THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POST I MADE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!
(granted, that doesn't mean much given I just started posting a few days ago)With this post I will provide you further proof that Google+ is a game changer, yet at the same time I'm calling out Google to take things to the next level.
That's a pretty bold statement right?
A bit of background (so you won't have to wade through each and every single one of my posts):
I'm an ex-lurker. I suffered from social media fatigue, and that was even without having an online social life. I had never heard of many of the 'big names' when I came here. I love using several of the Google products, yet I feared another Buzz. I'm not into convincing people of anything. I know one thing well though, and that's the fact that you need community to succeed. So my approach to testing this place was to look for signs of community engagement. I heard there were already +20 million users when I joined, so I wondered whether I could find telling signs.
-------------------------------------------------Yeah yeah, what's this all about, I got streams to follow you know!HASHTAGS
You know, those #twitter things.
I made this post on the topic (disabled commenting):https://plus.google.com/109907447383307087458/posts/hGCeqNwvxLg
Then I did what I love doing here: reading interesting posts. One of those posts led me to +Chris Messina
. Now I know community, and I had already found proof of engagement here beyond my wildest expectations. The 'big names', the 'power users', were actually approachable here. They interact with us 'common' users. All it takes is reaching out.
Now you could easily dismiss this as early adopter enthousiasm, claim that it will wear off with time when there's a new shiny toy to play with.
Well, I know community, and from what I can see, there's a real one building here (or several ones, depends on the point of view, but I won't go into that now). In a community, there's real engagement. People take care of each other and their community. Sure, some of the power user will have to move on to other things, given they're in the tech business that is ever evolving and requires the attention of early adopters. But others will become opinion leaders here and help maintain and grow this community.
When I set out testing here, I would never ever have dreamed of interacting direclty with the people actually building this place. Especially given I was just going to lurk like I always had. Yet there was already a community forming that pulled me right in. On a platform like I had never seen before. By arguably the strongest company online. Could this become the place I have been dreaming of? The place that combines all that I love about Google products and that would allow me to do much of what I like in 1 single place? I reached out. I received.
This is just a 2 months old beta. I have been here less than 1 month. There is so so much still to do. That's part of the experience of building a great community. You improve the product together. And that never ends actually. So I decided to help as I could. What little could I do without any friend here? Without being a power user that people listen to? Simple: engage, contribute, share, respect.
I found people using hashtags. That's understandable, after all they date way back to IRC and since Twitter, well you know...
Google is clearly on to something here, and the reactions I received are proof of that. I got heard. So I was waiting to see how they would solve these hashtags. By solve I mean find a way to tag words & topics in an integrated way. Would that way be #? Counting on search results is not enough. It will work to find things by searching on specific words, but tags do more than that. They help you structure in a visual way. They allow you to see what's popular, trending, fresh... You can be creative with them.
I saw very little moving in that direction. Some people took initiatives in the meantime, and that's like it should be. But it requires a real integration.
As a lurker without any social interaction, I learned to tag people by using the + in no time. It's also very visual in a text. Love it!
So I made my post, asking to +tag words like +this. I asked +Chris Messina
to check it out, as I figured he might have an opinion on this. Not only was he so kind to find the time to check it out, he answered with some good points:
"Shrug. I mean, go for it. I don't have any veto power over what typographics people use in their posts. If you're confident that you can retrain folks (and brands) to use a new character in front of words to identify them as tags, I won't tell you not to.
That said, Twitter set a precedent where @mentions and #hashtags are separate, and I think it works much better to separate the namespaces. That is, it would be pretty annoying if you're trying to +mention a friend, but a bunch of +tags keep getting in your way. Especially on mobile, it's just an increased inconvenience. So, AFAIC, I prefer the ability to mention people using one character, and using a different one to tag my posts.
And, if Twitter and Google+ are different in your analysis, why does Google+ need any kind of tags? Surely just changing the character denoting tags isn't that useful?"
Here are my views (again, I'm not into convincing anyone, I'm just reaching out):
1) if you had veto power, I would have been out of here faster than you could've typed +shrug
2) I cannot retrain folks (and brands). Google can. We can.
3) as strange as it might seem to us tech-savvy folk here, the world isn't trained in using (hash)tags yet. Need proof? I've been active online for over 20 years now, yet I get by without using hashtags. My parents are online almost every day, but are clueless regarding hashtags.
4) Twitter set the precedent and did it well. It should keep using it. This place can do much more than Twitter. So much so IMHO, that Twitter should start rethinking its' bottom line and specialise in order to survive.
5) Google needs tags, because people need to be able to organize info. We're wired to categorize things. We live with information overload, and it will get worse. Asking people to search for info using keywords themselves each time, that's web 1.0. Circles are a great step, but they aren't enough. And we already live in a world where we have to configure every single damn thing, from your phone over your DVR to even your fridge. Settings, settings, settings. I need user friendly, time saving, low barrier, elegant solutions. I'd even say enchanting ones (wink wink +Guy Kawasaki
Now that's easy for me to say right, I'm not giving real solutions. After all even Facebook hasn't tackled this issue. As soon as you start typing +, followed by a letter, it starts looking for names. I know that as it is now, it's a +fail. And how to do this on mobile, which will only become more and more important? Right-click/Ctrl-click on a word to turn it into a tag? +typing, opening names next to tagwords lists? Triple-tapping/-clicking on a word?
6) what do I know? I haven't used hashtags. That doesn't matter. We'll crowdsource the solutions, because we're building a community here. Together we'll find it. Or some of you smart guys over at Google will figure out a way if you focus.
7) why so hung up on that +tag then? Why not use #? Here comes the point I want to stress most: IDENTITY
Google+ needs to establish itself as a game changer, as a brand, with an identity. One that will change the internet again. They could have gone for the @naming, yet they didn't. We've grown already familiar with +tagging users in a matter of weeks (and with +1-ing). So that's my challenge to you Google:
find a way to go all the way. Bring that + everywhere, in everything you do. Take it to the next level.
If there is one company that can pull this off, it's Google. We're here to help make this happen.
Now the proof this place is a game changer? I, a so called 'nobody', have set this in motion. Now watch what will happen from here. Then know that you could make the next thing happen too. By making use of the community around you. That's what this place allows you to do in a groundbreaking way.
I'm listing the 'power users' I ask to help out on this matter, that have already interacted with me in these past weeks:+Jeremiah Owyang +Jesse Stay +Craig Kanalley +Katherine Gramann +Louis Gray +Natalie Villalobos +Sean Bonner +Robert Scoble
(sorry that I broke my own promise of no longer name dropping you, but I felt this to be of too much importance)
I invite anyone to comment here, but due to the 500 comments limit, I'll remove anything that I deem is not a contribution to the discussion. I welcome all and any 'power-users' to take the discussion to their posts.
why not simply convert a #hashtag automatically to a +tag?pps:
now that I looked into this matter, I found I just missed the 4th anniversary of the hashtag by 1 day when posting my original post. +canthaveitall