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Making a hash of tags

Posted by lpearle on 18 October 2011

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend Senator Gillbrand’s first Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, but this isn’t a post about the content of that summit. Instead, it’s about the social media aspect. When I got there, I asked about an official hashtag – one of the Senator’s legislative aides (she had her NY and DC office staff there, as well as several staffers from around the state) told me that “[she] really knew nothing about this twitter stuff” and, apparently, she was not the only 20-something there that was ignorant. The older aides kept reminding us to turn off our mobile devices, as though live-tweeting or otherwise capturing the sessions as they were going on was inconceivable (although NY1 and several news people were there).

After two panel discussions we had two breakout sessions, and in one the hashtag #runwomenrun was displayed. Was this the official summit hashtag? Apparently not – I learned in the second session that it was #nyuwomensforum. Nowhere, in any of the literature I was handed, was this mentioned.

I contrast that to the work being done on the upcoming American Association of School Librarians conference. At virtually every turn I’m told that the hashtag is #AASL11. Now, things haven’t always been that clear – at the previous conference, in Charlotte, there was some confusion as to whether it was #AASL09 or #AASL2009. And at a couple of other conferences there have also been confusion (full date vs. last two digits, usually, but sometimes the acronym to be used was in question). But there was never a question that there would be tweeting, and that a hashtag would be needed, and that some sort of consensus needed to form.

After the summit I had lunch with a friend, someone who is not on Twitter (she’s an arts therapist, so probably doesn’t need to be) and I gave her a quick primer on what different social media things she might want to get involved with. Then she asked about the hashtag and I told her that they could be confusing… and brought up the example I gave during my YALSA webinar. #bbw to librarians means “Banned Books Week”, but to the tv audience it means “Basketball Wives” and to a certain population of men it means “Big Beautiful Women”. That’s the beauty of, and problem with, folksonomies.

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One Response to “Making a hash of tags”

  1. At the CCCCs (http://www.ncte.org/cccc) last year there were lots of people eager to live-tweet the sessions they were attending, but there wasn’t a documented hashtag for everyone to use. In the interest of brevity, some people went for #4C11, others #CCCC11, etc. It felt like the backchannel was as busy with hashtag discussion as session discussion.

    I think the hashtag should be sent out with registration materials. Give people a place to talk about it, build interest, find other people who plan to go. If you’re hosting the event, participate and field questions. Use it or lose it.

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