Gig Hashtags

Gig Hashtags

Steve recently tweeted: “wonder if there’s a good way of using postcodes, standardized time & airport TLAs to make gig dates searchable on twitter.”

I’m not sure airport TLAs work well – they are biased towards major cities and, if a city is major enough, you then have to pick which airport to focus on. A two letter country code would work just as well, given that you would then want to include a country-specific postcode to zoom in on the action.

In fact, while I like the idea of tagging to add meaning, I’m not sure it is workable in the limited scope of a 140 character tweet. You need a country (two characters), a postcode (in the UK that could just be the first half – 3 or 4 characters), a date (at least 6 characters, eg YYMMDD) and something like #gig to set a context. That is about ten percent of your allowance used up even before you put in specifics, like the name of the town or venue and something to explain what kind of gig it is.

Instead, something like “Playing an #Oxford #gig tomorrow” is concise, easily read and could be backed up with a link to a service like or which provide much more nuanced tools for discovering what is going on.

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  1. Wulf, thanks so much for pulling this out as a blog-thread. Genius idea!

    The country-code+postcode works, except that postcodes are hyperlocal and country codes are too wide – I want to be able to have #LDNgigs in a search column in tweetdeck, so I see all the ldngigs tweeted. I could then click on that, and based some standardised postcode/date info see the rest of the info + the long URL that’s been shortened for more info. The airport code lets me search, the postcode lets me map, the date lets me know, the link gives me details on those I’m actually interested in.

    But, the flaws you point out in airport TLAs is a good one – only major cities… so what’s the answer? do airfields have their own TLAs as well? Maybe it’s a way of people finding out about tiny airports as well? 🙂

    just thought, we could even do the date/postcode like machin tags on flickr…

    It was a latenight musing, but I thought it could be fun. Here’s a sample tweet –

    “#LDNgig:NE1:071009 Steve Lawson/Michael Manring live at Round Midnight – click here for details –

    does that work? the idea would be for some to write a greasemonkey script around it to give it meaning outside of the tweet – within the tweet, to people who know me, they’d get it anyway…

  2. How about #gig:51.534,-0.107,071009 – using latitude and longitude would give you an accurate location regardless of airports and postcodes. Further characters could be saved by reducing precision (I wonder how far you could go and still pinpoint anywhere within a ten minute walk?) and by putting the date first (fixed width therefore easy to parse out).

    However, it might still be easier to use tags created by dedicated services. I think twitter is still better for seeing what friends are doing rather than impersonal broadcasting.

  3. definite yes to your last paragraph, which is why I avoided long/lat – it has no readability to your stream at all, only to machines. Whereas date/postcode can be discerned by actual people, so still have value, especially if it catches on…

    I certainly don’t want to turn twitter into a machine-read RSS publishing format. Just seeing if we can have our XML cake and parse it 🙂

  4. I think if you’re not wanting to make twitter a machine-read publishing mechanism you are pretty much eliminating the ways of searching in a standardised way 🙂

    I think there are perhaps other services (or the scope for new services) that provide this rather than trying to do it all over twitter, as, as is pointed out, the messages will either be annoying or not adequately searchable.

    Even #LDNgig might not be precise enough for a lot of people, I’m not willing to travel to Croydon for a gig but would have been to e.g. Darbucka 😀

  5. Ah, smug Mike 😉 Of course I meant ‘machine readable-only’ – I’m not about to start the post-it notes version of twitter on my fridge door 🙂

    I guess the idea of the hashtag is that people can follow it, check the post code, then the date, then the link… heirarchy of relevance, stick it in a search column in Tweetdeck, check it when you want to see something but aren’t sure what… 🙂

    There are definitely other services that do this stuff v. well, but it’s all about taking info to people where they are, rather than expecting them to all sign up to Upcoming or notifications or whatever…. or maybe it’s not. I’m open to being persuaded/dissuaded.

    How are you doing, anyway, Mike? Good to hear from you!

  6. I’m doing great thanks Steve 🙂

    Hmm, I see your point about meeting people where they are at.
    Perhaps something combining several existing hashtags? Can Tweetdeck search on, say, #London #Gig? That might mean you get people from different groups in too, people who are looking for something to do in London or people looking for a gig regardless of location.

    The interesting but hard problem with Twitter is the 140 chars limit combined with tagging (where you usually want to apply as many tags as possible to describe the data). Often the intersection of tags is more interesting/useful in my experience than the use of a single one, but obviously you’ve just given yourself less of a message 🙂

  7. Given that you’re going to have to link to a details page somewhere anyway, surely you just put enough info in the tweet to make it (a) searchable and (b) scannable.

    I would want a Tweetdeck column (like Steve says, eg. #LDNgigs). I would also want to be able to scan the column (by eye, not with a scanner) and see at least band name, venue and date. I know venue isn’t essential, but if I’m scanning Oxford gig listings, the venue gives me a huge amount of contextual info about the size of gig, type of band, type of audience, etc.

    Although latitude, postcode, etc. might make for some interesting mashups, I don’t think they add to the listing. And if the link goes to Upcoming or Eventful (or similar), it would be easy enough for a mashup script to follow that link and pull the gig data (geo, description, tags, etc.) from the API of those services.

    In an ideal world (making this up as I go along now, and a little hungover so bear with me), you could use the Eventful ID… Scratch that. I just looked at Eventful and they already have a unique Twitter hashtag for each event (beginning ‘#EV…’). So Steve’s Round Midnight gig ( is #EVsteve1007. If Tweetdeck automatically parsed that as an Eventful link we’d be away. You could add any contextual hashtags (like #ldn) that you like.

    But… neither Twitter search (including, I assume, the API) or Google search allows character wildcards, (like ‘#EV*’) in their seraches, so at the moment it’s not easy to pull out all the eventful tags. There’s probably a way around that. Maybe just use the #gig tag too, and use the #EV tag instead of a link?

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for allowing me to dust off the cobwebs of a cider hangover on that. 😉

  8. Maybe a better answer is to turn the flow the other way round. Services like Upcoming and Eventful (the latter is new to me – thanks for the heads up, Ben) could automatically maintain numerous twitter streams based on various location characteristics (eg. within X miles of this point, in this urban area, at this venue), which could then be followed via Tweetdeck or similar. New streams could be automatically created by user request and maintained as long as there is at least one active user watching them.

    Or perhaps Twitter is a red herring and RSS feeds and custom stream merging tools (like Yahoo! Pipes) are a better solution? Can tweetdeck add headlines from an RSS feed? Does it even need to, given that there is still plenty of value in having a feed reader as well as watching the tweets go by?

  9. Yeh, this is what I meant when I was saying Twitter isn’t probably the best tool for this. You’re best to have an XML specification that can be embedded referenced in other XML documents such as RSS or XHTML pages I think.

    Twitter is fairly nastily unsemantic for things like this. I get meeting people where they are at but Twitter is pretty hard from a machine parseable point of view and I’m not sure the merit on intentionally limiting gig information to <=140 characters.

  10. Good stuff, this.

    I like how can recognise events in an e-mail, the algorithm is actually relatively simple – a regular expression to match possible times (7pm, 1900, 7 o’clock), a regular expression to match dates (absolute and relative – e.g. “Thursday, September 24” vs “Next Thursday”, vs “the 24th”) and then treat everything after “at” as the location. Postcodes (full or partial) are easily spotted, especially if they’re in a chunk that we know is the location. You could then assume everything else that isn’t explicity matched above as the line up and/or description. Either way, I think it’d be safe to assume it’ll be meaningful out of context.

    I’ve been working on something very similar (no date/time, but parsing tweets for a name, location and a rating), and so far it’s proved reasonably straightforward.

    Natural language processing is far more intuitive to write and to read (as the name implies). The parsing is more complex than a neat “standard” for a hashtag, but it lowers the barriers to entry for users who aren’t au-fait with what their twitter client can do, and don’t fancy trying to decipher a hashtag.

    This gets really interesting if you can use the data you parse from a tweet to query Eventful/’s APIs [do have an events api?] based on date, location and a fulltext search based what you have left – shouldn’t be enough to get a match that you can assume with reasonably certainty is the same event.



  11. The Eventful API ( ) is an easy way in to the XML side of things, and it wouldn’t be difficult to build whatever gig search/listings app was necessary.

    But I think what Steve’s after (I might be wrong) is something that the musician can use in a tweet that refers to a specific event (eg. the Eventful page) and is easily searchable in the usual Twitter search context (ie. hashtags).

    The RSS feeds, email alerts and the rest already exist. I’ve signed up to plenty over the years and they tend to be annoying, impersonal and not useful. If Steve mentions a gig on Twitter I’m interested, but mostly because of the rest of the Twitter message.

    I don’t think we need anything more than a message (prob. including a date and city) and a URL for the people who are already following the artist. It’s the search that’s difficult.

    Twitter works best when people hand craft the messages. Automatically added hashtags are nowhere near as useful. To take care of the search, why not just use #gig and a location hashtag, which you can make as specific or broad as you think is appropriate? I would probably use #oxford for an Oxford gig, but definitely #soho (or, more likely, ‘#london #soho’) for a Soho gig. Doesn’t that work?

    The benefit of having something like a Twitter gig search engine would be the visibility of the system. If musicians knew there was a standard way of getting their gigs into the search, they would use it. But it wouldn’t have to do anything more than search Twitter for ‘#gig #wherever’.

    Interesting thoughts, though…

  12. Recall what we did for #uksnow: #CT14 9/10. Could employ very similar ideas. Searchable (#gig), local (#CT14) and date (9/10).

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