Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reading Mashable's story about Seppukoo, the "anti-social network". Clever.

Monday, July 27, 2009

#Drumcorps Hashtags

Introduction (feel free to skip)

The 2009 DCI season is winding down, the first season where many DCI corps kept in touch with fans via Twitter and Facebook. It has been a lot of fun for me to be involved with this by maintaining a big list of drum corps on Twitter (which I plan to/hope to expand and improve considerably very soon.) It's especially been fun to watch drum corps fans "tweet" their impressions of drum corps shows in real-time.

One area that's been a little tough sometimes is actually finding people's tweets about drum corps.

Twitter is a very (intentionally) limited medium: it was built around the SMS/text messaging limit of 160 characters. This is both its strongest and weakest point: strongest because it lets anyone with the most basic mobile phone send and receive tweets; weakest because 140 characters (Twitter's limit) is barely enough to express a fairly complex sentence.

For that reason, some smart person invented "hashtags" as a way of marking tweets.

Hashtags two several related purposes:
  1. As metadata: hashtags identify the subject of a tweet clearly and succinctly, and the rarely-used hash sign (#) makes them more unique and therefore searchable than plain words.
  2. As a communication channel: By monitoring Twitter for a specific hashtag, a user is effectively watching a "channel" where most if not all of the conversation is about a particular subject of interest.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), there is no authority mandating a way to use hashtags. To some extent, this defeats the purpose: if not everyone uses the same hashtag to mean the same thing, then a user who is interested in a particular topic either sees a lot of unrelated tweets that are not of interest, or he misses a lot of tweets that he is interested in seeing.

Hashtags, Drum Corps, & Summer ' 09 (feel free to skip)

The summer of 2009 was the first summer that a lot of DCI and DCA corps have attempted to use Twitter to communicate with fans.

For the most part, I think it's been a huge success. I've really enjoyed getting lots of extra information -- rehearsal locations, quick news updates, pictures, audio, video, and scores! -- "straight from the horse's mouth". It's also been really interesting to catch the occasional thought from drum corps performers, parents, and support staff as they struggle though the heat, rain, and exhaustion of the season. And it's been great to see drum corps fans share their thoughts live at show sites.

The one thing that I don't think has worked that well is deciding how best to use drum corps-related hashtags to signify that their comments are about a particular show.

We started the season going with three basic tags: #drumcorps, #dci, and #dcacorps. Over time, things started to unravel.

"Drums Across the Rockies", in particular, is well known by its acronym, DATR. So a #datr tag was born. Then came the major shows in San Antonio (DCI Southwest became #dcisw; DCI Southeast became #dcise). At the time I thought these new tags would be helpful. But then I saw people appending "#drumcorps #dcise #dci #dciatlanta #dciatl" to tweets. And I (and many of you) said, hey, this is ridiculous.

So after giving it a lot of thought, I would like to make a proposal. Please feel free to comment.

PROPOSAL (The important part)

Disclaimer: these are just my thoughts. I'm not the drumcorps hashtag god and I can't make anyone do anything against their will. This is just what I think is the best solution to the problem.

First, go back to the basic tags:

#drumcorps: Use this tag for stuff that applies to drum and bugle corps in general. Like "It's 70 degrees and sunny, perfect weather for #drumcorps!" You can combine it with the other tags if you want, but any good Twitter drum corps fan is going to monitor at least this hashtag, so there's no real reason to do so. This is also probably the best hashtag for smaller drum corps circuits such as Drum Corps Europe.

#dci: Use this tag for ALL stuff related to Drum Corps International and the junior corps circuit.

#dcacorps: Use this tag for ALL stuff related to Drum Corps Associates and the senior corps circuit. (Note: the problem with just using #dca is that DCA is a very common abbreviation; in particular, it's used for Disney California Adventure and it's the airport abbreviation for Reagan National Airport in the Washington DC area.)

Now: the hard problem.

I propose that, as a rule of thumb, people use a 2-part hashtag for drum corps shows.

The first hashtag is either #dci or #dcacorps.

The second hashtag is composed of three letters:
  • The first two letters are the postal abbreviation of the state in which the show is being held
  • The third letter is the first letter of the city in which the show is being held.
For instance:
  • Drums Along the Rockies in Denver, CO would be "#dci #cod"
  • DCI Southwest in San Antonio TX would be "#dci #txs"
  • DCI Southeast in Atlanta GA would be "#dci #gaa"
  • A show in Gadsden AL would be "#dci #alg"
  • DCA's Parade of Champions in Scranton PA would be "#dcacorps #pas"
If you are going to tweet at a show, recommend an initial tweet that hits as many key words as possible. Something like:

"Tonight I'm tweeting from the #DCI #DrumCorps show in Gadsden, Alabama. Looking forward to a great night of drum corps! #dci #alg"

This hits all major keywords (city, state, DCI, drumcorps, "drum corps", plus the show hashtag).


Here's what I like about this idea:
  • Twitter searches implicitly use "AND" logic: if you search for "yellow submarine" on Twitter you see only tweets containing BOTH "yellow" and "submarine". By separating the tag into TWO tags, people who are searching for #dci see ALL show-related tweets, but people who want to keep track of a particular show can use both tags.
  • It's short and sweet, which makes it easier to type on a mobile phone and leaves a lot more characters for content.
  • It tends to produce hashtags that are unique, so there's less likelihood that searches will produce unrelated tweets.
What do you think?