Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Google+ needs a topic-based self-organizing utility

David G. Larson posted a link to this article on Google+ which got me thinking about what should Google+ really implement. After some thought, here are my thoughts at the moment.

I'd agree that Twitter #hashtags are not highly aesthetically pleasing. As many people know, placing a hash sign (#) in front of a word on Twitter turns that word into a searchable link when your tweet gets posted. Is that important? Can't you search for any word without having to add the #sign. Yes, #hashtags are not strictly necessary for a basic search. However, the #hashtag on twitter has been elevated by the users as an important convention. It signals a start or continuation of a conversation about a certain topic.Twitter itself shows what #hashtags are trending at the moment. You can also go to http://whatthetrend.com/ for more info.

Twitter #hashtags are used even more extensively by certain groups of people. It's called Twitter chat. There's even a Google Docs list you can find via http://bit.ly/chatlist. There are sites to make it easier to start/find twitter chats (tweetchat.com, twubs.com, twebevent, and many more).

To me, this feels very reminiscent of Ward's Wiki (c2.com) back in the days when the Wiki concept was new and c2.com was a vibrant, active community. You would go to the RecentChanges page to get a list of what was trending/changing/being discussed at the moment.

Like #hashtags, WikiMarkup is simple, powerful, and effective. You just smash two words together to create a link. Clink on the link and you are now editing a new page. Other people are encouraged to contribute to that page. Often the page would start out as something resembling a chat (ThreadMode). Sometimes the conversational page would be Refactored/Converted to Document Mode. Also like #hashtags, WikiMarkup is not necessarily particularly aesthetically pleasing. And, no, I'm not recommending the use of WikiMarkup as the tool of choice here.

Twitter #hashtags also feel similar to OpenSpace conversations. The conversation lasts as long as it needs to. It's important that these conversations are easy to set up. And that it is easy to leave the conversation when you are no longer gaining from it or have nothing more to add.

#Hashtags are probably not the best choice for Google+. But it does feel like Google+ needs something to help facilitate temporal discussions around topics that a user is interested in. A tool that facilitates self-organization. Self-organization like often happens in Open Spaces, WikiPages, and Twitter #hashtags.

So, should Google+ use duplicate Twitter #hashtags? Google+ should at least co-exist nicely with #hashtags. There should probably be some Google+-centric way to facilitate these temporal topic-based conversations. Perhaps something like virtual topic-based public circles. Perhaps Sparks could be used instead. I admit that I don't fully grasp the Sparks concept. It seems like there's something more than just a saved search, but I'm not sure what.

Edited to add: Google seems to be adding some better searching functionality if you use them. To me, that is a good thing.

I'm new to the Google+ community. Folks who've been there longer have probably organized their own conventions already for these temporal topic-based conversations. If so, what are they?

Better yet, what other topics do you want to discuss on Google+?

Feedback, comments, questions, etc. are of course welcomed.

Cheers,
Jason Nocks

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