I’m still not completely convinced by hashtags on twitter. On the plus side, they can make following what people are saying about a show (#bbcrevolution) or an event (#iod2010) easier. On the other hand, these are a few random thoughts about the downside to hashtags…
Hashtags are common property, which is not a problem when people are cooperating to join threads of conversation, but it’s easy to see how that could #fail:
- I might think #iod is a great tag for Information on Demand, but there are plenty of others who think it means something else.
- An ‘official’ hashtag can avoid some of the confusion but, even if you manage to stake your claim to something unique enough, you can’t control it. While #bbcrevolution was talking about denial of service attacks, I was thinking about how easy it would be for anyone to launch a denial of hashtag attack. Not to mention when marketing tags get hijacked.
- If there isn’t an official or obvious hashtag for something, it’s easy to end up with multiple hashtags. A bit of discussion can usually get things on track, but it always seems a little odd talking about the tag, rather than the subject of the tag.
And finally, the situation that got me thinking about hashtags in the first place. When different people use the same tag for almost the same thing, especially if one of those uses is much noisier than the other(s). In this case, tweets related to the Current Cost meter, and automated Current Cost meter readings have both used the #currentcost tag. Not a huge problem, except it would be easy to miss interesting information if the tag was swamped by even a few tweetjects posing meter readings:
“seems a shame that @mmnHouse is inserting the #currentcost hashtag to their house temp and elec reading. creates major noise” @yellowpark
“thinking we need a new hashtag for #CurrentCost stuff: one for bots and noisy automated stuff, another for discussion. what do people think?” @dalelane
“@dalelane How about #CurrentCostData ? I agree my searches are becoming muddled with people’s bots, and not information on #currentcost” @cumbers
“@dalelane Agreed – It frustrates me no end having countless #currentcost tweets popping up all day!” @markphelan
“thinking we should use a specific hashtag for tweeting #currentcost data to avoid creating noise. any suggestions? #ccdata ?” @yellowpark
So one solution is to agree on uses for #currentcost, #currentcostbot, #ccdata, #mymeter, etc. which is likely to work reasonably well for the Current Cost audience, but it may not be as practical for every situation.
Alternatively, as well as being able to mute retweets, it would be handy to be able to mute selected people using a hashtag in a way you’re not interested in. Even better if lists could be muted: if I could mute any tweets containing the #currentcost hashtag from anyone in my @jtonline/tweetject list, this problem goes away.