The case for email hashtags

Better subject lines make for better emails. We take that as a given (even if we practice it too little).

Now we can make email subject lines even more useful—by using hashtags.

It’s been just over a year since I first proposed the idea of email hashtags. Since then, the idea has been enthusiastically embraced at a conference sponsored by the Information Overload Research Group (see the video of my presentation). It’s gaining traction as a way to help others—and ourselves—manage incoming email messages. (See this short video from technology consultant Chris Pirillo.)

According to the New York Times, even the “inventor” of Twitter hashtags—Chris Messina—is using them in email:

. . .  when Chris Messina, a developer advocate at Google, wanted to introduce two friends over e-mail, he wrote #Introduction in the subject line. No need, he explained, for a long preamble when a quick, to-the-point hashtag would do.

Then again, Mr. Messina is no ordinary Twitter user. The self-described “hash godfather,” he officially invented the Twitter hashtag in August 2007, when he sent out a Twitter message suggesting that the pound symbol be used for organizing groups on Twitter. (For example, if attendees at the South by Southwest music and technology conference all add #sxsw to their messages, they can more easily search and sort themselves on Twitter.) Though the idea took awhile to catch on, it quickly snowballed—on Twitter and offline.

Now there’s a website for email hashtags (emailhashtags.org). If the idea sounds intriguing, pay it a visit. It takes less than two minutes to read. And it could change the way you think about email.

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Filed under Email management, Information Overload Research Group, Personal productivity

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