Before The HashTag

“I once was lost, but now am found.” [famous quote, a line from a hymn, origin now lost 😃 but some say ancient literature]

When my first blog (Andrew’s Tea Salon) was built in 1997, only a quarter of the internet was dredged by the search engines (Yahoo, AltaVista, etc) so it was hard to find anything, or be found. But things soon improved. And THEN came the hash tag.

Getting one’s significant thoughts on a particular topic FOUND on the internet became a lot easier with hashtags [#] which were introduced in 2007.

But before hashtags, bloggers adopted different ways to find each other’s posts on a given subject of interest.

In 2003, I participated in the world’s first Grid Blog, an experiment where multiple bloggers wrote on the same topic (which happened to be “brand”) and tagged our posts with a double colon [::]. It worked.

Shortly after that, Kiwi Steve Taylor, who was also a participant in the original Grid Blog, organised an Advent Grid Blog for Christians writing on the subject of “seek” and adding the double colon tag to be found by each other. That was also very successful. And historic. I wrote a poem for that occasion. Thanks to Bob Carlton who helped us all behind the scenes.

These days it is hashtags that enable niche communities interested in particular topics to find each other on Twitter or TikTok or whatever. The hash tag was innovated by an American, Chris Messina. Unfortunately, the American keyboard produces a hashtag with the same command that produces a GPB sign for the English.

Lev Manovich named 5 characteristics of new media. Numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability and transcoding. AUTOMATION is the engine that drives the hash tag and over the years has enabled thousands of Christians to write and read each others posts on important subjects.

Isn’t digital theology cool????

Anyway, tomorrow I am teaching via zoom at Bishopdale Theological College in Nelson NZ, on digital culture and theology. It’s the first zoom call for a very long time that falls within the same geographic time zone. Thanks Spanky for the invite.

I’ll be here till Thursday. Try the VEAL!!!!!! [Shrek]


Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

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