Friday, February 4, 2011

@Micah got a brainwave one Friday in 2009 #FF

I have been thinking about Follow Friday in Twitter for some time now, and it bugs me a bit that I cannot make up my mind about it for so long: A good thing that adds value or just annoying? So I started in Google to find out how it all started again (did this some months ago when I was bugged as well, but then forgot). Need to make a call on this #FF tag for my own sanity.

If you turn to Quora - the next big thing for 2011 - the the question is already there:  Who are the "Inventors" of Twitter Popular Usage? and no one else than Micah Baldwin answers the question. It figures, he was and remains an early-adopter and innovator:

Micah Baldwin sent out that very first tweet in 2009 and even had the presence of mind to blog about his experience - including the motivation for the tweet and the response:

It only started to take off after one of the 'influencers' in Micah's network, Mykl Roventine, suggested a tag #F ollowFridays (sic, spelled erroneously with a space). And by the end of that first day a tweet was sent out every half-second, reaching an early peak with 90 000 tweets a month in the mid-April 2009. Much later, when it was known, it became #FF and was so widely adopted that applications evolved, such as FollowFriday and FollowFriday Helper.

How many people knew that Micah started this trend with this awesome seemingly small idea, and could even be considered the 'father of the popular hashtag'? Few I imagine, as he does not have thousands of followers, and it really boils down to this #truestory of Twitter 101 that he understood:
"It was awesome. By the end of the day, my name was no longer associated with the tweets. Which was awesomer. It had taken on a life of its own. Which was awesomest. Here is what twitter was able to confirm for me: People are proud of their friends".
And herein lies the essence of tags for me - when one's name is "no longer associated with the tweets" it means that it has spread so far and wide virally, that it is public property. It has become a successful hashtag to organise conversations without our own voice.  I love tags. People who know me in Twitter, know that I believe in tags for so many reasons, one being to meet new people thinking along the same lines. I have enjoyed the tags of @CapeTown (such as #capetraffic, #capemusic, #capeadvice, #capepic) in this regard, and have seen that many of these have a life of their own as well.

One of the other interesting aspects I discovered about the #FF tag (which I did not know) is that it is still used in the way @Micah introduced it: not tweeting whom to follow WITH a reason, but just listing people. (Personally, this is the part I find a bit annoying, as I would prefer knowing WHY you like your friend and suggest him/her to me to follow on a Friday). But seems that the first few tags were also only suggestions of friends to follow - no questions asked, no reasons given. Much like a closed referral system from a trusted friend. I still think it only really has meaning when it is made special and not just a name tweeted into a void of similar falling #FF tweets into the Twitterverse.

Well, that's that then. I think I shall use #FF in a way that works for me. Not an endless list of Twitter names, but mentioning one or two names (like Micah did it for @fasterstill and @megfowler in one of those first #FF tweets - at the back of his mind, being grateful for their lessons on friendship and love). Better, yet: saying why I think it may be great to follow someone from my own stream of collective consciousness. 

We certainly all have our ideas how it should, or should not work. Thank you to ThoughtPick for making my Friday!

Ps: Oh, and my #FF for today is @uthango - the company I love dearly and have invested so much energy, time and money into that it scares me some times. 


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