Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: Bae

Bae is a popular word used by Young People. When used by Young People, it means "babe" or "baby," and is meant as a romantic gesture. (There is some thought that it is an acronym and stands for Before Anyone Else, but this is erroneous.)

Per Time: "...Today bae is used as a term of endearment, often referring to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Or perhaps a prospect who might one day hold such a lofty position."

The word has been around for years, but was popularized by Pharrell, who released the single "Come Get It Bae" in June:

And now white people are co-opting the word, and frankly, looking kind of stupid.

As for how to use it in conversation, Time recommends:
A good rule of thumb for now at least: if you would use the words boo or babe in some circumstance, you can probably use bae.
But if you have to ask, you shouldn't make an attempt. And Michael Che agrees:

Additional Lessons:
This Is What Bae Means, Time
Bae, Urban Dictionary

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: Spoopy

Have you noticed the word "spoopy" lately? In Twitter handles, or T-shirts?

I myself was flummoxed from this selection of shirts from Look Human:

Clearly the Internet was in on a joke and we had missed it. Many full moons ago, in 2009, Mike Woodridge found a mispelled Halloween decoration. He uploaded his photograph (below) on the Internet, and lo, the online community had a field day.

The Internet loves a mistake, and this was one. Thanks to my generation's general sense of humor, spoopy can sometimes be used to indicate that a thing or event is also amusing. Urban Dictionary calls spoopy, "Something that is funny and spooky at the same time."

I don't much care for deliberate misspellings, and I prefer for my autumn Halloween to include a degree of spookiness.

Additional Resources:
Spoopy, Know Your Meme
Spoopy, Urban Dictionary
Tumblr's new Hallowmeme is 'too spoopy to live, too creppy to die', The Daily Dot

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Technology Lesson: Downloading U2's New Album

Unfortunately Labor Day has come and gone, and the regular posting schedule has not resumed as planned. I've been exceptionally busy. But I have a lesson today, because far be it from me to deny you the assistance to free music.

U2, one of the world's most popular bands, released a new album Tuesday! Titled Songs of Innocence (named after William Blake's collection of poetry, Songs of Innocence and of Experience), the LP will be available for physical purchase October 13. But as of Tuesday, the album was available for free on iTunes. (After October 13 the free album is no longer available.)

I had a deep, abiding love for U2 in my youth, and I have a deep, abiding interest in free things, so I set about getting my hands on the album before the free-window closed. (The group released a single in January, which was free for one hour.) As it happens, Apple set about providing the album for each user. To get the album, you access your cloud and download it.

This is a little disconcerting. (What if you don't want U2's album?) It can be confusing if you go to the band's page and see that you already "have" it. I realize not everyone understands "the cloud" so I'm here to help.

Let's get started. Turn on your computer (or iTouch/iPhone). Load iTunes. (Apple devices have the app, it's purple.) If you are accessing this the week of September 9, 2014, you'll see a banner for the album:

You can click this if you want to, or you can skip ahead to the instructions regarding your account and files in you cloud.

This is what the album page looks like:

You'll see that under the album artwork, it says PURCHASED instead of BUY. If you click on PURCHASED nothing will happen, because you already "own" the album.

This is what the page says: "Songs of Innocence is available from your Purchased page on iTunes now. And soon you can go to the Music app on your iOS device and your iTunes music library on your Mac or PC, and find Songs of Innocence under the artist or album tab. Your music is in iCloud, just tap the track listing to start listening, or tap the cloud icon to download."

So, let's get into your iCloud. Go back to the music page in iTunes. Click MUSIC or click the house icon. Look for the column on the right, under the circulating banners.


By default, the PURCHASED page will show what you have purchased and is NOT in your library. If it doesn't, there are two "buttons" on the right side of the page. Click "NOT IN MY LIBRARY."

My page shows items I have purchased through my iTouch but chosen not to download to my iTunes library.

You'll see the U2 album is there. In the top right corner of the album icon is a cloud with an arrow. Click that to download it. If you click the "X" on the top left corner it will hide the item (but not delete it). 

After you click the cloud, the download will begin.

To get the album directly to your device, open the iTunes app.

Press MORE. It is in the bottom right corner of the app, next to SEARCH.




U2 should be an option. Tap the cloud with the arrow, and await the download.

Presumably this option will expire in October, and those of us burdened with unwanted music will feel some relief. (Particularly since I have no instructions to provide in that regard!)

Additional Resources:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: SFM

Am I getting Old? Several vocabulary lessons have been precipitated by my own ignorance. For shame!

So here I am. I didn't know what "SFM" meant. Thanks to the powers of Google... I do.

SFM means "So Freaking Much." (Or... "So Fucking Much.")

Here is the abbreviation, as used by a Young Person in the know:
You would probably only used this generally, when expressing genuine affection. You would not use it as a means of dislike. For example, you'd only use SFM as seen above, and not, say, "I do not love watching Glee SFM." (Mostly because that's not how a person should speak anyway!)

Gosh, it's hard keeping up with kids these days.

Additional Resources:
SFM, InternetSlang.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Technology Lesson: Unsubscribe From A Comment Thread On Facebook

Long ago, you wanted to Stop Notifications on a Facebook post, you could find the post on your feed and click STOP NOTIFICATIONS (or even UNFOLLOW) under the post's content. That "long ago" was a year ago, but with Facebook's ever changing interface, those days are in our past.

Oh, how I long for those days!

Why might you want to stop notifications? Well, if you're like me, you might have some very popular Facebook friends. Whereas I might receive one or two comments, my friends over receive as many as twenty (or more!) comments on every post. My Facebook friends have thousands of friends, whereas I have approximately 200. Received nearly 100 e-mails is my idea of irritating, and telling Facebook to stop notifications means I won't receive those e-mails.

Of course, if a comment has my name in it, I will receive the notification via e-mail.

To stop the barrage of e-mails, log into Facebook.

Find the post in question. (A shortcut to doing this is to click "SEE COMMENT" in the e-mail sent by Facebook.)

Click the arrow at the top right of the post. You're probably familiar with this and the menu it provides, as this is how you can unfollow a person, hide an add, or unfriend someone, all from your newsfeed.


DONE! In my example you can see that I did this with a post from my dear cousin. After you've chosen STOP NOTIFICATIONS, you'll see above the post, "You will longer get notifications for this story." It's a confirmation that you were successful.

If you click STOP NOTIFICATIONS in error, the message is followed by a link titled GET NOTIFICATIONS, which will quickly undo your work. If you decide you want notifications sometime later, you can not repeat these steps and turn notifications "on" again.

All Facebook posts

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Technology Lesson: A Tour of Facebook's Message Center

Let's look around your message center in Facebook. Your message center is where you Facebook messages and chats are stored.

To access your messages, click MESSAGES. It's in the LEFT COLUMN next to your newsfeed. It is the second item in that column, under NEWS FEED.

You can also see messages by clicking on the conversation bubble icon at the top RIGHT of your screen. This will provide a preview for your inbox. (You can also view messages sent to your other folder. We'll discuss that folder in a moment.)

If you click a message from this preview it will open as a chat box at the bottom of your screen. That's because...
Chat and message histories are threaded together — you can think of them as one and the same. When you open a conversation, you’ll see a conversation that includes all your messages along with your entire chat history. If you send a chat message to a friend who has turned chat off, the chat message will be sent directly to their message inbox.
The default view in your messages is of your Inbox. You can search for a specific message by typing in the search bar on the top left, above your messages. You can also search by clicking the magnifying glass on the right.

You can view your Other messages by click OTHER, next to INBOX. You can see Archived, Unread, and Spam messages by clicking MORE.

You can start a new message by clicking + NEW MESSAGE in the center of your center. A blank message will appear. Type the name of your friend in the TO field. Your friends and friends of friends will appear as you type. So will previous messages.

You can send a message to anyone on Facebook. You might want to send a message because you are friends with someone but don't have his or her e-mail address. Or you might not be friends but want to contact the person. (To do that, find the person's page and click MESSAGE at the bottom right of his or her cover.)

If you are not friends with the person, the message may be sent to his or her Other box. If you send a message don't hear back, make this assumption. Most people don't check for Other messages. (It also makes you feel better!)

If you're messaging a stranger, Facebook may prompt you to pay the social media giant to ensure that the message is delivered to the inbox. Is that shady or what?! The fee is about $0.99.

If you're not friends with someone, but the person is in a group on a message (say, the message is sent to a group of people, or a Facebook group) or is a friend of a friend it may go to the inbox. Likewise, you may receive a message this way.

Messages are also sent to Other when they are pre-filtered. I think that's pretty rude of Facebook, personally. Whereas an inbox message will prompt Facebook to notify you via e-mail, an Other message will not. Per Facebook:
Your Other folder is where you'll find messages and emails that have been filtered out of your inbox. You can change your filter preference right from your inbox.
To get to your Other folder, click Messages on the left side of the homepage. At the top left of your main messages view, click Other.
I advise that you occasionally check your Other folder. If you're worried about missing out, you can manage your settings:
You can change your filter preferences right from your inbox:
  1. Go to your messages inbox
  2. In the upper-left corner of your messages, click Other
  3. Click Edit Preferences
  4. Select Basic or Strict filtering
  5. Click Save
Messages may end up in Other anyway.

Facebook Lessons

Additional Resources:
Managing Messages, Facebook Help
Sending A Message, Facebook Help
What is the "Other" folder in my inbox?, Facebook help

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: IIRC

Today's lesson is yet another abbreviation I rarely remember: IIRC.

IIRC stands for If I Recall Correctly.

Like many abbreviations (TBH, TL;DR, BTW*), is is an Internet-created abbreviation. You will likely see it in forums and comments at the bottom of articles. In general, this abbreviation saves the typist and commenter time, and also lends an air of casualness to the conversation. It also covers the commenter's bases (albeit weakly) in the event that the person does not actually remember correctly.

*That's to be honest, too long; didn't read, and by the way.

Additional Resources:
IIRC, Urban Dictionary
IIRC, Internet Slang.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Technology Lesson: Shoot your video in landscape mode

If the Young People in your life had tried hard to instill the value of shooting photography in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical), it can be hard to fight the urge not to shoot videos in portrait (vertical) mode.

But you really shouldn't. I'll show you two vertical videos, which will illustrate why you should shoot horizontally.

This video was shot with my iTouch. I didn't turn my device. Now the overall image is "smaller" than it would be if I had turned my iTouch. Unfortunately, those black bars are distracting. Remember that TV screens, laptop monitors, and YouTube videos are oriented to display horizontally. So your camera and cell phone screen should be turned that way, too.

I'll let Wired explain why that is:
Videos, unlike photos, are almost universally presented horizontally. There’s a reason for this: It’s how we’re built to view the world. Our vision allows us to see more to the left and right than top and bottom. So when you shoot a video on your smartphone in portrait mode, you’re violating not only the set video standard, but also the laws of nature as they pertain to human sight.
Gizmodo asks, "What would it be like if every time someone gave you a dollar to spend, you spent 33 cents and threw the other 67 cents in the trash? This is like that."

Even worse, the black bars indicate that I have no idea what I'm doing. Amateur hour!

This video is even worse. Because I didn't edit the video and have it rotated, there are no black bars—but the video is unwatchable.

So, before you fire up your phone or digital camera, visualize the finished product, streaming online for your friends and family, or playing on your living room television. Then proceed accordingly, so your finished product is supremely watchable, and able to be enjoyed.

Additional Resources:
That’s Not How You Use That: Shooting Video in Portrait Mode, Wired
Portrait video and other things cameras shouldn't let you do, The Verge
PSA: Please Turn Your Damn Cellphone Sideways When Recording Video, Gizmodo

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: N.B.

"N.B." is an abbreviated Latin phrase. It stands for nota bene and is commonly used at the end of lengthy blog posts.

Translated, nota bene means note well. In many articles, it serves as an editorial note or "p.s." at the end. From this Zagat FAQ:
In present-day English, it is used to draw the attention of the reader to a certain (side) aspect or detail of the subject on hand, translating it as "pay attention" or "take notice."
This Gothamist article is an example of N.B. in action. You'll see that Gothamist's Dobkin provides a long answer with additional notes at the end.

Additional Information:
Nota bene, Wikipedia
What does N.B. mean?, Zagat Help

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


In today's Technology Lesson, I'll show you how to download an image from Facebook and send it in an e-mail as an attachment. I'll also show you how to post the image to Tumblr, since that's what I did with the image. This lesson is highly specific, but it is also by request.

You see, my particularly adorable niece was spotted in her local meat market Saturday, hauling a five-pound bag of ground beef. The meat market posted her brilliant visage to its Facebook page, precipitating the need for this lesson. It seems unfair to violate her privacy on this blog, especially since there was a rather amusing image on my Facebook feed a few days later.

As for this the title of this blog, I am openly mocking blogs that run their entire economic scheme on clickbait. Upworthy is the biggest offender in my mind, as it often ends its posts with "YOU WON'T BELIEVE" or "YOU'LL FEEL [SOMETHING POSITIVE." (Upworthy also removes the dateline from its posts, which I think is unethical and disingenuous; this method helps make old stories go viral again and again.) This is probably a bad move for someone looking for gainful employment, but now I've squeezed a third lesson into one post!

Let's get started! Turn on your computer. Log in, if necessary. Connect to the Internet, if necessary. Open your browser. (A browser is a program or application you use to surf the web. Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome are examples of browsers.)

Go to www.facebook.com. Log in to your account if necessary.

If you are looking for a specific photograph, search for it. For example, I typed the name of the meat market of the search bar when I was acquiring the photograph of my niece. When I sent my niece an old photo of myself with dyed hair in 2012, I went to my page and clicked on PHOTOS.

In the example I'm providing, I happened upon the image in my newsfeed.

Click the image so it opens in its own "window." Right click the image (using the right button on your mouse, or by holding CONTROL and clicking the image). Click "SAVE IMAGE AS..."

A dialogue box will appear. Before you save, you will need to choose where the image is saved. Your computer may send you to a Downloads folder. You may have previously set where downloads go. On my PC all files go to a TEMP folder unless I direct it otherwise. Find a place where you can find this file again. Then rename the file. I renamed this image "yogabear.jpg." Make sure to include the extension; without ".jpg" you can not send the image.

The first thing I did with this image was upload it to a Tumblr I keep for my niece. Yes, I have a Tumblr for a toddler.

I typed www.tumblr.com into the address bar of my browser, and hit ENTER. I was already logged in, so I went to the RIGHT COLUMN of the screen and picked the blog I wanted to upload the image to. I have an embarrassing number of accounts.

Look, there's a feed of my posts! I clicked PHOTO, as I want to upload an image. A white box dropped down, and I clicked "CHOOSE UP TO TEN PHOTOS" which was in the center of the box.

A box popped up. I went to DOWNLOADS since that's where I saved my image. I selected the image and clicked OPEN.

The image appeared in a Tumblr draft. I provided a rather clever caption, which you can read above. I clicked POST.

Satisfied with my blogging, I went to Gmail. I typed www.gmail.com in the address bar.

I was already signed in. I clicked COMPOSE, which you can see at the top left of the screen. A draft appeared at the bottom right of the screen. I typed a recipient (in this example, I sent the email to myself), and a subject line. Then I clicked on the paperclip at the bottom of the box. If you hover, it will say ATTACH FILES.

A box popped up. As before, it was already in Downloads. Go to the folder where you saved your image if you are not already there. Click on the file and click OPEN.

I then typed a message in the body of the message. If you send an attachment without a message, most email clients will ask if you're sure you want to send an empty message. Don't be rude. Send a message with your attachment!

Again, I think I am pretty clever.

You can see the attachment in the message at the bottom. This is what it looks like in Gmail. It may not look like this in every email client.

When you are satisfied, click SEND.

In review: right-click the image, choose "save image as...", save image, go to your email, open a new message, attach the file, select a recipient, type a subject, type a message, click send.

Now, wasn't that easy?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Technology Lesson: Bitstrips

Bitstrips is a Facebook application. It lets users create customized cartoon characters and publish single-cell cartoons. It also allows you to "Put your friends in hilarious comics where anything can happen."

Unfortuantely, the art and illustration is infuriatingly ugly. Valleywag called Bitstrips "universally hated." As an Old Person, you get a pass on bad Facebook apps. You earned your Oldness and can do whatever you want!

For instructions on how to block Bitstrips (with gifs!), see this lesson from Buzzfeed. Beware: I often see users upload their Bitstrip as an image, which circumvents the app. (Therefore, if I had blocked the app, I'd see it anyway.)

So now you know what all those weird, funny pictures are!

Additional Resources:
How To Block Bitstrips From Your Facebook Timeline, Buzzfeed
Bistrips, Universally Hated Facebook Spam Company, Bags $3 Million, Valleywag

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Technology Lesson: Pinterest's Related Pins

Last fall, Pinterest introduced "related pins," pins picked by Pinterest related to your pins and boards. The idea is that related pins will help users find new content. At this time, users can not opt out of this feature.

Related pins are based on what you have pinned and which websites you've visited recently. (This last feature utilizes cookies, but you can turn it off.) My experience is that the pins are relevant to my interests.

Here is Pinterest's example of relevant pins: "If you’ve been collecting recipes for your big holiday feast, we might show you a related Pin for fool-proof pie crust, or the perfect double-stuffed sweet potato."

However, I do not repin related pins. I also find that there are significantly more related pins than those from the people I am following, making it exacerbating and difficult to find the content I do want. I use Pinterest to save content for later, but that is not what Pinterest wants; Pinterest wants me to use the site more often, making it more profitable to investors. So on Pinterest's side, related pins is helpful for the business and users. Unfortunately, I'm old fashioned. If I wanted strangers on my feed, I'd add them on my own.

Here is how to identify a related pin:

You'll see that under the pin it says "RELATED PIN." This is important to look for if you have a pin from a user you don't recognize and begin to panic.

If you click the "i" you can rate the pin. For example, maybe you have a pin from Buzzfeed called "230 ways to lose weight, you dumb fat ass." (Not real!) And you are a body positive person. So you'd press the "i" for info, and rate the pin. (Pinterest: "A thumbs down will remove the recommendation from the feed and the site will learn more about what you do and don't like.")

It looks like this:

You also get info as to why the pin has been provided. I find this to be very helpful. And, truth be told, this pin is relevant to the content on my feed.

I'm sorry I have no advice on culling related pins. Related pins has been around for a few months, so it's unlikely that Pinterest will end the practice or let its users opt out. (But it would be nice if we could!)

Additional Sources:
Related Pins, Pinterest
Freshening up your home feed with related Pins, Pinterest
Pinterest Introduces Related Pins, Mashable

Monday, February 3, 2014

Technology Lesson: Subtweeting

Subtweeting when a person is a passive aggressive and throws shade on Twitter; when a user alludes to another person but does not mention him or her, the user is subtweeting. For example, if I tweeted, "I hate when people complain about their cushy jobs," after my friend on Twitter complains about her sweet job, that could be subtweeting.

Subtweeting is rude. Luckily for us, it may be dead. Buzzfeed has declared it so.

I'm going to share the Urban Dictionary definition anyway:
Indirectly tweeting something about someone without mentioning their name. Even though their name is not mentioned, it is clear who the person tweeting is referring to.
Ugh. Wasn't there enough middle school behavior on the Internet? The important elements of subtweeting are: 1) it must be mean 2) it must not mention the person or people by name and 3) the unnamed person or people must be able and likely to see it. Complaining about unnamed celebrities or politicians, people who can not see the Twitter feed or are strangers and unlikely to, or naming or mentioning a user, do not make the 140-missive a subtweet.

Making the subtweet more complicated: many feel that the tweet must be both funny and not passive aggressive to others. That is, while you and the unnamed recipient understand that he, she, or them, are the source of the tweet, unrelated readers do not know the person or that someone has inspired humorous ire.

Personally, I have a hard time seeing humor in any subtweet. I am loathe to credit Buzzfeed, but I think this is a good rule for Internet behavior (if you're not going to be nice in the first place): "The new rule: If you want anyone to pay attention to your beef, name names." We're all adults here, let's all agree to have the spine to actually call people out when we call them out.

Throw shade

Additional Resources: 
Subtweeting, Urban Dictionary
How subtweets are ruining Twitter, Slate
The Subtweet Is Dead, Buzzfeed
The Internet Talks To The Internet About The Internet, Makes Fun Of You, The Awl
The Art of Subtweeting, Social Chic

Monday, January 27, 2014

Technology Lesson: How To Download Photos From E-Mail

This lesson will help you download photographs from your e-mail. This lesson requires your computer.

Turn on your computer. Log in if necessary.

Open your web browser. Go to your email client, and open the message with the image you want to download.

If you have Gmail, click the arrow that appears when your mouse hovers the image.

 You can click this arrow when you click the image and it appears on the screen:

You'll see the arrow at the bottom right.

Or you can right click the image and click save as:

To right click, you'll need to click the right button on your mouse. On a Mac, you'll hold CONTROL while clicking with your mouse or keypad.

This is the general principle in other email clients. You can usually open the image in a new tab by clicking the name of the file:

And then right click, and choose SAVE AS:

From there, you'll need to save the file. You can save the file to your external harddrive, a thumb drive, or your computer's harddrive.

Of course, many email clients will allow you to simply download the file. If you know where your downloaded files go, this will save you a lot of time. Generally, the files are saved in a folder on your computer called DOWNLOADS. You may have set this as something else, however.

From here, you can burn the images to a CD (following the principles from the lesson two weeks ago), and/or store them for safe keeping.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: That's What She Said

"That's what she said!"
is an old catchphrase. It is used as a response to an inadvertent double entendre. It is widely considered to be a cliché.

It goes back to "Said the actress to the bishop," which sounds like a good way to throw a dorky Young Person off his or her game. His or her sad, sad, game, because "That's what she said," returned to the lexicon in the mid-00s.

Having originated before the 1920s, it returned with The Office. In the UK, the character said, "Said the actress to the bishop." In the American import, clueless boss Michael Scott often said, "That's what she said!" A part of the joke was that his witty retort was hopelessly outdated.

Of course, millennials are not that bright. Say what you want, Old People, without fear of double entendres. You've earned the right for your words to go unmolested.

Additional Comments:
Said the actress to the bishop, Wikipedia
That's What She Said? Yeah, Give It A Rest, GQ
That's What She Said, Know Your Meme
The British Equivalent of "That's What She Said," Today I Found Out

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Technology Lesson: How to get photos from your camera to a burned CD (on a PC)

Today's lesson will build and use concepts from previous lessons. You can get out your external harddrive for this lesson. This lesson is PC-only; these instructions will not work with a Mac.

To burn photographs and digital media to a CD from your digital camera requires a computer, a USB cable, a blank CD, and your digital camera.

Acquire your items.

Turn on your computer. Log in if necessary.

Connect your camera's USB cable to your digital camera. Connect the other end of the cable to the USB port in your computer.

Turn on your camera--if necessary. Some cameras will not need to be turned on to connect to the computer. In some, rare, cases, the camera needs to be off.

Open the camera's files. Highlight the files (photographs, videos, and digital media) you want to burn to a blank CD. (To highlight more than one file at a time, hold CTRL while you click the files.)

Copy the files. You can either go to EDIT and click COPY or hold CTRL while holding the C key.

Now open a new window, and go to the blank CD. Paste the files. Either go to EDIT and PASTE or hold CTRL and hold the V key.

If you back up your work on an external harddrive, this is a good time to back up your digital camera. Having already copied the files, you can paste them on the harddrive. (Connect the harddrive to the computer with its USB cables.) You can paste files multiple times after copying them.

Now burn the CD. This will vary based on which version of windows you are using. In my now-antiquated version, there is a column on the left side of the screen. It says BURN TO CD and will burn from there.

Your default settings are OK. This is going to be a MEDIA disc, if it asks.

Let the CD burn. There will be a noise when it's done, and the CD drive may open.

I know this goes a little off the rails here; but when it comes to Windows, the language could say anything!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vocabulary Lesson: Hashtag (#)

A hashtag is a keyword or short phrase used in microblogging to tag, classify, and sort a message. It often helps to further define the missive. Hashtags can not have spaces or punctuation.

Hashtags are often used on Twitter and Facebook. They also appear on Instagram. Sometimes a person will say the word "hashtag" out loud, followed by an oral tag. They are dorks and should be ignored. Here are some examples from Twitter:

You can identify it by its preceding "#" You may recognize this as the "number sign," or the pound key on your phone. In press releases "###" signifies the end.

Hashtags can appear anywhere, but are commonly used at the end of the missive. On Twitter, popular hashtags are turned into "Trending Topics." (Some of the topics are paid for by sponsors.)

If you click the hashtag—the whole phrase with the pound sign—you will see all updates with that hashtag on the network. This is what happened when I clicked "#Caps"

Before I send you into that tagged world, some tips on using hashtags yourself:

It is considered bad form to use too many hashtags in a post. Consider limiting it to no more than three, though one is probably best. Make sure your hashtag is an identifier (like in the examples above) and/or the subject of your tweet. Moreover, make sure it is specific. (Don't use #art when #sculpture would be better.) Finally, your hashtag must be relevant.

Additional Resources:
Using hashtags on Twitter, Twitter Help Center
How do I use hashtags?, Facebook