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Hashtags: The New New Way to Organize the World

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, October 2 2008

Back in my day, if you had a bright idea, you planted a flag for it by registering a domain name. But that time has passed, my friends. These days, even more important than a website seems to be picking a humble Twitter hashtag to define a political meme. Then you throw it out into the world and seeing if it has any stickiness. Good ones can evolve out of Twitter to the rest of the web and world, portable from Twitter to RSS streams to, yes, domain names to blog post tags. Hashtags are kinda like OpenID for ideas.

Some political hashtags have already proven themselves particularly sticky. I'm sure I'm missing a bunch, but off the top of my head, here are a few. There's #dontgo, the hashtag that grew out of the House Republicans protest of the energy bill, which in turn spawned a mini movement and a good deal of news coverage. Then #suspend bubbled up when John McCain put a short-lived halt to his campaign to deal with the economic situation. And the anti-earmark #pork has been picked up by Republican Jeff Flake and fed into a "Pork Parade" site. I'm sure there are many more good ones I'm missing.

There's more bubbling up for tonight's Biden/Palin debate, aimed at tagging Twitter chatter. There are a pair on my radar screen. The first is #notmygal, an anti-Sarah Palin effort that's also tied to a vlogging project based on YouTube. The goal there is to tweet the hashtag whenever Palin says something disagreeable. And the second is #dirtycoal. The Sierra Club is, I hear, planning to use that one tonight as part of a campaign to counter the coal industry's "clean coal" ads that will likely air during the debate tonight.

With either Twemes or Twitter's in-house search, it's trivial to instantly see which hashtags are getting good pick up and which are fizzling. It may well now be the quickest way to kick ideas out into the world and see which ones are fit enough to thrive.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

First POST: System-Gaming

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Gimme Shelter

The link between intimate partner violence and surveillance tech; the operational security set-up that connected Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden; how Senate Dems are counting on tech to hold their majority; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Tribes

Edward Snowden on the Internet's impact on political polarization; trying to discern Hillary Clinton's position on NSA reform; why Microsoft is bullish on civic tech; and much, much more GO

monday >

First POST: Inventions

How voter data-sharing among GOP heavyweights is still lagging; why Facebook's News Feed scares news publishers; Google's ties to the State Department; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

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