Tag Archives: #hashtags

Twitter, #ldconf and Heidegger

At our autumn conference last year, this blog introduced a reluctant world to the concept of hashtags. We coined a cumbersome phrase, “hashtag taxonomy” which has dogged us around the political and technical worlds ever since.

By the end of the conference week, I was regretting the phrase utterly. We’d made a simple technology sound complicated, and in doing so had hidden its value from many people who could benefit.

That bad taste in the mouth was extant up until the start of our Spring conference – and brought home to me once more in the words of our founding editor:

A little jealous of #labour20 – if LibDems attempted similar one-day conf the whole day would be spent giggling about “hashtag taxonomies”

From my dimly remembered German degree, Heideggerian terminology has two terms for tools: Zuhanden and Vorhanden. Vorhanden is when something is strange and new. You can see it, but you’re not sure how it works or what it does. It’s that strange feeling when you are learning to drive of a number of controls in front of you, and no sense of how to use them. But once you have been driving for a while, the car becomes Zuhanden: a tool so familiar that you use it without a second thought. It fits your hand comfortably and has become a part of you, not a separate, strange tool.

And that’s exactly what happened with hashtags and twitter at Spring conference.

Helen Duffett announced before Spring conference began that there would be one hashtag for all future Lib Dem conferences:

#ldconf is the hashtag we’ve adopted for this, and all Liberal Democrat Federal conferences. All tweets with this tag can be viewed together at sites like Twitter Search. It’s handy to bookmark the address and refer back to it to see the story developing, through the contributions of many people.

That last sentence of advice proved truer than I guessed. For when conference got underway, we were staggered at the extent to which people were availing themselves of the service. A brief calculation while I write this suggests that there very nearly 1,000 individual messages.

There has been a big increase in the use of Twitter in recent months, fuelled mostly by newspaper reports of celebrities such as Stephen Fry using the service to keep in touch with their fans. One of the clearest indications of just how many people are joining in is related to Fry: at the start of 2009, he launched a competition to celebrate 50,000 followers. Before the competition concluded just days later, he had over 100,000. Although not on that scale, this week both I and @libdemvoice breached the 200 followers mark.

As a result, there’s a wider community of people to talk to each other on twitter, and this weekend, using the hashtag, that’s precisely what they did. The previously strange technology is now so zuhanden that dozens of people used the hashtag during the conference, generating hundreds and hundreds of short messages. The hashtag even “trended” – that is to say it became so popular that it was amongst the most widely used tags in the world.

Posted in Conference and Online politics | Also tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

You’d be a twit not to tweet

March’s edition of Total Politics carries the following piece from me about Twitter, and in particular why councillors and would-be councillors should consider using it.

The Voice has covered Twitter more than once before, but if you are one of the many people who are just have joined Twitter or are now thinking about joining it, this post should be a helpful introduction.

What is Twitter?

When a jet plane crash-landed on the Hudson River in January, one of the first – and the most striking – photographs was taken by Janis Krums. On a passing ferry at the time, he used Twitter to send a quick message and photo. It quickly spread round the world, illustrating Twitter’s power at swiftly distributing short pieces of news.

At heart, Twitter is really very simple. It’s a free blogging service which lets you make posts (tweets) that are no more than 140 characters long. It is growing massively quickly in popularity, with website traffic in the UK up by 874% in 2008 (Hitwise figures).

Twitter’s enforced brevity makes it is well suited to brief updates (“Remember – planning meeting about park development 8pm today”), friendly chit-chat (“Congrats on passing your driving test”) and flagging up snippets of news (“Found a fantastic politics blog – https://www.libdemvoice.org”).

Passing on information, having a friendly chat, sending out updates: doesn’t that sound like what is at the heart of the relationship between councillors (or would-be councillors) and their colleagues and constituents?

Sometimes 140 characters isn’t nearly enough. But think of the occasions you never quite have time to write the website story or blog post or lengthy email – or when by the time you do get to sit at your computer the moment has past. Tweets often fit the bill nicely, particularly as Twitter is designed to be very easy to update from your mobile phone. So anywhere you have a basic signal – and a battery that isn’t flat – you can update.

To read other people’s updates you can either access the Twitter website, or install one of a range of free programs to your computer or phone. (In some countries, principally the US, you can receive other people’s updates by text, but this is no longer available in the UK.) For the more technically savvy, someone’s Twitter updates are also available as an RSS feed; for example, your local party website could display an automatically updated list of your latest tweets.

Twitter can also integrate with Facebook; indeed, for some people their Twitter use is really just a way to update Facebook. Once installed, Facebook’s Twitter application lets you have your Facebook status automatically updated each time you tweet. So one text message updates your presence in both places.

Getting started on Twitter


Posted in Online politics | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Nick Clegg: first British politician to promote hashtags?

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has emailed party members today to publicise Saturday’s National Climate Change March in London (email reproduced below).

Hashtag fans like me particularly liked the PS: Nick is encouraging participants to use the hashtag #climatemarch on Twitter and Flickr. As far as I know, Nick Clegg is the first British politician to promote the use of hashtags.

Whilst it’s a powerful thing for thousands of people to join together in one place and show their solidarity for a cause, this is a way for individuals to give their own report on events. Tweets bearing the …

Posted in Online politics | Also tagged , , , and | 12 Comments

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