Trending on Twitter

Not us, alas. More to do with our response to a Tweet about the subject of Twitter’s Trends.

The tweet relates to the globally trending hashtag #CNNBlackmail, which we reproduce live and uncensored below:


At first glance it would appear that the Tweeter we responded to is flat wrong, but this is not the case. We’ve casually analyzed Twitter’s Trending suggestions over the years and have come to the following conclusions.

The list of “trending topics” is mistakenly thought of as comparable to “The Charts” of the music industry that we are all familiar with. These charts compare the sales figures of commercial music products, providing a fair indictation of which music tracks people are buying.

To think of Twitter’s Trends in the same way is an error, and an easy one to make. The displayed trends are very clearly not based on numbers. We will not show an example here because any twitter user can look at their own lists and see for themselves. Some “trending” topics may have millions of hits, while others only have thousands.

It is better to think of these “trending topics” as suggestions, or perhaps even advertisments. Their purpose is not to inform you of what people are currently tweeting about. They are there to keep you on the website by drawing your attention to things you may be interested in based upon your location and your tweeting history.

Thus, if you are already active on a hashtag that is trending there would be no point in Twitter drawing your attention to it. In the same way that if you only ever Tweet in English there would be no point in showing you what is trending in Japanese.

Twitters Trending List is not a comparision of how many people are tweeting about a particular topic, and is simply an alogrithm designed to keep you engaged with the product. It is about as good as the much lauded artificial intelligence (AI) gets – in spite of what well-heeled has-been lunatics at Google’s research department may claim.

In our experience there has never been a proven hashtag conspiracy on Twitter. On the contrary, all we’ve seen is bad AI trying to keep people on the site in order to expose them to more advertisements.

Which is what Twitter Inc are in business to do.

As for what CNN are in business to do, that’s anybody’s guess.

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