akamike (2007-2010)

Twitter Needs Targeted Trending Topics

Pardon me if you know this already, but the world is a big place with lots of things happening, all the time. The internet made it easier to find out what things are happening in different parts of the world, and Twitter brought it to you faster. News breaks on Twitter before it appears on actual news networks and product announcements are picked apart before the producer can even post it up on their own website. To find out the big things that are being talked about you can check out Twitter's Trending Topics and get a feel for what is happening right now.

That's all well and good in theory, but instead you can frequently find Trending Topics filled with rubbish that you have no interest in, such as an ego-boosting campaign from the latest celebrity Twitter newbie or hashtags grouping the latest in low-yield humour. Personally, I don't give a crap about your favourite songs to listen to before/during/after sex and I'd rather spit on Zac Efron than hear about his latest movie. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one in this, Efron could probably get a shower everyday just from the people who dislike him, but with enough people who follow people just for the sake of following people and those constantly re-tweeting because they have nothing of their own to say, the Trending Topic system can be abused. Another flaw in Trending Topics lies with spam bots, who will grab at any topic deemed popular and start hammering it with the usual offers of improved relations with the ladies and the latest pyramid schemes. Trending Topics has quickly become useless.

That's not to say it is a bad idea. The feature indicates what people believe is important, no matter how moronic it is to other people, and it does that job well. It's just far too broad to be worth checking frequently.

Here's an idea: what if Trending Topics was smarter and more personal? I follow people who's content is relevant to me, soon I'll be creating lists to group related users to topics, I have saved searches find news on #html5, #css3 and even #rdg. Why doesn't Twitter analyse this and serve up some topics that are related to these yet I might not heard of yet? I'm a web developer and I'd like to know what is big in the industry, but I might not want to read Firefox news all day and only get a little nudge if they, for example, suddenly switch to IE's Trident rendering engine! Sure, I'd be concerned about the impending apocalypse, but I would at least like it if Twitter thought I should know sooner rather than later.

I don't think this is a difficult feature to build, and it certainly isn't a strange idea. Of course, I expect there is a lot to think about when it comes to scalability, so it's probably something quite far into the future, but I think it would be something people would get a lot of use out of. It just needs to take into account what you say, who you follow, who you say things to, what lists you have made and what searches you have saved, then serve up personalised trend lists of the hour/day/week.

Any thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments. Or, better yet, tweet this post with the hashtag #bettertrendingtopics and you might win a kiss!

6 Comments

Gilbert

Good idea Mike! I think this makes total sense but I don't see it coming any time in the near future unfortunaetly.

Artem

You are right. The trending "goodnights" and "goodmornings" aren't that trendy for me. Your idea's definitely something I would appreciate. There's a question though. I would love to get some clues on the trending topics not mentioned byt the people I follow or searches I've saved. How would Twitter filter the topics then? And yes, I will tweet the post if I don't get your kiss, thank you!

Barcelona Tickets

I'm not that keen on the trending topics as it is, but your idea of personalising it does makes sense as you can then quickly see any news that relates to whatever your own personal interests are.

However, I think that's what Google has tried to do with its inclusion of Twitter results in the SERPS these days. It doesn't work well at all, perhaps because so much of what goes on with Twitter is simply noise.

Jennifer

It is definitely way too easy for a group of people to "game" trending topics which honestly keeps be from even paying attention to them.

Loretta

I will sometimes check the trending topics - for instance, if there is something big going on at the time. I used it a couple of times to keep up with what was happening in Hawaii after the Chilean earthquake. Most of the time, though, it's just garbage. Goofy conversations I know nothing about and stuff that really doesn't matter to me.

I did notice, recently, that you could segment by country and tried that, but, it really didn't help much.

Alan

I think the purpose of trending topics is for someone to read what has happened in the world right now.
But, we normally cannot get what we want to know from it.
In this case, I think Mike's idea is good as we can get what we want to know that relates to our own personal interests.