Sunday, August 07, 2011

What SPARKS your interest?

OK, let me start by being politically correct — I have nothing against Cycling, Fashion, Movies, Recipes, Soccer, Sports Cars, Gardening, Android, Comics or Robotics. Heck, anyone who's known me a while knows I LOVE Cycling, coached Soccer, enjoy Sports Cars (especially old ones), and have been Gardening with my friend/neighbor John for several years.

It seems, however, that each of these 10 topics of interest (what Google+ refers to as a Spark), somehow made the cut as the defaults, yet Genealogy didn't. The nerve of those twenty-something's at Google!

Let's Get Started
Anyway — Just a few comments for how we family history enthusiasts can be using Sparks to our best advantage in Google+.

As noted, Sparks are nothing more (or nothing less) than your personalized topics of interest. In addition to the general and somewhat obvious theme of Genealogy, I would suggest you also consider more narrow and specific subjects for one-click, easy access to items shared by others — for me, Italian Genealogy and Campobasso Italy were quick additions to my Sparks list.

Think about your Pedigree Chart and the names that commonly appear — both Surnames as well as Place Names. You can add or remove a Spark at any time. Once added, it will appear on the list of your main page (in the lower left portion of your screen).

Currently, the list is not automatically alphebetized nor can you move them around in any priority order, but just as Google+ did with Circles, I expect this is a short-term shortcoming that will be quickly and easily fixed by engineers who are still trying to figure out how to spell the word 'genealogy' correctly.

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
If you've not yet explored Sparks, now is a perfect time. Within just a few minutes, you'll wonder what was holding you back. Click on the word Sparks itself and that will bring you into a central page for searching for (and I would expect eventually managing) your Sparks.

In the full screen image above, I couldn't resist adding Genealogy (using Photoshop) where Fashion had originally been. Sorry to tease you like that!

As you begin to enter characters into the Sparks search box, you'll notice the familiar Google Suggest technology which gives you an idea of the collective search topics closely matching what you have started to type in. Not only can this save you a few keystrokes, but it can also be an effective way for you to refine your interest beyond what you may have thought of on your own.

Experiment . . . it's one of the best ways to learn how this works!

Once you've evaluated some of the results which appear following your Sparks Query, you can click the light blue Add interest button and that topic will now be part of your Sparks list.

Give it a try and let us all know if you discover an interesting way to use Sparks not mentioned here! Time to go running now!


  1. What isn't clear is how items are included in the topics list. It clearly isn't populated by a regular Google search. So, how do topics and related items get put there for us to see?

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