Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hashtagging Challenges When Events Occur at Different Times in Different Locations

I've talked ad nauseum about hashtagging and the way that it can be used to cover disasters (#sandiegofire) and important events (#openworld07). In these situations, hashtagging does an admirable job, since the practice (as well as the tools used to accomplish it) is based on a simple principle - the disaster/event is occuring at the same time for all participants.

But let's throw that assumption out the window. What if the events covered by the hashtaggers occur at different times at different locations?

Case in point - today's Rose Parade.

I went through great effort to start covering the Rose Parade at 7:27 this morning:

turned on channel 5, counting down to bob eubanks

Hey, cut me some slack! That remote takes some skill to handle! Since I had a television view of the parade, I ended up tweeting about some of the television-specific aspects of the parade:

no, no, the people of zurich do not speak swedish

Once the pre-parade TV festivities were done, I switched to hashtag-based coverage of the event. Here is my 8:05 am commentary on Up With People:

#roseparade perhaps i'm a luddite, but literally staging musical numbers (ie no marching) is a little silly

By 9:20, I was more impressed with another entry:

#roseparade tons of dodger luminaries on first dodgers float, including their organist

KTLA's coverage of the Rose Parade (which was also supplied to other stations) was based at a vantage point near the beginning of the parade, at Colorado Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, California. But Phil Hodgen, who was much farther down Colorado Boulevard, had a different impression. Almost three quarters of the parade had passed me (well, the TV cameras) by 9:21 when Hodgen tweeted the following from his vantage point:

#roseparade the first banner!

Anyone who was trying to make sense of the Rose Parade for the next forty minutes would have received a very confusing picture, as I was tweeting about the end of the parade while Phil was tweeting about the beginning. Unfortunately, hashtags.org only captured my tweets and not Phil's, but TweetScan provides a fuller picture of the tweets between 9:20 and 10:00. (Tweets are in reverse chronological order.)

oemperor : #roseparade is over at colorado and orange grove. @philiphodgen is farther down colorado, on parade route << (2008-01-01 13:00:04)
philiphodgen : #roseparade band from Japan. Suggestion-no complex rythms. 4/4 is best to march to << (2008-01-01 12:59:12)
oemperor : #roseparade new buffalo soldiers (but now i'm thinking about the banana splits) << (2008-01-01 12:57:22)
philiphodgen : #roseparade another big gap in the action << (2008-01-01 12:57:19)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Torrance float underwhelms. Sorry. << (2008-01-01 12:56:54)
philiphodgen : #roseparade those banner carriers are pooped << (2008-01-01 12:56:34)
philiphodgen : #roseparade that person has been sitting on that fake horse a long time << (2008-01-01 12:55:54)
philiphodgen : #roseparade clearance is 17' 11" << (2008-01-01 12:55:09)
philiphodgen : #roseparade giant Indian will fold down to get under the freeway << (2008-01-01 12:54:52)
oemperor : #roseparade is speeding up at colorado and orange grove << (2008-01-01 12:54:45)
philiphodgen : #roseparade band from Hawaii << (2008-01-01 12:54:18)
philiphodgen : #roseparade those dudes are almost naked << (2008-01-01 12:53:45)
philiphodgen : #roseparade we saw the giant Indian built at phxdeco.com << (2008-01-01 12:53:13)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Band then Giant Indian coming << (2008-01-01 12:52:43)
philiphodgen : #roseparade giant gap in parade sequence << (2008-01-01 12:51:56)
oemperor : #roseparade salvation army band playing "onward christian soldiers" << (2008-01-01 12:51:42)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Kaiser Permanente gives us girls in coconut bras << (2008-01-01 12:51:24)
philiphodgen : #roseparade coconut bra! << (2008-01-01 12:50:41)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Cmon VMI fire up the bagpipes. You got rythm << (2008-01-01 12:50:11)
philiphodgen : #roseparade VMI band. Kilts. Wow. << (2008-01-01 12:49:39)
philiphodgen : #roseparade president of parade in antique car. << (2008-01-01 12:49:16)
philiphodgen : #roseparade donate life float real people. Touching << (2008-01-01 12:48:50)
philiphodgen : #roseparade dude with bullhorn is pro USC whilst Illinois band goes by. Predicts 21-3 << (2008-01-01 12:48:07)
oemperor : #roseparade cal poly float-built by students (not professionals) at 2 campuses over 100 miles apart << (2008-01-01 12:47:19)
philiphodgen : #roseparade my son hasn't moved from his spot. Amazing << (2008-01-01 12:47:01)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Illinois band. They got pop. You guys rock << (2008-01-01 12:46:14)
oemperor : #roseparade knights and damsels that @philiphodgen tweeted about are from local medieval times << (2008-01-01 12:45:52)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Illinois alums beside me got special attention from cheerleaders. Not THAT special << (2008-01-01 12:45:44)
philiphodgen : #roseparade U of Illinois float. Prepare to die. << (2008-01-01 12:44:44)
philiphodgen : #roseparade knights and damsels. Why do I think of Monty Python? << (2008-01-01 12:44:14)
philiphodgen : #roseparade it is a Honda deal. Car transformer to spaceship << (2008-01-01 12:43:40)
oemperor : #roseparade el salvador band, short on funds, got to pasadena BY BUS << (2008-01-01 12:43:12)
philiphodgen : #roseparade spaceship belches flames. Pink fucking Floyd music. This one rocks. << (2008-01-01 12:43:09)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Rain Bird float. No theme except advertise << (2008-01-01 12:42:15)
philiphodgen : #roseparade to my left is a 90 degree turn then a freeway underpass hard for big floats << (2008-01-01 12:41:42)
philiphodgen : #roseparade. We have a halt in the procession << (2008-01-01 12:40:57)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Wells Fargo stage coaches. Advertising Uber Alles. << (2008-01-01 12:40:18)
philiphodgen : #roseparade oktoberfest float. There was a wee bit of that on the blvd last nite I bet << (2008-01-01 12:39:35)
philiphodgen : #roseparade zurich has policemen with earrings??? << (2008-01-01 12:38:47)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Zurich police band. I will be there in 3 weeks. Oompah. << (2008-01-01 12:38:13)
philiphodgen : #roseparade the queen and her court. None from Polytechnic.org this year << (2008-01-01 12:37:40)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Alhambra. The rat's name is Templeton. We saw him built at Phxdeco.com << (2008-01-01 12:36:57)
oemperor : #roseparade city of st louis float includes clydesdales << (2008-01-01 12:36:54)
shashib : @philiphodgen great coverage of #roseparade . Like comment on CPAS as Cowboys :) << (2008-01-01 12:36:02)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Downey float. A real community sponsored float. Western theme << (2008-01-01 12:35:48)
philiphodgen : #roseparade cowboys on horses. Some look like CPAs not so rugged << (2008-01-01 12:35:16)
oemperor : #roseparade lutheran layman's league includes magi in manger scene. sola scriptura, lll, sola scriptura... << (2008-01-01 12:34:39)
philiphodgen : #roseparade the USC band plays it with more heart << (2008-01-01 12:34:30)
philiphodgen : #roseparade I went to UCLA << (2008-01-01 12:34:02)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Ohio band playing USC fight song << (2008-01-01 12:33:49)
philiphodgen : #roseparade she doesn't get Twitter << (2008-01-01 12:33:24)
philiphodgen : #roseparade my wife is on the couch at home watching the parade on tv << (2008-01-01 12:33:07)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Ohio band. My wife is from Dayton. She would approve. << (2008-01-01 12:32:41)
philiphodgen : #roseparade ELMO! << (2008-01-01 12:32:09)
philiphodgen : #roseparade some of the flag girls' smiles are now grimaces of fatigue << (2008-01-01 12:31:52)
philiphodgen : #roseparade "another day spent almost entirely on camels" Charlton Heston << (2008-01-01 12:31:15)
philiphodgen : #roseparade another band << (2008-01-01 12:30:46)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Miami has its anti-Castro we have out anti mainland china << (2008-01-01 12:30:28)
philiphodgen : #roseparade back story to this track falun gong or however it is spelled << (2008-01-01 12:29:55)
philiphodgen : #roseparade here comes the taiwan entry. PC reigns in Pasadena. << (2008-01-01 12:29:21)
philiphodgen : #roseparade jugglers and acrobats in action. << (2008-01-01 12:28:50)
philiphodgen : #roseparade huge train float. Impressive. Four parts. << (2008-01-01 12:28:29)
oemperor : #roseparade anaheim had to get a waiver to prevent stanley cup from being covered in flowers << (2008-01-01 12:28:16)
philiphodgen : #roseparade the Bayer aspirin float. I will now identify things by the wallet << (2008-01-01 12:27:58)
philiphodgen : #roseparade girl carrying flag - didn't your mom tell you not to chew gum with your mouth open? << (2008-01-01 12:27:22)
philiphodgen : #roseparade loudly dressed people on Palominos << (2008-01-01 12:26:20)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Missouri band. They fire up. They sound great. << (2008-01-01 12:25:43)
philiphodgen : #roseparade marching band. All percussion no brass at this point. Are they pooped? << (2008-01-01 12:25:12)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Viva Italia float sponsored by a casino. Boo << (2008-01-01 12:24:33)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Viva Italia float. I speak one word of italian - espresso << (2008-01-01 12:24:04)
philiphodgen : #roseparade marines get heartfelt applause << (2008-01-01 12:22:58)
philiphodgen : #roseparade boy and girl scouts with state flags << (2008-01-01 12:22:40)
oemperor : #roseparade usc trojans. i only hear this song every week (my alumna coworker has it in her cube). actually i heard it less this year << (2008-01-01 12:22:26)
philiphodgen : #roseparade Marines on horseback << (2008-01-01 12:21:58)
philiphodgen : #roseparade at this point they've been walking 5 miles without a potty break << (2008-01-01 12:21:43)

My point in quoting this segment isn't to focus on the parade coverage itself (although Hodgen's on the scene coverage was excellent), but more on the problem if this coverage was viewed out of context. If people had missed our earlier tweets that specified our relative locations along the parade route, people looking at the feed could have reached some erroneous conclusions - for example, that the Salvation Army band was marching next to women in coconut bras. Or that people were suddenly getting tired. Or (if you take all of our tweets into consideration) that many of the entries appeared in the parade twice.

This is probably a strange example, since most disasters/events occur at the same time for all people (exceptions being parades, and certain televised events which are tape delayed on the West Coast). However, in the odd case in which people are using the same hashtag for events occurring at different times in different locations, how is one to make sense of the mess?

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Anonymous said...

Hi @oemperor. Twitter made the parade fun for me, but I lost 3 followers from the beginning of the parade to the end! :-) Too much noise from me, perhaps? Meh, who cares. I'll do it again, but next time with a spare battery in the Blackberry.


Ontario Emperor said...

Your tweets were definitely appreciated by me, and I think that at least one other person was referring people to your tweets. Personally, this is where mobile Twitter, combined with hashtags, can excel - on-scene coverage of an important event.