I finally got access to my Twitter archive [1]. I've been using Twitter since 2006 — and it's amusing to go back and see how inane my updates were back then. Seems like I mostly complained and made coffee. But, there's also a curious kind of earnestness and optimism about my tone; snarky, for sure, but also interested in everything going on in those earlier, heady days of the social web. I mean, none of us knew that Twitter would turn into a global phenomenon, but we had sense that there was something enduring about its ability to capture little human vignettes in a starkly simple medium.

Anyway, looking back over my archive, there was one tweet [2] on August 23, 2007 that was different than the rest — and yet looking over the month-to-month visualization Twitter provided, you'd never be able to spot this needle in the haystack of my 16,072 tweets:

how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? 

At the time, it didn't seem like that big of a deal to me; just something that I wanted for myself. I mean, I did write up a complete proposal [3] for how I thought these "tag channels" could work on Twitter — with the ability to follow and mute tags globally or at the individual level (like Pinterest boards), but all of that required effort on Twitter's part, so the simplest aspect that stuck was just tagging individual tweets. I didn't actually use another hashtag until September 7. I used them sporadically after that, mostly to identify locations (#Philz), but it wasn't until September 25 [5] when I finally used a hashtag as a kind of conversational beacon — i.e. to ask the internet for help with a simple task, following +Matthew Haughey's lead [6] and coining #lazyweb.

After that, I used them with much more regularity even though Twitter didn't link them, and they provided little [apparent] utility for anyone else. But I just kept at it, evangelizing the idea and the practice (doing more than talking I'd say), and eventually, thanks to +Nate Ritter's use of the #sandiegofire hashtag [7], caught on.

So — getting access to my archive and going back and seeing my original tweet in context just got me thinking about this silly little idea that happened to catch on, and how — in the context of 7 years' worth of tweets — it looks so insignificant, and yet (I'd wager) has had such an important impact.

#hashtags #beforehashtags #history #socialweb

[1] http://blog.twitter.com/2012/12/your-twitter-archive.html 
[2] https://twitter.com/chrismessina/status/223115412
[3] http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/08/25/groups-for-twitter-or-a-proposal-for-twitter-tag-channels/
[4] https://twitter.com/chrismessina/statuses/303432812
[5] https://twitter.com/chrismessina/statuses/293268312
[6] http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2006/06/lazyweb-accelerometers-and-mame-if-you-please.html
[7] http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/10/22/twitter-hashtags-for-emergency-coordination-and-disaster-relief/
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