People have been wondering aloud for some time as to why certain things that are “popular” are not seen as trending in Twitter (an example is #iranelection). The Wikileaks concern has a lot of people talking but it’s not necessarily trending in Twitter. So the question is in the forefront again but this time Twitter is talking.
This week, people are wondering about WikiLeaks, with some asking if Twitter has blocked #wikileaks, #cablegate or other related topics from appearing in the list of top Trends.
The answer: Absolutely not. In fact, some of these terms, including #wikileaks and #cablegate, have previously trended either worldwide or in specific locations.
Actually that part was the not so veiled “Please don’t touch us, please!” cry to hackers. Now for the trending explanation. First what a trend is.
Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously. The Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what’s most popular. Put another way, Twitter favors novelty over popularity (as BuzzFeed noted in a great article & infographic earlier this week).
Possible translation: Twitter Trends has nothing to do with substance but everything to do with helping to increase levels of ADHD in an already distracted world. Wow, that was revealing and a little bit sad all at once.
It continues with an explanation of what makes a trend a trend.
Twitter users now send more than 95 million Tweets a day, on just about every topic imaginable. We track the volume of terms mentioned on Twitter on an ongoing basis. Topics break into the Trends list when the volume of Tweets about that topic at a given moment dramatically increases.
Sometimes a topic doesn’t break into the Trends list because its popularity isn’t as widespread as people believe. And, sometimes, popular terms don’t make the Trends list because the velocity of conversation isn’t increasing quickly enough, relative to the baseline level of conversation happening on an average day; this is what happened with #wikileaks this week.
Possible translation: I really don’t know since there has been no other story getting the attention that Wikileaks has this week and the plot thickens everyday as more big players get taken out by Wikileaks supporters. How much more ‘velocity’ does a subject need?
In the end, Twitter, like any other major site doesn’t want to be the target of hackers. That makes sense. Playing on the Internet though, and proclaiming to have the pulse of the world through your product (in this case, tweets) but not really reflecting what is being talked about is well, suspicious at best.
What’s your take? Does Twitter trends really reflect what people are talking about that is important or is it just about The Bieb and other novelty subjects? If it really is about novelty over popularity does that change how you view Twitter’s ability to really tell us what is important in the world?