Wednesday, September 23, 2009

(empo-tymshft) #oow09 #hashtag emergence and standardization FTL

It's deja vu all over again.

I was using Blogger to blog about Oracle OpenWorld one year, and I decided to use Blogger's label facility to tag my relevant blog posts. Having survived y2k, I still had the four-digit year standard instilled in me, and therefore created my mrontemp blog posts with the label openworld2007. See my September 16, 2007 post State a Range and Hope You Hit the Middle for an example of this.

However, after I had already labeled a number of posts with that label, I found out that the community was using a different label. So, despite my inner revulsion at two-digit years, I switched over and began labeling my mrontemp stuff with openworld07, subsequently adding the label to the previously-tagged "openworld2007" stuff and retiring the openworld07 label.

So then we got to 2008. My mrontemp blog was still going strong at the time, so I used the openworld08 label in that blog. And I used the openworld08 label in my then-new Empoprise-MU music blog (and, for the record, I still hate Psychedelic Furs). And I used openworld08 in my Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime trivia blog (I had to have my fix at the Beale St. Bar and Grill). And I even managed to sneak the openworld08 label into my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog a couple of times.

Well, now it's 2009, and I'm ready. This Empoprise-BI business blog didn't exist until this year, but I've already tagged several posts in this blog with the openworld09 label. And earlier this morning, I even tagged this tweet with the #openworld09 hashtag.

@_Enigma_Inc heard about your Twitter account via email. Not an aircraft expert, but I will be at #openworld09

So, just out of curiosity, I performed a Twitter search for #openworld09 and discovered (at the time) that my tweet to @_Enigma_Inc was the only tweet using the hashtag.

That's odd, I thought. I knew that Twitter search was pretty poor, but it couldn't be THAT poor.

This led me to check Justin Kestelyn's @oracletechnet Twitter account to see what hashtag he was using, and he was using #oow09. I asked him about this, and he confirmed that #oow09 is the hashtag in use this year. I subsequently noticed that the #oow09 hashtag is prominently featured on "The OTN Guide to Oracle OpenWorld 2009." In case you're reading this in 2010 and the page has disappeared, here's what it says as of now:

Official hashtag: #oow09

Pretty clear, except that I never got around to the RTFM stage, and have been blindly #openworld09-ing away since September.

This is easy enough to fix on the blog; I'll just do what I did in 2007 and retroactively apply the "oow09" label to all posts that have the "openworld09" label, and (after posting this) cease use of openworld09.

But in some cases, the label/hashtag will stick. For example, my use of the #openworld09 hashtag in May crept into an account of a Product Management View online seminar.

So was I the only one caught off guard by the #oow09 hashtag? Apparently not. Gwen Shapira used it in a September blog post. Fuad Arshad apparently tweeted it in August. Oh...and it appears on an Oracle wiki page.

In essence, this is probably the biggest problem with the decentralized creation of hashtags - it's decentralized. Certainly it's a good thing to let the community decide on the most appropriate hashtag to use, but what happens to the content that uses an expired hashtag - content that cannot be edited? For what I can edit my blog posts to apply the #oow09 label, I can't edit my tweets.

Amy Gahran proposed a solution to this issue:

It’s essential to coordinate, promote, and use hashtags at least a few hours before an event starts. That way, your Twitter followers will know that the event is happening, and how to follow it. They’ll also know how to spread the word of the upcoming coverage.

Ideally, use the hashtag in promotional tweets a couple of times before the event — and include in those tweets a link to the event’s info page, if any, so people know what you’re talking about.

In my view, that is not enough, especially for large events attended by tens of thousands of people. In fact, I began using the openworld09 label on Friday, October 3, 2008. In my blog post which covered the brainstorming session that occurred at Oracle OpenWorld 2008, here's part of what I said:

OK, I have now officially posted my first Oracle OpenWorld 2009 post - and the conference won't start until...well, until late 2009. (October 11-15, according to the OpenWorld 2008 site.)

Not that I was the first one to start asking about Oracle OpenWorld 2009. Somewhere around Tuesday or Wednesday during Oracle OpenWorld 2008, Marius Ciortea and others began talking about holding a brainstorming session during the Unconference. This was scheduled for Thursday morning - as I noted, I attended the session....

And I also said this:

So I've launched an "idea" thread on Oracle Mix to capture additional suggestions for Oracle OpenWorld 2009....Presumably other people have started, or will be starting, similar efforts. (In fact, if you want to start similar things in Mix, just be sure to use the "openworld09" tag.)

Oops. You know what they say about people that ASSUME...

So, what is the best way to let over 40,000 people know what the official hashtag for an event is? And how soon should this information be disseminated?

(Note to self: if I have a pbworks login, I should add this post to this wiki.)
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