Monday, February 02, 2009

The # versus the ! for Twitter

Is it betamax vs. VHS again?

Technology standards have a way of fragmenting a market, pitching one camp against another until ultimately one wins out. It may not be the technically superior, better marketed, or the more endorsed option. Consumers are fickle - the winning technology is often simply perceived as good enough to get their job done. And once it reaches a magical point, game over.

For twitter users the hash tag (#) allows one to mark and then retrieve all the related commentary to one key word - like #ukSnow to find out where it is snowing right now.

Gamejabs, a tweeter aggregator for sports fans has introduced the exclamation point. It makes that point that the ! provides for a better user experience. By using a proprietary mark within the forest of tweets the company can separate out the followed, the followers, and the comments and add new functionality - like point spread of a basketball game. The key is that it works within a community of sports fans that it follows.

I have no ties or vested interest to the # or the !. In fact, I like innovation and trying new things but I worry that this may be done to solve a company problem rather than a consumer issue. The following was given on their as one reason for going this route:
Multiply that case [no rules for defining a tag] by the hundreds of ideas we have, and you can see that our disambiguation processes become difficult.

Frankly, I don't really care about any company's problems - I care about my needs. If the community at large in twitter wants to define format and structure for tags, I have no doubt it will. Self-regulation prevails and in fact a complete categorization of meta-meta tags could be created. Examples:
  • @ for people or groups (twitter)
  • # for events (twitter)
  • ! for sports teams (Gamejabs)
  • $ for financial, investment entities
  • ? for entertainment - movies, music, television
The idea that a tag is more than just a tag is a good one; just elevate my pains to the point where I'll use the @#!$? thing.

Finally, if one wants a private community, why not set one up on something like Yammer?

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