UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

What! No Event Hashtag?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Sep 2009

Tim Berners-Lee at the Science Museum

Last Monday I attended a talk on “The Web Revealed” given by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Science Museum as part of the centenary celebrations for 100 years of the Science Museum. This was a last minute decision – I was about to head off to London as I was taking part in a session at the CILIP Executive Briefing on “Beyond the Silos of the LAMS” the following day and spotted a tweet about a spare ticket for the event which was available.

When I joined the queue for the event I tweeted my location – to indicate to any Twitter followers where I was, with the possibility of meeting up and perhaps going for a drink afterwards. As I commented at the time it felt slightly strange to be at an event about the Web which did not have an event hashtag, thus making it difficult to make links with other Twitterers at the event and share thoughts on the content. However one of my Twitter followers, @brian@condon, who was following the event from a distance, spotted my tweet and suggestedHow about #bernerslee?” as a tag for the event. A few minutes later he tweeted:

RT @martingoode: Am following the #Berners-Lee talk via twitter thanks to @joannabutler :) @briankelly– seems to be a hashtag!

So now it seems we have two people (@martinegoode and @brian_condon)  following the talk on Twitter, via tweets from myself and @joannabutler, with two hashtags (#Berners-Lee and #bernerslee) having being suggested. I also spotted some tweet from @filce who concluded:

Sir Tim Burners-lee was amazing. Very interesting and brilliant. It was recorded so hopefully it will be available the web!

And thanks to @filce I’ve spotted a recording of the opening of Sir Tim’s talk. as well as a link to his slides (the URL was displayed very quickly at the end of his talk, and I had no time to make a note of the URI). Without following up on @filce’s tweets, I would probably have missed out on this information.

But how could have it been made easier for the event Twitterers to be found and for them to be aware of each other’s presence? Perhaps the Science Museum should be suggesting hashtags for its anniversary talks (especially with another distinguished Web luminary – Dame Wendy Hall scheduled to talk in November). And what approach should be taken to coining the hashtag? Should it be related to the venue (“I’m at the @sciencemuseum to listen to Sir Tim Berners-Lee”), the anniversary series (“I’m at the @sciencemuseum-100 talk”) or, as mentioned above, should the tag be based on the individual speaker’s name?  If the latter, there will probably be a need to avoid possible organisers – @timberners-lee (note the hyphen can cause hyperlinking problems in some Twitter clients) or @timbl, for example. Or in the case of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Dame Wendy Hall and other members of  The Knightage, will an updated version of Debretts guide to forms of address require the title to be included, so we’ll have to use #sirtim and #damewendy?

The Oxford Social Media Conference (#oxsmc09)

On Friday I attended the Oxford Social Media Convention 2009 held at Said Business School, University of Oxford. As might be expected for an event which promised to “look back at the evolution of blogs and other social media to give a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which such tools have or have not made a difference at the social, political or economic level” the event did have a hashtag (#oxsmc09) which was widely used by the Twitterers in the audience. Indeed, following a suggestion I made at the event a colleague set up a wthashtag page for the tag, so that we can see that there were almost 1,000 tweets during the day, from 200 contributors (note there would probably have been more, but the conference WiFi network went down during the conference).

Twitter usage at oxsmc09 eventBut as can be seen from the histogram of the event tweets, nothing was said prior to the event. This was due to the hashtag only being announced in the conference pack when the delegates registered at the event.

This resulted in a missed opportunity for participants at this conference on Social Media to, for example, meet up prior to the event and, err, be social.  Indeed it was rather fortuitous that while travelling from London to Oxford I spotted a number of tweet from EDINA’s Nicola Osborne  who was travelling from Edinburgh to London Heathrow and then, I noticed, to Oxford. In response to my tweet:

@suchprettyeyesI’m on way to Oxford for Social Media conf. Fancy drink tonight? Am sure someone can suggest decent real ale pub.

I discovered that Nicola was going to the same event and we met up at the Eagle and Child (thanks to @sboneham for the suggestion). But despite asking:

Is there a tag for Social Media conf at Said College? Would be good to meet up with others.

it wasn’t until the next morning that we found out the event’s hashtag (with the first event tweet coming from Nicola ). A missed opportunity, I feel, which was echoed by Bill Thompson, one of the conference speakers:

@deejacksonI’m looking forward to Oxford Social Media Convention tomorrow – no idea of hashtag but will be tweeting…

The need to find the information containing the hashtag also caused confusion for people who had arrived and, in the absence of advance notification, had started to make us of their own hashtag. As rohanjay commented:

foxed by random hashtagging, calls for order at the Oxford social media bunfight -is it #oii or #oxsoc or #oxsmc09?

There are lessons which can be learnt from such confusions, especially for anyone organising events about Social Media.

Augmented Reality and Geo-Location

But need an event’s Twitter discussions necessarily require agreement on a hashtag? Following problem’s with the conference WiFi network I started to use my HTC Magic Android mobile phone to follow the conference tweets. Due to the phone’s poor user interface, I didn’t contribute significantly to the discussions. However it did occur to me that the event might provide an opportunity to make use of the LayarAugmented Reality application which I’d installed the previous week, after hearing about it from Joss Winn, a fan of the HTC Android phone (he has the newer model which has, I understand, an improved user interface).

Augmented Reality View of oxsmc09 TweetsI had first started to use the application the previous night in the pub, using it to find information on nearby pubs and historic building which could be viewed on a map and relevant Wikipedia pages or geo-located photos displayed.

The Layar environment also has two Twitter applications which enable me to view nearby Twitter users and Twitter posts. I used this at the conference and posted a link to a screenshot of my mobile phone display, which is illustrated. 

It would be nice if the display showed that a prolific Twitter user was located in from of my and slightly to the left, with another prolific user being near the front of the lecture theatre. However that wasn’t the case – the image shows tweets within about a mile of my location, some of which had been posted the previous day. So this isn’t a way of finding tweets from others at the same conference – yet!

Conclusions

To conclude, events such as Tim Berner’s Lee’s talk at the Science Museum and the Oxford Social Media Conference need an event hashtag. There’s also a need for the tag to be announced in a timely fashion and not just on the day itself. There’s also a need for process for selecting a tag (which I’ll discuss in more detail in a future post). But perhaps the importance of hashtagging at events may be complemented by developments such as geo-location application. But as we will still need to talk about the events we are planning to attend as well as the event we are at, we’ll still need the event hashtag,

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One Response to “What! No Event Hashtag?”

  1. […] What! No Event Hashtag? […]

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