contents of an available Circle would be displayed by default, especially if it were the most recently active… or just the first one listed.

Searching for a Circle

Typing in search terms causes all unrelated circles to completely disappear from the screen. This is confusing, especially when the user is wondering what their choices are. I’d recommend greying out or crossing out unrelated circles, but still displaying them on the screen below any relevant search results. Here is an example of how a circle would look crossed out in search results:
grey-out

Creating Circles from search results

When searching for a circle, and finding none, I’d like to be able to press “Enter” to immediately create that circle and go directly to Select Circle Type menu.
search-and-create
It might actually be possible to simply combine of these into one place that covers both searches and creation of Circles at the same time.
combine-these-menus

How do I know where to click when modifying a circle?

Right now it is not visually clear what things within the app or circle can be clicked / modified. Perhaps some sort of padding or hyperlink-style coloring could be added to selectable parts of the app.

  • More clearly understanding how to remove users.
    As mentioned here on Github issue #196 is is currently difficult to understand how to kick a user.
  • Unclear how to setup Circles Federation
    Setting up Circles for federation requires jumping through multiple administrative setting pages, but none of this information is given to the owner of a circle. Very confusing when you attempt to add a user and see this error.
    federated link format
  • Finding federated Public Circles is not possible via search
    There is currently no global directory of Public circles available, but it is requested in issue #156 on Github. It would be useful to add in the circle type description that federated users will not be able to find your public circle via search.

Installing Circles app and Administration

It is difficult to find the Circles app in the appstore so I submitted a PR to add some additional categories: Integration and Organization. After installation one can open up the app, but you receive to explanation / First Run Wizard / Welcome to Circles admin guide to get you started.

You’ll want to locate and configure the Circles app as follows:

  • Settings/Administration/Activity App, but I’m unsure of what events refer to.
    activity-event-definition

  • Settings/Administration/Additional Settings
    settings-for-circles-admin
    I’m not sure what Async Testing is supposed to do… group linking is important and allowing federated circles is mandatory for connecting with external users, otherwise you get this error.
    federated link format

Additional steps for enabling Federated Sharing in Nextcloud (and Circles)

  • Settings/Administration/Sharing

Not going to lie… this gets confusing. Grab your latest copy of Administration Docs on Federated Sharing, and go through this line by line. It isn’t optional and you will need to enable these settings before Circles can federate. Adding trusted servers alone is confusing – is it just the server url or can you also include a user name? If there is a subdomain, should you include that in the trusted server url?
adding-servers
Per documentation, Federated server statuses are shown in administration as:

Yellow light indicates a successful connection, with no user names exchanged.
– Not sure how this impacts the Circles app…
Green light indicates a successful connection with user names exchanged.
Red light means the connection failed.
– Is there any way more infomation could be presented? user@ prefix is not allowed in a Trusted Server URL, etc.

Resolved High CPU usage bug affecting Instances with Thousands of Users
There is an closed bug currently which most greatly affects instance with thousands of users, causing CPU on their servers to max out.

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Thanks for the review. Unfortunately, this app does not look very active at the moment:

There are a couple of people reporting issues and even some pull request that need to be reviewed, if more people help out, you can get this moving a bit faster…

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It is true that it gets a bit confusing… some of the options were scattered through the admin panel, and for half of them it is not explained what they mean or what they do.

Also, it seems like you have to share all your contacts in order to use federated circles, which I don’t find ideal.

Maybe people and devs here can help clarify some of these points?

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This is an excellent review of the missing work on the apps, and everything you said is on my work list.

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There have been some great changes since this old review…