August 4, 2014
Hashtag Help Might Be On The Way For Confused Twitter Users
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
If you’re a casual Twitter user who finds yourself confused when you see things like #tbt or #smh, the social network is reportedly testing a new feature that will hopefully demystify the confusing world of the hashtag.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a new feature included in the Twitter app for iOS includes an expanded description to select hashtag searches. For instance, the new system clarifies that #tbt means “Throwback Thursday” (usually used by people posting old photos on the correct day of the week) and #smh represents “shaking my head” (usually in disbelief at something).
Other hashtags discovered by WSJ reporters Elliot Bentley and Yoree Koh include #oitnb (for the TV series “Orange Is The New Black”), #lol (for the popular online video game “League of Legends”), #manutd (for the Manchester United soccer/football team), #hhldn (the media and technology event Hacks/Hackers London) and #rt (which, surprisingly, is said to represent media outlet Russia Today, not retweet as one might expect).
“The labeling gives the hashtags a sense of legitimacy and order as related to a certain event or subject,” Bentley and Koh said, adding that it “wasn’t clear how these labels were generated. Some included an option for users to rate their accuracy. Many hashtags, such as #MH17 for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, didn’t trigger the feature.” A Twitter representative declined the Wall Street Journal reporters’ request for comment on the matter.
PCWorld contributor Nick Mediati pointed out that this apparent new feature is not yet available to everyone. As they did with the Mute tool and other various interface changes, Twitter typically rolls out changes to a limited group of users before making them available to the general public. The enhanced hashtag explanation is part of the microblogging website’s attempts to make their service more attractive to new users, Mediati added.
“Even with Twitter’s stock price on an upward climb after impressive Q2 results, the service still needs to attract more users into the fold if it’s to continue to satisfy shareholders,” said David Nield of Digital Trends. Explaining exactly what hashtags stand for “should make the network less daunting and more accessible to the average user,” he added, and are part of the company’s plans “to improve the way Twitter handles events and major topics.”
Of course, these changes could ultimately be moot, should Twitter opt to go ahead with plans originally discussed earlier this year that would completely do away with both hashtags and replies that require use of the ‘@’ symbol. In fact, in discussing the possibility of doing away with those features at a March media conference, Twitter’s Vivian Schiller referred to hashtags and @ symbols as “arcane” elements that the company wanted to move “into the background.”
“The hashtag may be too ingrained into people’s habits to kill off entirely – even Hollywood and big business has caught on to the practice,” said Mediati, “but providing additional information for popular hashtags should help bring some clarity to the sometimes confusing Twitterverse.”
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