Bridgett Baron, a successful business owner who runs “The World According to Bridgett” website, asks for my humble opinion about hyphens, hash signs and other typography yet to be hallowed.
Blog topic: The recent resurrection of the @ symbol, after generations of neglect. What long-overlooked keystroke is next?
12:42 AM Jul 29th via web in reply to ProfessorDino
Great question, Bridgett. To be honest, I’ve never been thrilled with people using the at sign to reply to tweets. Twitter explains how the at sign came into use in its early years, and you can’t blame them for adopting a community standard. Still, at signs are supposed to be for email addresses! (Insert old man’s voice here.) At least this has always been my impression, and I imagine this confused many Twitter users. “So the at sign doesn’t mean email here, but if I put the at sign in front a Twitter name, the other Twitter-er can read what I wrote. So it’s like email, right?
It’s worth noting another pair of punctuation marks prevalent on Twitter:
- The # hash sign. Before social media, this was a number sign. Over the last few years, it has become an acceptable method of tagging tweets, similar to tag clouds on blogs. Twitter now recognizes a hash mark in front of a keyword, generates a searchable hyperlink and viola—a “hashtag” or hash tag, depending on which style guide you use. Or styleguide. It never ends…
- The ^ caret. Also used to denote exponential numbers, the caret is used by teams of people that simultaneously manage a single Twitter account as a way to identify “who tweeted what.” The most common application is ending the entire tweet with ^XX, replacing XX with the person’s initials. Twitter is yet to apply any treatment to carats within tweets.
Back to your question, Bridgett. I’ve given this some thought and dug around a bit to see what’s bubbling. I didn’t observe widespread use of any other punctuation outside of normal grammatical usage. So, here are some ideas I have for symbolic contenders and my pick for the next big new mark:
The question mark
How does every question start in Spanish? With an inverted ¿ question mark. Granted, most languages don’t require double enclosure for interrogatives, but I do envision some kind of mobile service that immediately recognizes a question preceded by either mark and ignites an artificial intelligence engine:
? fastest land mammal
The exclamation point
Writers use—and abuse—this mark to emote excitement. Process engineers see this and think “DOES NOT INCLUDE.” Technical publishers use this for caution flags, warning alerts or error signs. I can see a GPS-enabled, crowdsourced highway alert system where a witness to a road incident could message the following:
! accident I-75 N exit 83 "2 cars fire injuries"
REC... MSP notified... Emergency responders en route... ETA 3 min... SMS recorded as +16165551212
These last two examples assume some SMS-friendly short code that sticks to 140 characters. But what if we have room to spare? What if there’s suddenly a shoe sale, this Saturday only, the store opens at 6 a.m. and heck, why not throw in free rolls?
OMG There is like this crazy !!!sale on shoes at Macy’s at Monmouth Mall!!! and Cinnabon is giving away free, like, buns or something which, no way, that is totally uncalled for THIS temple of a body. Like I can afford cankles when I can barely afford !!!Zanotti platforms at $449!!! but CHECK THIS GURLZ they are like stupid cheap this Saturday if you get there before 9 which is WAY early I admit after a Friday night, HELLO??? but whatever you get a $50 credit and ANOTHER $100 off any pair over $199 and $200 off two or more pair! That is what I am talking ABOUT. Drag your butt out of bed and we’ll get !!!ZUMBA!!! over with and do lunch. C U!
In this, um, colorful example, three exclamation signs in repetition encapsulate text strings as manually inputted by the user (similar to Textile). Each string is converted to a search keyword or tag and then made visible to said shoe freak’s inner circle:
Nicole P.’s tags for today:
* sale on shoes at Macy’s at Monmouth Mall
* Zanotti platforms at $449
* Giuseppe Zanotti - SPONSORED
* Monmouth Mall
* Zumba Fitness NJ - SPONSORED
The dollar sign
It may no longer be the strongest currency on the planet, but the dollar symbol is universally recognized as a representation of money. Computer geeks know the dollar sign for regular expressions, prototype classes and variable indicators. Huh? Sorry Bridgett, but I speak geek. So how to marry money with programming moxie? Maybe by saving hapless spenders and converting them into would-be coders with this command-line budget tool:
$earn=2000.$bills=1000.$save=300.$invest=200 > calc y
Your will earn $48,000 in wages this year. After paying $24,000 in bills, saving $3,600 and investing $2,400, you will be left with $18,000.
That’s a pretty simplistic example, I admit, but you get the basic idea. Assign dollar amounts to variables concatenated together with dot signs (periods) to make a formula. Simple algebra. Memorize a few basic text commands to do stuff with the variables (in the above theoretical case, calculate a simplistic budget over a period of one year). Advanced users could apply compound interest, amortize loans and such by adding parenthetical percentages. Shuffle around the variables to create various financial conditions. Before you know it, you are “scripting,” or running basic programming shortcuts without even realizing it. Google Labs gave us a similar feature to convert currency and measurements as well as perform simple arithmetic by entering arguments and operands as search terms. Imagine a social hub implementing this feature, then sharing the results with your network. Better yet, watching them trend and reaping a wealth of knowledge from your friends’ community-driven computations.
I could go on, Bridgett. Wildcard asterisks, greater-than and less-than signs, titillating tildas, simple ampersands, backward slashes and so many brackets, so little time. But not everybody wants to be a junior programmer and punctuation is about as dowdy a discussion as one can get. Besides, this is social media! It’s supposed to be fun, engaging, power-to-the-people and what mobs say goes. So what do I really believe is the rookie symbol sensation?
Plusses and minuses
Simple, really. A plus sign means you like or approve something. A minus sign shows dislike or disapproval:
Dino Baskovic +buffalo wings –ranch dressing
…which is true. I dip my drummies in blue cheese, not ranch. The best part about using plus and minus signs? No special skills are necessary. Nor is any extra integration required of social networks, unless they choose to adopt them as standards. I think the online community could embrace these given the propensity to rate and review everything under the sun. Everybody inherently understands that a plus sign means positive, a minus sign negative. “Signing” could even become iterative:
+blues +Chicago –harmonica –augmented_scale
In this case, you are stating that you prefer Chicago-style blues but not the harmonica-laden sounds of the South Side, nor at the typical augmented synthetic scale proffered by jazz theorists. In other words, you are a righteous jazz snob (not you personally, Bridgett). You get your point across with simple plusses and minuses, with a little Boolean logic to boot. Pandora picks up on it and behold: instant uppity jazz mix.
So there you have it, Bridgett. I hope you plus this post.
Just don’t plus-one this post, because that would imply Google+ is relevant.