30 January 2013

The Document Tagger Hashtag Story

We all know the symbol #, but what do you associate it with at the first glance? A number? A keyword? A telephone? A programming language? Or maybe a note that should be played a half tone higher? This sign is widely used and may have many different meanings.

Document Tagger logotypeDocument Tagger symbol
When our technicians begun developing the latest solution, Document Tagger, we discussed what icon to use for it. Our Senior Designer Jitendra Joshi created a very simple, yet striking, image of just a document sheet and a symbol.

At that time we called the symbol a hashtag, but the team discussions triggered my curiosity on this sign, that I had earlier associated with other meanings.

# = number
In parts of the world, like in the U.S., the # sign is commonly used before numbers, like "#5" instead of "number five". Here in Europe this use is not common, even if it is understood, but I think it is a convenient way of marking a number, and we have also used it in the applications.

# on telephones
The most wide spread use of the # symbol is probably on telephone buttons. This is the button you must press after entering a number that is received by an automatic answerer.

Here in Sweden the # sign is called "fyrkant" when used on telephones. This word means "square", and that is a bit strange as it is not a square at all. Possibly a square with arms and legs!

Sharp Symbol# = higher
I play the piano, so to me the # sign also stands for the sharp symbol, which raises a note by a half tone. It is not exactly the same, but as the sharp symbol is not present on keyboards the # sign is often used instead  like in the names of the Microsoft programming languages C# and F#. Here the # sign is of course pronounced "sharp".

# = keyword
Today, in the Twitter era, # is used to denote a metadata tag. The technology name for the sign is hash, so a word marked with # is called a hashtag – but the definition has widened so that the symbol itself also is called hashtag.

# = Document Tagger!
Document Tagger icon Even if the # symbol has different meanings and is known by various terms, I don't think anyone will mistake it for a number or telephone sign in connection with a document.

All who see the blue # in the Document Tagger icon will surely associate to keywords and metadata.  Document Tagger is a solution that helps you tag documents in  SharePoint libraries, so what symbol can better express this than the #?