Turn It On and Go!

Thirty-three years ago last Monday (22 June 2009), Jimmy Luther Lee of Clayton, CA filed a U.S. Patent for the design of the current day Fish Locator [1] device. The idea of an electrical devices used to locate fish wasn’t a new idea. In the patent it was necessary to address the common Patent term known as prior art [2]. These so-called Fish Locators were already being produced before Lee’s invention, but they were troublesome, unreliable and fragile devices. Lee’s invention signifcantly changed, through technological improvement, the device and in-turn spawned the turn-it-on-and-go device we have today.

Lees’ invention made it vastly easier to use the device we call the Fish Locator; and by various other product branded names. Thus, it in turn made it vastly easier to SELL, as well! Popularity, accessibility, usability, necessity – all soared. To the point that nearly every motorized craft used in the pursuit of fishing – fresh and saltwater – have at least one Fish Locating device – onboard. Their popularity – yeah, necessity – even insures that even non-motorized craft make use of them. Ice fishermen have made the fish-locating device essential in their pursuit of fish through frozen surfaces.

Fish locators have become indespensible to the modern fisherman. Many refuse to leave home without one.

TRACK – STORE – RECALL

In a similar story, the world of communication has been altered forever by the power of 140 characters. In a way no one would – or could – ever have anticipated.

Before Twitter [3], communication in bite-size bits was considered incomplete and many times incoherent. And for the most part it was nearly impossible to keep track of such bits-n-pieces of information. Let alone even consider recalling them for future use. What use could they possibly have?

The major reason such small bits of information were deemed unsusable, was the lack of an ability to track, store and recall such tiny bits of thought. Then putting them together in any meaningful way… well, it would be literal nightmare. No one REALLY enjoys nightmares.

In the early 1990’s, when the information world was rocked to its foundation by the advent of the Internet [4], the problem of track, store and recall took on megalithic proportions. How to solve this thorny issue was on every database-thinking mind in computerdom.

The answer turned out to already be in their programming toolbox: the TAG [5]. The key was getting the ‘TAG’ out of its square hole and capable of conforming to meet any ‘need’ as necessary. The solution came in the form of a specific language for ‘TAG’s called XML [6], or eXtensible Markup Language.

XML is a 2nd Generation programming derivitive of an earlier, far more complex software language. This tool-of-programming-torture is known as SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) [7].

Anyone familiar with – whether knowledgable in the How-To’s or not, of creating web pages, may recognize the term ‘Markup Language'[8]. The acronym HTML [9], for which most people now recognize as the ‘language of a web site’ is ‘Hyper Text Markup Language’. HTML is also a much simplified and very specific derivative of SGML.

The solution for keeping track of the every exploding levels of information created by-the-second on the Interent was to embed TAGS in the HTML code. Very specific TAGS rules were established as the versions of HTML were developed. The result are what now know as META TAGS [10].

The META TAG is a way of highlighting specific WORDS and PHRASES with a published web-based document that are SEARCHABLE via the next solution in the track, store, recall. We call them Search Engines.

The search engines, the best known one being Google, are the devices we use to located what we would most like to read or see, from the billions of pages availalbe on the Internet.

The search engines send out billions of instructions every hour to scour the WEB for information on pages, types, updates, drops, locations, and much, much more – dealing with every single page that exists online. Without META TAGS, a page is NOT searched. Thus, it is NOT found, either.

XML is unique in that anyone can write completely new tags for their own specific needs that will work with any XML script they create. This has been far and wide across the Internet and Information Technology communities.

There are many ‘flavors'[11] of XML. XML has been ‘flavored’ a lot. Many of which are extremely powerful.

The entire financial world – irrespective of national origin – use XML as their tool of choice. One specific ‘flavor’ of XML called XBRL (Xtensible Business Reporting language) [12] is not only used, but since 2005 the U.S. Government has made, the use of XBRL, manditory for Financial and Business Reporting. By 2012 ALL nations worldwide will require ALL businesses to use XBRL for their reporting.

Why?

Three very important and powerful reasons: Track, Store, Recall.

#HashTAG and 140 Characters of POWER

Twitter is pervasive. Twitter is humongeous! Twitter, the social-networking tool, based upon communication in 140 characters or less, is rapidly becoming THE First Level of Communication in the Online World.

But there was a problem.

Twitter did not allow the ‘owner’ of a Twitter account to ‘get to the code’ so they can embed ‘searchable tags’. Fret not fellow cyber dispensor of Tweetdom! The community of Twitter-fiddlers have taken care of this thorny issue.

Twitter-users (Tweeters?) were able to provide every user with an amazingly simple solution. The solution came easily because the backbone of Twitter uses XML – remember, Xtensible Markup Language? – to store, retrieve and deliver data.

Remember earlier mention that XML’s power lies within its inherent ability for unique tag creation by the author of an XML script? Well, Tweeter developers tapped this power to provide us, their fellow Tweeters – aka: USERS – with a vastly easy solution: the #hashtag.

By incorporating what had already been used in the community of IRC (Internet Relay Chat)[13] users, #hashtags[14] [the ‘#’ pound or number sign is commonly referred as a ‘hash’ in programming, thus the name #hashtag] became the name by Twitter users.

When Chris Messina voiced his initial proposal on 25 August 2007[15], for the use of #hastags for Twitter and reiterated in his post on 23 DEC 2007[16], Twitter didn’t have a track feature and he was looking to solve a specific problem of grouping, he was echoed by many[17] within the budding Social Networking[18] community.

In a round about way, as do many of the best ideas developed have appeared, #hashtags become the default tagging system for Twitter users. Bringing Tweets the power of Track – Store – Recall. [19][20][21]

What DOES a Fish Locator and the #hashtag have in Common?

Despite what seems to be no connection between the story of a Fish Locator and the Twitter #hashtag, they reall are very much connected. Both are the result of filling a need, by using pre-existing platforms, to provide answers to immediate needs. But they did far more. Their introductions have spawned hundereds – even thousands – of other uses, ideas, products and services. They were both a unique answer to a common problem with wide-ranging additional applications and solutions. Each one in-turn presenting more questions to germinate the next wave of technological development.

But even more in-common they share the same end result. Both the Fish Locator and the Twitter #hashtag, in-the-end, are about Track-Store-Recall.

Information is power. The ability to TRACK information, then STORE it provides immediate and future power.

But, having the ability to RECALL that information at anytime, form anyplace, by anyone… well, that is priceless. And that, is power.

— Resources —-

[1] Patent Application: Fish Locator – http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4050308.html
[2] prior art (Patent Application) – a term used to describe any information made available to the public, in any form, BEFORE the application by another for invention patent, to establish originality. If prior art is established and uniqueness of the new application is not found, said application could be denied. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art
[3] Twitter – http://twitter.com/about ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter
[4] Internet – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet
[5] TAG – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_(metadata)
[6] XML – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML
[7] SGML – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SGML
[8] Markup Language – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markup_language
[9] HTML – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML
[10] META TAGS – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_element
[11] ‘Flavors’ – a term often used in relation to varieties of the Operating System LINUX, to describe variations on the core code. The ‘flavors’ retain the core abilities of the code, but provide additional – often very powerful – tools and capabilities. Thus the term has carried over into other areas of coding and program development. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Linux_distributions
[12] XBRL – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBRL
[13] IRC – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Relay_Chat
[14] #hashtag – http://twitter.pbworks.com/Hashtags
[15] Chris Messina: Groups for Twitter; or a Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels – http://tinyurl.com/3by4w3
[16] Making Sense of #hashtags – Chriss Messina – http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/12/23/making-the-most-of-hashtags/
[17] What does # mean in a twitter post? All about octothorpetags. – http://vielmetti.typepad.com/vacuum/2007/11/what-does-mean-.html
[18] Social Networking – http://www.commoncraft.com/video-social-networking ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking
[19] #hashtags – http://hashtags.org/
[20] Twitter’s Page on ‘All Things #hashtag’ – excellent resource – http://twitter.pbworks.com/Hashtags
[21] Track your #hashtags a) http://hashtags.org, b) http://www.twitter.com/search, c)

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