Thursday, 13 October 2011


Today I want to talk to you about Twitter; or more specifically, hashtags (#).

On Twitter, hashtags help people who are all tweeting about the same thing to find other tweets about the same thing.

So, if you're watching something on TV and also tweeting about it (which is the main function of the site if you’re a comedian or arts journalist) you can put a hashtag at the end of your message, which then automatically becomes a link. Click on said link, and it takes you to a list of all the other tweets on the subject.

When loads of people are using the same hashtag to talk about something it becomes a trending topic, which means Twitter features it on the right hand side of the page. This can wind up being a funny mix of things, because people use the hashtag in a variety of ways.

- One way is to break or gather news stories. Today STV Edinburgh started the #whyedinburghrocks tag so they could put together a list of reasons using Storify.

- It can also be used to ask questions – the BBC are quite good at this, and often tell listeners or viewers a hashtag to use at the start of a programme so you can discuss it online. Similarly, this weekend I am doing an online Q&A with The Edinburgh Reporter about 12 books, where people can submit a question via Twitter using the tag #askaligeorge.

- You can also use hashtags to connect with other people of similar interests. When I tweet about the 12 books project I quite often use the #amwriting tag so other writers know it's a post that might be interesting for them. Similarly anyone attending the West Port Book Festival in Edinburgh over the next four days can use the hashtag #wpbf11 to find out what events are going on and what other punters will be at them.

- Another popular use is to play games (a recent favourite of mine was #hiphopgroceries - Will.I.Ham, for instance. Twitter is full of people who are overly fond of punning.)

- And some people use it to share advice. For example, at lunchtime today, one of the top trends was #arealboyfriend – aimed at facilitating discussion as to the best way a boyfriend can behave towards his partner. Some of these made me laugh a lot, although I fear that was not necessarily the intent.

I made a list of my highlights, anyway.

#arealboyfriend chase after you when you walk away
- That could be a boyfriend, or it could be a total stranger with mugging in mind. Just saying, boyfriends aren't the only people that give chase.

#arealboyfriend doesn't annoy you and make you cry.
- Duh, yes he does. If he never annoys you then you either don’t care/notice what he does, or you’re a robot, or you’re deluding yourself. A good boyfriend likely doesn’t do these things on purpose, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do them at all.

#ARealBoyfriend sees the pain in your eyes, while everyone else believes the smile on your face.
- This was from a man whose profile said he respecks females. I think he may be trying too hard. That or I have no soul.

#arealboyfriend kisses you on the forehead.
- So does your mum.

#arealboyfriend will give up his hoes !
- And other gardening equipment, the bastard.

#ARealBoyfriend will finger u ont bus
- LOL. How inappropriate.

#arealboyfriend plays an important role in the ecosystem as a pollinator, with larva considered problematic to vegetation in agriculture.
- Science wins again.