Tag Archives: heidegger

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.

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