Tools for Transparency: Know Your Acronyms & Hashtags


You might have started noticing hashtags (like the ones seen on Twitter) and acronyms are frequently popping up in Facebook streams, news articles and social commentary – IMHO (in my humble opinion). While useful in getting directly to the point and adding a bit of taxonomy, hashtags and acronyms can be confusing to the uninitiated.

Departing from my usual posts on the latest tools, I’d like to instead run down some of the more common tags, terms and acronyms used on the web. After all, in order to use web tools effectively, you have to be able to speak to (and understand) your audience. This primer should help you out.

Click here to jump to acronyms for the web, here to decipher government abbreviations, and here to get the scoop on hashtag use.

General acronyms

Commonly spotted on Twitter

  • RT – retweet, quoting someone else’s tweet
  • MT – modified tweet, paraphrasing someone else’s tweet, usually so it can fit into 140 characters with your commentary
  • HT – hat tip
  • CC – think email lingo: carbon-copy
  • IRL – in real life (meaning, not on the internets)
  • OH – overheard
  • +1 – “me, too” or “upvote”


  • TL;DR – too long didn’t read
  • FWIW – for what it’s worth
  • FTFY – fixed that for you
  • ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing
  • LMAO – laughing my a$$ off
  • IMO– in my opinion
  • IMHO – in my humble opinion
  • IMAO – in my arrogant opinion
  • JK – just kidding
  • ITAP – I took a picture
  • TIL – today I learned
  • DAE – does anybody else?
  • YSK – you should know
  • AFAIK – as far as I know
  • FTW – for the win
  • IIRC – if I remember correctly
  • OP – original poster
  • ITT – in this thread
  • BRB – be right back
  • FYI – for your information
  • IOU – I owe you
  • THX – thanks
  • NP – no problem
  • WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get, helpful for understanding #opendata people talk about tools
  • NSFW – not safe for work (ahem)
  • TY – thank you
  • YW – you’re welcome
  • FML – f**k my life…#fail
  • BTW – by the way

Government specific acronyms

  • OGD – Open Government Directive
  • EO – Executive order
  • PAC – Political Action Committee
  • GAO – General Accounting Office
  • GSA – General Services Administration
  • OMB – Office of Management and Budget
  • CRS – Congressional Research Service
  • FOIA – Freedom of Information Act
  • POIA – Public Online Information Act
  • CIO vs CTO – Chief Information Officer – Chief Technology Officer
  • GIS – Geographic Information System
  • OSS/FOSS – Open Source Software
  • TOS – Terms of Service

Check out this post by Digiphile and if you’re starving for more acronyms and abbrs.


Hashtags are used to categorize a topic, conversation or piece of content. How to tell the difference? Hashtags with general names (like “#opengov” or “#transparency”) are used to link up your content with people interested in that subject or topic. Does your hashtag have a number or year associated with it (like “#tcamp11”)? Or, does it abbreviate the name of an event (i.e. “PDF”) or end in “chat” (“#foiachat”)? If so, then that tag is being used to catalogue the conversations for a specific offline or online event, which you can join just by using the tag yourself.

Not all hashtags will fit neatly into these divisions, but all hashtags can be followed using Twitter, Google Alerts or tools like Social Mention.

Government specific hashtags

  • #opengov – open government
  • #tcot – top conservatives on Twitter
  • #p2 – progressive politics
  • #gov20 – government 2.0
  • #egov – eGovernment
  • #opendata – open data
  • #localGov – local government
  • #munigov – municipal government
  • #transparency – transparency in government
  • #sunlive – Sunlightlight Live
  • #sunchat – Sunlight Twitter chat
  • #tcamp11 – TransparencyCamp 2011
  • #wegov – as in we are all a part of government
  • #foiachatFreedom of Information Act related chat
  • #PDF – Personal Democracy Forum
  • #ogw11 – Open Gov West

For more government related hashtags, click here.

These terms, tags and acronyms should be enough to get your started on your way.  Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive and you’ll see these tags evolve over time. If you see any major omissions, please add them in the comments below.