Hash Tags

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What is a Hash Tag?

Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

Hashtags were developed as a means to create "groupings" on Twitter, without having to change the basic service. The hash symbol is a convention borrowed primarily from IRC channels, and later from Jaiku's channels.

hashtags.org now provides real-time tracking of Twitter hashtags. Opt-in by following @hashtags to have your hashtags tracked.

Using hashtags

Hashtags were popularized during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when Nate Ritter used the hashtag "#sandiegofire" to identify his updates related to the disaster.

Chris Messina wrote up this use in his post on Twitter hashtags for emergency coordination and disaster relief.

Subsequent uses have emerged, especially alongside Twitter's track feature and the development of hashtags.org, which shows useful graphs of popularity and recency of hashtags. Another useful tool is the Terraminds twitter search engine that allows for searching for arbitrary hashtags: search for #hashtag

Suggestions and tips

The use of hashtags is still an emergent phenomena, and as such, etiquette is negotiable, though some have already expressed their distaste for hashtags.

Used sparingly and respectfully, hashtags can provide useful context and cues for recall, as well as increased utility for the track feature. Used excessively can cause annoyance, confusion or frustration, and may lead people to stop following you. It's best to use hashtags explicitly when they're going to add value, rather than on every word in an update.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to focus on your update first, and only if it quantitatively adds value, to append one-three hashtags. There are no hard and fast rules, but Twitter should continue to be about answering the simple question: "What are you doing" rather than "What tags apply to what you're doing?"

Example uses

  • Events or conferences, e.g.: "Tara's presentation on communities was great! #barcampblock"
    • Disasters: "#sandiegofire A shelter has opened up downtown for fire refugees."
    • Memes: "My #themeword for 2008 is conduct."
    • Context: "I can't believe anyone would design software like this! #microsoftoffice"
    • Recall: "Buy some toilet paper. #todo"

Further reading

* Carfi and Barnett on Support Tag Beacons by Stowe Boyd
* Groups for Twitter or a Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels by Chris Messina
* Twitter in Other Countries? By Desarae Veit
* Will Improve the Twitter Experience by Brian Solis
* A question for Twitter users out there by Steven Hodson
* Social Media Campaign Examples by Desarae Veit
* Pulrk Vs. Twitter By Desarae Veit
* Twitter Hashtags: A Quickie by Stephanie Booth
* How to Write Relevant Content for Your Target Audience by Desarae Veit
* Up the anti on integrated media campaigns By Desarae Veit
* 86 of the TOP SEO TOOLS: Social Media, Alerts, Blog Tracking, Social Monitoring, PR, Copy Tools, Keyword, Linking, Page Rank, PPC, Affiliate Marketing, and Competitor Analysis. By Desarae Veit
* Twitter #Hashtags Backlash Begins by Stowe Boyd
* Twitter, TwitBox and hashtags by Steven Hodson
* Supports 'Tracking' But Not #Hashtags? by Stowe Boyd
* Tracking vs. Hashtags by Colby Palmer
* Hubspots New Tool By Desarae Veit
* Twitter hashtags for emergency coordination and disaster relief by Chris Messina
* California Fire Followers Set Twitter Ablaze by Michael Calore, Wired
* Speaking at San Diego BarCamp 2007 by Nate Ritter
* What does # mean in a twitter post? All about octothorpetags. by Edward Vielmetti
* We’ve changed the way hashtags work by hashtags.org
* Tag Silo - Twitter Hashtags by Rod Edwards
* Making the most of hashtags by Chris Messina
* Hashtags.org by Stowe Boyd
* Making sense of Twitter by David Weinberger
* http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/18/hashtags-for-my-followees/ Hashtags for my Followees] by Stephanie Booth
* Introduction to hashtag by Bwana
* Hashtagging Challenges When Events Occur at Different Times in Different Locations by Ontario Emperor
* Social Media: Who are you? The Process that follows the campaign trail. by Desarae Veit
* Hashtags by Stephen Downes
* Twitter, Hashtag and 1 letter Taxonomy by Mahesh CR
* Social MEdia and Corporations By Desarae Veit
* Social Media Connects to Small Business By Chris Brogan
* Twitter Tools
* Social Media: Early Adapters, Pioneers...
* Why I Unfollow People Who Use Hashtags On Twitter by Dave Coustan
* Twitter needs better message tracking options by Emil Sit
* Learn with hashtags by Alexandre Solleiro

Known issues

  • The hash symbol has other uses, notably for denoting indices ("I'm #1!") or phone numbers ("Dude, what's your #?"). It's hard to avoid these kinds of collisions and they are simply something to consider modifying a common communication channel.
    • Triple tags are not being parsed by some web services -e.g. #taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis is interpreted as being tagged simply "#taxonomy" by Summize and Twemes. Worse, HashTags simply renders the content as "#taxonomy", losing ":binomial=Alcedo_atthis" altogether. Twemes defend this on the grounds that triple tags are (were!) not covered in this spec, and claim a clash with colons as punctuation in casual conversation. The latter is bogus, as colons in conversation are generally followed by a space: as in this sentence. Also, plain-text sentences using a colon, followed by an equal sign, and preceded by a hash, and without spaces, #are:extremely=unlikely.

Hashtags users

Hashtags are admittedly an early-adopter feature, but have been picked up by a number of folks. If you see folks making regular use of hashtags, feel free to point them out here:

* Chris Messina (factoryjoe)
* Nate Ritter (nateritter)
* Stowe Boyd (stoweboyd)
* Ear Ideas
* Kirk (describe link)
* Ontario Emperor (oemperor)
* Colby Palmer (colbypalmer)
* Dougal Campbell (dougal)
* Alexandre Solleiro (als)
* Andy Mabbett (pigsonthewing) - also using triple tags

Technical Documentation

Text Parsed
#downtown #downtown
#downtown? #downtown
#downtown. #downtown
#downtown] #downtown
#downtown} #downtown
#downtown) #downtown
#downtown, #downtown
#downtown; #downtown
#downtown' #downtown
#downtown's #downtown

Text Parsed
#downtown_ #downtown_
#down+town #down+town
#down_town #down_town
#down-town #down-town

Text Parsed
#www.downtown.com #www.downtown.com
#www.downtown.com. #www.downtown.com

Text Parsed

Text Parsed
#taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis #taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis
#geo:lat=52.478342 #geo:lat=52.478342
#geo:lon=53.609130 #geo:lon=53.609130

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