One hashtag to find them all…#inaug09

We’re rapidly approaching zero-hour here in the United States and the anticipation is growing. People are eager for the moment to rejoice & celebrate when the 44th President of the United States is sworn in. This time it’s something more historic and, while celebratory, is during a dark time in the country with downward job growth and a sluggish economy (aka “recession”). But with all this hoopla and eagerness, there’s a hunger for mass information. People want to be the one to tell their story to the masses – whether it be live or from afar. So what’s one to do?

Without the advent of the hashtag, finding massive amounts of information relating to a particular topic, issue, or event may have proven difficult, albeit not impossible. But while tied back to Twitter, the hashtag has become a uniform standard for labeling user-generated content. Think of a hashtag as a “keyword” in a search engine. When you enter it in, then the engine will populate the page with a list of sources that may be relevant.

What is a hashtag? It’s the pound sign (#) along with a shortcode. So if you’re writing about an event at Christmas, you might use #xmas or something like that. There’s no standard of how to choose the hashtag, but the thing is that in order for it to be useful, the hashtag NEEDS to be the same for all participants. So while you choose #xmas and your friend chooses #christmas, when you pull up all results with the tag #xmas, you won’t get your friend’s feed. So there is some need for conformity.

But how can someone find a way to get all the latest information from wherever they are? Yes, they can always scope out sites like CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo, Reuters, New York Times, etc., but the true “on the ground” reporting and images will come from those who tag their information with a hashtag. Whether you’re using Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Qik, Utterli, Facebook, etc, there’s going to be one hashtag. One hashtag to rule them all.

So what’s this hashtag for the inauguration? Tag your photos, videos, and content with #inaug09.

It’s the product of NPR’s own Andy Carvin.

Having done many social media initiatives over the past few years for NPR, I’ve found that Andy’s coverage has been rather comprehensive. He’s not doing the reporting. He’s letting others do it for him…and that’s how you’re truly getting the fair and balanced coverage. The users are reporting as they normally might do, but they don’t care where it’s reproduced or fed to. They’re uploading their photos to Flickr, same as always. The same with Twitter, YouTube, etc., but the key here is that they all have RSS feeds or some way to link back, and Andy’s methodology seems to be to build a warehouse so you can see how things are. One of this great products of the past since I’ve started following him on Twitter is the Hurricane Gustav wiki he’s created. And he’s doing it again with the Presidential Inauguration.

Share your information so that when others search for it, you can be a part of history. Thanks to NPR and most likely Andy Carvin, social media is going to be spread offline as well as online. _currentTV is joining in on the festivities as they will broadcast the tweets and content from Washington, DC as well as around the world from those using the #inaug09 hashtag.

So let your voice be heard and share your opinions. Remember that hashtags can be a very valuable and resourceful thing to use when spreading information. Congratulations to the president-elect and don’t forget to tag your content!

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."