Blog Pile

Hash Tags, Trash Tags, Hack Tags

cc licensed flickr photo by Zervas

One can hardly read a twitter stream these days without tripping over a boat load of hash tags (for those knot sure of what twitter is or what hash tags are, please go check out Oprah or some other oracle, I am not feeling like explaining everything…).

First of all, I completely get, grok, and am on board with the desire, the reason for hash tags. Twitter as is, lacks anything in its architecture to allow cross grouping oh content. And hash tags do fill that purpose, though IMHO rather awkwardly.

But before going there, I again wonder about our cranial capacity to keep track of hash tags. Event ones are of course short lived. I have been gaming them, toying with them for a while but creating what I call #totalUselessAndRidiculous tags. Just for the fun of it. Just to through a spanner in the works.


captioned for Stephen Downes who hates screen shots of tweets

Bumps in the cloud? My Gmail reports Server Error. Coincidently, my water is turned off as well. What’s going on? #paranoidConspiracyTheory

@sridgway Indeed— is not all water supply dependent on clouds? #RideThehydrologicCycle Today is a gangbuster of #MeanlinglessHashTrashTags

Why do I do that? It’s because I am a smart***.

And speaking of trashing hash tags, read how Nicholas Carr looks down his lucid and mind boggling nose at what is being called “hashmobs” — people who instead of assembling in a real place to do something (Flashmobs) just gather around some recent hash tag, jumping in with 140 characters of pseudo action.

The members of a hashmob gather, virtually, around a particular hashtag by labeling each of their tweets with said hashtag and then following the resulting hashtag tweet stream. Hashmobbers don’t have to subject themselves to the weather, and they don’t actually have to be in proximity to any other physical being. A hashmob is a purely avatarian mob, though it is every bit as prone to the rapid cultivation of mass hysteria as a nonavatarian mob.


Of course, Carr is a #RealBigTimeAuthorTooBusyToBeBotheredWithBlogComments so we must…. never mind.

But now to the hack part. Hash tags are a pure hack. If twitter had some foresight, they might have created a real tagging structure, where the tags are not messily embedded with the content (besides the point that tagging your content takes away from your space for content). They are not microcontent-able. They are glommed on.

Hash tags though do provide a great service for aggregating, searching, etc. I like and use them. I am not against them. I am not against them. I am not against them. I am not against them.

But at some level, IMHO, they are silly and another, they are a wretched sloppy implementation of a workable tagging environment.

Tag this post #________________________________________ (c’mon commenters, unlike the Rough Type, which seems not rough enough, my blog is always open to distracting comments, so fill in my blanks)

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Hi Alan,

    Twitter forces us to be more selective when it comes to tagging, and I think that’s totally fine. As I have expressed it many times before, Twitter is a gateway to the web, an human search engine, so people who abuse hash tags on twitter are doing a disservice to themselves, limiting even more the coherence and length of their messages.

    It’s a part of the learning process to moderate your tag usage, and Twitter offers the opportunity to unfollow people who don’t add value to this new kind of conversation. So, IMO, anything is fair play, since it’s an opt-in open playground.

  2. I dunno…I like that I don’t have to switch to another input element to add a hashtag. Part of twitter is the speed to dashing off a tweet, and building more into the UI just to #hastag something seems counterproductive.

  3. Re: RDFizing stuff. Well, yeah, always like structure, and a UI can help with that, but there’s also really good experimentation being done to scrape structure from the tags. One of the semantic web gurus, Benji Nowack, is doing some big work along these lines (slideshow about it). So is Raphael Alvarado (@ontoligent on twitter). The nice thing is that in addition to hash-tags, twitter also has user-tags — that’s what the @ says. I’ve also seen people experimenting with ! for other meanings. Then with a few good regexps they’re deriving the RDF from the tweets.

    In short, as an RDF person, I’m data-promiscuous: I’ll take it however and wherever I can get it, and the easier it is for people to give it to me, the better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *