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Why Google+ doesn't need hashtags

Hashtags, the practice of tagging posts with a keyword preceded by #, became popular via Twitter.

Hashtags are a solution to a problem. The problem is that Twitter search sucks.

The hashtag solution, however, comes with its own problem. Some or most of the tweets on Twitter that fall under the hashtag's topic do not get hashtagged by the poster. As a result, searching a hashtag brings up only a subset of the results you're looking for.

Worse, people who use hashtags tend to be the self-promoters. So hashtag searching favors people actively seeking attention, and is blind to tweets by people who are just posting great content. I think I used to post pretty good stuff on Twitter. In my more than 14,000 tweets, I don't think I ever used hashtags.

Google+ doesn't need hashtags, because it has three things Twitter does not have:

1. Great search. Looking for something? Search for it! Unlike on Twitter, or Facebook, for that matter, you will find it.

2. Longer posts. One reason Tweeps feel the need for hashtags is that the 140 character limit greatly reduces searchable words in each post. Without the restriction, people are likely to use a word or string of words you can use to search and find the items you're looking for.

3. Comment threads. If search fails you, just post an item telling your circle friends what you're looking for, and they'll help you find it.

Hashtags are a crutch for a crippled service. Google+ doesn't need the crutch because it's not crippled.
Timo Bußhaus's profile photoJenny A's profile photoEduardo Vaz de Mello's profile photoSteven Meysenburg's profile photo
But how will G+ do trending, then? :'(
I'm not wedded to hashtags as such. But I still like the idea of tagging posts in much the same way I like to be able to tag blog posts.
Could not agree more, all other points aside, Twitter search is simply awful, and has never gotten better.
I think G+ needs to add one thing to make it better. When there are breaking news events, the hashtag lets you "watch" events unfold. With G+, you'd need to keep re-searching over and over to see everything. There needs to be a way you can create live searches and integrate them into your stream.
I disagree. Hashtags, when used in the right context, are used to specify topics which can be vague during searches. Especially in situations where the topic matches a more commonplace word, such as talking about the show "Fringe"
The old "what if every word were a hashtag" problem...
I'd be fine with that as long as we could create a Stream of search results. Then I'd be down Charlie B.B.B.Brown
+Mark Palmberg with the kind of horsepower Google has (think Google Analytics) I'm sure Google would be able to automate trending topics even without hashtags.
So I should remove the hashtags from my g+ profile? LOL! ;)
I read somewhere on G+ that the search on G+ ^ignore* the hashtag.
Google Staff continues to use hash tags in a great number of their posts.
I'd like to agree. Only problem: "i'm writing a bunch of code for my new project." and "i'm 500 pages into my newest writing project in my series" show up in the same search for a fiction writer looking to build his Circles.
I think hashtags aren't just about having other people find your content. They're also about the flip side: Contributing to an ongoing discussion with your content and opinion. They're a way to align yourself to an event, sentiment or movement, wether you want that contribution to be discovered through search or not. Google+ doesn't quite have something to assist with that yet.
I think hashtags do serve a limited purpose on G+. But if you could just "tag" or "label" a post with keywords it would remove the necessity completely. #plustheyaregoodforsarcasm
Pssht, hashtags. Everyone who's anyone has been using slashtags since the inception of Google+. /likethis =)
Gary F
I disagree. There needs to be a way to find people talking about things that interest me, and there needs to be a way to filter out people who interest me talking about things that don't.

It would be nice to create circle-tags that people can subscribe to. Not exactly the same thing as a circle, but essentially the same. A way people can choose which of my public posts they want to get and which they don't.
If we add to more Hands it would become # Hash tree
Hashtags are ridiculously stupid. Metadata shouldn't be inline. Subject tagging should be separate from the body of a message. Hashtags are used on Twitter as a workaround for how lame Twitter is.
I agree that hashtags are a hack that made sense for Twitter, but I don't agree that Google doesn't need a way of tagging posts. It just doesn't need a text-based one. There are many things I'd want to search for that don't necessarily have that exact text in the post, and more critically, everyone is crying for a way to subdivide their streams by categories. Circles are a hack, especially since once you post to a circle, you limit sharing and that takes the post out of the public sphere.
+Jonas Nordlund Hashtags create the illusion of uniting people under a topic. In reality, the majority of people discussing that topic aren't using hashtags.
Thanks, +Mike Elgan for posting this. I posted something similar yesterday. Hashtags are useless on G+.

If you want to tag your posts, people, tag your posts with a keyword a la a title or subject, you don't need a # to do that. But with Google search you don't even need to do that, just type in what you're searching for and poof! it appears as if by magic.

As for following a conversation... um, these posts and subsequent comments are inline. It's fairly easy to follow a conversation.
+Mike Elgan, is that true? The majority? Do you have stats? I'm just curious. Seems I see a lot of hashtags over there....
Hashtags have been a great way to encourage people to tag their posts. Searching for something tagged #nymwars or #occupywallstreet will return much better search results than a search that just combs through all of the text.
+Jason ON I didn't see your post, so you might have already said this, but hashtags are worse than useless. They pollute the topic or sentence and take away the benefits of NOT reading a twitter blurb.
I keep seeing people using the hashtag here, which I simply don't get since it's neither used nor needed here. It looks as bad here as it does on Facebook.
I've always found twitter in general to be too disjointed ..hashtags or no hashtags ..maybe I'm just doing it wrong, but I've never been compelled to try and to it right.
Tag with xx in front instead of #. Google ignores #, but if you tag with xx, then you can search and find just tagged phrases. xxHashTagsThatWork
Hashtags are useful topic markers, IMHO; and with G+'s virtually unlimited character count we could afford to put them at the top or bottom of a post instead of inline. And they could be used as search tokens. And like native vs. classic RT's, you can use them or not. Choice ;p
+Jason ON You can't find "a post" and follow the comments, because the posts are reshared with new sets of comments throughout Google+ (a feature that I think is essential for civil discussion and scalability).
+Fraser Cain I suggested to Google in the early days of G+, that they create a sub-window, a box on the side of the screen that you could assign a circle or a person to. Whenever a post comes from that person, it scrolls in that box. Therefore, for instance, during a huricane, you could continue on the main stream, and still have a scrolling news update stream on the side. I think they were probably busy with G+, so I'm not sure they were listening.
While it doesn't need hashtags, per say, I eagerly await a time when a desktop app exists that allows me to monitor specific searches more easily...
I actually think that hashtags, key words, searching and what I think of as disynchronous discussion (what happens when people start tweeting independently but cohesively under a hashtag) are all different issues that are not going to fit under a one size fits all solution. So I'd as soon as have both an extensive general purpose search on G+ but also a way of clearly defining a tag (whether hashtag or labels or what).
Twitter hashtags are not about searching, that is accomplished via!/search-advanced Hastags are about decentralized conversations. #tag your tweet with the appropriate topic tag and away you go. Clicking on a hashtag is just a way to join the conversation. I don't believe G+ has an analog for handling such decentralized conversations.
Sure you can. Go up to the top and search for "voting booths" and see all the goodies Google brings back to you. Find one that interests you and follow it. Follow the post-URL or save the search results and go back to them. Comment on them and get instant notifications. If someone reshares it, G+ lets you know who shared it and you can go follow that one, too.
I like hashtags because they are self organising, like sharable circles.
Ian H
I couldn't agree with you more, Mike.
OK, decentralized convos probably a better description, but I still kinda like "disynchronous"...
+Mike Elgan, you said "Great search. Looking for something? Search for it!". But that's just it. That's all a hashtag is ... a mutually agreed upon search term, so posts on a specific topic can be easily found. I'm a little confused by +Calvin White's assessment that "hashtags are not about searching". Yes, they are about decentralized conversations, but underneath, that's all about searching and filtering.
I disagree! Sparks work very well, but if I want to search for a topic the name of the topic has to be in their post or it won't appear. If I search for "homebrew" I won't find a post that says "Starting a schwarzbier, any suggestions on good hops?" Hashtags get around that by creating easily searchable keywords to make sure things are found when they should be.

Many Google+ users are using circles to filter content instead, but circles are horrible at filtering content. Unfortunately searches and Sparks without some kind of keyword tagging aren't effective either.
I think the fundamental issue I have with +Mike Elgan's comment is with the statement that most posts won't be under the hash tag. That's probably true, but it's

a) not relevant…something is better than nothing.
b) can be fixed. Google can certainly analyize hashtag posts and make guesses at what other posts might be discussing the same topic, and they can use that to augment keyword search, as well as suggest keywords to users.
+Mike Elgan you made a good point as for why Google+ does not need hashtags for search, but I it still needs them for filtering and stream managing.

Let's say I'm following a great photographer who also likes cooking but I only want to get his potograph-related posts in my stream. Without tags, there's no way to do that. With tags it would be easy.
I also disagree that Google+ is not "crippled". For individuals, it's awesome. For group conversations ... not so much. Sharing of circles is a band-aid, but have you actually tried creating a circle for a group discussion, and actually maintain consistency across all members of the circle? It just ends up being a giant cluster you-know-what of everyone re-sharing their version of the circle every time they add people. Google+ needs real "shared circles", or "curated circles", that allow users to subscribe and join, rather than the one-off snapshot sharing we have at the moment.
We need a way to publish to channels. If somebody wants to categorize their posts, and somebody else only wants to see a certain category of that persons posts, hashtags is arguably one way to do it. If there's a better way, I'm open to it.
+Mike Elgan I consider hash tags a stand in for filters. But they clutter and are not universally inserted by writers, like you said. Google is great at clean, behind the scenes search super duper search. So maybe what is missing now is an appropriate user interface to it. Search here on G+ is the best there is, IMO.

Maybe a topic cloud ie trending words (in the empty space to the right) that in turn filters the public stream would do just that, don't you think?

What we need is just a filter with less friction (pushes possible topics to us) than the present (you pull stuff by keyword search). Or at the very least make search method user configurable to topic clouds etc, using extensions etc.

Edit1: Sparks implement persistent search but they do not provide a view of popular topics. That is what something more is needed to enable discovery of trending topics. A topic cloud could do just that.

Edit2: When viewing postings in the stream, Circles become the scope to the topic cloud in that only filters the selected circle. This enables implement a universal filter where the topics are essentially suggested for you by the topic cloud.
You've missed an important part of hashtags. I use them on Twitter to categorize my content. A user can then choose to filter my content to just what they want to see from me. That empowers those who want to see just some of my content to do so instead of making an "all or nothing" value judgement.
One thing I really, really like about hashtags is that they are self organizing. I don't have some Big Corporate Overlord ahem deciding what tags are or aren't interesting.

Also many current events really require a way of instantly self organizing to pull up as a topic. The Virginia earthquake, for example.

So IMO, a user-generated realtime tagging convention is essential. Whether you do it like twitter, with the hashtag, or something equally quick and convenient, is another issue.
The difference, +Michael Bernstein, is that some of those are denoted as categories with various levels of confidence. The # on the front denotes it absolutely as a tag.
Gonna disagree with you a bit Mike, because hashtags allow specific feed following. Don't have to "search" for content, just read the feed for that hashtag (easier). Sure G+ doesn't need them if they want us to search every time we want to follow a Live conversation. I enjoy hashtags :)
+Hugh Messenger my apologies for not being clear. What I meant by "searching" was searching as a means of finding information, which I believe was the context used in the original post. If one approaches twitter as a means of publishing content, then I suppose hashtags are a simple way of letting people filter or discover that content. However, I believe twitter was designed with the intention that users would participate in discussions, and not use twitter to just to post urls.

As an example, there is an local election coming up. On twitter I can click the #election hastag to participate in the discussion about the election, see the results as they come in, comment on them, etc. Most importantly I see and respond to what everyone is writing and they see and respond to what I am writing. This is not something that can be accomplished with G+ searching alone. On G+, the conversation would be centralized, probably to several topic posts by multiple people, and the follow on comments to those posts. I could search to find the posts, and then comment on them one by one, but it's not very efficient. Instead of one large decentralized conversation, I'd need to participate in several small centralized conversations.
Great points Mike! I always thought they were rather inconvenient to use.. not so much used for "self-promo" as for findability. Google+ search is better by far!
Saying that "hashtags" are irrelevant is saying that reader/writer-generated tagging is irrelevant. I disagree. Gaming results? You don't think that happens with "search" - whether it's Google or Bing? LMAO!
Well the original post prefaces the whole argument with hashtags? we don't need no stinkin' hashtags. But part of the problem is that hashtags really aren't about searching for things but about organizing things. Both very useful, even related, but ultimately distinct issues.

And G+'s search/recall mechanism STILL sucks. I can't find anything around here that used to be in my stream without a fair amount of effort (I'd have to post/share things into specific circles to create sort of a memory box) and after years of using Wordpress and other blog s/w, that's beyond ridiculous. That was one thing from FB that didn't need to be copied, folks.
+Calvin White I guess it's just how you define "searching". Agree with everything you've said. Whether we end up using hashtags, or those ever so jolly clever people at the Goog come up with some other solution, we need something to fill that need.
It'd be nice if search was better implemented in the Google + Android app.
Most Android phones have a search button. Why can't I simply press it to do a search? 
Being able to define a port into a certain topic or category is neat.
I think that's where hashtags comes in.

As some said, it's really easy for me as a user to search for a tag and follow every post that uses this tag.

Shure search is nice.
Sparks works ish ok. Would like to know how sparks searches.

Hashtags brings up all post with the tag, even if someone is selfpromoting or not.
Having search that works is great, but it's not enough.

Having tagging or categorisation that allows filtering a poster's content into a subject stream is much better, because I am not interested in every post by everyone I follow and it would be good to allow me to automate the filtering I do anyway.
I like tagging posts. I don't like hashtags. To allow proper, user-selected tagging G+ would have to add a separate tags field.
Separate "topic" fields works on desktops really well.
Me being mostly a mobile user while I'm going back and fort commuting and stuff I don't think separate fields will cut it.
posting from a cellphone or other mobile device require simple things, hello hashtag!

It may seem like a hacked sollution. But circles are already halfway there, sparks doesn't cut it.
Tagging would be an extension to circles, but to regulate a feed instead of users feeding you.
Yeah, nobody is biased here on G+ :) Love the Google+ search, nothing more powerful for finding content than Google+ search, but following live conversations from multiple non-connected individuals, well hashtags do that fairly well. Google+ isn't going to be able to take over the world (replace twitter & facebook) but it sure is a superior tool to engage with :)
I agree with +Gary Forbis and several others that Google+ needs some way for the author to categorize his output, for the sake of different reader audiences. This is a useful supplement to full text search. For example, I will be posting about my three main interests: motorcycles, early music, and finance. Supposing that my wit and wisdom attract future followings for each topic, I doubt that the followings will have large intersections. I plan to proactively categorize the posts and advise my readers (or show by usage) that the streams are designated #motorcycles, #earlymusic, and #finance respectively. Wouldn't that courtesy relieve them of the effort to design their own search strings? The tags may be inconsistent from author to author, but at least one author's output could be more effectively parsed.

G+ may in future offer outgoing reader-subscribable circles, or filters, or channels, or whatever. For now hash tags seem a useful heuristic approach to this need.

+G. Leigh Anderson, I've requested "outgoing reader-subscribable circles" a couple times now. I'd like to be able to see only, for example, your posts to the circle(s) to which you've added me. Furthermore, with each passing day, I believe more and more that no one should be publishing to Public.
+Hugh Messenger That's just it. It sn't agreed upon -- most topics have multiple hashtags and a majority of posts without any hashtag. That's not agreement. It gives the illusion of agreement and bad results.
Ever since sparks have been set up to include g+ posts I've been using it to great success at finding what I'm looking for. Use a person's name in conjunction with a topic will net results where that person posted about the subject you are interested in. So filterable content is already available.
+Carl Luoma - then I am doing it wrong, and I thank you for the information! I would still like to apply filters to an individual's feed, though.

+Mike Elgan - I think that's making perfect the enemy of good, but I'm going to investigate Sparks to see if they enough of the job.
I also disagree. Some topics are too clumsy to gather around without hashtags because the words are too common. 
Hi +Mike Elgan,

thanks for the post, that was really great and informative.

I was wondering what you think about forwarding G+ posts to facebook, twitter etc..?

Do you think it will become available anytime soon?
Curious how +Jeff Jarvis feels about this post. He has encouraged their use at least prior to search working.
Great pic!
Interessing information which cause me to ponder about my behaviour of spreading information.
I like the idea of hashtags and think some people have come up with some clever ones. Just like that's a clever hashtag photo
since when did you need a hash in front of word to have trends? read the freaking article
I disagree. Tagging (either by preceding it with a hash or alphanumeric of G+ choice) would be beneficial as a categorical clicking mechanism within [Public] postings by people within your circles. For example, if you are holding an event, and name it "My Charity Event X". If you were able to tag it, then people that are within your circles, and monitoring your [Public] posts on the topic could click on the tag and see all posts by you on that topic and only that topic in their stream. If the tag is more general, for example "Bugs", then you'd only see posts by that person with that tag in it. Additional to tagging search/filter, textual filtering could also be added on an individual contact basis. For example, you only want to see [Public] posts by your friend Billy that include a Tag of "writing" or a text string of "writing", boom, done. Then, you don't get all their [Public] posts on gerbils dancing or their third cousin's bar mitzvah. Searching in Google, it's fine as it is. If you want to NOT search on tags, then perhaps they can include a check box not to include searching the tags. Problem solved. For other suggestions I have for G+, click on my profile. I have a recent post on the topic, to which several other users added some nice suggestions to as well. I do not feel that G+ is 'crippled', but I do feel that your ability to filter what you see in your circled stream could be improved.
Nice article. There is a definite need for a self-organized, dynamic means of coalescing topics and conversations. Doesn't have to be twitter hashtags, but that or something similar would be excellent here.
Thanks. Answered a question I've (quietly) had -- why is a random tagging method (with no central definition or tracking vehicle) better than a good search engine? Maybe it's not. :)
I would still have preferred Shared Circles, it would have allowed better normalization of topics.
I don't believe +Mike Elgan has completely understood all the benefits you gain from hash tags.

Hash tags is a brilliant way to give your post; keyword tags, meaning you can search posts; and the tags will promote your post upon your set tags. This then comes to the problem, +Mike Elgan mentioned, of self promotion.. Google will most likely favor your post in searches; if your hash tag corresponds to the search keywords.. This would be a problem to solve, as people can hash tag as much as they like..

I believe, +Mike Elgan also missed the point of being able to trend your post, this means your post will link directly to the Google+ search engine. I find this tool very useful, as I can directly follow a trend. I can then read more upon recent news and similar posts in the click of a button... If people use this tool well it would significantly advance user experience when using Google+...

The only thing I suggest Google do to stop spammers self promoting their material; would be to limit the amount of hash tags per post so you don't have mass spam problems...

Does it matter if it doesn't work? Google+ is still in beta, meaning things will go wrong... and because Google actually listen to the users they would revert back if there was a significant drawback to having a new feature.
What a good conversation here. Hash tags also helps with the Google+ Business profiles coming next. Also is a great way to attract loyal twitter users to G+
+Ismael J exactly that should give G+ a population boost and really people are only on FB for the people so once G+ should experience exponential growth through population infusions and smart moves like games and hashtags is getting it there.
Personally I love #hashtags; mostly when there's breaking news or some big event going on. They've helped me find all sorts of other related relevant information.
I was hoping google would do its own version... like =equaltags
much cooler imo

Here is a possible SAT question that my 11 year old daughter will take in a few years

Search is to #hashtags as Email is to SMS
Norv N.
+Mike Elgan : I'm not sure if you already found out, the statements in the original topic seem to be false: hashtags on G+ do not function like Twitter's, they are more like links to searches (Google style searches) for the keyword in the hashtag.
That is to say, you will not find only the topics tagged with that keyword, but also with similar words, and also if I understand correctly, not tagged, but having the word(s). In Google-search-style.
How would G+ handle the "We're all at this event together" aspect of hashtags, without using hashtags? An event thread system?
i think i could not agree more. tried hitting hastags and they invoke a search to return all hashtagged and UNHASHTAGGED content.
+Mike Elgan Looks like we got them anyway! Being hyperlinked is definitely a plus..
+Mike Elgan Haven't you ever used hashtags at a conference to follow the live-stream of reactions to a keynote or other event? Not that Google+ actually implemented hashtags as they are use on a meme identifier or secret handshake in a community.

The Google+ hashtags are just a shortcut to search. Unfortunately the results returned are not posts marked with the hashtags (an "exact word" search) -- it's a "one or more of these words search" -- any post related to the topic.

And so Google+'s implementation pretty much destroys the social aspect of hashtags: use for live-streaming at a conference, starting a topic (#arealboyfriend), or humorous aside on one's own post (#firstworldproblem).
Well, they're here now. #hashtag
+M Sinclair Stevens I completely agree with you. The use of hashtags to follow or to share conferences has been for me one of the main discoveries of Twitter. To my surprize people are not yet much using this facility since hastags have been introduced in G+. I do not understand the main reasons for this.
I am still using Twitter as a complementary tool of G+ and I realize there are a number of things that I prefer to do on Twitter. Sharing and following conferences is one of them. And the fact that people have progressively taken the habit of publicizing the official twitter hashtag on the first day of a conference may be one of reasons for this.
Maybe gPlus doesn't NEED #hashtags, but it's certainly not harmful. You can still use gPlus, search and everything like they don't exist. But for those million Twitter users who are "used to"'d be easier to come here.
I think hashtags are appropriate/useful when posting a video. Not all the main points of the video are going to be in the title.
So arrogant G+. There is space and demand for Twitter and G+ and even the other platforms. Each has it's own purpose. Calling Twitter a "cripple" only shows your overall ignorance of the space. You must have your Google Googles on most of the time.
I would like to add some hashtags to a circle to filter only those posts that really interest me. For example: I would like to read what Linus has to say about Linux, but I don't want to read about his diving trips.
Jenny A
how do you filter out posts that you care nothing about? It would be nice to filter based on hashtags so you don't have to see them.
Ok.. as a once-ignorant g+ newbie I feel ashamed  '-_- I hashtagged some posts, but honestly with the same intent I always did in Twitter, to help people find content.

I never wanted (because I really don't see a use for that in my life) a freakazillion number of no-purpose followers even more because was stressful to me to post anything and be more an annoyance than an utility to those.

Thanks for posting this, it was indeed something I always had doubt every time a pressed Shift+3.

I, now, must clean my posts. /exitthroughtheleft
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