In TWITTER CULTURE on December 7, 2009 at 8:06 AM

Remember Old Twitter? I do.

December 4, 2011

*** UPDATE ***

If you will note the date of this post, you’ll see how the topic was active in November of 2009. Since then, we continue to see and experience the evolution of social media and online networking. By the same token, we are actively learning how the hashtag works and its various uses — whether consciously, or whether by chance, rapidly developed by users of social networks — Hashtaggers are pioneering how its application enables writers, journalists, scholars, artists, and others with an ability for exploring and sharing their work. The impetus for this blog post was the hypothesis for why the mechanics of a hashtag function to create new forms shaping the digital landscape.  Observing its nature over these past 24 months, evidence confirming my theory  holds strongly enough to warrant a follow-up to this article. Hashtaggers instinctively pioneering the form and function of communications online, specifically on social networks like Twitter and Tumblr, are providing the genesis for the productive application of this new technology. Therefore, it remains paramount for those of us studying and researching the hashtag, to record how it is changing and evolving, providing credit where credit is due, what works and what does not, why a user heralds an effective hashtag or how a user manipulates one.  

If you are interested in participating in the follow-up article, let me know by proving a comment in the comments section. As before, I will post a number of questions for people to answer, including the original survey used for the piece below. I look forward to hearing from some of the original participants and from those who find this phenomena as fascinating as many of us do.

— Kimberly Cox, New York City

Copyright 2009 – 2011, All Rights Reserved



November 7, 2009

Hashtag games are played on Twitter every day, around the clock and all over the world. There are always at least one or two “Trending” (the Twitter system tracks the most frequently discussed topics using key word algorithms that search the system and isolate the most frequently entered words and phrases) and at all times, users will see a few people they are following engaged in a game.

Interesting to note how one subjective experience parallels the experiences of other users. Specifically, those who filled out the survey all together shared similarities in the approach to understanding and explaining the function of Twitter. Many thanks to those generous individuals (you know who you are) who participated.

I learn “by doing” on Twitter and that involves observation and trial by error. Fellow users provide the most valuable resource for education by actively demonstrating the etiquette, function and various utilities. Direct and indirect association with Twitter’s diverse population of users yields the individual’s education. The method practiced by many allows for the freedom of independent exploration. The flexibility encourages all users to sample a very large variety of machinations. Subjective experience then determines the user’s ensuing activity and also, role in a community.

The ecosystem of Twitter depends on the hashtag much in the same way the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River depend on their watersheds and marsh lands. The rainwater and topographical run-off would otherwise go unfiltered and  overwhelm. Instead, the watershed and marsh balance the distribution of rainwater and run-off evenly. The hashtag, in turn, filters the Twitter feed, distributing a collective order across the system.

[ image deleted so i don’t get sued ]


By placing the (#) hash symbol in front of a word or a single phrase, the Twitter system tags it as a link so any one may click on it and see that single stream of information. In a manner that allows proper collection and regurgitation back into the stream, information may be more easily searched, catalogued, identified and acquired. Therefore, the primary function of a hash tag is not to play word games or have a fun battle of the wits, but to tag information about breaking news and identify TWEETS like “Top Conservatives On Twitter” (#tcot) and “Top Liberetarians On Twitter” (#tlot). Furthermore, general lifestyle hash tags like #theatre, #film, #yoga, #fitness, #military and #medical are all part of TWITTER’S GOLOSSARY AND INDEX of search terms. You can even look up your favorite television show by placing the # symbol before the name, like #house or #mosthaunted, and watch the show on televison with other viewers both in your own country and around the globe.

[ image deleted so i don’t get sued ]

As in all evolving languages, the development of slang and acronyms has caught on rapidly and the HASHTAG GAME emerged almost immediately. As mentioned previously, evolutions in the game are not yet apparent to us all but more to the small communities of people who are building them. #cowfilms is only one example of the myriad of topics used to play every day. So in order to get a better idea of the parameters and mechanisms behind one of the fastest growing online trends, a few members took some to talk more specifically about what the game is, why they play and how.

The players all signed up for Twitter around early 2009 and like myself, spent their first few months learning how to make Twitter work best for them. The Hash Tags on the Trend List were the first indication of the brain teaser that spiked interest. But too many people are playing by the time a Hashtag Game makes the Trend List. Part of the fun is the immediacy of the challenge that comes from the constant updating TWITTER FEED and stream of information. Again, avid players who look back now on how they started, remember only stumbling upon it one day and starting to play. There is no indoctrination and no way to find a Hashtag Game unless someone in your immediate circle is playing:

It was many months before I discovered hashtag games. I credit @mduette, an avid and very friendly hashtag player, with piquing my interest. I saw that she was playing with a lot of Tweeps, many of them British, and that the hashtags were far funnier and more challenging than most items you see on Trending Topics.

I stumbled upon my first hashtag game, I don’t even remember what it was. All I know is that someone on my feed was playing one and I thought “I can do that”, so I did.

Saw the damn things figure out what they were and went with the flow.  After a couple compliments stayed with it.

It was just there in front of me being played  by some of the people that I started to follow such as: @stevyncolgan @Mangowe @TrinaLouise_ @mr_craig @Scriblit

What began one day as a fun past time, grew into an everyday event to look forward to. Mainly curious about what makes the game interesting enough to hold your attention over the months, I asked players to expand more on what the subjective experience:

[I play] Yes, every day (I’d struggle not to). It’s the diversity of the games that keeps me hooked, that coupled with the fact I’ve always been a fan of the pun. The constraints of a particular game can really make you think too.

I try to play everyday. The mornings I’m barely awake but the British hashtaggers are 6 and 7 hours ahead of me and going strong.  Then about 11pm (GMT) time they seem to go again.

I have to admit that I do play every day … It may start to impact my productivity at work if I’m not careful. My interest is kept by the originality of the results and the ingenuity of the tweeters, also the spinoff conversations that invariably happen.

Pretty much every day.  Over time I think one’s core group of playmates changes; the ones that I have mentioned above still play and I still interact with them but they are no longer my primary playmates.  My point is that one gravitates to other players that one particularly enjoys playing with.  In general people make YOU laugh and/or amaze you with their verbal dexterity and mental gymnastics and, hopefully, you sometimes provide the same entertainment for THEM; and when the latter happens it provides a fantastic dose of pleasure and, unfortunately, pride and self-gratification too although, I hope, in a nice way!

The players are usually able to identify where the topic for the Hashtag Game originates from, always an individual with a good theme that catches on. The real excitement comes when a suggestion you originate becomes the Hashtag for the game and people begin playing. “I’ll never forget #bakeryfilms because I suggested and it was so much seeing it catch on.”

Are there any rules to the Hashtag Game? Not really, apart from respecting those around you, staying on topic and maintaining a standard of your own as a player. When asked to speak about this in more detail, again, the players all were thinking in the same tone except one who said, “Damned if I know. I just play.”

Rules could be constrictive (although etiquette is nice), but again enforcing that could spoil the fun. In reality we’re all just sitting here trying to make each other smile with a clever play on words. If we start all the “You can’t have that tag as your spelling of that word is not accurate… blah, blah, blah” it would suck the fun out of it. There are times when I get RT’d that I forget to thank the RT’er, usually when the tags are coming thick & fast (so if I’ve missed you, my apologies).

Personally I search for specific words I have in mind (look before you tweet) using #hashtag <word> in the twitter search engine, as I like mine to be as original as possible. There are times when I tweet one the same as someone else, if the results aren’t right up to date or through different spellings of a word.

I tend to lose interest when I start to see repeats of the really obvious puns. That’s when I tend to bow out. All that said, if the really obvious ones gets new people interested in the game I think it can be a good thing.

Are there any rules? I think the games operate on a pleasure principle while people stick loosely to a framework of punning, rudeness and general humour. The only rule that I can discern is that tweets have to be relevant to the hashtag that’s in play.  You can tell when a game has run its course by the diminishing relevance of the players’ contributions. OK, people tend to express gratitude for any appreciation but that’s more or less generic Twitter politesse.

Sometimes it takes me a little while to grasp the true intention of the hashtag. I try to follow the “rule” of the hashtag by looking at the entries of the originators. Usually you are mixing two different items together. Sometimes you can mix them anyway you like; sometimes the words need to be consecutive. Some hashtags are obvious from the get-go. Obviously the main rule is that the tweet must have a basis in the theme the Tag implies, but some divergance can be used depending on the closeness to the primary theme EG buttery could be used in both a #cowfilm tag and a #dairyfilm tag. The other overiding thing about the hashtag is trying to make a seemless version of the original title, or as close as possible, Its better than any Nintendo DS IMHO.

Here are some of the favorite experiences shared by players and more thoughts on what makes the game so much fun:

For me the fun is in the laughter, the verbal dexterity, the mental somersaults, the challenge and, I suppose, some level of competition; plus, increasingly an intellectual edge to some of the games and some of my playmates. OK, I’ve remembered a game that had a higher than average “intellectual” edge: #anallyretentivesongs; that was particularly enjoyable!

No real favourites. I like it when I start one and it takes off. If I can capture a person’s imagination it’s a real result. And when one you’ve been thrashing gets onto trending topics it’s nice, that’s when people who don’t really know about “the scene” join in.

I like “thinking on my feet” and I love humorous wordplay. So I love the hashtag games involving movies, music and “rude” or sexual themes. Since my mind is in the gutter I’m very comfortable with the latter. It’s also fun to be playing with people all across the globe, enjoying a shared passion.

#cowfilms is up there with the best.

#bakeryfilms because I have a softspot for it, as it was my introduction.

#blasphemousfilms because it was rebellious to my indocterinated religion (RC)

#pornfilms because I have a mind in the sewer like most of my gender 🙂

As far as the players of the original group are concerned, there is a strong feeling of universality and nonexclusivity. In a sense, the more clever players there are, the more fun every person has,  “I think “group” is a strange term for this, my group of followers is different to yours is different to theirs. We’re all interconnected but seperate. A hashtag game is played by many people, a lot of them I don’t follow, but sometimes I follow players that make me laugh when their tags get RT’d or I see them in search results. As far as favourite players go, it would be wrong of me to say. Each of the taggers that I follow have their own special gift. That’s why I follow them!”

Finally, one player had this to say in conclusion and his words speak volumes in terms of the unique quality and mutual respect held among Hashtaggers, “The spread of friends from various background joins you in a common pastime, it helps bond people together who would not otherwise have met, or indeed made an effort to follow. I have to mention that even though I have been working in the IT industry for more that a decade and a half,  this is the first social networking system I use. I have neen connected to the Internet since the 1994.”

  1. Asking questions are genuinely pleasant thing
    if you are not understanding something totally, but this piece of writing provides good understanding


  2. Interesting, haven’t played that game.


  3. Another excellent piece on the # games. I feel, at times that twitter is like a massive brain and we are the braincells with the tweets being the synapses.


  4. Ok, I didn’t know people played hashtag games. Sounds interesting, maybe you can let me know when you start one the next time. Ofcourse I have done some of those hashtags, but only ones which have been trending, therefore not as participatory as you described above. Like I did this:
    Last & Furious #oneletterofffilms


Please Share Your Thoughts, I'll Respond!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: