Monthly Archives: December 2009

Digging further into the #snOMG hashtag: Cincinnati wins (for now?)

#snomg tag from trendsmap.com, 1 p.m. on 12/19

#snomg tag usage as shown by trendsmap.com at 1 p.m. Dec. 19

Well, shoot.
Charlotte didn’t invent the hash tag #snOMG.

The city’s forensic Twitter archivist, Blair Trosper, sends evidence that Charlotte’s hive mind borrowed the word from Tom Callinan, a Cincinnati editor. Still, it’s intriguing that the hashtag’s use exploded in Charlotte after only a few mentions, and then lay dormant until the next winter season. When #snowmageddon of December 2009 hit the East Coast, #snOMG spread, along with many other highly amusing tags.

Christmas Eve, Tom Callinan shared word that he thought copy editor Kelly Hudson first used the tag, and that started Kelly on her own investigation of her sources, @wltw and @cra1g.

Then @cra1g dug up a cute Twitpic from January 2009.
Still, that’s not definitive proof of the first use of the tag. Perhaps we’ll never have a clear answer, but for the moment, @cra1g wins. Sorry, @flc.

Anyone who has been on Twitter for a while likely has noticed a tendency for unconscious or subconscious borrowing of words and concepts from people in their Twitter stream. The speed and ephemeral nature of Twitter, though, make it difficult to pin down where exactly concepts start. But hey, this is the Internet, and computers are helping us remember things these days, thank goodness. Somewhere, buried in a server, is the first tweet to use the #snOMG hashtag. Can it be proven to be the first?

Of course, the tag is just one of many useful and sometimes merely amusing tags. WLTW even used a survey of what tag to use for Cincinnati’s January 2009 storm, and #snOMG was only one of several highly amusing hashtag nominees. I’m surprised “Bob” didn’t win.

But #snOMG’s spread can provide a snapshot of the how valuable hashtags are on Twitter and thus how semantic tagging of other snippets of information can be useful in our machine-assisted world. So many sociological implications abound too: how humor fuels the use of tagging, how the hive mind absorbs and spreads information, how the spread of a tag gives feelings of validation among users, and on and on.

And then the business applications exist as well. How valuable are the roots of a tag? Will Twitter find a way to monetize the archiving of this kind of information? Will others?

So perhaps some day a linguistic or library science student will explore the phenomenon further. In the mean time, Charlotte and the East Coast need to credit @cra1g.

And stay safe and warm as a new storm aims at the East Coast. Happy holidays.

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The December 2009 snowstorm and #snOMG, a little hashtag that began in Charlotte

#snomg tag from trendsmap.com, 1 p.m. on 12/19

#snomg tag usage as shown by trendsmap.com at 1 p.m. Dec. 19

Trend map for #snomg usage

#snomg usage at http://trendsmap.com after midnight, Dec. 19.

#snomg usage about 2 p.m. Dec. 18

Usage of #snomg as shown by trendsmaps.com as of 2 p.m. Dec. 18.

Editor’s note from Jan. 30, 2010: Please see an update of this post that tracks the use of #snOMG to Cincinnati.

As the December 2009 snowstorm traveled up the East Coast, a little hashtag born in Charlotte traveled with it.

In January 2009, Gregor Smith, or @flc on Twitter, came up with #snOMG, which combined “snow” and “OMG” in five characters.

When you have only 140 characters, every character counts.

The tag emerged again during a March storm. Then in December, the tag reappeared as weather reports indicated an approaching snow event. Charlotte meteorologist Brad Panovich, or @wxbrad of WCNC adopted the tag, and The Weather Channel shared it with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.

So here’s a quick Q&A conducted via email with the tag originator, Gregor Smith of northern Mecklenburg County:

When and how did you come up with the tag #snOMG?

(I came up with it) during the first snow “storm” of the year, which was mid- to late January. I can’t claim sole credit, it was merely a punny hashtag reply to a “snow! Omg!” tweet, so I like to think of myself as one who pushed it into the Charlotte collective. From there it wasn’t long before others took it and ran with it, making it a trending topic, which was decidedly easier back in those heady pre-Oprah days…

You tweeted: ‘YES! AFFIRMATION BABY!’ when The Weather Channel (@twci, with more than 20,000 followers) announced #snOMG as one of the “official” hash tags of the East Coast storm of Dec. 18. Is that how it feels to get wide use of your hash tag?

It was on par with having Jim Cantore (of The Weather Channel) standing at the end of Pineville-Matthews Road (in Charlotte) during the big #snOMG of March this year. As Ben Ullman (@budesigns) said then, we were close to getting #snOMG on national TV.

How much snow did you get in the latest storm? Did you go out and play in it? Did you lose power?
We got a few inches, maybe 2 or 3, and of course I went out to play in it! Being 30-plus is no excuse not to be excited by snow … . No loss of power though.

Do you use hash tags to sort Twitter? Or are they just for fun and humor?
Bit of column A, bit of column B. A lot of times, it’s for shits and giggles, the kind of hashtags some people recently said they hate, but for events it’s good to track tweets that way.

The latest storm actually got pretty intense in Asheville and points north. When an event gets serious but has a humorous hash tag, do you think the tag should be changed or not used?
People are free to use whatever tag they want, be it #snOMG or otherwise. Where I come from (Scotland), we have a pretty self-deprecating sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at serious things, then what can you?

Are you the person with the Twitter name @snOMG? If not, do you know who it is?
No, that’s the botfather. (Link might not be safe for work.)

How long have you been on Twitter?
Since September 8th 2006, seriously! I’m user ID 5,628. They are now pushing user IDs in the 100-million range.

You’ve had some life-changing experiences with Twitter. What’s the best lesson you learned?
Don’t talk about work on Twitter unless that’s part of your job. Some over-zealous employers will “dooce” you for that.

Further links:
#snOMG in March 2009
Dan Conover on hashtags
Standardize basic hashtags for Charlotte.