Musings: Hashtags on Facebook

i.chzbgrI posted this image today on Facebook, and it sparked an interesting (at least to me!) conversation with a CS friend of mine. I decided to post some of the conversation here.

It seems it’s only a matter of time before Facebook implements hashtags, but I’m holding out until it’s an actual feature. My friend Robert disagrees.

“Interestingly enough, hashtags had no power on twitter either. Originally the @ had no power on twitter. Both were organic language constructs which spread throughout the Twitter ecosystem, and were ubiquitous long before Twitter added a single line of code which made use of either of them.”

“I mean, when you get down to it, that’s what hashtags on Facebook are usually utilized for since we don’t have a character limit. Getting the most data across in the least amount of time. Even making jokes; you’re trying to get it down to a small amount of words instead of setting it up in a sentence.

But then again, you saying they originally didn’t do anything on Twitter, and then they made it happen… implying continued use on here could make developers create a functionality on here… okay.”

Well, it was really more implying the the functionality is secondary to the language. The @ is still used everywhere on the web to respond to someone in a non-threaded conversation. I’m just saying that these conventions can be apart of language without aiding implementation.”

Evolving meanings and code functions aside, in the case of @, it makes sense since the ampersat symbol literally means “at,” and has the added benefit of not cluttering up a post with quote trees. The hashtag/pound key symbol at its most basic (at least now) means ‘number'” not “‘subject/topic.'”

“However, at it’s origin it means pound. As in a pound of sugar. As in, let’s draw a line through ℔ so it doesn’t make the L look like a 1. Isn’t it interesting that the symbol you associate so strongly with signifying numbers was originally created to signify that something WAS NOT a number? Who is to say that the evolution of this mark has stopped here?”

“How is a unit of weight not a number? They’re at least related to each other; not just an otherwise uncommonly used symbol that was chosen to represent a completely different idea.”

Here’s a link to the wiki page for further reading on the origin of the hashtag.

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