Formatted hashtags

Paul Clarke speculates here about the usefulness of Twitter, with a specific focus on whether its penetration can be used to local effect: in reporting weather conditions or traffic disruption, for example.

He cites a couple of examples of hashtags (#uksnow, #uktraffic), both of which require(d) a specific syntax following the hashtag.  For example, #uktraffic needs to of the form:

#uktraffic [road] [where: jcts or place] [direction] [description] RT&seewhathappens

By submitting hashtags in that form, it enables them to be parsed for use in other applications, allowing them to be mapped, summarised etc.

With all due respect, I don’t think the Twitter community is sufficiently diligent to obey what seem like simple instructions such as this.  Yes, they can probably remember the hashtag.  But I’m sceptical as to whether they can remember the specific items that follow, let alone the order in which they need to appear.

For syntax-dependent hashtags like this to work, there needs to be a mechanism by which they can be registered, complete with the required syntax.  That way, end users can subscribe to such hashtags, allowing their client applications to prompt them with the required syntax once they’ve entered that hashtag.  Much in the way that Excel prompts you with the arguments needed for a formula that you’ve started to use.  (Hell, even I never remember the order in which SUMIF arguments should be entered.)

Without this, the hashtags might be used, but the data they generate will be next-to-useless.


2 Responses to “Formatted hashtags”

  1. Paul Clarke on July 12th, 2009 00:44

    You’re probably right. Shall we build one?

  2. Shanahan on July 12th, 2009 04:24

    The simple solution is a generated tweet. uses this exact principle, user goes for a run then visits, enters their time, distance and a Tweet is automatically created for them, complete with #tweetarun hash tag. Of course these are editable but I’ve found folks only ever tack on to the end rather than edit the actual tweet itself.

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