How To Use Hashtags on Bluesky
The Need For Bluesky Hashtags
The Intersection of People and Interests
Bluesky's success lies in its ability to facilitate connections between individuals based on shared interests. When social following works well, users can engage with people who share their passions and gain valuable insights from their expertise.
For example, if a user is passionate about cooking burgers and follows an experienced chef like Alice, they can benefit from Alice's recipes and culinary knowledge. In this case, it's not only the interest itself that matters but also the authority and credibility of the person discussing it.
The Challenge of Diverging Interests
However, social following can become challenging when the interests of individuals diverge. Take the example of Alice, who may have multiple hobbies and desires to share her experiences with her followers.
While her spicy burger recipes attract her target audience, her posts about her porcelain cat collection may annoy those primarily interested in burgers. This dilemma creates a conflict for Alice, as she feels obliged to respect her followers' interests while also wanting to express her diverse range of passions.
The Need for Effective Discovery
Effective discovery of content related to specific interests is crucial to fostering meaningful connections on social platforms like Bluesky. If users are unable to discover posts that align with their interests, the platform loses its value.
Alice's goal is to find like-minded individuals who share her enthusiasm for both burgers and porcelain cats. However, if the platform fails to provide suitable mechanisms for content discovery, users may become disengaged and seek alternative platforms where their interests are better represented.
The Problems with Hashtags
While hashtags seem like an obvious solution to address the challenges of connecting with specific interests, previous experiences with hashtags on microblogging networks have revealed certain limitations that need to be addressed. These limitations include:
1. Lack of Value in Clicking
Previous microblogging platforms have suffered from hashtag spam, where users misuse hashtags to gain visibility. As a result, users quickly lose interest in clicking on hashtags due to the prevalence of irrelevant and low-quality content.
2. Accessibility Issues:
Hashtags, typically written without spaces, can pose challenges for screen readers and make posts difficult to read and parse. This lack of accessibility limits the usability of hashtags for a broad range of users.
3. Insufficient Solution for Diverse Interests:
Hashtags, in their traditional form, have not effectively addressed the problem of accommodating users with multiple interests. To provide better tools for engaging with different audiences, alternative solutions are required.
Proposals for Effective Hashtag Usage on Bluesky
To maximize the value and utility of hashtags on Bluesky, several proposals have been put forth. These proposals aim to address the limitations identified above and create a more effective and user-friendly hashtag experience. The suggested approaches include:
1. Visual Separation of Hashtags:
Inspired by Tumblr's approach, Bluesky could visually separate hashtags from the main post content. Hashtags would still function as links but would be encouraged to be placed in a separate field, minimizing their visual impact and making posts easier to read.
2. Allowing Spaces in Tags:
To improve accessibility, hashtags should support spaces. This can be achieved by using an underscore (_) to indicate spaces within tags. The composer user interface can automatically convert underscores to actual spaces before uploading the post, ensuring that hashtags remain readable and user-friendly.
3. Curated Tag Search Results:
Clicking on a hashtag should provide users with relevant and valuable content. To achieve this, the "tag results" algorithm can be curated to ensure high-quality content is displayed. This can be accomplished through various approaches, such as routing to custom feeds that have declared their ability to handle specific hashtags, leveraging user-selected search engines designed for hashtag filtering, or relying on user-list communities that maintain reputations for content curation.
4. Mute Words and Hashtags:
A common feature on social platforms, the ability to mute specific words and hashtags should be made fast and easy on Bluesky. The user interface can collect recently used hashtags in the feed and provide a simple one-tap management option. Additionally, timed mutes can be introduced, allowing users to take breaks from specific topics without permanently excluding them from their feed.
5. Opt-in Hashtags:
This proposal suggests allowing users to specify that a post should be visible only to those interested in a particular hashtag. A clear and intuitive user interface, such as an "Audience" field defaulting to "All," can be implemented to indicate the intended visibility of a post. The challenge lies in determining how users can opt into specific tags. Custom feeds that aggregate content based on specific tags could serve as an opt-in mechanism.
While there have been ongoing discussions about alternatives to hashtags, none have presented a better fit for social platforms than hashtags themselves.
Hashtags are widely understood and simple to use. The key lies in extracting real value from their implementation.
The proposals put forth for Bluesky aim to make hashtags accessible and consistently useful, enhancing the platform's functionality and user experience.
By visually separating hashtags, allowing spaces in tags, curating tag search results, enabling easy muting options, and exploring opt-in hashtag visibility, Bluesky can harness the true potential of hashtags and empower users to connect, discover, and engage around their shared interests.
Bluesky's introduction of hashtags marks an important milestone in its development as a social microblogging platform.
By addressing the limitations of previous hashtag implementations and embracing innovative proposals, Bluesky aims to create a hashtag experience that enhances content discovery, promotes meaningful connections, and accommodates users with diverse interests.
While still a work in progress, Bluesky has shown promise in fostering a vibrant community of users, and with continued effort and user feedback, it has the potential to become a prominent platform for genuine interactions and enriching content.