Flashback geekout with Matt Navarra and Chris Messina

I’ve been sitting on this story for quite a long time, as I didn’t know how to best immortalise it and to explain the moment when I got to meet these people.

Not many people would know the names “Chris Messina” and “Matt Navarra” when mentioned in a casual conversation, especially if its social media and technology-related with a group of people. One Google search of both names would change your mind.

What’s a guy like me going to do when you find out they have a few hours in Doha? Well, I’d make the effort to meet them and this happened back in June 29, 2019. Who’d miss out on the opportunity of meeting them in person?

Given the one hour and 30 minutes I had with both of them, there was quite some insights that really show where social media is charting its path.

It’s not truly social media when one doesn’t take a selfie with Matt Navarra and Chris Messina

Chris Messina: Into the Hashtag

Chris Messina is very guy who invented the hashtag concept embraced by social media platforms starting with Twitter. He’s also a fellow Carnegie Mellon University Tartan just like me, except he graduated in 2003 and I finished in 2010.

Chris did share some insights into how the whole hashtag concept started. He viewed it as a way to creat groups so that people would come together around a certain topics.

He took it straight to the founders who had dismissed it at first, but then Twitter was seeing plenty of developer activity as they grew. So who better to put the concept into practice than developers leveraging the APIs, which had greatly influenced the platform owner to embrace it.

Did I mention that Chris Messina is an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University (my alma mater)? Not a coincidence, so it’s always good to meet up with other alums who have left their mark on the tech sector. A ubiquitous concept like the ‘hashtag’ to make it easy for people to rally around a topic for discussions (or groups as Chris had conceptualised it albeit they would be Public).

What we now refer to as a #hashtag which is used synonymously for people to share content around a certain topic or even for digital campaigns to generate UGC, has spread to many more platforms. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and many more that I can’t remember.

So if you ever wanted to search for something around a certain topic, you have to thank Chris Messina for it. Plus, your an hear more about his other ventures from his interview with Matt Navarra (below).

Matt Navarra: Masterclass on the frontlines

One Google Search on Matt Navarra will show you one thing – news interviews whenever he talks about new features and discoveries on Facebook/Twitter/etc. He’s the very person who makes subtle yet important discoveries on features or product changes, and publishes them from his own account.

Usually when someone else makes a new discovery on a certain platform, he’s been tipped off and he credits the source by tagging their account depending on the platform. I can attest to that cause I’ve personally tipped off on features related to LinkedIn.

He even runs a special Facebook group that acts as a collective of other social media professionals worldwide, from many handling big brands to people in agencies. He’s also got a great podcast featuring speakers from some of the top social media companies, and soon entering its third season.

If you think that I’m blindly promoting him, that’s your interpretation but I’m just giving you an overview of what all has transpired since I met him in person. Of course, many people constantly reach out to him with the hope that he’ll help getting people Verified.

They never stop since he publicly shares those awkward requests. Not sure how he handles those kind of awkward requests, but he does make it clear that he has no role to play in the process.


Even if the meet was short, both were on their way to their next destination. Chris was heading to Berlin and Matt heading back home to Cardiff after speaking at an event in Perth. One thing I learned is that never overlook an opportunity.

P.S: Matt has started a new newsletter aimed at geeks, where he’ll be sharing a wrap up of latest news around social media.

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