Twitter Power – Combining Name and Hashtag Semantics

I have just finished listening to a podcast from Phil Windley and Scott Lemon which again illustrates the power of Twitter’s humble 140-character message stream. It also shows how in a Web 2.0 world a simple idea goes viral in a few days and then how that idea is leveraged over a similar timeframe to produce powerful, new services that empower individuals and enterprises alike.

Twitter users know the basic syntax of a use name, @mrees refers to my Twitter account for example. In many meetings and get-togethers I now give out my Twitter name only. This one word allows the recipient to visit http://twitter.com/mrees where they will instantly discover:

  • my full name
  • an email address
  • a 1-sentence bio
  • a web site that gives further, detailed contact information

Experienced Twitter users also know the hashtag syntax, the hashtag. #smcgc for example refers to Social Media Club Gold Coast when included in a tweet. Many Twitter applications and web applications that are part of the Twitterverse make use of hashtags, including the original http://hastags.org, for searching, filtering and analysing the tweet text.

The #followfridays hashtag was suggested by Micah Baldwin as a tweet:

I am starting Follow Fridays. Every Friday, suggest a person to follow, and everyone follow him/her. Today its @fancyjeffrey & @w1redone.
3:53 AM Jan 17th from TweetDeck 

Note there was no hashtag but Mykl Roventine @myklroventine quickly responded:

@micah Great idea! You need a hashtag for that – #followfridays
3:57 AM Jan 17th from web in reply to micah

That was all it took for a Twitter reputation system to be born – the combination of Twitter names and a hashtag. Now we have the followfridays web site with the by-line ‘Follow friends that your friends recommend’ that shows the stream of tweets containing the #followfridays hashtag.

Back to the podcast. Scott Lemon on learning of the #followfridays hashtag, and having suitable web application code open on his machine, decided to record the recommendations in a database, do the analysis, and in a few hours produced the TopFollowFriday web site. This is a really impressive site which allows you to show the daily and all-time rankings of recommendations and the recommenders – a wonderful job. As some people have been known to recommend themselves (perish the thought), be warned, Scott’s site publishes this information too!

Thus the power of combining two Twitter syntaxes comes to the fore. It is not surprising that Scott is now looking at a further Twitter syntax extension to his powerful recommendation system. He proposes to use +sometag to add further information about an individual recommendation. So +programmer would recommend a Twitter account as a programmer, and so on. He also ponders what –programmer might mean.

The takeaway here is that if you wanting to exploit the Twitter message stream in this way you had better make a claim on the other special characters for your own idea and be quick about it.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

One Response to Twitter Power – Combining Name and Hashtag Semantics

  1. Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is more than I expected when I stumpled upon a link on Delicious telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

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