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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is a Hashtag and what do I do with it?


I often hear or see something telling me to look for hashtag "#selected word" for something that is happening on TV or that I am reading about. Hashtag is a compound word with hash meaning the symbol # and tag meaning a descriptive word or created for one event or person. For example if you are interested in information on the president you can search for #obama in Twitter or other programs that use hashtags and a list of people who have put #obama in what they wrote will appear. This is a way that you can see what others are saying about something right now even if they are not on your "friend" list. 

Several sites are set up to use Hashtags for searches. Twitter and Facebook are the most common, but they can also be used in Linked In, Instagram, Google+ and other sites.


Flooding in Colorado
This weekend there has been lots of news about flooding in Colorado. I thought I would see what I could find out from Twitter about the flood. I went to Twitter and typed in #floods and got a whole list of tweets about the flood. As I was looking at them 9 more appeared and the newest  one was from only 5 minutes ago. Hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and other sites give you a chance to see what people are saying about an event right when it is happening! People include videos, photos and links to articles on their tweets, so it gives you a chance to see what other people are saying about it as well as to see videos that are very current.

Obama's Speech
I missed Obama's speech on Syria, so I thought that I would look up the hashtag #obamaspeech #Syria and see what information I could find. I found that I could look at what was said by the top "tweeters" or by all (everyone) or by people I follow. At the far right side of each tweet there is a number which tells me how long ago this tweet was made. When new ones appear they come in minutes (5m, 1h or a date like 11 Sep).

Using Hashtags during an event
A new type of communication is happening through Twitter now when several people from different locations are all doing the same thing and tweeting what they think or what they are learning as they experience it. They often use a hashtag so that all of the tweets on that topic are searchable and it is possible to find the discussion later. At a conference for teachers who use technology people had the tag #iste13 and tweeted about what they were learning. You might want to try the hashtag #emmys next week when the Prime Time TV Emmy Awards are going on. Watch the Emmy Awards on TV and tweet your thoughts as it is happening or go to Twitter and search for the #emmys and see what others are saying!

I thought I would try out the #floods hashtag on Facebook to see what I got. The comments it brought up were more personal and contained links to some helpful sites. I then took a look at my own Facebook to see if anyone used hashtags and did not find any. So, I went to one of my friends who I thought might use them and finally found one. It was #ilovenetflix. It took me to a few comments about Netflix, but not much of interest. My conclusion is that it is being used on Facebook, but not as much as on Twitter. 

Trending is a way of measuring what is popular at the moment. If you look at the first page on Twitter there is a column on the left that says "trending" and lists hashtags. This is the list of the things that most people are tweeting about using hashtags. The website is a good way to go and learn more about this.
The definition that they give for hashtags:
 "The primary purpose of a hashtag is to bring conversations on the same topic into a single thread to make it convenient for information consumers to view and compare ideas."

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