Since the trends and search feature became more prominent on the twitter homepage last month we have seen an influx of #hashtag trends, some good, some bad. The good being you see news in real time, we can gauge what people deem important whenever we what. It may be a brief overview but it is definitely a good starting point.
However with every good, there is inevitably a bad, self tagging means that trends can be manipulated. If we look back over time this has been an inherit problem with the internet. When everyone caught on that search engines main index was based on meta tags everyone crammed them full of keywords, so they had to enhance their technology. Will twitter need to do the same?
The first major lie to hit the headlines was last week when KissFM (in the US) reported that Patrick Swayze had died. Although false it showed the strength of twitter in getting news out fast (even though wrong). And then replacing the false reports with the real story, all before most national news had even heard of it. Luckily Mr Swayze is still alive so hopefully a few less re-runs of bloody dirty dancing!!
But in the main trends seem to be dominated by worthless snippets, popular ones this week being #liesgirlstell #3wordsaftersex #3breakupwords #itsucks #unfollowdiddy. Now even though some may have a few funny quotes in the most part it is just the same quotes going round and round. As I right this those 5 trends take up the top 6 places on twitter. Worthwhile news? I think not.
In the main the people participating in these trends tend to be sub 25 year olds, with less that 100 followers and a slight slant towards female tweeters. Most of the users do not use an app so they see the current trends on their homepage and it is part of their twitter life. They are probably new users to twitter, let’s say the last few months (just check one out now).
Good or Bad
I see two main arguments here;
1. For me and probably the majority of people who will read this article we don’t see trends that often. We don’t use the web based twitter, preferring an app such as tweetdeck. I can’t think I have seen any of the above trends ever appear in my tweetdeck updates following around 1500 people. However I am sure a lot of us look time to time at trends, I know I do on a daily basis. So these ‘comedy’ trends are really diluting the things we are really interested in, who knows there could be anything below the first page, we just don’t know!
2. The only way I can currently see it as a good thing is it keeps new users interested. Twitter was slayed in the early days for something in the region of a 30% retention rate of active users within month one for new signups. At first they suggested people to follow, and now they seem to keep users happy by offering the chance to quickly grow and see a community by adding a simple phrase to your tweets.
What’s the solution?
I am not sure if there is one, or do we actually have a problem? You could argue that trends could be weighted against users rating, i.e. more followers the more your tweets are rated. However I am sure that will be abused by people promoting their own products in various ways.
In the short term I would like to see trends extended. A simple more option to see what is further down the list would suffice and allow us a broader vision of what is going on, beyond a ‘fad’.
I would be interested in everyones thoughts on the subject, even if my post is more of a braindump than a structured article. Please fell free to get me on twitter @stuartflatt or make any tweets with #badtwittertrends to see what people think.