Tagalus: Hashing through Twitter hashtags… and testing OAuth too

It’s no secret that Portland is into Twitter in a big way.

For many of the folks in the Web and mobile tech scene, it’s the way we stay in contact, spread news, and organize events. As such, we’re always trying to convince new folks to try it.

“I realize it looks stupid, but just try it,” we say. “Trust me.”

And once we get folks to try it, one of the first questions that always comes up is “What’s with all the #whatever stuff?”

This question used to be immediately followed by a deep sigh as we gathered our strength to explain the peculiar method and science surrounding the selection of #hashtags. How those pound-sign assisted acronyms and compounds provide a semblance of a taxonomy for a largely unclassifiable stream of blob files. How arduous the careful selection of canonical tags that reduce typing complexity while enforcing a unique and traceable presence can be.

Yes, it really was that difficult.

Enter tagalus

That was then. Now, thanks to Portland-based tagalus, we have a simple answer: “Go to tagal.us and look it up.”

How? Let’s take an example, shall we? Yes, we shall.

You see the following tweet come across your tweet stream: “When I was a kid, we had to guess as to what those cryptic hashtags meant. And we liked it. #getoffmylawn

“#getoffmylawn?” you say. “I wonder what that means.”

So you head over to tagal.us and search for #getoffmylawn. Where you’ll see my definition.

Maybe it helps you. Maybe you disagree. Or maybe you want to clarify. Have at it. Tagalus was made to share those opinions and clarifications.

Or maybe you have a hashtag you’d like to define for someone else? No problem. Head over to tagal.us and submit it—or send @tagalus a tweet from Twitter to define a hashtag without leaving the comfort of your tweet stream. For example, “@tagalus define ip4 as Ignite Portland 4 – a hipster event according to KGW.” (You also have the option of using “def” instead of “define,” since I know you’re always worried about your character count.)

Long story short, it’s like a little publicly edited dictionary for Twitter hashtags that you help curate. How cool is that? It’s very cool, my friend.

But why stop there?

Tagalus is still in beta—so why not add more features? How about OAuth? Okay!

What’s OAuth you say? It’s a cousin to one of our favorite login methods, OpenID.

This is what OAuth does, it allows the you the User to grant access to your private resources on one site (which is called the Service Provider), to another site (called Consumer, not to be confused with you, the User). While OpenID is all about using a single identity to sign into many sites, OAuth is about giving access to your stuff without sharing your identity at all (or its secret parts).

In other words, it makes sure that you don’t have to share your Twitter password with the applications that you want to use in combination with Twitter. Instead, Twitter brokers the deal for you—confirming you are who you say you are.

tagalus OAuth

If that sounds interesting to you, tagalus is currently testing an OAuth login. Simply visit the tagalus OAuth page and log in. Voila! You just used OAuth.

Get to defining those hashtags

So now you’re ready to join in the fun. Create a new hashtag and define it, clarify the definition of an existing hashtag, or be the first to define an “oldie but a goodie” hashtag. (I was surprised to be the first to define .) I can’t wait to have a better understanding about all those cryptic tweets you’re sending.

For more information or to define your favorite hashtags, visit tagalus.

  1. You have made some decent points there. I looked on the net for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.|

  2. […] since early 2009, one site has been working to change that. Well, at least by providing some insight into that whole […]

  3. […] since early 2009, one site has been working to change that. Well, at least by providing some insight into that whole […]

  4. For anyone wandering through this post in the future, Tagalus now has an API and an embeddable widget – see http://blog.tagal.us/api-documentation/ and http://blog.tagal.us/2009/03/tagalus-widget/

  5. I was just thinking about this and thought I’d come back and post another comment.

    I guess hash tagging and Tagalus are necessary because Twitter provides no context in Tweets. As opposed to CitySpeek.com that has message categories and groups, both of which provide additional context while keeping a message within 140 characters.

    Okay, I’m done with the self promotion…

  6. […] to Rick Turoczy for his fabulous writeup of Tagalus in his Portland/NW-tech blog the Silicon […]

  7. Hashtags have never exactly been rocket science once you dive in and use them, but I really love Tagalus because it makes hashtagging far more accessible and even a bit more fun. The ability to interact with the site through a reply is ridiculously nice.

    As a project, I think tagalus is pretty innovative because rather than just making another client or ranking system, it builds a practical independent resource out of a social function that the Twitter community already uses.

  8. Jeff,

    You are completely correct that there are times where hashtagging something doesn’t give you any advantages. However, when looking at the trending topics on Twitter, there are usually plenty of tags that are acronyms (think #IP5), or events (#wordcampdx), or ideas (#getoffmylawn) that make something like @tagalus be useful. I built it after trying to search through Twitter to find the meaning of the more obscure tags and having no luck – hopefully @tagalus can start to solve that admittedly niche problem.

  9. Jeff: Say you define a hashtag “#of” regarding say “Outdoor Foosball”. Searching for “of” will be useless.

    More realistically: If I want news about the company I search for #apple, and I won’t get tweets about people eating apples.

  10. Cool to see more stuff coming out of Portlaned. However, I personally thing that hashtags are mostly pointless. The Twitter search engine (and any other search engine for that matter) doesn’t need the “#” to index a tweet. From what I can tell, it doesn’t aid at all in keyword searching.

    The only advantage for hashtagging is the rare event when a tweet doesn’t contain a key word (like your above mentioned getoffmylawn example).

    I don’t know, maybe I am just an old grumpy man on this one, but it just seems to be much-a-do-about-nothing.

    Get off my lawn!

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