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Why I Unfollow People Who Use Hashtags On Twitter

Update(finally:) Comments closed below. Followed up here.

Explained in less than 140 characters: What’s #irritating about #this sentence?

It kind of looks like a representation of someone with food in their mouth while they talk.

I’ve been asked about a half-dozen times in the last couple of days what’s behind my curmudgeonly policy of removing people from my Twitter list who use # signs embedded in their messages. Why do people do this? According to the Twitter Fan Wiki: “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.” There’s also a site, hashtags.org, that lets you track individual hashtag words.

Key phrase here — “only added inline to your post”. Imagine what Flickr would look like if all of the metadata was visually stuck to your photograph. Or what your blog would look like if you had to have a character before every word in your text that was also a keyword. Ick.

As I was polling Brian Oberkirch this morning to get a gut-check on just how curmudgeonly I am on this subject, he pointed me to this NPR story. It’s about a technique that scientists can now use to trace your life’s movements in time and space by the isotopes in the DNA found in your hair. Since clouds in different parts of the country have different isotope levels, if it’s been affected by rainwater the water you drink and food you eat writes something of a record of where you’ve been into your hair. Wild. As Brian succintly put it via IM: “The isotope count is a permanent record. So that is metadata…that in no way interferes with functionality.” It doesn’t change your hair color or do anything at all to your hair visibly. It’s there, but it might as well not be because you can’t see it. Brian added “…Ambient metadata ftw.” It’s several minutes later and I’m still sitting here marvelling at both the smarts behind this new technique and at how well Brian’s example crystallized the way things should be with metadata.

I want my Twitter to remain as human a form of communication as possible. I read and follow the people I follow because they’re primarily publishing for the immediate hearer, not for some database somewhere or machines rigged up to listen at particular frequencies. There are plenty of tools that allow you to mine the data in Twitter without getting in the way of the flow of conversation. Twitter’s “track” functionality allows you to receive updates any time a particular word pops up in Tweets, and persistent searches like Terraminds will pull in via RSS whatever search you like. And there are any number of apps in the cottage industry that is Twitter add-ons that will help you find things in the Twitterverse. The functionality gained here is not worth making Twitter messages ugly and cluttered. Metadata needs to live outside of the line of fire.

There have been few enough people I have unfollowed for using Hashtags that I can still remember all of them. That’s been about six out of the 200 people I follow. Some of them I follow in other ways, just not on Twitter anymore. If Hashtags became widely adopted, I’d probably have to rethink my stance but that would really bum me out on Twitter in general.

So both because I don’t want to see those # signs littered throughout messages and because I want to register my dislike for invasive add-ons like this, I unfollow people when I see them using hashtags. I’ll certainly add you back if you ask nicely. It’s a zero-tolerance policy up front, but then there’s some leeway on the back end. It’s just my preference to have my Twitter be as human eyes-friendly as possible, and to guard against systems that threaten that. It can’t be an accident that Twitter’s developers have shyed away from visible metadata and markup, with the possible exception of the @username convention, which itself is more like grammar than metagrammar.

Chris Messina has written about using them in disaster relief coordination and I can’t say I have a huge problem with that. When bad things happen, people flip out and anything that can help pull people together is a positive. I certainly wouldn’t stop following people in the middle of a disaster because I saw them using hashtags. And my analogy of slurred or impeded speech extends here — in an emergency you’ll hear all sorts of verbal utterances that would be considered irritating or inappropriate under normal circumstances.

If you want to follow me(and don’t use hashtags :)), you can request to follow me at http://www.twitter.com/extraface. I wish there was a way Twitter allowed you to send me a message providing some context, but in the meantime you might consider dropping me an email as well, just to say “hi! I’d like to read your tweets.”

Recently published on Extraface:

59 Comments
  1. yes.

     fox 
    February 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm (#)
  2. Amen. Until I read this, I 1) had no idea why people were using those and 2) couldn’t stand them.

    Number two still holds true, but at least the purpose of them is clear. heh.

     Ryan 
    February 27, 2008 at 2:13 am (#)
  3. Well, it is important that there’s some historical context for hashtags, which you can read about here:

    http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/08/25/groups-for-twitter-or-a-proposal-for-twitter-tag-channels/

    But, more to your point, I wrote up my subsequent thoughts about the use of hashtags (which I helped usher into being) here:

    http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/12/23/making-the-most-of-hashtags/

    I actually have come to dislike hashtags in the main body of tweets myself. Occasionally I think they’re okay, for example, in referring to airport codes (I mean, in that case, who cares?). But, for my own usage, I tried to use them primarily as tags appended to the end of a message… that way you get what I was going to say anyway, plus you get context if you’re just tuning in.

    For example, this passed weekend, I was at TransitCamp in Palo Alto, so when appropriate, I would append #transitcamp to my updates so people had context… this week, I’m at TED, so I’m appended #ted to my updates. If you didn’t follow my religiously (I wouldn’t expect most people to!), and I was talking about what great presentations I was sitting in on, you might have a hard time knowing what my immediate context was. The addition of the hashtags provide that context, making it easier to know what I’m talking about.

    Now, you may absolutely still not like them, and I’ll respect that point of view. But since Twitter lacks a way of offering ad-hoc groupings or a way of providing the additional metadata, this is what we’ve come up with for now. Trust me, I’m hungry for a better alternative, but until one exists, hashtags are accessible to anyone who uses Twitter today and, when used sparingly, can be rather useful.

    Otherwise, I’m with you 100% from an aesthetic perspective. ;)

     Chris R Messina 
    February 28, 2008 at 2:16 am (#)
  4. My solution: support hashtag linking, but visually remove the “#” character from inline hashtags. Example: http://itweet.net/web/tags/index.php?tag=ted

     Colby Palmer 
    February 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm (#)
  5. Since I started this conversation here, I’ve seen quite a few people publicly come out and say that Hashtags annoy them too. I have a feeling that people who use them might simply not know that it bugs some of the immediate audience. Those who have defended their use to me for the most part have been publishers of hashtags, but I can think of only one defender who came forth as a consumer of them, i.e. who specifically said he finds it helpful when others use them. I think it’s possible that those using them might overestimate the need, and might be weighting the needs of future, hypothetical, detached audiences over present, tuned-in ones.

    This morning Twitterer @bigeasy wrote:

    ” Happy @extraface is winning the war against hashtags. Twitter is not about the long tail. It is about the context that conversation creates.”

    Chris: Thanks for coming by and providing your perspective. It’s a smart system to be sure, I just don’t like the impact it has. I still say they’re superfluous based on the other search technologies available, and therefore not worth all that awkward — even when appended to the ends of messages. Giving people at conferences an excuse to look for each other as people and not as fragmented, contextless individual Twitter messages is probably not a bad thing in my opinion. If I follow you regularly, I probably already know you’re at TED and that provides the necessary context. If I don’t, or am at all confused, I can do a tiny bit of legwork and figure it out. The alternative is crudded-up messages that don’t look like natural speech, and some degree of reduction in the friendliness and usability of Twitter.

    Colby: I took a look at your approach there, and in my opinion it’s still is a far ways off from the readability of tweets without any kind of inline metadata. But more importantly, I don’t think we need it.

     Dave Coustan 
    February 29, 2008 at 10:00 am (#)
  6. Well, taking this from another approach, do you have a suggestion for creating better topical groups or groupings on Twitter?

    In this case, there was a lot of value for in using the #ted hashtag for TED attendees, primarily because tracking “ted” would turn up all references to people or bands with the same name. Not so useful.

    I still agree that it’s visual clutter, but at least it’s SMS compatible. ;)

     Chris R Messina 
    February 29, 2008 at 8:54 pm (#)
  7. There’s been some backlash in the past couple of days against all the one-way Twitter traffic coming out of (#)TED. Some of it is sour grapes about not being at an exclusive and by most accounts fun and valuable event, sure, but I think it speaks to a problem with the hashtag convention as well. When you don’t want to hear about a particular topic, the hashtags end up making it even harder to avoid, and that’s a pain point.

    As I prepare for SXSW, part of that will be looking for people to follow on Twitter who I’m interested in meeting/talking to/learning from. I’ll probably do some prep work ahead of time on that, and then also serendipitiously find some people there to add, but I won’t be tracking the keyword since that’s too raw a slice of information than would be meaningful for me.

    I agree that you’ve identified a piece of functionality that would be nice to have. I think the best route is to work with Twitter, since subtler solutions would probably have to be implemented as core functionality. To that end, I’m working my way through this conversation at Get Satisfaction but haven’t gotten through all of it yet.

     Dave Coustan 
    March 3, 2008 at 10:43 am (#)
  8. Interesting points made on both sides (your comments section on this entry should be another blogpost). Can’t say I’ve formed an opinion on hashtags yet, but can understand both the utility and the annoyance. It seems like those of us using more web tools more frequently are becoming obsessive compulsive with classification. Sometimes I think being part of a socnet community is like living in a community house. You have the slackers who cook feasts and leave their dishes in the sink, a few people playing bad music, some playing music way too loud, the night owls, the morning people and the anal retentive who run around and run around trying to clean up after everyone and make sure everything is in it’s place. The trick is finding common ground and ways to make it livable for everyone. Your solution is keeping hashtags out of your room in the house.

     annie 
    March 3, 2008 at 11:21 am (#)
  9. I found your site via annierocks/twitter. Interesting because as a geek wannabe, I had heard of hashmarks from TWIT and didn’t know what they were talking about. Cut to the quick, follow me at iconjohn.twitter, no hashmarks and I’ll reciprocate. Best of the Philly craic scene!

     Jimmy CrackHead 
    March 3, 2008 at 8:49 pm (#)
  10. Do you like Perl? :-)

     Emil Sit 
    March 12, 2008 at 11:44 am (#)
  11. I like Perl alright. I’m barely more than a script copier/modifier though. What are you thinking?

     Dave Coustan 
    March 12, 2008 at 5:27 pm (#)
  12. Good content and discussion. Personally I don’t find hashtags to be too annoying if done right. Basically if they’re approached in the same manner that @username call out are, then it’s cool.

    * At the start of the tweet only to provide context
    * Inline only as relates to a noun, and even then, carefully selected nouns.

    I think the Twitter team certainly needs to address this issue in core functionality, however.

     Jake McKee 
    March 14, 2008 at 8:33 pm (#)
  13. I ask because Perl (and Ruby) requires that you specify types with every variable reference. For example, the environment hash table is %ENV, the arguments array is @ARGV. Some people might prefer Python, whose variable name don’t require “punctuation noise”. (A quick search for “perl punctuation noise python” can give you a taste.) Twitter’s @replies and #hashtags are reminiscent of Perl in that sense.

     Emil Sit 
    March 17, 2008 at 2:32 pm (#)
  14. Um, how is using #fireinboston and more helpful than tracking ‘fireinboston’ and just not using the hashtags at all? This makes no sense to me.

    J

     josh milane 
    March 21, 2008 at 11:16 am (#)
  15. I have been whining about hashtags since I first saw them showing up in my tweets about a year ago. Thanks for this great post explaining the very *human* reasons not to do it. Also, as with much tagging, it can be abused. All hail natural language search!

     BarbaraKB 
    April 5, 2008 at 9:50 am (#)
  16. I used hashtags @jowyang’s request during the Superbowl to help him track feedback on the commercials, but that was a one-off. I don’t like them day to day.

     rslux 
    April 5, 2008 at 12:20 pm (#)
  17. I can see where you are coming from, and I really do like the notion of keeping Twitter messages as human as possible. For this reason I think Colby’s implementation of hashtag linking in iTweet, as well as Twhirl’s use of the same, is excellent. It completely strikes the “machine-ness” from the comment.

    Seeing the hash inline in a message can add a bit of cognitive noise, but so do LOLisms and *other forms* of imparting additional meaning. It’s a bit like formatting an email. I don’t auto-delete emails from people who have ugly email stationary, even though its’ totally obnoxious to me.

    Hey, so I requested a follow, but you’ll prolly just unfollow bc I use hashtags a bit.

     Clay Newton 
    April 5, 2008 at 12:33 pm (#)
  18. One could easily make the same argument about underlines and a different color for hyperlinks. In fact, a lot of people have removed underlines from their hyperlinks because they feel it breaks the flow of the text. You haven’t. Should they stop reading your blog?

    How is changing the typography any less distracting than a single symbol that’s not commonly used?

    The fact of the matter is, it arose out of necessity, and has become a convention we’ve grown accustomed to, as you can easily do with hashtags.

    BTW, Terraminds is closed down. And the problem with using search-based tools is when words have multiple meanings, particularly as a proper name. Every tweet that contains “austin”, for example, may not refer to Austin, Texas.

    I’m not saying hashtags are the best solution, just a) that I think people can become accustomed to them, as they have with HTML hyperlinks, and b) that the solutions you’ve proposed don’t solve the problem either.

     Scott Allen 
    April 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm (#)
  19. Clay: LOL-isms and FTW’s are data, and not metadata, so they really don’t bug me. They are intended to be read by human beings and are part of the “meat” of the message. I see hashtags as categorically different. I’d like to see a Twitter client that just uses CSS to hide hashtags with an on/off toggle.

    Scott: A better analogy might be if inline links had to be splayed out after the text they are hidden under, or if the tags we use to categorize our blog entries had to be inserted inline. Hashtags are often tacked on to tweets as additional metadata. When you only have 140 characters to work with, my personal preference is that they all remain available for the text rather than meta-text.

    As far as Terraminds being down, there are plenty of other services that can be used — Tweetscan is one good example. I also don’t see how hashtags eliminate the multi-meaning problem you point to. That’s endemic to tagging systems in general. If I tagged a tweet #hotdog I could be talking about a warm canine or a delicious sausage or a showoff. The hashtag system can’t solve for that any more than Tweetscan can.

    For me, i’s not a question of hashtags not having merit, it’s a question of the uniqueness of their merit not outweighing what they do to Twitter and the relationship between me and my fellow Tweeters.

     Dave Coustan 
    April 5, 2008 at 1:58 pm (#)
  20. I see your point, and like the way you put your thoughts together, so indeed I have requested to follow you.

    While I don’t generally use hashtags, I have followed some storeis like blogger social using them, only because I was not well enough to be there and my spouse and daughter went to represent me for the Frozen Pea Fund. So hashtags were useful and being a practical sort – normally – I took advantage of that.

    In other ways I’m a purist however, and don’t add many extras to tweets. Though I follow hashtag users, I can see both sides of the issue.

    On that note, an interesting part of the hashtags question is that you’ve stated your case in a very thoughtful drama-free piece of writing, yet the twitterverse tends to take issues and blow them up into dramas. It will be interesting to follow this – and you.

     Susan Reynolds 
    April 22, 2008 at 8:42 pm (#)
  21. I was not aware about hash at all. But no, i wont, use it at all. Twitts should not be for machines or search engines. It’s the only place where you come across people. Otherwise, i find myself lonely on this cold desert.

     ravi karandeekar 
    May 8, 2008 at 6:56 pm (#)
  22. See, I thought the # was an actual function, but I couldn’t find any documentation about it anywhere! I treat my tweets just as I would SMS messages, and very rarely do I want to re read my text messages, so why do I want to tag them so that I can find out data later on. Down with #!

     Antonio 
    May 8, 2008 at 9:38 pm (#)
  23. Dave I was really inspired by your post and I have been feeling the same since I have seen the use of hashtags, however also intrigued by this way of being able to track information too. Which means I haven’t completely shunned it. In fact I have thought of a solution so that I can use hashtags and other Meta data without having to alienate followers. I have blogged this solution here “Twitter: Separating content from Hashtag Meta data“, I would be interested to know what you think of this work around.

     Kevin Rapley 
    May 19, 2008 at 7:21 am (#)
  24. I appreciate what you’re saying about hashtags. (Leah’s tweet made me check you out.) So, I’ll be following you now on Twitter.

     Lin Ennis 
    September 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm (#)
  25. #unfollow
    #facetious

     diskgrinder 
    October 21, 2008 at 3:09 pm (#)
  26. I’m pretty indolent about my Twitter use… don’t follow many, certainly don’t have many followers. And actually, I don’t care for people using @waldo outside of Twitter — e.g., as part of the back-and-forth of blog comments.

    That’s just a personal quirk, but honestly, what are you saving with ” @fred” instead of ” Fred: ” ?

    I did see an interesting use of hashtags during the presidential election. Twitter Vote Report used a cluster of hashtags to report the progress of voting — one tag for overall impression, optional tags to rate the experience, report delays, etc.

     Dave Ferguson 
    November 13, 2008 at 8:20 am (#)
  27. Hi Thanks for this. Even if I don’t like with what you have to say I agree. I agree because it looks ugly and it assumes there’s no alternative.

    I have just read Chris Messina story on disaster relief http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/10/22/twitter-hashtags-for-emergency-coordination-and-disaster-relief/ and then saw this article.

    I really believe that “feedmysearch” is the solution as I was worried about adding a #. It’s not neat. It’s effective. Even if you are using it for a good cause. Because there are alternatives.

    I am suggesting Friendfeed.com because you can create rooms to collect all these related issues in one room.

    At the moment I am trying to get a technophobic community educated in the use of technology to communicate. They use cell phones, sms and MS Outlook :-( What they use is not really the issue. They are using something and if they can sms then they can communicate. And if they sms they can twitter. And if they can twitter they can microblog using friendfeed.

    I need help from leaders like you to add value to a friendfeed room where local technophobic tended communities become connected, they communicate and they share. They idea is that we are the seeds and use a friendfeed room to collect and share tools and ideas for these communities.

    We become the “WHALES” that lead local community to become effective connectors.

    You can go and join the FriendFeed room and share your knowledge with a community who have not yet adapted.

    http://friendfeed.com/rooms/whales

    Again thanks for this post and the opportunity to comment and to plug an idea. You support is critical.

    Thanks

    Johan
    A WHALE

     Johan 
    November 14, 2008 at 11:45 am (#)
  28. To each their own. I find hashtags useful (in the main and in moderation), particularly when it resolves ambiguity. You bring up the case of #hotdog but that’s a strawman. #ted is a better example– a twitter search for “ted” will reveal far more irrelevant listings than “#ted.” It’s not perfect, but it’s something and better than the alternative, which is littering the posts with coinages to avoid that kind of confusion.

    And I guess this is where we most differ. I want a visually distinctive indicator not just for aggregation, but for myself. If someone is Twittering from the emerging tech conference, I prefer to scan for #etech or #etech08 than their naked equivalents– it allows me to focus on what I am looking for and (something you fail to point out) also more easily ignore what I’m not interested in.

    I don’t see a good alternative being proposed so far. I don’t find them that troublesome. And if someone abuses them I can easily unfollow them. Which is your right and mine. If people are actually going to get that exacting about their Tweets (and I wish they would) maybe they should focus on the much more pressing and immediate issues, you know the mundane garbage. I’ll take a good Tweet-stream liberally marked with hashtags over the vast majority that are no better without them than they would be with them!

     Chris Lott 
    November 16, 2008 at 2:44 pm (#)
  29. I just googled “hashtags” b/c on Twitter I’ve been like, wtf is up w/ all the #’s?? And your blog was the fourth or so link to come up. I loved what you said, spot on. They drive me up the wall.

     defiantmuse 
    November 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm (#)
  30. You might be understating or missing the key purpose of hashtags for Twitter. First, tweets can’t be longer than 140 characters (the typical max length of a cell phone text message), so including a link often isn’t an option. Second, hashtags coordinate Twitter users who don’t follow one another. For example, right now I’m sitting in the Futures of Entertainment conference, and since it’s at MIT, lots of people have their laptops out. Many of them are using Twitter to ask one another questions about what the panelists are saying–but the only way to find a coordinated page of these Futures of Entertainment tweets is to include “#foe”.

     Andrew W 
    November 21, 2008 at 11:27 am (#)
  31. Excuse my french, but… Fuck hashtags!

     Aalaap Ghag 
    January 13, 2009 at 11:13 am (#)
  32. Doesn’t it sort of depend though? Some hashtags are used to try to gain attention, but some are used as a means to connect, especially when a group decides to have a a scheduled twitter chat of some sort. It helps people who may not follow each other connect on an issue for at least that period of time.

    That’s the only time I use them, and it is all about human connection.

     Dana 
    January 14, 2009 at 1:31 pm (#)
  33. I have entered this thread way too late but like an earlier poster was Googling “hashtags” and came across this blog, and felt moved to respond.

    This morning while travelling into work I realised that it would be really great if I could find out what other people thought about the radio programme I was listening to and how cool it would be to be able to join in.

    I had noticed the links prefixed with hashes in other tweets and sort of guessed that hashtags might be the way to go about doing this. On my tiny mobile device this would be a practical, easy and instant option.

    Sure a hashtag eats up the character count and creates a readability speed hump (maybe). But are they really any less human-readable than ‘@twittername’ – provided you know what they are meant to do?

    Unless they are abused (though I’ve yet to see an example of this) the appearance of a hashtag in a tweet implies a different form of tweet that is instantly recognisable to me.

    It says “Hey me and a bunch of other people are talking about this thing here in a short info burst that you might find useful or interesting to you right now!”.

    You can very quickly scan a message and see a hash in front of a link. If that link said ‘#superbowl’ I would have moved swiftly on to the next tweet (I’m in the UK and have no interest in US football – or sports in general).

    But then again I’m relatively new to all this so maybe I’ll eventually suffer with the hashtag fatigue!

     pezzab 
    February 2, 2009 at 5:21 am (#)
  34. You make good points. Prior to today I had no clue about hashtags and I did find them confusing. Not being in the know, I felt like I was missing something. But if not overdone it’s not that big of a deal to see the hashtags, and I like the idea from an earlier comment to have filters where the user will have the option to remove hashtags and at the same time still support them. To me the key issue is user control. Control for the follower to not be bothered by the hashes and control for the writer

    I disagree that just because a database might catch the tag means the human-ness of the conversation is depleted, I think it enhances the conversation because it allows you to discover tweets you normally would not.

     Jon Lyles 
    February 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm (#)
  35. ‘I want my Twitter to remain as human a form of communication as possible.’ Fine, but is a series of 140-character blurts an especially human a form of communication? Maybe it’s an expression of part of what’s human. And maybe I’m taking that sentence more seriously than it was intended. But my reaction to it sums up my reason for not Twittering: To me, human communication has more going on than that. Even where the tweets are responses to one another, they’re buried in the stream of whatever else. Adding some a way to hook out the relevant ones seems like a step *toward* human communication and well worth the visual irritation of a #hashmark. I suppose if metatools are available to do that sifting after the fact, that could be preferable from the point of view of post facto analysis. But Twitter seems about the immediacy of the moment rather than going back and reviewing, so those seem like more of an intrusion into the process it sets up than the #convention is. That’s one view from outside the twitterverse, for whatever it may be worth.

     Booker 
    February 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm (#)
  36. I agree that hashtags summoning a community (e.g. following a disaster) can be helpful, as can selectively using them to isolate updates about a something with a common name (e.g. TED).

    I guess the question is who gets to make that call – one mans’ junk is another man’s treasure, etc.

    Otherwise they’re over-used by many to the point of being rendered meaningless as well as silly-looking (I’ve unfollowed some friends who hashed nearly every single word in their updates, including “coffee,” “persuasion” and “hair” – not kidding).

    Further, since many people are either new to Twitter and/or are unaware of the hashtag convention, you can miss legitimate relevant updates if you only search using hashtags.

     Arlene Wszalek 
    February 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm (#)
  37. Well, I am guilty as charged. I have been a hashtag offender… I mark Lyme Disease links and posts, so that they can be referenced by other ‘Lymies’ who keep track.

    And since I have not been offended or bothered by them, did not consider anyone else might be.

    I try not to do it too often, but yes, I do it.

    What I find impersonal and annoying are automated DM’s… or people who are following you, yet seemingly want no interaction.

    It is, after all, about interaction?

    And trust me, hashtag or no, I am responsive and actually read/respond to what people tweet.

    So, to all of you that I have offended with my hashtag eyesores, my apologies… though it’s likely I may use them sometime again.

    I dunno. I kinda think it’s making an issue where there does not need to be one.

    But that is just my opinion. Thanks for sharing yours.

     Jenny 
    February 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm (#)
  38. So strict, that Dave!

     Molly 
    February 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm (#)
  39. Aw, Dave – I’m bummed to hear you’re a hashtag curmudgeon! lol.

    I often get asked to explain what these are and made a video, watched ~6,000 times now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAHitI26MmE.

    I think mostly peeps misunderstand the power of hashtags and how they can be used effectively for large events. Or like my bud @AlexisNeely who started #amgrat for morning gratitude and #pmceleb for afternoon celebration as a special daily ritual for her followers.

    I watch the trending topics a lot on search.twitter to see what hashtags are trending. The #uksnow was sure neat to observe. Nonetheless, I can understand your frustration if some peeps are overusing ### in all tweets.

     Mari Smith 
    March 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm (#)
  40. The clarity of the discussion is usually more important to me than the conclusions or opinions. Thank you for providing that. We will all make our own decisions, and you have helped us a great deal.
    http://www.Twitter.com/Carl_Ingalls

     Carl Ingalls 
    March 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm (#)
  41. #amen brother!

     chris 
    March 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm (#)
  42. I think they’re ugly, too. And in many cases, painfully redundant. Like #sxsw — how many times is that letter combination going to appear in tweet and NOT be about the SXSW festival? Similarly, a lot of people were tagging “#watchmen” this weekend, like the movie might get confused with some other “watchmen” this weekend.

    Of course, the movie will get confused for some other “#watchmen” if somebody accidentally recycles the tag. The ad hocery of hashtagging (and the lack of centralized list) means the hashtagging system could eventually collapse from the strain of semantic collisions. It’s an attempt at dumb automation (“find everything about ‘watchmen”) that can be easily broken by dumb humans.

    Anyway, if I want to tweet about SXSW or Watchmen, I’ll USE THE WORDS IN A SENTENCE. It’ll will appear in search results for the right word. Most hashtags seem like crutches for people who don’t know how to write a coherent thought (or search for one).

     Michael Bauser 
    March 9, 2009 at 7:12 am (#)
  43. I don’t mind Hashtags as long as they are at the end of a Tweet

     Brian Ratzker 
    March 9, 2009 at 10:32 am (#)
  44. Enlightening read, both the post and the comments. I’m somewhat ambivalent about hashtags, so I appreciate arguments on either side. Actually I find myself using them most often as snarky commentary rather than for their intended use (for instance, I might end a tweet with “#snark”), which, I’m aware, is probably an even more egregious violation and even more reason why you’d not want to follow me. (Other than that I tend to only use them on #followfriday.) Still, from now on I think I will avoid them as much as possible (#yeahright). I am @pfunn and I have made a request to follow your tweets.

     Michael Alan Harvey 
    March 14, 2009 at 4:08 am (#)
  45. Not only are the hashtags annoying, but the #utils +/- arbitraryNumber are even more annoying. I can infer that you are angry, sad or neutral about your tweet just by reading it. I really don’t think you need to track the arbitrary numbers of your happiness. Seriously.

     snowkissed_ 
    March 26, 2009 at 12:38 am (#)
  46. I do like hashtags as long as they’re not being overused. It is much easier and convenient to find information about a particular subject or event. But yes, adding a tag to each post is stupid, the tags lose sense. Can’t agree about text being in Flickr pictures – after all, text doesn’t really need to be visually appealing. OK, it is #irritating that almost #every #word is being #hashtagged, but adding a tag to the end of a tweet is really convenient.

     KsbjA 
    March 29, 2009 at 1:27 pm (#)
  47. I wonder if you still feel the same way, now that a year has passed and Twitter and the tools for using it have evolved.

     Daniel Johnson, Jr. 
    April 4, 2009 at 10:30 pm (#)
  48. I don’t like them at all. Thanks for the post!

     Michelle Pendergrass 
    April 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm (#)
  49. why stop at hashtags? I’m sick of people wrecking the already hobbled elegance of the english language with “LOL”, “@whatever”,” ftw”, et cetera, and 140 character limits. Being succinct is one thing, but the way us programmers have been able to infiltrate the english language on the web is increasingly degrading the visual asthetic of our language and culture. I would like to see a revival of victorian prose, personally, and get away from using inhumanly small devices as we record our permanent legacy on this digital medium.

     mrrealtime 
    April 14, 2009 at 5:03 am (#)
  50. In oral conversation, punctuation was ‘invisible metadata’. Now it is explicit. The same thing is happening with hashtags. Today’s weird mark that looks unsightly is tomorrow’s expected mark that looks perfectly normal.

    Eventually people will be writing hashmarks where they don’t need to, just to mark out concepts as ‘conceptual’ — and out of force of habit. Kind of the way people. Have. Started. Using. Periods. For. Emphasis!

    Adapt or die.

    P.S. You are not a curmudgeon actually, you are a pedant.

     DBL 
    June 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm (#)
  51. So, in addtition to the hash tags, would you like the ‘@’ removed too?
    Come on, there are better ways to get around this.
    Take a look at my exampe: http://martiendejong/t++

    It completely removes the hash tags and @ from the messages, but it uses them to filter content.

    It is still in beta, but tell me what you think (if you can get over the fact that I am using hashtags, ofcourse)

     Martien de Jong 
    July 1, 2009 at 8:12 am (#)
  52. Coming late into the discussion but just found your blog today – great stuff :)
    Anyway, although I hardly use them at all, I also don’t mind hashtags in moderation, it makes it easier to track and search on a particular topic that you are following, and find others who I may not be following but that are tweeting interesting things about something I find interesting.

    I do find it annoying when people find ways of using their entire sentences using multiple hashtags or are trying to use it in ways that just try and get their tweet more exposure but has little to do with the subject or has no benefit to those following that particular hashtag except providing extra unnecessary ‘noise’.

     Penny Butler 
    January 26, 2010 at 12:47 am (#)
  53. #epicfail

     byron 
    April 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm (#)
  54. Seriously? You unfollow, or unfriend, people who use hash tags? What if I am looking for people in my small little area? I have done searches for keywords, but hash tags are the easiest.

    I’m not saying that we should hash every single word in the twitter update, but still… you dont have to be so whiny over an useful tool.

     junebug 
    May 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm (#)
  55. I’ve just made a Google Chrome extension to remove the hash sign from hashtags:
    https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/kppehmkjdidgjicjkhlelnnahhkldgek/

     Ricardo Stuven 
    June 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm (#)
  56. Ya, I totally agree that hashtags are annoying. You guys seen this?
    http://openletterlog.com/letters/An-Open-Letter-to-Twitter-Hashtags-and-the-People-that-Use-Them

     Banksy77 
    February 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm (#)
  57. hashtags can get annoying, but the benefit of reaching a larger audience or targeting your message to an audience who cares is priceless. http://apt2labs.com/2011/03/16/hashtags-secret-twitter-tool/

     Daniel "Diggler" Pro 
    March 16, 2011 at 9:24 am (#)
  58. Personally, I don’t think this topic is worth expending so much energy over. But, I do find it funny that your permalinks appear as # (the symbol formerly known as “pound”).

     Misfist 
    March 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm (#)
  59. And with that, Misfist, you’re the last one in. I don’t think it’s all that funny that permalinks appear as the # symbol – where they appear isn’t a string of speech. They’re interface elements. Nowhere did I indicate that I hate the symbol; I don’t like its use in Twitter.

    More updated thoughts over here: http://blog.extraface.com/2011/03/20/i-get-older-the-blog-entries-stay-the-same-age/ . Comments over here are now closed.

     Dave Coustan 
    March 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm (#)

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