Improving and expanding hashtags usability.

S Shmerl Public Seen by 161

Current functionality of hashtags in Diaspora has several limitations. I'll list them first (if you can come up with more - feel free to comment):

  1. User can only follow a straight list of tags (i.e. following is defined with logical OR).

  2. User can't filter tags for not following (i.e. not to see some content which has them).

  3. Viewing options of followed tags in the UI are limited to either viewing all followed tags, or only one.

  4. Search is limited to one tag.

  5. Hashtags themselves don't allow whitespace in them which is caused by the syntax restrictions and results in awkward unreadable notations like "#areallylonghashtagyoucanbreakyoureyeson", or people trying to come up with workarounds (like using underscore or camel notation, which proliferates incompatible tags and defeats the purpose of searching by them).

To address these issues, several improvements can be made (these proposals match the problems described above).

1-2. Following by default can still be defined as a simple list (which is equal to tag1 OR tag2 OR tag3 OR ... OR tagN). Interested user can be given an advanced option to define a more complex boolean expression for following hashtags. I.e. allow using AND, OR, NOT and parentheses. This will cover both 1 and 2, allowing way more flexible method of following and filtering data.

  1. When using the UI for viewing, one should be given a way to view one, several or all (multiple select) of those hashtags. This is sufficient for the UI case. More complex view will be covered with search (4).

  2. Search should allow boolean expressions, the same way the following in the proposal (1-2).

  3. Syntax of hashtags can be expanded. For example it can allow such form in addition to simple not whitespaced tags:

#(some phrase with spaces)

In the final text it can look like a hyperlink without parentheses:

#some phrase with spaces

Parentheses are used just for definition, to delimit the beginning and the end of the tag. This will give a clean way to avoid multiple incompatible notations for complex multiword hashtags.


L3MNcakes Tue 25 Jun 2013 5:14PM

I believe there is a feature proposal out there that could solve many of these by allowing users to create custom streams based on some logic that they define. Been away for a while though, so not quite sure on it's status.

As for #5, I don't think allowing whitespace in hashtags is a good idea. The way I view hashtags, they should be as simple and to the point as possible. A quick way to figure out what ideas are trying to be expressed in the post, not an expression of an idea itself. That's just my opinion though, and the community may see hashtags differently. :)


Shmerl Wed 26 Jun 2013 6:22AM

@l3mncakes: About whitespace in hashtags. Users already often use multiword hashtags - you can't force them to stop doing it, so we just need to accept it. The point of the proposal is to create a better syntax for using them, which will result in cleaner looking hashtags which would follow one convention, reducing incompatible duplicates.


L3MNcakes Wed 26 Jun 2013 5:25PM

@Shmerl - I don't advocate forcing anybody to stop using multi-word hashtags if that's what they want to do, but I don't see how allowing this will do anything to reduce incompatible duplicates. If anything, I only see it perpetuating them by increasing the possibilities of variation that come out of using multi-word hashtags in the first place. The same way I can't force people to not use multi-word tags, I also can't force everybody to start using spaces in their tags. People will still use the no space or underscore or camelcase variations, so all I see this doing is further fracturing the conversation. Since one of the goals of our network is to facilitate topical conversation and interaction, I see this as being counter-intuitive to our goals, which is why I don't think it's something we should build into the system just because some people out there use hashtags that way. Of course, I'm far from the end-all decider here, so my single objection doesn't mean this won't happen if there is support for it. ;)


Shmerl Fri 28 Jun 2013 4:13AM

You create a better option, and help people to understand better ways of using multiword hashtags through FAQs and tutorials. In the end people would use whatever they want. But giving an option of using cleaner syntax and better readability is a good thing.


Shmerl Fri 28 Jun 2013 4:16AM

As I said - we are dealing with existing factor - i.e. people are already using multiword hashtags, but there is no clean syntax which would produce readable resutls. That's the issue that can be addressed. Convergence of hashtags can be also achieved through loose search. I.e. the search can allow ignoring the whitespace and underscores differences, which would allow joining the results.


AlexB Tue 20 Aug 2013 9:44PM

I just wanted to say I think this is a crucial feature. Just one further thing to suggest -- incorporating the possibility of specifying a post-author in these complex follow/search terms. One could thus follow or search for everything a particular person says about a particular subject.

(I mean using @-(name) in the complex search outlined by Shmerl above as a way of seeing posts /by/ that particular user which include the specified hashtags. I suppose there could also be a way of following/searching for posts which include the specified hashtags AND @-mentions of a particular user, i.e. posts about a topic and about that user.)

This would complement the "Aspects" feature. As I understand it, "Aspects" allow the poster to compartmentalise their followers (e.g. "I'm only going to send my political rants to my family"). My suggestion would effectively allow the follower to compartmentalise those they follow ("I only care about X's posts about Linux, not her holiday photos").


Juan Santiago Wed 23 Jul 2014 10:30PM

Some time ago, I think to present a proposal like this,

Is a little improvement Diaspora *search engine

1) can search a combination of tags, eg + #nature #photo
2) can search users combining by tags, eg: [email protected] + #palestine


Kazhnuz Tue 29 Jul 2014 1:19PM

I pretty like the idea of using a "loose search", because it would solve the problem of fragmentation of tagging convention, and if someone follow "#supertuxkart", he would see : #super-tux-kart, #super_tux_kart, #supertuxkart, #SuperTuxKart... It would make the hashtag more usable, I think. Combined to the idea of Juan Santiago and the possibility to follow hashtag combination, it would make the whole diaspora search engine and tagging system way more powerfull.


riveravaldez Tue 28 Oct 2014 8:44PM

Multiple-tags search is also usable (and I often find myself desiring it) to refine a search, like: #web #browsers #GPL, or whatever.
I suppose this will came at hand with the 'multiple-tags-selection' to refine a certain streaming.


Chris Wed 29 Oct 2014 10:48AM

I don't know about the specific terms.

What if we switch from the [space] character to a comma to separate tags?

I think what follows from this would be a tag field which is seperate from the main content of the post. If this is not implemented, it may result in a lot of clumsiness from users who #like to place #tags #in-line with their #posts instead of appending tags to the end.

Another method might be to separate tags with a double-[space].

In any case, I heartily approve of multiple tag, as well as author+tag searching.

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