UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The #LODLAM Session at #SXSW Demonstrates Importance of Consistency of Session Hashtags

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 March 2012

What’s Happening at #SXSW?

My former colleagues Adrian Stevenson (@adrianstevenson) and Julie Allinson (@julieallinson) are taking part in a panel session on “Radically Open Cultural Heritage Data on the Web” today at the #SXSW 2012 Interactive, Film and Music festival in Austin, Texas. I should also add that information about #SXSW is also available on Lanyrd, and, is increasingly happens, information on individual sessions, such as the Open Cultural Heritage Data session is also available on Lanyrd.

From Twitter I discovered that there is a SXSW festival app available for several mobile phone platforms which I installed on my iPod Touch to see what could be learnt from the approaches they’ve taken.

As can be seen it provides access to information about the sessions, location details and biographical information for speakers and panelists. In addition there is also a share facility which is populated with session information which can be shared on Twitter, Google+, Facebook or by SMS, again as illustrated.

However, as pointed out in a tweet by @ellielovell:

Just realised that the hashtags advertised for sessions in the pocket guide, are different from the ones on the SXSW Go app. Annoying #sxswi

As can be seen, the event hashtags for the session are #sxsw (the festival’s hashtag) and #LODLAM which, as can be seen from a Twitter search, is a well-established hashtag for discussions about Linked Open Data used in a Libraries, Archives and Museums context (as can be seen from the LOD-LAM Zotero group and Google Group and the web site about the International Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and Museums Summit held in San Francisco
in June 2011).

The session page on the festival’s web site provides easily found details of the hashtag for the various sessions. In order to see the patterns for the hashtags I have summarised details for sessions which may be of interest to readers of this blog, with links to both the session abstracts and Twitter searches.

Session Hashtag Search
Radically Open Cultural Heritage Data on the Web #LODLAM Search
The Connected Company: An Inventory of the Possible #connected Search
Excessive Enhancement: JavaScript’s Dark Side #excess Search
The Social Network for Computers #SocNetComp Search
Are We Killing Social with Social? #killsoc Search
The New Black? How Digital Ed Is Everything #nwblk Search
Using Big Data Takes Machines & Humans #manmachine Search
The UnCollege: Learning Outside University #uncollege Search
The Trend of Trending #Trending Search
Open APIs: What’s Hot? What’s Not? #apishotnot Search
How Is Internet Helping People Make Their Own Laws #onlinelaw Search
#NoFailWhale: Tweet More, Drop Out Less #NoFWhale Search

Hashtag Strategies for Events

According to Wikipedia Twitter hashtags were invented on 23 August 2007. Their role in events quickly became apparent and by 2009, as referenced in a post about Twitter archiving,  event hashtags were being used at large events such as #ALTC2009 and #IWMW2009. In August 2009 in a post on Hashtags for the ALT-C 2009 Conference I proposed the event organisers should take responsibility for proposing hashtags for individual sessions as well as for the event itself. This proposal did not go down well, with the following comments being made:

  • Sorry Brian, but I do think this scheme is too complicated for the lightweight Twitter approach”
  • I really think this is trying to make Twitter something it isn’t. The very thing that people appreciate about Twitter is its lightweight nature and this is simply over complicating things”
  • When you first started suggesting multiple hashtags, I think I assumed it was a bit of a comedy experiment. Now, it’s becoming clear that The Librarian Is Too Strong In You.”
  • Way too complicated, messy, and just so damn cluttered”
  • I’m in agreement with those that suggest this is over-complicating things – mainly because I struggle to see the problem it’s solving”
  • Sorry Brian, I’m with the others here. Twitter is for catching the ‘buzz’”.

There were six negative comments with only one supporting, although in a somewhat lukewarm fashion, my suggestion:

In the past I’ve generally argued against multiple hashtags – agreeing with the comment that they introduce complexity. However, given the size of ALT-C, and the number of concurrent sessions, I have some sympathy with the issue that Brian raise”

However a year later I asked Are the Benefits of Multiple Event Hashtags Now Accepted?. As can be seen for the SXSW festival, it does seem that session hashtags provide both a useful way of easily referring to a session and to enable others to easily find and join in the discussions.

The challenge is now to establish conventions for agreeing on the session hashtags.  For events I have organised, such as the IWMW series, I use #Pn for the plenary talks and #An, #Bn and #Cn for the three parallel sessions. These tags are advertised on the event web site, as illustrated. In addition the session chair will announce the hashtags at the start of each session.

But, as we have seen from the approaches taken at SXSW, should a more human-friendly naming convention be used? For sessions which are discussing topics which have an established hashtag there can be advantages in this approach. But what if this isn’t the case?  I’d be interested in hearing about the approaches taken by other event organiser. One thing that is clear is the need for consistency. As @ellielovell commented in response to a query about the SXSW app and the session hashtag:

you don’t see them until you use the “Tweet” button and then it puts it in the tweet. They should have advertised it in app

It would, I feel, be unfortunate if valuable Twitter discussions were fragmented across different session hashtags.

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