Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags

Adam DuVander, March 20th, 2009

TagalusDo you use Twitter, but don’t spend your March in Austin? You may be confused by “#sxsw” showing up in your stream. A new site can help make sense of the gibberish “hash tags” spouted by some of the people you follow.

SXSW hashtag on Tagalus

Hash tags are words or acronyms that begin with the number sign. They are used when many people are tweeting about the same topic, or from the same event. At least one hash tag is often atop Twitter’s trending topics list. Tagalus is a service to declare the meaning of those confusing hash tags. There can be more than one version, with users voting up the best definition.

Just send a tweet @tagalus to suggest a meaning for a tag. You can also add and view tags on its site. Even better, Tagalus has an API, which accesses both getting and setting of definitions (more at our Tagalus API profile). The usefulness of hashtags could really be increased if Tagalus is integrated into popular Twitter clients, the same way automatic URL shorteners make sharing links easier.

Tagalus isn’t alone in trying to make sense of hashtags. The granddaddy is, which tracks tags by popularity over time. Before Twitter’s search feature was useful, Hashtags provided a means to search tags. Tagref, a tool similar to Tagalus is built on Twitter’s APIs (our Twitter and Twitter Search profiles).

Like Twitter itself, hashtags have multiple uses. Services like Tagalus are helping to make sense of the possibilities.

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15 Responses to “Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags”

March 20th, 2009
at 5:14 am
Comment by: Tony Hirst

At some events, when hashtag usage at an event gets too much to bear, or when hacker developers are trying out all sorts of hashtag related autotweet services *using the hashtag*, tracking hashtags can be a pain.

At time like these, you need anti-hastags:

March 20th, 2009
at 10:41 am
Comment by: Decoding Twitter “Hash Tags”…03.20.09 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog

[...] thought the Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags post on the ProgrammableWeb was useful so I am excerpting it [...]

March 20th, 2009
at 3:42 pm
Comment by: What Does that Hashtag Mean? New Service Tells You « LocalLab : Foire aux Infos

[...] ProgrammableWeb blog also notes that Tagalus has an API which developers could use to build hashtag defining [...]

March 20th, 2009
at 8:14 pm
Comment by: Dale Gibbons

Thanks for this post Herb. Very helpful for folks like me, new to twitter!

March 20th, 2009
at 8:47 pm
Comment by: Tagalus Writeups « Tagalus Blog

[...] like to give a big thanks to both ReadWriteWeb and ProgrammableWeb for their writeups today.  The press has drawn many new visitors, defining tons of new tags.  The [...]

March 21st, 2009
at 1:44 pm
Comment by: What Does that Hashtag Mean? New Service Tells You | i-Blog

[...] ProgrammableWeb blog also notes that Tagalus has an API which developers could use to build hashtag defining [...]

March 23rd, 2009
at 8:53 am
Comment by: Why is Twitter such a Big Thing? |

[...] Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags ( [...]

April 1st, 2009
at 12:58 am
Comment by: Side Project Spotlight: ComboTweet « Link En Fuego

[...] and developer extraordinaire, to talk about his then-recent side project of his: the now much praised Twitter hashtag definition engine, Tagalus, at Urban Grind NW many months ago. I remembered [...]

April 2nd, 2009
at 1:25 pm
Comment by: tag this: tidying up twitter at external schema

[...] more on Twitter tagging, this blog post, Making Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags, points to a “dictionary” of hash tag meanings and a tool that tracks tag usage over [...]

May 5th, 2009
at 5:31 pm
Comment by: jasmine

Does anyone have numbers on the number of #hashtags used on Twitter on a daily basis right now?

September 7th, 2009
at 1:43 am
Comment by: 4 New APIs: Twitter Hashtags, Semantic Web IDs, Video Search, Custom Maps

[...] tagdef API: gives users an easy way to define and look up Twitter hashtags. Through its RESTful API, users can retrieve the definitions, returned in XML format, and integrate the data into their website or webapp. For more on Twitter hashtags, see our earlier report on making sense of confusing Twitter hashtags. [...]

September 16th, 2009
at 7:48 pm
Comment by: Sam

saw a new hash tag #BrnSt on Emotional Brain Training News. I think it means Brain State or a way to describe how stressed you are, 1-Feeling Great, 5-Stressed Out.

Much easier way of explaining how you feel to other people in your network.

March 30th, 2010
at 12:12 pm
Comment by: [玩转 Twitter]:什么是 # 标签(hashtag) | 微博观察

[...] ProgrammableWeb 博客提示 Tagalus 提供 API,开发者可在 Twitter 客户端中集成 # 标签定义功能。这对于 Twitter 社区非常有用。 [...]

November 29th, 2011
at 8:57 am
Comment by: Use the Hashtag For Tweet Up, Tweet Chat, Twitter Discussions, Meetings and Brainstorms DIYMarketers -Marketing Advice for Small Business Owners and CEOs Marketing Advice for CEOs - DIYMarketers

[...] Make Sense of Confusing Twitter Hash Tags ( [...]

December 15th, 2011
at 11:23 am
Comment by: Hauskreditrechner

Hi! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa? My site covers a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you are interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way! Kreditrechner

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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.