The Hashtag

Ten years ago yesterday, August 23, 2007, Chris Messina suggested that using the # sign in a tweet could be used to group tweets about a thing (his example was barcamp).

Here is the tweet in which he made that suggestion.

There is so much I like about this story.

  1. A user suggestion became a feature simply by other users adopting it.
  2. Twitter took it a step further by recognizing the hashtag as a “thing” and making it hyperlinked in the service.
  3. The hashtag feature took off as Twitter users thought it was cool and started using it actively.
  4. Users showed that hashtags could be used for many more things than groups.
  5. The hashtag moved beyond Twitter into most popular social media applications (ie Instagram) and now has become the standard way for users to “tag” something.
  6. The hashtag has moved beyond software into our language and media.

I was an investor and board member in Twitter at the time and the Company was tiny, not more than twenty employees and probably a fair bit less. The engineering team was maybe half of that, led by Blaine Cook. They were struggling to keep up with all of the growth of the service and yet they had the foresight that the # and @ symbols that users had adopted organically were important. They prioritized recognizing them in their software. That was a big deal.

Biz Stone, now back at Twitter, blogged about how this happened yesterday and it is a short and good read.

The Twitter story is a complicated one, with lots of ups and downs, but I believe it has been and remains one of the most important services ever built on the Internet and hashtags is one of the many reasons that is so.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD


  2. jason wright

    “hash” as verb 2. (see below)?…hash1haʃ/Submitnoun1.a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and cooked again, usually with potatoes.verb1.make (meat or other food) into a hash.2.come to agreement on something after lengthy and vigorous discussion.”they met during the day to hash out the campaign’s reaction to the controversy”…and this is the same ‘hashing power’ meaning for blockchain transaction verification?

  3. Ruhinda Ruganda

    As video gets seamlessly integrated, I cant imagine a better product to curate information without the unnecessary user interface noise.

  4. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:The hashtag# in computer programming especially in 1978, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie used # in the C programming language for special keywords that had to be processed first by the C preprocessor.In the 1986 SGML standard, ISO 8879:1986 (q.v.), # is a reserved name indicator (rni) which precedes keyword syntactic literals,–e.g., the primitive content token #PCDATA, used for parsed character data.In usage predating the current meaning of hashtag, the pound sign was called the “hash symbol” in some countries outside of North America so as to avoid confusion with the UK currency symbol.SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA…

    1. Pete Griffiths

      There was no confusion in the U.K. With the pound symbol. There is a different symbol for pound(s).

      1. creative group

        Pete Griffiths:Please for the life of under reread source material. If you disagree request correction with source.Thank you for participating.Cheers!

        1. Pete Griffiths

          Don’t understandWhat am participating in?

        2. Pete Griffiths

          The Wikipedia link explains the British pound sign which has nothing (in British eyes) to do with the hash sign #.The only confusion brits have on this point is in the US when some call # the pound sign.

  5. William Mougayar

    #veryinteresting#happyanniversary #letsmakeitaglobalholiday

  6. VincentWright

    Thanks for sharing Chris Messina’s big win with #Hashtag10 with us, Fred. (As with a lot of other people, I started using # 30+ years ago. For those 30+ years, I’ve been using it daily as #4 of a set of 5 immutable variables.)

  7. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:The annual Jackson Hole symposium three-day meeting of top central bankers and economists hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City starts today.How is the threat of Trump shutting down the Government going to effect the economy?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      > How is the threat of Trump shutting down the Government going to effect the economy?A tiny fraction of the relevant people will be scared, and some other people will take advantage. All the effects will be short lived. Otherwise there will be no effect at all unless the government does get “shut down” — any such shutdown is only partial, anyway.The shutdown stuff is in a word “politics”. Or it’s Trump opening negotiation. Apparently sometimes need to do such things in negotiations.Or, in the campaign, Trump made it clear he wanted to build the wall. Now he wants, let’s see, amazing, he wants to build the wall. Now, to be clear, he wants to build the wall. Or for what he wants is the wall. But what does Paul Ryan want, or Mitch McConnell, Chucky Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, !Jeb, Cruz, McCain? They want, well, what they want, uh, they want to play politics, e.g., each day put up a wet finger, sense the wind direction, and say something or other, ambiguous at best and no doubt changing soon.So, against all this ambiguous, nonsense politics, Trump wants to come across as definite and determined — “Build the Wall”. Simple. DONE. Now let’s move on to healthcare, taxes, “extreme vetting”, North Korea, Akrapistan, Iran, NAFTA, getting jobs into our central cities, getting a lot of our 94 million people currently out of the labor force back to work, getting the economic growth rate to 3+% a year, deportation of illegals, etc.

      1. JLM

        .How did the last shutdown effect the economy?#noimpact[For historians, you will, of course, recall that it was during the gov’t shutdown that unpaid, volunteer intern Monica L showed a bored Bill C her thong and the Valkyries swept them up. She showed Bill a “good time.” Operating from memory here.]It is clear that Pres Trump is not a Republican or a conservative. He is a doer. One may take issue with what he does, but he gets shit done. Doers scare the crap out of the political establishment as they are #notdoers.The political establishment, crack head debt/spending junkies all, has a vested interest in debt and an increasing debt ceiling because their ability to appropriate gobs of money is the source of their power.[Can you imagine how much fun it must be to be able to fund every goofy idea you have ever had with OPM?]If they really cared about any of this would they have turned a blind eye to the doubling of the national debt under “that guy”? No. [Sorry, I should have let you answer that yourself. Bad habit of mine.]Take that power away — make them balance the books — and they are a bunch of guys/gals in suits/pantsuits who do nothing.The Congress has been on vacation for all of August and accomplished exactly the same thing they did from Jan to July — NOTHING.Their critics, of course, had excessively high expectations they might accomplish #something.You blow smoke up everybody’s skirt for 7 years how you’re going to do something, people will elevate their otherwise low expectations. Color me #disappointed.Sometimes a tea cup gets broken in a revolution. Man the barricades and let’s get our fiscal house in order. Shut it down. Break the china.#fiscalresponsibility — try it, you may like itJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pete Griffiths

          “He is a doer. One may take issue with what he does, but he gets shit done…”You’ve said this before.I just don’t see it. I see an impulsive desire to do but I don’t see stuff happening.I respect you JLM but…I don’t get it.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            The French general news site AFP sometimes reports on what the US is doing to ISIS in Iraq and Syria. So far it looks darned good.With ~50 cruise missiles he taught Syria, Russia, and a lot of dumb dictators in the world a lesson they remember.He got out of TPP and the Paris Accords.He has coal going again.He is bringing companies into the US — Foxconn, Mazda, Toyota all building big plants.He has illegal immigration down ballpark 50%.He has been deporting lots of bad illegals.He has Sessions going after the sanctuary cities.He cut a better deal with Canada on soft lumber.He has partially but significantly implemented his “extreme vetting” for immigrants.Although I don’t have details, he has reversed lots of regulations, supposedly 16 old ones reversed for each new one.He’s doing something new in Akrapistan with connections with both Pukistan and India.He’s been pushing hard on several non-military ways to put pressure on Dung Dong Jong Ill Uno III in Ping Pong Yang, North Korea.He has gotten smiles on his North Korea efforts from Viet Nam, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Guam.A hurricane is on the way to TX, and Trump has had the relevant people to the White House to be sure the planning is ready.Supposedly he’s done some really good things at the VA.He’s getting rid of trans in the military.He’s met with nearly every important political leader in the world.He cut some big political-military deal with Saudi Arabia.He’s working effectively with Baghdad on fighting ISIS.Supposedly he’s got the growth rate of the US GDP up to 2.6% per year.Supposedly US Steel just authorized hiring 10,000 or so new workers.The above is just off the top of my head as I type this; there is likely much more he’s done.Then supposedly he’s got 200 or so bills in a queue in Congress. Congress is going really slow and very much slowing what he can get done soon.Most of the big media and essentially all the Democrats have declared an unconditional civil war on Trump and nearly everything he wants to do.To some Democrats in Congress, Trump is on the way to making them an offer they can’t refuse. Then he can get his queue passed.

          2. JLM

            .If you are sincere, here it is.http://themusingsofthebigre…1. SCOTUS,2. Fabulous cabinet, Wilbur Ross my personal favorite3. Best National Security staff in my lifetime <<< DNI Coats, CIA Pompeo, Sec Def Mad Dog, DHS Kelly (moved to C of S) — killers4. Trade — out of TPP, renegotiating NAFTA, Canadian softwoods lumber tariff, US beef into China after 13 years, chicken back to China, steel dumping statutory review with China, S Korea, Japan5. Economy — growing GDP closing in on 3% headed to 4%, weaker dollar (think about this one), surging stock market (meh), low unemployment, first positive wage report since the American Revolution. major employers investing in the US6. Military — strike against Syria, destruction of 25% of the Syrian air force, shoot down of Syrian fighter, the MOAB against ISIS at Tora Bora, the tripling of sorties against ISIS/Taliban, re-engagement with NK (the can has been kicked down the road for a quarter century), cease fire with the Russians in Syria, ISIS about dead when the Kurds capture Raqqa, engagement with Iran, A’stan policy including realistic ROE and definition of victory (I think the generals are nuts on this one.), the cessation of using the military as a social petri dish. backed down Syria on a chemical attack, backed down NK on Guam, backed down China on freedom of navigation S China sea patrols7. Immigration — getting rid of MS-13, deporting criminal illegal aliens, teeing it up with sanctuary cities, border crossings down by 80%, beginning to enforce existing immigration law8. Regulation — repeal all Obama last minute regs, repeal the EPA navigable waters reg, repeal two regs for every new one9. Energy — US net exporter of energy, Keystone XL, Dakota pipeline, new Federal leasing program, reinvigoration of coal and coal exports (China stopped importing NK coal and is importing ours), LNG exports to Eastern Europe vice Russia, first new nuke since Jesus Christ was a corporal10. Foreign policy — NATO funding stepup by allies, engagement with Russia over Crimea, Ukraine, out of Paris Accord, rekindled relationship with Israel and Saudi ArabiaSWORD DANCE — the freakin’ sword dance11. Veterans Admin — after eight years the fucking VA is answering their God damn suicide hotline on the second ring. You wonder why there were 22 Vet suicides per day? More than half of the calls to the VA suicide hotline in the Obama admin were going to voicemail. Today less than 1% of calls are not answered by the third ring and no calls are not returned.12. Lobbying rules — tough rules with no waiversI could come up with a few dozen more.These are real accomplishments which will have an identifiable impact on our country.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Pete Griffiths

            Holy crap. A lot to read. But give me time…

          4. JLM

            .The correct answer was, “Holy crap, Batman.”Serious question. Serious answer. Serious guys.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. sigmaalgebra

          The outrageous sins of the past are, in a word, past which means we can’t do anything about them. Instead, we have to work with what we have, that is, in some systems analysis terms, the current state of the system.Just now, I’m scared of balancing the budget.Flying an airplane, have to watch a lot. In flying the economy, my first guess is that we need to watch most of all the employment numbers, that is, the 94 million people out of the work force. If balance the budget now, then the airplane might stall, dive, spin, and crash.But I’m not pissed. You’ve seen me pissed. This is way beyond pissed. The best information, data, theory, math, etc. on moving the throttle, stick, rudder, etc. of the economy I’ve been able to get is junk. This is not the first time; in grad school I gave some thought to jumping to the econ department and working out some of this stuff, but there I saw a sewer with everyone working there covered in sewage.And I have more: Some of the biggies in macro economic theory are supposed to be Arrow, Hurwicz, and Uzawa. Yes, there are at least two Nobel prizes in Economic Science for those three. So, they wrote a famous paper saying that for the optimal adjustments of the rudder, stick, and throttle, they just needed to use the Kuhn-Tucker necessary conditions of optimality. Well, while I was a grad student studying the Kuhn-Tucker conditions (KTC), I saw a problem, did some research for two weeks, and found a surprisingly good solution. Later I published it. It was abstract nonsense, but it was, okay, surprising, pretty, tied off some loose ends, but it was applied math for me because I got the last credits I needed for a Master’s and, indeed, in principle the work, two weeks, guys, met the requirements for a Ph.D. dissertation — for that I used some of my other work instead.But when I went to publish, I discovered that my work solved a problem in the famous Arrow, et al. paper.So: I’m better at the KTC than Arrow, et al. were. And for their macro economics, for anything practical on what the heck to do with the real economy, their work was that same stuff in that sewer I mentioned.Or: They dreamed up a toy model of the economy and used the KTC to say some things about their toy model. Bummer. Or, their toy model assumed that every customer in the isles of a grocery store is solving in their heads an optimization problem that would take a super computer using data they don’t have and can’t get! Bummer!Ah, their work was also applied math — they won two Nobel prizes, and IIRC those come with money attached!Now, back to what the heck to do about the real US economy:On the national debt, sure, there are lots of reasons not to have one. Well, in 1946, we had one heck of one. In 2000 we darned near paid it off, and some people were afraid we’d no longer have T-bills as the base risk-free investment.Well, since 2000 we had two dummies in the Oval Office who made biggie, huge, mistakes with the economy. IMHO, the mistakes were totally dumb and unnecessary, definitely unforced errors, fumbling the ball, dropping the ball, tripping over the ball, falling on the ball, and losing the ball. Well, that’s the bad news in particular. The bad news in general is that if we make more totally dumb mistakes, then we can make things even worse.Now for the good news: At least in principle, and maybe with Trump in practice, we don’t have to make biggie mistakes and can, instead, be smart.Then, first cut, simple minded, the first way to get the economy going, pay off the debt, provide money for higher standards of living, better national security, etc., just call it MAGA, is to, and may I have the envelope, please [drum roll, please], and the winner is: “Put people back to work.”.Then they get less safety net money. They pay taxes. They buy more stuff which generates more revenue for the people supplying the stuff, and they pay more taxes, hire more people, who … and we have a virtuous cycle instead of a death spiral.As we saw in 2000, with a virtuous cycle, we can pay off the debt.To start this virtuous cycle, first, put the people back to work. That will take some up-front money, i.e., add to the national debt. Then with the resulting virtuous cycle, we will pay off the debt.E.g., VC Trump has a portfolio with “hundreds of trillions under management” and wants to make some seed investments of some trillions.Yes, as we have seen too clearly for at least since year 2000, we can be dumb de dumb dumb and make a big, wasteful mess. Doing that, Trump could waste the trillions in seed funding.Or, maybe Trump is a smart cookie who wants to spend, invest, carefully, smart. From just an Inspector Clouseau movie:”We’ll have every cop in France down on our necks.””Not if we do it smart.””Can you do it smart?””Yes.””Then do it.”it would help if dumb de dumb dumb Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Chucky Schumer, etc. would wake up, sober up, sit up, wise up, and get with the program.As a teenager jaywalking, I could (A) not cross, (B) run across fast and make it, or (C) compromise and get run over. McConnell, etc. want (A) — do nothing. Trump wants (B), fast. We may end up with (C).Ah, current Fed Chair Janet Yellen has mentioned using optimal control theory! Okay, at one time I got interested in that for how to climb, cruise, and descend an airplane for least cost and meeting time and safety constraints. Okay, for that, about all we can do is achieve necessary conditions for optimality; getting sufficient conditions is harder. Optimal control theory is, like the KTC, more in generalized Lagrange multipliers — would be nice to have some main ideas more recent, but that’s what we’ve got. A good start is Stanford profDavid Luenberger, Optimization by Vector Space Methods, John Wiley and Sons.Or, fun and riches from the Hahn-Banach theorem! To me, it’s a long, all you can eat, gorgeous, best ever dessert buffet!But, again, I don’t want to get involved in economics: That field is a sewer, and the workers there are covered in sewage.

    2. JLM

      .Trump [email protected] has a fabulous blog post over at…on the JHole meeting. It is the best thing I have ever read on economics & economists since the invention of the abacus.That good.Read it. See if you agree.Trump bad.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Pete Griffiths

        When I moved from the U.K. To the US nearly 30 years ago, I fondly imagined that the US would be less regulated and bureaucratic : a haven of free market dynamism quite different from the arteriosclerosis of the old world. Boy was I ever wrong!

        1. sigmaalgebra

          So far I get to do my Internet Web site startup. No one in the government has told me “No” on anything. AFAIK, I can get to a quite significant business with essentially no government botheration at all. It looks like “free enterprise” to me.

        2. JLM

          .The regulatory state of the US has accelerated in the last fifteen years. This is an example of the Deep State.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. Bruce Warila


  9. Vitomir Jevremovic

    One tweet that changed lives of so many people on the planet is just remarkable. So many digital marketing campaigns where built around hashtags, literally uncountable. Brands were built on top of it, companies succeeded, jobs where created. Amazing story indeed.

  10. Tom Labus


    1. Pointsandfigures


      1. Tom Labus

        No question. Somebody’s going to make a move other than Valerie Plame.

        1. Pointsandfigures

          Maybe it should be Snapchat since Facebook steals all their features anyway

      2. Pete Griffiths

        Needs vision and some product changes to enhance user rectuitment and minetization. Not easy.

  11. karen_e


  12. jason wright


  13. Twain Twain

    Chris is a cool guy and we’re connected on LinkedIn. I randomly met him a hackathon; in his role as Developer Evangelist at Uber. We’d scoped a product that was a cross-between Strava and Monument Valley.Check out my product design: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…It so happened that my bags were this color: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Chris immediately connected Prevale to Monument Valley when we went to ask him about Uber’s API. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…That hackathon was the ONLY time my team didn’t place Top 3. It was the only time I wasn’t project lead and also not responsible for the pitch.

  14. Twain Twain

    The problem with Twitter is that it was over-rich with four Product leaders who could also code, so their product visions pulled it into 4 different directions.It’s better when there’s 1 coherent product vision and all the engineering resources are co-ordinated around that unified vision.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Twain Twain

        Right now, whoever’s leading Product is, unfortunately, clueless about AI and adtech.Applying image recognition and covering up content in this way creates friction for the user. What it also says is that Twitter’s AI is poor in comparison with competitors.Competitors are going with generating labels for images so that users know exactly what brands are in the photos so they can buy / shop for it. https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

    2. PhilipSugar

      I am going to say that knowing how to code and knowing how to scale huge transactions per second are very different.If you don’t have the OPs people and coders that know what they do and fight for performance, you get the same problem you always discuss in AI.

      1. Twain Twain

        Completely agree with you. I was at a Twitter Heron workshop a couple of months back. That’s their in-house real-time stream processing engine. So we can compare it with Kafka from LinkedIn and Kinesis from AWS.There’s a lot of compression that can be done to different media formats (text, image, video etc) and different topology structures for efficiency.There’s tradeoff between speed, accuracy and context-richness.That’s why founding teams need to have a deep OPs person. They can cut through a lot of the excessive flourishes that UX designers sometimes put in. The more assets being called for user interaction, the slower the site’s service.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          >That’s why founding teams need to have a deep OPs person. They can cut through a lot of the excessive flourishes that UX designers sometimes put in. The more assets being called for user interaction, the slower the site’s service.Ha ha, see my reply to sigma in this very thread, and in my reply, the link to my comment on Fred’s recent Quizlet post:…But that point is really so basic that it does not need an OPs person to tell the team that. It’s sheer common sense.And many of those startups (that use excessive UX flourishes as you put it) also do aggressive multi-level caching with Varnish, memcached, Rails features (if using Rails) and what not. It’s contradictory to use extra large images, multi-megabyte background images (remember, those MB X the millions of users), have a poor text-to-image ratio (i.e. substance-to-form or signal-to-noise ratio ratio), and then do caching to make up for it.Startups who do the above contradictory stuff (or even just the first part, the excessive MB usage):Just do like Alexander and cut the Gordian knot, dammit!…* May not be a good simile, since the problem is hardly intractable.

          1. PhilipSugar

            I really like your comments and this is a good one.You know my five principles of management: the second is to orchestrate.And that means between hard core coders, database people, ops people, support people and…..u/x people.Old cranky man alert before reading:I think because of the way many younger people have been taught to code, they don’t understand the underlying technology stack, just use abstractions and not care about efficiency rather care only about looks.Now this totally works at hackathons or other such events.For those of us that remember floppy disks and dial up modems it was not the case.Computing power has become cheaper same with network speed, so in some respect who cares?But when you start hitting massive scale? It is important.I’ll end with a funny story:One of our younger guys who is just absolutely great, setup our game machine which has over 150 mall arcade games. Everyone if you went to the mall in the 1980’sThey did it as a team building exercise when I was on business in London right before Christmas without my permission 🙂 Great team.He was shocked, stunned. They took the worst machine we had just retired in the office (my desktop) and ran it on that machine.He thought this couldn’t be right? All of them load in RAM. Yup they made those games small PacMan runs on 2KB of RAM and 16KB of ROM.

          2. Vasudev Ram

            >I really like your comments and this is a good one.Thanks :)>You know my five principles of management: the second is to orchestrate.Actually I don’t. Maybe you wrote them as a comment to some post on this blog at some time, but I might have missed it – I sometimes miss some Fred posts. What are they?>I think because of the way many younger people have been taught to code, they don’t understand the underlying technology stack, just use abstractions and not care about efficiency rather care only about looks.True. This comes up now and then in threads on HN, for example. Also seen it in startups I’ve worked with, among some of the younger people I’ve had to supervise or mentor, at times. Peer pressure and unreasonable founder / management (and even developer) ideas [1] also have a part to play in this, in some cases.[1] Like “we got to ship next week / yesterday”. Really? If so, what were you doing all these past weeks / months?>But when you start hitting massive scale? It is important.Right. And you can’t fully plan for or handle it then – at least, not as well as if the foundations had been laid more solid from the start.>He thought this couldn’t be right? All of them load in RAM. Yup they made those games small PacMan runs on 2KB of RAM and 16KB of ROM.Ha, good one. Again, threads about stuff like Electron for example, vs. native GUI toolkits (there have been a few of those on HN in the last few months, can find them via are more examples of the same thing. Not that I’m saying Electron is all cons only (I haven’t even tried it or any app that uses it, except Slack., that I know of). According to what I read on those threads, it does have a few pros. But the cons are pretty heavy, and there are other approaches, which tend to be dismissed outright, or not even known or thought of (again, based on what I’ve read on HN).

          3. Vasudev Ram

            P.S. Might have posted this before here, but it is worth posting again:Tech Video: Rich Hickey: Hammock-Driven Development:…Viewers are advised to withhold judgement until they have watched most, if not all, of the video (and that advice is a lesson in itself, related to above points :)Also: Apart from the whole video, check out “Go! go go go” at around 4:45, but start from around 4:20 – where he says “I will contend …”.

          4. PhilipSugar

            1. Find and keep the best people2. Orchestrate between departments3. Set up a commitment system so people do the hard shit they don’t want to do and that is not email.4. Go and see and listen to customers and potential customers firsthand.5. Set strategy which is most importantly what we don’t do.

          5. Vasudev Ram

            Good list, thanks.

    3. Vasudev Ram

      Grady Booch (creator of the Booch method, and one of the Three Amigos who created UML – the Unified Modeling Language, and an IBM Fellow), said somewhat the same thing in different words in one of his books – I think it was an early book of his about OOD (Object-Oriented Design).His words were something to the effect that successful projects focus sharply on “the essential minimal characteristics” needed for success (often of just one goal).

      1. Twain Twain

        Thanks and this is my model and has been since my teens. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…@fredwilson:disqus — I know they like to teach Maslow’s hierarchy, Taylor’s scientific management method, Kotler’s value chain and BCG matrixes in business school. I remember having teenage objections to those linear & matrix models because my life before b-school involved working in the chemical industry, so everything to me is a molecular synergy.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Interesting model.

  15. Jose Paul Martin

    I also love how they adopted the $ for $TOCKS – this was popularized I think by StockTwits but feel sad that Medium couldn’t adopt it for their blogging platform (with Ev at the helm). Anyways, I love twitter, but somehow feel it needs to evolve… too much noise and not enough signal.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    Good news and bad news:Good News: 1. — 6. are really nice, clear, good to know, the first documentation of any kind I’ve seen for the use, meaning, etc. of a “hashtag,” pound sign, at Twitter or anywhere else.Bad News: The persistent epidemic in computing to be totally inarticulate left all of 1. — 6. essentially at least ambiguous and mostly just a mystery.So, computing has a practice, norm, epidemic: Don’t describe features or functionality. Instead just let people, really require people to, discover such things from experience:First, maybe the practice got started with the use by Xerox PARC of icons.Right, icons, those little pictures can’t pronounce, can’t spell, can’t look up in a dictionary, can’t type with the Roman character set, and usually can’t be told what the heck they mean, do, are for, etc. Civilization had icons, and then the Romans made a giant step forward for civilization — the Roman alphabet. Some cultures are still struggling with icons but seem slowly to be changing over to the Roman alphabet. Then Xerox PARC took us back to icons — huge bummer.Second, Microsoft has the pervasive practice of just not documenting the features and/or functionality of their software. E.g., Microsoft’s Windows has a lot of keyboard key combinations that do wild things — e.g., minimize all the windows on the screen — with essentially no documentation. Each few months I discover another such and document it for myself. More often by mistake I hit such a key combination and ruin a lot of work. Since the key combination was a mistake, I don’t know what it was so don’t document it for myself.Maybe the Firefox Web browser also has such mysterious, disastrous key combinations; I can’t be sure, but at times using Firefox I hit some key combination by mistake and instantly lose a lot of typing into an HTML multi-line text box “control”.The Twitter use of the pound sign, “hash tag” and other Twitter features are another such disaster: I can’t find much of anything documented on or about Twitter, and commonly the situation at Twitter gets so bad I just stop the execution of the associated Web browser and start over.For the Twitter user interface and user experience, I deeply, profoundly hate and despise it. It’s (1) horribly badly designed and (2) essentially totally undocumented. If the problem were just (2), then likely I could run experiments, make the needed discoveries, and document them for myself, but with (1) that would be close to hopeless.Is it possible to do better? Well, for the example I know best, there is the Web site for my startup: Just two main Web pages. Each Web page has a link “Help” for help for that page. There are no icons, pull-downs, pop-ups, roll-overs, screen overlays, etc. Nothing on the screen jumps around during page loading or usage. There is essentially no use of JavaScript (the pages all work quite well with JavaScript turned off in the user’s Web browser — also my Web pages make no use of HTTP cookies, and all that is documented at my site). All of the user interface is from ordinary usage of just the main HTML “controls” now understood by 3+ billion people in the world.Since each page sends from my server for no more than 400,000 bits, sends as just one file of HTML plus maybe one small file of JavaScript Microsoft’s ASP.NET writes for me, instead of several files, and does screen layout with just tables and no use of the HTML element “DIV”, each Web page appears, quickly, all at once, and is then ready for use.I make meager usage of Twitter because I don’t know how to use it; after using it once a day or so for some months, I still don’t know how to use it for more than the simplest things; I can’t find any documentation for how to use Twitter; some of what Twitter does is just bizarre; commonly I get “lost” in Twitter, lose my place, lose what I was looking at, and can’t find it again. I’ve sent Tweets that look like they went only into the ozone; I have no good idea what the heck happened.I have to assume that the Twitter software development team enjoys deliberately frustrating users. E.g., Web browser Firefox 50.1.0 on Windows, at Twitter all or nearly all the video clips in posts display a single frame of the video clip for about 1/10 of a second and then show a black window with the message “The media could not be played”. Okay, so Twitter wants to keep how to see video clips a deep, dark, hidden secret and for a lot of users keep them from seeing video clips. So, Twitter likes to have fun insulting users. Okay, same 10 times over back to you, Twitter.The secret of how to get Firefox on Windows to show video clips on Twitter is so bad that even the first few pages of the results of a Google search don’t document an answer. There is something about a “white list” for a video blocker or some such, but the documentation is absurdly badly written, and that’s the documentation at the Mozilla Web page for that problem for Firefox.E.g., the Twitter screen has various icons: I have no good idea at all what the heck they mean. One of the icons looks like an envelope, maybe for sending something like mail, but there’s no documentation on how that works, who can send what to whom or how, what are the privacy controls, etc. Then there’s an icon that looks like a cartoon drawing of an electrical spark — I have no idea what that is for.The Twitter user experience is a total pain in the back side, all apparently deliberately so from the Twitter software development team.Did I mention, I hate icons!But, thanks for the nice, clear documentation of “hash tags,” that is, pound signs.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      Good rant 🙂 I’ve got to agree with you on the poor UI of Twitter, though I think it has improved in a few ways in recent months. I just posted a rant comment about excessive web page sizes and low signal-to-noise ratio of web sites these days (particularly web app sites) on Fred’s recent Quizlet post (of a few days ago).Here is the comment:

  17. Frank W. Miller

    Twitter important? Maybe in the grand scheme of things. Loud and full of noise? Definitely.

  18. JLM

    .Twitter is one of those things anybody can do without, well, except for little things like electing the last US President and running the country.I am tempted to laugh at its inanity, but then I think how it has changed political calculus in the US and then I stop laughing.Twitter has, literally, redesigned political messaging and communication.#hashtagthatJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. cavepainting

      As Evan Williams famously said, Twitter gives people the ability to blog without knowing how to blog. Making something -anything – incredibly easy for someone to do feels like a toy in the beginning but can and will change the world in the long term.That is also a good way to judge new startup ideas: What are you making easy to do at scale that is hard for people to do today?

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > What are you making easy to do at scale that is hard for people to do today?Thanks. Answer: Building something really easy to use that hopefully 3+ billion people will find to be a “must have” on average a few times a week.Since what I am building is just a Web site and ad supported, I will have to try to truncate the users to 1 billion or so in the more developed countries where I can get good ad rates and revenue.But for “going international,” the site needs nearly no knowledge of English, so little that just the first, English version of the site should be able to serve all the 1 billion people — Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, SE Asia, the Philippines, South and Central America, all of Europe, the English speaking countries, etc.The site is supposed to be so easy to use that a child with no knowledge of English, with an old smartphone, with an old Web browser, with a slow Internet connection, can just by experimentation alone learn to use the site in 15 minutes and with some tutoring in 3 minutes.I’ve tried to learn and use a lesson — KISS, keep it simple, stupid. So, for the users, it’s supposed to be dirt simple.Another lesson, quite particular to the Internet, is supposed to be to have the site be addictive or at least a little like the games where the subject primate keeps trying for a reward but gets one only intermittently and where the harder they try, like in a game, the better and more frequent the rewards. So, yup, my site UI/UX should do those things.Yup, my site should be difficult to duplicate or equal — there is a crucial core technology, and that’s from some original applied math I wrote out.I have some ideas on how to make the site more social and viral, but those ideas are for later, and I have good evidence that being social and viral are not necessary.The work of the core computing for the site should be very fast, and the newer CCDs (charged coupled device versions of hard disk drives, in the standand 3.5″ size, now up to 14 trillion bytes or so from Seagate with more on the way, e.g., motherboard changes that can make CCDs much like main memory is now) should help scalability and performance a lot if I get anywhere near 1 billion users each using the site several times a week.So, it looks like what I’m trying to do covers your suggestion!

        1. cavepainting

          That sounds good. look forward to seeing it soon! will be happy to alpha test and provide some feedback!

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Thanks. Presto, bingo, you are now on the alpha test list!

      2. Drew Meyers

        Why exactly should everything be easy in life? Anything that’s free/easy and requires no sacrifice — generally means people put very little value on it.I wrote this in 2013, but think it’s likely even more true today than it was 4 years ago:

        1. cavepainting

          I agree We are talking about two different things though.You are alluding to big things people want to accomplish in their careers. I am talking about jobs people need to get done as they go through life ( buy grocery , books, etc., order a cab, write a blog, find a supplier, find a place to stay, etc. ).

      3. Michael Elling

        All communication involves risk. Take away the risk and you get the current internet; fake news, polarization, spam, privacy invasion, insecurity, etc… along with all the positives. Making it too easy is the problem.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      But, but, but, …!!! For the President of the United States to use Twitter is, uh, not presidential, clearly an insult to the status, prestige, and respect for the office, something only a mentally unstable, narcissist, x-ist, y-ist, z-ist, etc. would do, clearly shows that he’s unqualified for the office, a comedy act, lacking in gravitas, shame, shame, …. Yup, some people say such things! Now do I get a fee as a contributor to CNN, MSNBC, etc.????? What is the going rate for anti-Trump total BS???But, we have to notice, Trump’s Twitter usage does not have the advantage for the readers of the checking, filtering, vetting, of the highly responsible, long experienced, ethical, expert, objective news professionals!!!! Well, actually Trump’s Twitter feeds clearly are very carefully checked, vetted, etc., by all such news professionals in the world, all of them! And how many is that? Yup, zero, zip, zilch, zero! Or in pure math terms, the empty set!So, and that’s a biggie, neither are Trump’s tweets corrupted, distorted, truncated, lied about, either!So, Trump gets to go directly to the citizens!Good grief: Recently I’ve read some news stories and soon discovered that the only real source for the story was some one or few Trump tweets on a recent day, and the rest of the story, 3000 more words or so, were just fill-in from guesses, conjectures, insults, lies, propaganda, whatever of the writer. Uh, hope that writer gets some new line of work doing something useful!IMHO, for Trump as POTUS, Twitter works GREAT!!! As a US citizen, I very much do want to know what the heck our POTUS says; so, for Trump, I just go to Twitter since Trump is one of the three people I “follow” there. Did I mention that Twitter works great? Since Twitter works great, Trump posts to it; he has 36.6 million “followers”; and a lot of citizens find out what Trump is thinking. In that situation, that LBJ, JFK, FDR, Lincoln, etc. didn’t use Twitter is irrelevant!

      1. JLM

        .President DJT was not to have won the nomination, win the election.”Not going to happen,” wise persons said. DJT did not listen.He was to have been decimated by the 16 dwarfs, the GOPe, the DEMe, the Bushes, the Clintons, HRC, the media, the pundits, the pollsters.He was a part time amateur politician with no experience [but the full backing of Vladimir Putin personally].We were assured by Pres O & the really wise men that he would never win.He won.Some may say that key to that win was his ability to demonize his opponents and to go over the opposition of the media. How did he do that?I think Twitter gets a lot of credit.Fred Wilson funded Twitter. Ergo, ipso facto — Fred Wilson put Donald J Trump in the White House. Go figure!I am open to alternative explanations, but I like the idea that Fred elected Don. They’re both New Yorkers and New Yorkers stick together like a couple of Pashtuns, no?Just for the record, I am JK. Stop.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pete Griffiths

          TrueI got that horribly wrong

    3. Pete Griffiths

      Never a truer word.Now-the deep follow up is how and why did that work?And thAt requires a non trivial answer.

      1. JLM

        .What everybody missed and continues to miss is how pissed off the country was in 2014. The 2014 mid-terms showed it, but the President and the media ignored it.The electorate stayed pissed off and the notion that the system was “rigged” become a virulent drumbeat. Candidate Trump confirmed it — “Hey, I know it’s rigged. I helped rig it.”I am in the midst of a remodel of a kitchen and five bathrooms. I regularly speak with the subs, many of whom are Mexican heritage.People are still pissed off. They are pissed off at the power elite who think the average man in the street gives a shit about things that the media is fixated on.Nobody in the South gives a shit about a Robert E Lee statue. They drive by them on their way to work. They do care about a bunch of shitheads telling them what to do.This one phenomenon — not the issue itself, its total tone deaf irrelevance — may deliver the South including Florida to Trump the next time around with no investment which frees him to use his money where there may be a fight.The unions are totally alienated from their rank and file. This is how Trump took the Rust Belt. HE WENT THERE AND TALKED TO THEM.Quick, tell me the name of the new program Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi announced as the new heart and soul of the Dem party.Haha, you can’t remember the name, you can’t remember two principles, and you haven’t heard a single word about it since then.The people are turning on the establishment and the elites. They are not talking about it, they are doing it.How many Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, Antifa, BLM do you know or live next to? It is not relevant.Trump is right at 3% GDP growth headed to 4%.Russia? The Russian investigation better come up with naked pics of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump cause right now, it’s looking into shit that happened outside the statute of limitations.The media? They’re filling out absentee ballots for Trump. They don’t know they’re doing it, but they are.I was right about the 2014 elections, about the idea Trump could win the nomination, and the election.So, give it a serious thought.The heartland doesn’t give a hoot about what people in LA and NYC think.They’re too damn busy earning a living.And that, my friend, is how the cow ate the cabbage.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pete Griffiths

          I completely agree that there is a suzeable (large!!) portion of the electorate as you describe.Furthermore, the internet has allowed them to find each other and become a collective force.

  19. Chris Messina

    Thanks for sharing the story, Fred! I wrote up some thoughts on what the hashtag means to me now, 10 years on:'m curious, as a board member, whether you can shed light on my perspective that Twitter was eventually forced to adopt hashtags through its series of acquisitions of products that already supported them? For example, Summize brought search to Twitter and supported hashtags, as did Tweetie for Mac and other native clients.I always had the impression that Twitter, Inc was really reluctant to embrace them, perhaps because they seemed, as Biz suggested at the time, too nerdy, but with the acquisitions, Twitter ended up having little choice, since they didn’t want to remove functionality that so many early users enjoyed.What’s your take?

    1. fredwilson

      i think the founders always liked them but were struggling with uptime issues and that’s why it took some time to get to. so much of twitter’s story starts with the fact that they couldn’t keep the service up for much of its first few years of existence

      1. PhilipSugar

        Twitter changed the world.Think about that. Changed the world. Like it, love it, hate it. Changed the world.It also is why I get so angry when finance people say the technology “will just work”It is damn hard. Super hard. In no way criticizing Twitter. Just hard.

    2. cavepainting

      The human mind as a consumer craves simplicity but the ego in the creator craves for complexity.This is why features that come from the community are so powerful by being disarmingly simple. Creators ignore them at their own peril.

      1. Michael Elling

        It probably reveals why they are struggling. They can’t open themselves up as a platform that benefits their primary constituents; namely the publishers. The see themselves as a destination, not an exchange of an infinite number of self-forming groups around knowledge. I find them one of the most useful search platforms. The ability to instantly get expert on a subject is made very simple by connecting the dots Twitter establishes.

  20. Pete Griffiths

    “…I believe it has been and remains one of the most important services ever built on the Internet”Seems to be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  21. JLM

    .This made me laugh. Be careful what you say.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  22. Erin

    True, true.