Use Branch To Creatively Engage the Web

As the web continues to get better and better, something that I take for granted a lot of the time is the amount of information that is on it. It continues to amaze me at how I can type in a random question or phrase and usually always find an answer very quickly and easily. Add on top of that the increase in blogging and how easy it is for someone to set one up, you will soon have an internet with an almost infinite wealth of knowledge.

But, what about those times where you want to ask a specific question to people, and you want to gather information and opinions in somewhat real time? Yes, a Google search can help with that, but it doesn’t always get the job done. Enter in a web app called Branch, where you can ask questions in real time and get answers from the millions of people around the world. I have been able to test it out over the past week or so, and I have learned some interesting things about it and how it works.

How It Works?

At the moment Branch is somewhat still in it’s infant stage, so you cannot just go and sign up for an account, you have to either be invited or you can ask to be invited and be let in. Branch, in its simplest form, is a forum where you can ask questions on just about anything. When you find a question that you want to ask, you can then create it and then add people you know to solicite answers from or you can also share it out on your social networks to see if others want to add to the conversation. Branches can also be closed at any time as well, which makes it nice if you feel that you no longer want to receive feedback.

Example of a branch and answers

Example of a branch and answers

What makes this a little different than a site similar to this, Quora, is that you can “branch” off of someone’s answer. So let’s say for instance you pose a question, “Who is the most powerful person in the world?” Then you have a bunch of people answer it and you found that someone’s answer was interesting or you didn’t agree with. You can then branch off of that person’s answer and create a followup question to their answer and create a whole new question to talk about.

Setting up a branch

Setting up a branch

Another way to add your questions to Branch is by using their bookmarklet. The way you would use it is, let’s say you come across a news article online and you found that it was interesting and you wanted to see what others thought about it as well. You can use the Branch bookmarklet to create a branch for you with a link to the article so that others can read it and form their own opinion.

Branch bookmarklet

Branch bookmarklet

Variety of Uses

When I first got invited into Branch, my editior and I were having a very brief conversation about how to use it. At first I thought this was going to be just another Quora, which some may argue it is. But, the more I started to use it, the more the wheels started to get spinning in my head, that if Branch is used effectively, it can really be a powerful tool. Obviously, the easy one that just about everyone will use it for, is to just ask random questions and see what other people’s responses are. But, I think you can push the limits a bit and use it for other things. For example, let’s say you are writing an essay and you are doing some research; instead of just searching the internet for answers, what if you could throw up on Branch what you are doing and what kind of feedback you need to get? Or what if you are finished with that essay, but you want others to proof read it and give their opinions, you could do that as well. What makes Branch a great app to use is that you can either share it with the world, or you can invite people and have them give you feedback as well, which opens up the possibilities of how to use it.

Personally, I think Branch could be used in a lot of different areas, education, business, leisure, design, etc. The bottom line though, is that people are going to have to be willing to push the envelope and get creative with it. It is up to the users to make Branch a great place for people to come where they can find answers and opinions. Without us getting creative, Branch becomes and stays just a place to ask questions and get feedback, which may be all its developers want it to be, but I would hope not.

It’s All About The Users

The more I used Branch, the more I realized one thing, and I said it previously, Branch goes as far as its users will take it. Here is what I mean by this; in the week or so that I played around with Branch, I created about 4 different branches based off of articles that I read online and wanted other people’s opinions on. So far, not one person has responded to join a branch to respond to what I deem are somewhat controversial articles that just about anyone can have an opinion on. Then I started to look at Branch’s home page and you can see branches that are hand picked from the staff and other ones, and you see a recurring theme. That is, most people who are using branch are tech savy and are mainly talking about subjects based around tech.

This is the downfall of Branch at the moment, and there is not a whole lot they can do about it. If Branch is going to grow, they have to appeal to a wider audience other than just the tech nerds who want to talk about tech all day. Otherwise, you get people like me, who although, I love tech, become disintereted very fast. I love other things like sports, and would love to debate who is the best NFL team this year, but you don’t find many others on Branch who are in a similar spot. That, in my opinion has to change for them to become relevant.

Conclusion

Ok, time to get off my proverbial soapbox, and mention that when you look at Branch strictly as an app review, it is very well done. It is clean, easy to use, and well made. Right now there is nothing special about it, and who knows, in the future that may change. I would love to see a search feature where you can search for different topics to save you some time, and also possibly categories where you can click on a specific one and it will show you all of the branches that match. This is one of those apps that could go either way, and it would be interesting to see what it looks like in a year. Are they going to become vaporware, or will they evolve and become an app that the masses use? Hey, maybe I should put that question up on Branch and see what others think!


Summary

Create engaging questions and get feedback from others using Branch

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