Back at work and wading through remaining relics of last year, I realised 2010 was the year in which hashtags finally made it as the early 21st century headline. As I've been explaining them to people for years, it was great to see this breakthrough point. Whatever was going on, the hashtag became - finally - the defining reference point for the collective consciousness if you really wanted to find out what was going on, who was affected and what needed to be done.
Just days away from the first anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, below are the hashtags that will, for me anyway, signal the step-changes and life-changing events of 2010.
- #Haiti - in January, a 7.0M earthquake flattens poverty stricken Haiti. One year on, the plight of the people living there continues to be dire and help is still needed for the thousands suffering appalling conditions.
- #Chile - in February, Chile is hit by a whopping 8.8M earthquake lasting three minutes. Recovery is faster than for Haiti, but 541 lives are lost, tsunami warnings issued and the rebuild continues.
- #Iceland - the volcanic eruption that paralysed Europe and stalled air travel around the world. The volcano's name - Eyjafjallajökull - was much too long for a hashtag, so either #iceland or #volcano became the mustering point as people wondered if, when and how they were going to get home.
- #Deepwater - when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out on April 20, the hashtag activity was limited to an active - and angry - conversation among those concerned about what was going to happen next. Amazingly, the companies most closely involved at this point, the owners and contractors respectively - Transocean and Halliburton - deftly slipped into invisibility as 'Big Brother' BP stepped in to try to stem the leak. Very swiftly, hashtags changed with #bpoil, #bpspill, #bpceo, #oilspill among the most used.
- #greece and #thailand both crashed in to the trends maps at the end of April thanks to civil unrest in both countries.
- #allwhites and the Soccer World Cup in South Africa provided welcome respite from the disasters and deaths that had dominated the first half of 2010. Some of my favourite Twitter conversations took place in the middle of the night in June as collectively, Kiwi #allwhites fans settled down to watch the matches together and quip about them online. A personal favourite of mine in June was #wprf as the World Public Relations Forum was held in Stockholm, with much tweeting done by all.
- #wikileaks sprung into action for the first time in July, with the first documents hitting the public consciousness. It was a hashtag we were going to see a lot more of as the year progressed.
- #eqnz - September saw the most devastating natural disaster New Zealand has seen in many years. Civil Defence NZ didn't get the hang of hashtags at all, with ridiculously long hashtags being used by the organisation - even when the community had settled on #eqnz. As the aftershocks continue, the hashtag remains a rallying point for Canterbury - and Civil Defence still hasn't got the hang of them!
- #Chile was back in October as the rescue of the trapped underground miners got underway. Here in NZ, conversation was just as hot and controversial around #paulhenry, after the broadcaster resigned from TVNZ.
- #pikeriver - tragically, in November, our own #pikeriver miners were not to have the same triumphant outcome as those in Chile. Like #eqnz, #pikeriver remains a much-used, much referenced hashtag for those still affected by these two major events, even after the mainstream coverage and commentary has moved on.
- #socialmedia was a continuing favourite in December, but #willandkate got a look in along with #secretsantas and, of course, #christmas.
Which brings us to #2011. If #2010 was the year of the hashtag, then by my reckoning, #2011 will be the year of the live tweet chat - so watch out for one you might be interested in and take the opportunity whenever you can to join in. And, as a final note, as we stand at the gate of the year, my hope for you is that all your hashtags be happy ones.