Monday August 23, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Hashtag

On this Day:

In 2007 the Hashtag was invented and first used in a tweet by US product designer Chris Messina.

A hashtag is a metadata tag that is prefaced by the hash symbol, ‘#’. Hashtags are widely used on microblogging and photo-sharing services such as Twitter and Instagram as a form of user-generated tagging that enables cross-referencing of content sharing a subject or theme. For example, a search within Instagram for the hashtag #bluesky returns all posts that have been tagged with that hashtag. After the initial hash symbol, a hashtag may include letters, digits, and underscores.

The use of hashtags was first proposed by Chris Messina in a 2007 tweet. Messina made no attempt to patent the use because he felt “they were born of the internet, and owned by no one”. Twitter initially decried hashtags as a “thing for nerds,” but by the end of the decade hashtags were entrenched in the culture of the platform, and they soon emerged across Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. In June 2014, ‘hashtag’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The pound sign was adopted for use within IRC (Internet Relay Chat) networks circa 1988 to label groups and topics. Channels or topics that are available across an entire IRC network are prefixed with a hash symbol # (as opposed to those local to a server, which use an ampersand ‘&’).

The use of the pound sign in IRC inspired Chris Messina to propose a similar system on Twitter to tag topics of interest on the microblogging network. He posted the first hashtag on Twitter:

How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?

— Chris Messina, (“factoryjoe”), August 23, 2007

According to Messina, he suggested use of the hashtag to make it easy for lay users without specialized knowledge of search protocols to find specific relevant content. Therefore, the hashtag “was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

The first published use of the term “hash tag” was in a blog post by Stowe Boyd, “Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings,” on August 26, 2007, according to lexicographer Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee.

Messina’s suggestion to use the hashtag was not immediately adopted by Twitter, but the convention gained popular acceptance when hashtags were widely used in tweets relating to the 2007 San Diego forest fires in Southern California. The hashtag gained international acceptance during the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests; Twitter users used both English- and Persian-language hashtags in communications during the events.

Hashtags have since played critical roles in recent social movements such as #jesuischarlie, #BLM, and #MeToo.

Beginning July 2, 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results for the hashtagged word (and for the standard spelling of commonly misspelled words). In 2010, Twitter introduced “Trending Topics” on the Twitter front page, displaying hashtags that are rapidly becoming popular, and the significance of trending hashtags has become so great that the company makes significant efforts to foil attempts to spam the trending list. During the 2010 World Cup, Twitter explicitly encouraged the use of hashtags with the temporary deployment of “hashflags”, which replaced hashtags of three-letter country codes with their respective national flags.

Other platforms such as YouTube and Gawker Media followed in officially supporting hashtags, and real-time search aggregators such as Google Real-Time Search began supporting hashtags.

Hashtags are particularly useful in unmoderated forums that lack a formal ontological organization. Hashtags help users find content of similar interest. Hashtags are neither registered nor controlled by any one user or group of users. They do not contain any set definitions, meaning that a single hashtag can be used for any number of purposes, and that the widely accepted meaning of a hashtag can change with time.

Hashtags intended for discussion of a particular event tend to use an obscure wording to avoid being caught up with generic conversations on similar subjects, such as a cake festival using #cakefestival rather than simply #cake. However, this can also make it difficult for topics to become “trending topics” because people often use different spelling or words to refer to the same topic. For topics to trend, there must be a consensus, whether silent or stated, that the hashtag refers to that specific topic.

Hashtags may be used informally to express context around a given message, with no intent to categorize the message for later searching, sharing, or other reasons. Hashtags may thus serve as a reflexive meta-commentary.

This can help express contextual cues or offer more depth to the information or message that appears with the hashtag. “My arms are getting darker by the minute. #toomuchfaketan”. Another function of the hashtag can be used to express personal feelings and emotions. For example, with “It’s Monday!! #excited #sarcasm” in which the adjectives are directly indicating the emotions of the speaker.

Verbal use of the word ‘hashtag’ is sometimes used in informal conversations. Use may be humorous, such as “I’m hashtag confused!” By August 2012, use of a hand gesture, sometimes called the “finger hashtag”, in which the index and middle finger both hands are extended and arranged perpendicularly to form the hash, was widely documented (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

So I phoned the drugs helpline and the voice on the phone said ” For advice on cannabis – Press ‘hashtag'”

Second, a Song:

It’s Showtime is a Philippine noontime variety show broadcast by Kapamilya Channel under ABS-CBN Entertainment that premiered on October 24, 2009. The show is taped in the ABS-CBN Studios at the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center in Quezon City. It’s Showtime currently airs on pay television network Kapamilya Channel and is simulcast A2Z from Mondays to Saturdays. It also airs worldwide via TFC, and streamed online on Facebook and YouTube via Kapamilya Online Live. A primetime encore telecast also airs on Jeepney TV.

It’s Showtime is the second live entertainment program in the Philippines to be broadcast in high-definition behind ASAP Natin ‘To. The program is currently ABS-CBN’s longest-running daily noontime variety show after surpassing the original run of MTB (1998–2005) in 2016 (per Wikipedia).

I regret that I can’t seem to find any further information on the Hashtag Boys other than the fact that they were on the It’s Showtime show. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“I like the idea that one thing leads to another. You can tweet something completely innocuous, and then find yourself going off on a tangent that’s inspired by a response.” – Steve Martin

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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