The need for a refined search tool on Google+

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about whether hashtags or something similar would be coming to Google+. Hashtags, for those who aren’t “in the know” are a simple way to search for a topic on Twitter. They weren’t a native part of twitter when it started, but someone thought it up, and it has become a very integral part of the tool. There are hashtags for every big event, and it’s easy to find updates about those events, even if you aren’t following the people who are tweeting about it.

I’ve had a personal experience with hashtags just this week that brought home the need for a similar tool in Google+.

A little background: I graduated from the online master’s program at Pepperdine, formerly called Online Masters in Educational Techology, or OMET, now known as MALT which is short for Master of Arts in Learning Technologies. The people who go through these programs are a tight knit group, and I like to check in with the new group each year to see what they’re up to.

This year, the MALT folks were tweeting under #malt14 (this is the 14th cadre of people to go through the program…I was in cadre 5), so it was easy for me to do a search for #malt14 and have that as a column in tweetdeck. As new people tweeted under that hashtag, I followed them on twitter, and put them in my Pepperdine list.

Then it occurred to me that they might also be in Google+, so I started doing some digging around, and found it was much harder to find these folks in G+ than I thought it should have been, especially because Google is all about the search.

Within Google+, it seems like the only thing you can search for at this time is people, NOT ideas, keywords, or posts.

And finding the people has proven to be difficult, too. Whether it was because they hadn’t put their full name in their twitter profile, or they just had a common name, I have had a very difficult time finding the Pepperdine folks in G+.

One of the new cadre folks tweeted:

Bill and Margaret are two of the instructors in the program. Here’s the problem, though: I have found both of them, but who’s to say that everyone in their circles is in the current cadre? Or is even a Pepperdine person? They may have family or friends in their circles that I don’t want/need to follow. Without a hashtag, there is NO easy way to find people associated with a certain group or event to follow.

This is where Google has to step up, and quick. It’s easy to add the people that you already know, for the most part, but finding new people just by relying on someone filling out their profile is, I think, a major point of failure within Google+.

The Ed Tech community that I’m a part of is generally forgiving and patient, but they won’t stay that way for long. As more and more people become part of this community, Google has to come up with an easier way to find people and events, and it has to start with changing the search tool within Google+.

Or maybe, like Twitter, someone within the community will come up with something brilliant.

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