#Arggg! What are these annoying things? They were mocked in the classic Tonight Show skit #Hashtag, with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, yet apparently many didn’t really seem to understand the actual issue they were illustrating.  People use ridiculous and unhelpful hashtags and don’t even appear to understand that they have an actual purpose.

Hashtags – love them or hate them, everyone sees them. They are so common that they were added to the Oxford dictionary in 2010 and even Scrabble in 2014! What’s shocking about them is how badly they are misused. Let’s explore what they are, what they are for and how they can be useful in your operating logs.

Hashtags, or just “tags”, are for indexing content. They are keywords that should have meaning with regard to the content they annotate. When used properly, one should be able to find relevant, related content more quickly than searching for plain text in the content. Why? Because the tags are definite keywords. Real people often abbreviate, misspell, commit typos or say things in ways others might not expect. Searching for text can be useful, but it may not be precise enough when content relates to something specific.

For the tags to be useful, there should be a plan for them. They should not be randomly chosen, and their use should be consistent.

Here are a few Dos for your tags:

  • Do make them short
  • Do make them specific
  • Do have them relate to important assets or conditions
  • Do create a standard for them
  • Do consider finding them quickly with type-ahead filtering searches
  • Do organize them into hierarchies where it makes sense

And here are the Don’ts for them:

  • Don’t make them too long or clever
  • Don’t have too many
  • Don’t make them hard to guess or remember
  • Don’t make jokes out of them

Some systems will allow you to organize your tags into a hierarchy. Systems that do will allow you to find things by searching for their ancestor tags. So, as a simple example, if I have a power generating plant that has 4 generating units, I could have a tag for Unit and have descendant tags for Unit1, Unit2, Unit3, and Unit4. Because of the tag hierarchy, it becomes easy to find content that was tagged for any specific unit by searching for the parent, Unit, tag, while not losing the ability to search for content related to a specific unit. That comes automatically via the hierarchy, and with some systems it’s not limited to one parent, nor one ancestor.

So, consider how hashtags, or just tags, can make your logs easier to search.  Create a good set of tags that can be used to index your operational log entries, and use them consistently.  Many operational logs allow the creation of templates or forms that can make the entry of common operating notes easy. They can also ensure that entries are tagged appropriately and consistently, automatically.

So, stay away from the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake #LOLOLOLOLOLOL hashtags, but do explore how they can make your operating record better.

LogBook is one tool that provides a great tagging system for indexing operating records. Check it out today to see how it can make your operations log better.