If you thought Twitter and Google were popularity contests, turns out you’re right, according to an interview with Google Fellow Amit Singhal in Technology Review today. (Well, Singhal insists that this is “definitely, definitely” more than a popularity contest.) One of the many ranking signals they use is the number and quality of your followers:
“You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers,” his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely, Singhal says.
However, other ranking factors come into effect, too—including hashtags (Google has apparently modeled hashtags and found them to be a negative indicator of tweet quality), and context (if you’re searching for “Obama health care,” tweets mentioning Obama and the war in Afghanistan won’t show up as relevant.)
Plans for the future include geolocation information, and further development of the “truly symbiotic” relationship between Google and Twitter (in the words of Dylan Casey, the Google product manager for real-time search).
Google also acknowledges that Twitter isn’t the be-all and end-all of real time on the Internet (finally!)—they use many different social sites and news sources for their real time results.
What do you think? Is this the best way to rank tweets in real time results?