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Can you remember how you obtained answers to questions in the pre-Internet world? You could travel to the local library to find a reference book. Or more likely, you turned to a person you knew and whom you thought might have the information. You would phone them or visit them or if you were lucky find them sitting in the same room as you. Knowledge was transferred person to person.

The Internet placed trust in search engines over people

Then the Internet age dawned and with it search engines. Search engines gave us the ability to find information, answers to questions and solutions to problems as quickly as we could enter a search term into a browser. And when we did, a set of search results would be delivered to our browser. Choose the result we liked or trusted most, and we had our answer.

Information became instantly accessible. But it also became disconnected from the the human source we trusted. In effect, we transferred our trust to the search engine and its algorithm.

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Hashtag Etiquette for Microblogging Search

TwitterWhen I chair a social media conference, I like to introduce the participants to Twitter and Twitter search at the beginning of the conference so that they can experience community building and conversation during the conference.

One of the participants at a conference I chaired last week posed the following question in an email:

Question for you about the use of #tags that came out of the way you used them at the conference. We are a co-sponsor of a series of [events] that revolve around various science topics. After my presentation and your use of the tags someone from one of the other sponsor of the [events] finally ‘got it’ and has asked me to add some social media elements to the events.

The next one is [next week].  I’d like to essentially Twitter the event, add some elements to our Facebook app and/or group and of course blog about it. The tag I’d use is #xxxxxxx.

Now for the question… You can’t ‘reserve’ a tag and we’d like  to do some pre-promotion through our e-mail lists and the co-sponsors’ web sites.  If I start using the tag in the next few days to make sure it doesn’t become something else ( not likely but you never can tell ) is that considered okay Twitter Etiquette or do I simply wait until the day of the event and start building up to it ?

My thoughts:

Often the same hashtag can be used for different events/contexts at different times (e.g. #ALI for the ALI Conference in September; #ALI when the Sports Hall of Fame is commemorating Muhammad Ali.)

However, to ensure that I’m not overlapping with a contemporaneous event, I’ll search for the term on prior to beginning to use it. I count on others to do the same thing. So, if you start to use a hashtag now, others will discover in their search that you are using the hashtag and they will avoid using it while you are using it.

TwemesFinally, some people argue that if you are using a term that is truly unique to you, there is no need to use a hashtag. This was the case for an event like BlogOrlando, where the organizers decided to tweet without using hashtags. However, this works if you want to be discovered only in Your event will not be picked up in mircoblogging search services such as twemes.

Bottom line:

Hashtag etiquette relies on simple consideration. Use a tag that makes sense in the context of your event. Check before you begin to use it to ensure that no one else is using it. And feel free to start using it as soon as you will be generating enough tweets to make it a meaningful search term.

What do you think?

Do you agree with my advice? Would you add to it?

Technorati and Me

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that a longstanding relationship with a friend has withered to the point that it’s really just a memory. We cling to those memories of better time even though we don’t see one another day to day. TechnoratiAnd when we do, it’s just not the same.

That’s the way it is with Technorati and me.

There was a time when I would visit Technorati several times a day. I would regularly refer to Technorati to learn about a new blog I’d discovered. What author had registered ownership of the blog? How many inbound links came to it and from whom?

A blog’s Technorati Authority would provide a quick indicator of whether a blog was being paid attention to and by whom.

The Technorati search engine provided me with a unique view of content. Not only could I find the most recent posts on any topic, but I could also filter them by the Technorati Authority – selecting posts from all blogs, those with a little authority, some authority or a lot of authority.

And Technorati first introduced me to the concept of persistent search. It was the first search engine I found that enabled me to define a search and then subscribe to the results in my feedreader – telling me right away about new content that satisfied my search criteria without having to regenerate the search terms.

I registered ProPR on Technorati and followed the increase of my own authority (Yes, I visited daily just to watch the number increase.) I even registered my Twitter stream with Technorati and was delighted to see its authority climb as others linked back to my Twitter ID.

I could even rely on Technorati’s then-CEO, David Sifry, to post a quarterly analysis of the state of the blogosphere/ live web.

So, Technorati meant a lot to me. It was a search engine, a reference point to assess the relative weight of blogs and a source of analysis and insight into the growth of social media.


A relationship is only strong so long as both parties are committed to it. And over time, I began to feel abandoned by Technorati. Management changes, money problems, a loss of focus, failed partnerships, service outages – all took their toll. I began to rely less and less on Technorati.

Google Blog SearchAnd just when my faith in Technorati was being challenged, Google enticed with its own social media search engine. I began to hang out more often with my new Google friend.

As I divided my loyalties, I noticed that the results from Google Blog Search was finding posts and content that Technorati was missing.

But my emotional attachment with my old friend Technorati kept me coming back. I’d continue to routinely set up persistent searches on both Google Blog Search and Technorati.

On top of this, Technorati was failing to maintain its innovation leadership. Technorati authority was the bluntest of instruments. But it had its own authority, being widely cited and incorporate in indexes like the AdAge Power150. But despite the fact that its many users criticized the basic methodology, Technorati failed to improve. It left the field wide open to startup AideRSS to make the big advance with its PostRank algorithm.

And so it ends…

Finally, I am throwing in the towel on Technorati. I no longer receive benefits that justify the time to go to the site and conduct a search. Google blog search reliably provides me with more complete results. So, why spend the time setting up and reviewing search results from a second service that has proven itself so unreliable?

And as I have come to doubt the completeness of Technorati’s search results, I’ve grown ever more reluctant to place any reliance on Technorati Authority.

So, at the end of the day, I find myself rarely going to Technorati.

The only time I use it now is when I am doing social media monitoring for a client. Why? Because as superior as it is, Google isn’t perfect. And Technorati is still better than the field of also-rans (Ice Rocket anyone?). And when I’m doing work for a client, i need a “second dip” to be sure that I haven’t missed anything. So, for now, I turn to Technorati as backup. A far humbler fate for Technorati than I had once expected for it.

How about you?

Are there social media tools and apps for which you once had high hopes that you now find yourself using and visiting less often? Tell us about it.

To get the ball rolling, I’m asked Dave Fleet, Bob LeDrew, Mitch Joel, Colin McKay and Shel Israel to tell us about a social media tools with which they once had a warm and deep relationship with that has now lapsed.

Credit where credit’s due

This post was inspired by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson‘s discussion of Technorati’s unreliability on the FIR podcast 373.