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Tagjacking/Trendjacking

2009-05-07

Today I stumbled upon something on Twitter that is probably old hat, but news to me. I’ll dub it tagjacking or possibly trendjacking.

The Twitter app I use on my PC is Twitzap which, among other things, provides channels for trending topics. One such topic was #RSG, and I had no idea what it stood for. Naturally I clicked the link to learn what it was all about.

Hoping to get informed quickly, which is probably my prime interest in Twitter, I expected to see brief explanations or at least some link that would get me started. I did not have any such luck.

What I saw was a lot of people asking what the topic was all about (understandable, but still overwhelming). Lots of people were poking fun at the topic, claiming different meanings for the abbreviation. Most importantly, there were several totally unrelated posts with links to random spam. Those posts contained the hashtag only because it was trending!

Checking out What The Trend didn’t help, as no one had yet explained the topic in question. Even now that it is filled in, one cannot help but wonder if it’s actually correct with so many differing accounts of its meaning.

Later today, I was watching War of The Worlds (commonly abbreviated WoTW) and used the hashtag #wotw in a few posts on Twitter. I later checked out a channel (search) for that tag, hoping to find more on War of The Worlds. The search didn’t yield much of a result, but I found that people used that tag for other things. This is yet another issue seeing that tags, often being short, can be used for several different things. How do you know which one applies to what you’re interested in? Do you replace a tag with something new if you find out that another meaning for it has become more popular?

Of course a lot of topics are self explanatory, but there will always be name collissions. Any network would be partly self-regulating, but maybe not enough, if spammers get through. What I’m wondering is: would it be possible for spammers to actually ‘break’ a tag, so that the original idea gets lost? I believe that would be a great loss to a social network. What do you think?

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