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Posts tagged with ‘hashtags’



"#Hashtag" with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake (by latenight)

(click the image to watch it.)

(thanks @PowellTrusler)

Ben Zimmer, X-iversaries everywhere →

Ben Zimmer notices Chris Messina’s use of #hashtagiversary in a post about the use of -(i)versary as a free-floating language element:

The second is from Chris Messina, a.k.a. the hashtag godfather, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his proposal of the hashtag convention on Twitter:

(Messina didn’t actually coin hashtag on that fateful day in 2007 — that was done a few days later by Stowe Boyd, another early Twitter adopter. See the Spring 2013 installment of “Among the New Words” in American Speech [pdf], which I co-wrote with Charles Carson, as well as Boyd’s own recent post on the subject.)

Six years ago Chris Messina presented the idea of ‘channels’ for Twitter, and I called them hashtags, and predicted they would be used as topic indicators. But Chris was right, too: witness the growing uses of hashtags for Twitter ‘chatrooms’.

(This is an aside.)

I have been using a convention on Twitter for the past few months, a bit of microsyntax, and I guess I should spell out my intent.

When I am writing a tweet that is principally focused on me, as a person, I enclose the tweets in parentheses, like this:

This is intended as information of a personal-but-not-private nature, the sort of thing that might be interesting for those following me as an individual, as opposed to me as a public figure. And yes, I am a public figure, and you are too. 

My point in this post isn’t a rehash of the privacy/publicy argumentarium, but just a mild advocacy for the use of the parens for these asides. And the hope that Twitter clients in the near future would allow people to dial in/out the asides intended for the inner circle.

Behind this is the groupings concept: you don’t have to be invited to be a member of my inner circle. It’s not — and really shouldn’t be — controlled by me. It’s a decision that others make: how much does this other person matter to you? If you like someone enough to know when they raise or lower their standup/sitdown desk, or what the weather is from their window, or what kind of sandwich they ordered today, then tune in to their asides. 

And those who want to filter out that stuff: please do. I am creating enough social exhaust without it, I am sure.

So: please start using asides, and maybe we can get Twitter clients — maybe even Twitter — to support them, just like they did @mentions, retweets, and #hashtags.

(via So long, Newsweek | JIMROMENESKO.COM)
I had not seen the last print issue of Newsweek, with a hashtag ‘#lastprintissue’.

Newsweek’s last print issue has just a hashtag on the cover. Like using your final breath to ID the killer.…
— Chris Sacca (@sacca) December 23, 2012

(via So long, Newsweek | JIMROMENESKO.COM)

I had not seen the last print issue of Newsweek, with a hashtag ‘#lastprintissue’.

Twitter Reclaims ‘Cashtags’, formerly called ‘Tickers’

No one should be surprised that Twitter has decided to colonize the microsyntactic space that stock tickers ($AAPL) have been playing on Twitter. Howard Lindzon may be expressing displeasure since it steps on the toes of Stocktwits, but it shouldn’t be surprising.

Twitter has at long last tried to make some money out of hashtags, which they basically ignored for years. And they reworked retweets to simplify their internal architectural problems. And of course, long before that, they decided that the @mention was a good thing, and pulled in down into the infrastructure.

Every exploitable bit of microsyntax we, the users, dream up they will take and run with. More power to them.

Here’s a few from the microsyntax archive that I’d like them to start using:

Place tags —

@stoweboyd: I just landed in /Montreal/ and I am looking forward to some smoked meat

@stoweboyd: Standing outside /St Paul Hotel, Montreal/ waiting for friends headed to dinner

@stoweboyd: In October, I’m speaking in /Amsterdam/ and /Brighton UK/

— intended to structure the discussion about locale, especially helpful in the last example because GPS or other location sensing doesn’t help.

If Twitter’s becoming a media company, they could route appropriate tweets or other ads/offerings my way in all three of the cases above.

Or ‘twhich’ tags, or twiches, where people can ask questions, or poll people, as @f does here with his friends @a @b and @c:

Hey @a @b @c chinese food at 7? yes[] no[] maybe[]

to which the recipients could respond

@a: Hey @f @b @c chinese food at 7? yes[x]

@b: Hey @f chinese food at 7? maybe[perhaps 8pm?]

Or a twhich could be more time oriented or choice oriented

@a: Chinese food tonight? @b @c 7pm[] 8pm[] joes[] wongs[]

with these kind of answers:

@b: Chinese food tonight? 8pm[x] joes[1st] wongs[2nd]

@c: I’ll eat anywhere: Chinese food tonight? 7pm[x] 8pm[x]

Or more open-ended questions thrown out to your followers:

@stoweboyd: How do you like the idea of twhiches? cool[] dumb[] I’d never do it[]

And all sorts of support could be provided by appropriately aggregating the thread of the discussion with a summary, like how many responded, are coming, alternative suggestions, etc.

Obviously, there are media and recommendation options available in twhiches and place tags. So we should just expect that if services started to support them — the way that Stocktwits supports cashtags — then sooner or later twitter will come rolling in too.

And I have a few other bit of microsyntax they could make money from… like geomessages:

@stoweboyd: Dear @/Amsterdam/ I’m speaking there in Oct at @rtecheurope and looking forward to it!

Perhaps to send a message to all my current followers that are based in Amsterdam, or a sponsored message to non-followers in Amsterdam? (In the latter case, I would have to have a credit card on file, they’d have to send me a direct message with the price, etc.)

So, if the folks at Twitter want to use these ideas, fine. I willing to talk, too.

Update: 4:12pm — Jamie Holzhuter offers this:

@holzhuter: @stoweboyd /location/ microsyntax? yes[x] (yes, please)

I have to admit I’m starting to experience a kind of “favoriting” fatigue — meaning that the digital causes of the day or week are all starting to blend together. Another week, another hashtag, and with it, a question about what is actually being accomplished.

David Carr,  Hashtag Activism, and Its Limits -

7 Simple Ways To Improve Twitter - Jeremy Toeman →

Jeremy makes some interesting suggestions for Twitter, especially about supporting tags better:

Jeremy Toeman via LIVEdigitally

4. #Explain #Hashtags #Somehow

OK, so a hashtag lets people tweet about one topic, and really only seems to exist because of the brokenness of Twitter search (see above). But most of the hashtags I see make no sense, and even clicking on them doesn’t exactly “answer” the question of why they exist. How about having users “register” a hashtag for a period of time? Even if multiple users do that, it’d be fine. Then when a new user clicks on a hashtag, they can see all the “terms in use at present” to close the loop on it.


Two thoughts:
1) This is the Twitter equivalent of “Drop the ‘the’”
2) He’s right — but…
Twitter basically created (and now is trying to take over) an entire sub-industry (link shortening) because they didn’t plan well for this. Of course, early on, Twitter was largely based around SMS, and there is no metadata payload for SMS, so those links had to be included in the 140 characters themselves (and yes, SMS is 160 characters, but Twitter set aside 20 for usernames). Yet another reason why SMS needs to die.

Talk about a three-year-old discussion. Oh, and what about actually doing something with tags, instead of just treating them like text, while you’re at it.
And if we are moving past the SMS form factor, why not drop the 140 character limitation?


Two thoughts:

1) This is the Twitter equivalent of “Drop the ‘the’”

2) He’s right — but…

Twitter basically created (and now is trying to take over) an entire sub-industry (link shortening) because they didn’t plan well for this. Of course, early on, Twitter was largely based around SMS, and there is no metadata payload for SMS, so those links had to be included in the 140 characters themselves (and yes, SMS is 160 characters, but Twitter set aside 20 for usernames). Yet another reason why SMS needs to die.

Talk about a three-year-old discussion. Oh, and what about actually doing something with tags, instead of just treating them like text, while you’re at it.

And if we are moving past the SMS form factor, why not drop the 140 character limitation?

Bang: A Microsyntax for Emergency Messaging

I have proposed a microsyntax for sending and receiving structured Twitter messages during and relating to disasters. See the emergency+codes tag for all discussion.

Why Not Hashtags?

One of the problems with microsyntax based on hashtags is that hashtags are words in specific languages, so there is an immediate divergence in this case with English and French, and perhaps Creole, as well?

This is countered by the creation of a second glossary of hashtags in French, but the equivalence is not immediately obvious.

The second problem is that people aren’t using the templates as defined. For example, “#name American & UF Alumni Lee Strickland is stuck there alive’ does have a name in it, but it’s buried. To use a simple metric, a stupid program wouldn’t be able to extract ‘Lee Strickland’ from that.

I think that a few other approaches could work better even given the requirements that a disaster imposes:

  • People will have only the most primitive communication capabilities, like cell phones, or public computers. (We have to imagine these at least, or Twitter and microsyntax can’t play a role at all.)
  • We have to rely on Twitter as the basic platform, although it is possible to imagine external applications that are designed to work with Twitter, so long as they don’t require specialized software or hardware on the communication device. This means that specialized applications can be developed that interoperate with Twitter. As just one example, geolocational elements could be used to display messages relative to locations in a stricken area, like Haiti in this case.
  • Hashtags are a general purpose tool, like a hammer, but even the best hammer can’t be used for all purposes. A hammer is a bad wrench, for example. In general, hashtags are intended to represent themes or topics that a post is about. Extending them to act as keywords is attractive at the moment, because various search tools currently identify the ‘#abc’ structure. But using hashtags consumes too many characters unnecessarily in a 104 character contex.

The Bang Microsyntax

My recommendations at this point for Disaster microsyntax are these:

  1. We should dedicate ‘!’ to indicate that a message is associated with a specific named disaster or emergency. This use of ‘bang’ or ‘exclamation mark’ should take precedence over other possible uses of the character. I propose we call this system ‘Bang’. Some international organization — perhaps the UN? Red Cross? — should be responsible for the naming of the disaster. This should be the first element of the post. For example, ‘!Katrina’ would have appeared at the head of all emergency tweets related to Katrina. Note that this is in distinction to the use of #katrina in a post, which does not indicate that it is an emergency post, just someone commenting on Katrina, for example in regard to local Lousiana politics.
  1. Twitter and related applications, like Twitter cllients, should be extended to support the use of bang in obvious ways. Note that this possibly means that Twitter could give preference to the passing of emergency messages, if necessary.
  1. Geolocation is more general than emergency, and some general convention should be used for that. I have advocated the so-called ‘geoslash’ notation, but this is a critical part of the whole picture.
  1. The syntax of emergency messages should be structured enough so that all parts of the message are defined elements, but loose enough that order of the various elements is arbitrary.
  1. A collection of two and three character codes based on bang should be developed to indicate various sorts of information useful in emergencies. For example, ‘!@’ could stand for the name of a person, based on the use of ‘@’ in Twitter and other applications. ‘!@@’ could be used for organizations, businesses, and so on. ‘!?’ could represent a question being asked, and ‘!!’ could be used for things desired, needed or the like.
  1. A general model for adding a note or status to any defined element could rely on ‘:’. For example, ‘!@john jones: alive’ would indicate that John Jones is alive (in English).

Here’s an example, for a hypothetical disaster, a hurricane called ‘Bette’ that has hit the eastern seaboard of the US:

!bette !@john jones: alive /wellfleet hospital/

This is an emergency message stating that John Jones is alive and is located at Wellfleet Hospital. Alternatively, the hospital could have been identified as an emergency-related organization or business, with ‘!@@wellfleet hospital’ instead of being treated as a location.

!bette @carlabreck !?@sam ying: with you? 

This is directed to @carlabreck using her twitter ID, asking the status of Sam Ying, specifically whether he is with her.

!bette /usps, provincetown MA/ !!food blankets: 20 people stranded here !!medevac: 1 compound fracture

This indicates a request ‘!!’ for food and blankets for 20 people stranded at the post office in Provincetown, and a request for a medevac for someone with a compound fracture.

Note that this message could be jumbled in different ways — !bette !!medevac: 1 compound fracture /usps, provincetown MA/ !!food blankets: 20 people stranded here — and it would still have the same meaning.

!bette /usps, provincetown MA/ !@hassan haque: compound fracture of the lower right leg

This is an accompanying message to the previous, indicating the name of the person with the compound fracture.

!bette /home depot, hyannisport/: roof has blown off the main building and is blocking Main Street

This is an informational post, identifying a hazard so that authorities monitoring might do something.

Getting Into Circulation

I am open to working with other groups interested in implementing tools and techniques to circulate this microsyntax for emergency messaging, or something like it.

Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings

Chris Messina has outlined (in a fairly voluminous way) a proposal for the use of hash tags (strings like “#tag”) as a way to help make sense of the noise within Twitter. He enumerates different sorts of “groups” that could be supported in Twitter, and then takes my concept of ‘groupings’ — ad hoc assemblages of people sharing a common interest implied by a tag — and runs with it:

[from Groups for Twitter; or A Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels]


The type that I’m most interested in, and am prepared to offer a concrete proposal on, is actually of a fourth kind, most closely related to Stowe’s “groupings”, but with a slightly different lean, primarily in the model of how the grouping is established. In the cases presented above, there are very explicit approaches taken, since it’s somewhat taken for granted that groups imply a kind of management. Whether you’re dealing with public groups that you create, join and then promote or contact groups that you ultimately must manage like any kind of mailing list, they imply an order of magnitude of work that would ultimately work against the adoption of the whole grouping premise and thereby minimize any benefits to a select group of hyper-dedicated process-followers.

I’m more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter.

I support the details of Chris’ spec. My sense is that tags in Twitter, as elsewhere, define shared experience of some kind, involving all those using the tag. And the use can be either actively putting a hash tag (like “#hashtag”) into a tweet, or more passively opting to follow a stream of tweets related to a tagged theme.

This accords exactly with the idea of groupings. I am increasingly uninterested in traditional groups in social apps: where members ‘join’, perhaps following a required invitation, and someone ‘owns’ and ‘manages’ the group. Groups have their place in the work context, but are less relevant in open socializing of individuals. Groupings can be wonderful for serendipity: consider the grouping of all people within who have listened to a particular musician recently, or the clutch of people who have tagged a blog post with the term ‘Twitter’.

Just in passing: the failure of Technorati to make something out of the millions of groupings lost within their map of the blogosphere baffles me. I hope that some enterprising entrepreneurs begin to think about the meta-groupings that could be found across these various applications, across these apparently unrelated social media streams. A new angle for MyBlogLog, perhaps?

Tagspaces could be interesting and rich shared experiences, but no one seems to be really exploring that side of their existence. has trained us to think of tags as metadata for bookmarks, and blogs have trained us to view them as metadata for posts. But tags imply communities, and no one is doing much to let those communities find themselves. Twitter hash tags could help.

[PS I looked, and the domain “” is already taken, damn it.]

[original comments copied from Wayback Machine:

Hey Stowe, thanks for trudging through my post and inspiring large portions of it! I find that I blog so little these days, relying primarily on Twitter and Screenshots, that when I do, I often carry on with myself for days! (aside: I really need an editor!).

Anyway, I think you’re exactly right about tags. Before I wrote the post, I spent some time chatting with Thomas Vander Wal about his “come to me web” and his notion of tags. It’s identical to the one that you envisaged. I can say proudly that I finally “get it” about tags.

And you’re totally right about Technorati. If anyone could have, they had the chance to build the “come to me web” from the longtail. Instead, we have Facebook, a monolithic silo of data meted out in dollops and doses that they decide on, rather than in the rough-and-tumble, but close to humanity, way of the open web.

I think I’ve learned something here — and I think from now on, I’m going to advocate for the dissolution of hardened groups within social networks. For a long time I’ve felt that natural, organic decay is needed in these networks for them to work long term. Without death, there is no evolution. Thus, “groups” should be born the moment someone uses a tag and die the moment there’s a sustained silence in that tag’s life. What a fantastic model!

Oh, and love the new design!

Posted by: Chris Messina | August 26, 2007 at 10:42 AM

Thanks for the mention Stowe. MyBlogLog is already headed down the path you suggest with the use of groupings suggested by our users when they place tags on other members and sites.

Our search box on now supports searching across the tags and adding them to the weighting and the initial results look promising for finding relevant sites that may have trouble breaking into the big search engine listings.

Check out searches for “aviation” or “hiking” for example.

Posted by: Ian Kennedy | August 26, 2007 at 10:58 AM

Hi Stowe,

Maybe you should try or for it relates to tweets nor twits. I still think you need a definition for these. Another option would be to use / create a tag and share it with your friends. The tag would have a unique number which may be public or private which could tie back to some definition. That way people could share the same tag for different meanings. Your twitterific or tweet-r would simply convert your #tag to the number or a tiny url to a wiki etc. Let me know what you think. 


Posted by: stuart | August 26, 2007 at 01:03 PM

I agree that ad-hoc groupings are more interesting that explicit membership based groups. Using explicit tags may help within a Twitter stream, but I’m more in favor of implicit means to tag yourself and your experiences.

(The new design generally looks good, but the photo with your face chopped in half is disconcerting, but i’m not an artist…)

Posted by: Mike | August 28, 2007 at 10:57 PM


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