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The Power of the Hashtag

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/fashion/hashtags-a-new-way-for-tweets-cultural-studies.html?pagewanted=all

In recent years, Twitter has exploded as an online networking site, making it easy to not only follow your friends but certain popular persons as well.  Part of its power comes from its ease of use (as opposed to Facebook, which essentially encourages you to post as much information about yourself as possible, and has become overburdened by the onslaught of information that has little importance to its users).  The conception of the hashtag as further revolutionized Twitter, allowing people to follow not only people but also topics with ease.  Facebook has a similar system in the liking of subjects, but is hamstringed by the unnecessary complexity of the system.  Conversely, hashtags are extremely simple to employ, and allow a robust, natural organization to develop among interested followers.  By the very nature of the system, certain hashtags will become more popular, and a certain standard will fall into place for the hashtagging of certain topics, since no one will want to use a hashtag that they do not think anyone will pick up on.

Hashtags have great relevance to the concept of networks.  People tend to organize themselves based on similar interests and mentalities, and hashtags cut right to the chase of this.  With regards to the Strong Triadic Closure Property, hashtags can serve as a sort of pseudo-strength marker for relationships.  For example, say you have three people, A, B, and C.  A follows B and C (treat these relationships as reciprocal), but B and C do not follow each other.  If A always uses a certain hashtag when discussing, say, the alignment mechanism of liquid crystals in LCD displays, and B and C are both close followers of the topic, then when B makes a post using that same hashtag, C will identify with B and become mutual followers, and the Strong Triadic Closure Property has a much greater chance of being fulfilled than if there were no hashtag markers.  The true power of the hashtag comes from the fact that its use is based upon how it evolves through the community, and not through the developers.

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