Tweeting at the Annual Meeting: Results from the AHA17 History Hashtags Drive

Following the 2016 annual meeting in Atlanta, I argued in Perspectives that historians should try and engage in tweeting strategically in order to network most effectively at the meeting. Strategic tweeting includes, among other things, targeting tweets by using the appropriate hashtags. With so many different hashtags for the same subject fluttering about, however, how can historians with common interests reach one another?

Earlier this year, a group of digital historians had a conversation on Twitter about which hashtag to use for digital history. They settled on #dighist. Multiple versions still exist (such as #dhist and #digitalhistory), but the act of coming together to establish consensus on a single hashtag was nonetheless valuable.

In an effort to unify hashtags, the AHA recently hosted the #AHA17 History Hashtags Drive. Using Liz Covart’s comprehensive list of history hashtags, I identified subject areas where historians were using different hashtags—#foodhistory and #foodhist, for example. I then periodically tweeted out the different versions, asking historians to tweet back with the one they preferred. Initially, participation was spotty, but several historians noted when they used certain tags, or if they used alternative versions. As the drive progressed, I decided to try out Twitter Polls to see if it would help us get more feedback. Immediately, votes poured in, but the poll format precluded any nuanced feedback. To view our tweets and historians’ responses, see the #aha17hashtags feed on Twitter.

I began the drive in an attempt to establish consensus on hashtags for certain subject areas in advance of the annual meeting, and therefore to streamline meeting conversations. Perhaps the following results will help historians decide which versions to use in some cases, but I’m hoping for now that they will mostly prompt discussion. Do we need better consensus, or is it good to have multiple versions? For instance, one Twitter user noted the use of #foodways for food and culture, in addition to either #foodhistory or #foodhist. How exacting are historians in their use of #ushistory as opposed to #americanhistory? Or #AfAmhistory as opposed to #blackhistory? In each case, users tweet similar content to both tags, but the tags CAN mean different things.

Ultimately, the decision of which hashtags to use lies with the users, and individual subjects require them to consider different questions. I encourage historians tweeting at the annual meeting to raise these questions as they digitally converse at sessions where they’re likely to meet colleagues with similar interests.

#AHA17 History Hashtags Drive Results

Initial Results

  • 18th-century history: 6 votes for #C18, 2 for #18thcentury
  • Food history: 4 for #foodhist, 1 for #foodways (related to food and culture)
  • History major/BA in history: 1 for #historymajor
  • History of medicine: 6 for #histmed, 2 for #histSTM (when more inclusive)
  • Military history: 1 for #milhist, 1 for #militaryhistory
  • “On This Day”/ “Today in History”: 1 for #OTD, 1 for #todayinhistory
  • Women’s history: 7 votes for #wmnhist, 3 for #womenshistory

Results with Twitter Polls

General Guidelines for Tweeting at the Meeting

  • As always, we will be using the hashtag #aha17 for all things meeting-related.
  • Use session hashtags for live-tweeting from specific sessions. These come in the format: #s1, #s2, #s214, etc.
  • Use subject hashtags where applicable.
  • Include speakers’ handles when mentioning them; this is courteous, a useful form of citation, and a great way to make new Twitter acquaintances.
  • Speakers who do not wish their talks to be tweeted should make this clear at the beginning of their presentations.
  • #aha17-specific hashtags:
    • Use #aha17 and #thatcamp for THATCamp at UC Denver on Wednesday
    • Use #aha17 and #GSDH for the “Getting Started in Digital History” workshop on Thursday
    • Use #aha17 and #first100days for the first plenary: “The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New US President”
    • Use #aha17 and #election2016 for the second plenary: “Election 2016: How Did We Get Here and What Does It Mean?”
    • Use #aha17 and #ahaposter to tweet about poster presentations
    • Include #aha17 and #exhibithall in tweets about the Exhibit Hall
    • If you are participating in the Historic Denver Scavenger Hunt—that’s right, we have a super-fun scavenger hunt—tweet your selfies to #aha17 and #scavengerhunt.
  • National History Center session tags:
    • “Federal Government Historians and Historical Perspectives in Governance and Policy” – #fedhistorians
    • “History Communication in the Classroom” – #histcomm
    • “Human Rights and US Foreign Policy during Late Cold War” – #humanrights
    • “Historians in the Policy Arena” – #histpolicy
    • “Teaching with the NHC’s Mock Policy Briefing Program” – #mockpolicy
    • “Founding Women Digital Documentary Editing Project” – #foundingwomen

Contacting AHA Staff via Twitter

Because the #aha17 stream will be so busy—last year we had 13 thousand unique tweets to the meeting tag—if you want to contact AHA staff with a specific concern, please tweet at @AHAhistorians or email the appropriate staff member.

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