#longhashtags

November 13, 2017

Tags: Chris Messina, Google, metadata, hashtags

Have you noticed, dear reader, that personal hashtags on FB posts, for example, are getting longer, and longer, and longer? This being the case, what does the evolving length of #wordsconnectedtowords without spaces signify for the writer? A stop sign, I’d say.

Let us take a breather and ask some questions about this linguistic phenomena. Did Chris Messina @ Google (in 2007) intend his content search invention to be used to tell stories? Probably not. Nor did he want to patent his “invention,” if indeed it would have qualified as a patented “product,” because he knew that the internet highway would capture and proliferate whatever was useful in hashtags with our without him, for free. Which it did.

My concern is solely that of a writer: hashtags are useful for content searches, but they are not the content itself. They make a mishmash of words, sentences, concepts and stories. They are not stories. They are indicators, symbols, short-cuts, synopsi, compressed thoughts, instantaneous observations, and symptoms of a time-pressured, hyperkinetic, goal-driven tweeting culture. Writers, real writers, not #hashtagwriters, cannot function well in such a charged environment except to say: meet me here—at this literal or virtual place—where something is happening you may be interested in.

Is it retro of me to suggest that writers stop writing hashtags, or use them only at the end of a narrative prose story? Probably. Think of me, and all educators, as guardian angels of language. The more our language is diluted, over-simplified and distorted, the harder it will be to retrieve the complexities of thought required in our challenging world. Our children must be taught to think, to analyze, to discern fact from fiction, to make intelligent decisions and choices. They need language to do this, not #soundbytenews or #hashtags. End of story: #writersresisthashtags

Are We Safe?

November 1, 2017

Tags: Urban terrorism, New York City, UNICEF, NYPD, FDNY, FBI, war zones

I wish to say only this: let us dedicate this blog post and this day to the murdered cyclists on the West Side Highway of Manhattan. Let us put our arms around the terrified children, their teachers and caretakers, the pedestrians who witnessed the carnage, the brave men and women of the NYPD, FDNY and FBI. Let us think about our human frailty, our resilience and our resistance. Let us not stop listening to one another. Let us not build walls. Let us study colonial history intently and understand why a lunatic terrorist came to America if only to kill. This trouble we are in did not begin out of thin air. And though utterly irrational in many respects, it has a source, a reason. Let us begin there in our understanding and our effort to find solutions.

I offer you, dear reader, a photograph of beautiful, innocent children, soccer fans, far away from New York. If we could transport them to New York they, too, might have been victims of the terrorist’s truck. Indeed, children in many countries are living in war zones and desperate poverty. They are in grave danger. What are we, as adults, doing to protect them, to make the world a more peaceful and safer place?

These are very abstract thoughts for this writer, but I am weary this morning, and sad for the afflicted families. It took me two hours in a slowed down, partially locked down city, to get home yesterday, and when I arrived, and only then, did I find out what had happened. I was safe, all my friends and loved ones were safe, messages were flooding Facebook, a troubled sleep, some journaling, this blog post, and onward into a new day.

But not without some reflection. And, as a writer, not without some thoughtful words. What can we do, little by little, one small action at a time, to make the world a safer and more peaceful place?

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