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The Twitter Index

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Tracking the soaring stocks and junk bonds of social media, helping you to invest carefully and speculate wisely. (By Rhodri Marsden)

October 28th, 2013

Falling: Garden Furniture

1221 days ago, a bloke called Michael Joffe posted this picture on Twitter. 1221 days ago is ages ago. It's so many days ago that Twitter didn't even have its own image service back then, thus prohibiting us from embedding it nicely here. But if you can't be bothered to click the link (and don't feel that you have to, cos I'm about to tell you what's behind it) it's a picture of some garden furniture with one chair that's fallen over, with the caption "Picture of the devastation after earthquake in #Toronto."

The 2010 Canadian earthquake was magnitude 5.0, it lasted about 30 seconds, and it injured a fisherman near the village of Bowman in Quebec. Hence the picture. It's a celebration of human endurance in the face of not very much suffering at all. I've no idea if Michael Joffe took the photo, but his is the first posting I've found online after wading through hundreds of identical pictures, so he deserves some kind of credit, if only for not being an obvious plagiarist.

In the three years since Joffe's post, the picture has become a symbol of nature's failure to deliver on a promise of widespread devastation. There was an earthquake in Wales earlier this year, for example.


And another in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.


And one in Ottawa, and so on.


But never underestimate a) the capacity of people on Twitter to cane a joke to within an inch of its life, and b) the fact that, despite the joke having been soundly caned for three years or more, it's still new to some people. And so they retweet it. Or they post it all over again and pretend that they thought of it.

We had a storm in the UK earlier this morning. It was supposed to be cataclysmic. It was, in the event, merely quite bad, with two fatalities. But most of the country escaped unscathed.


Thing is, it IS a great joke. But only the first couple of hundred times you see it.

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October 25th, 2013

Rising: @jamesblunt

I should say first up that "Bonfire Heart", the new single by James Blunt, is marginally worse than "Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt, which in turn is marginally worse than "You're Beautiful", a song which I enjoy listening to as much as my boiler, and I've been thinking about replacing my boiler. But I really like James. I can't help myself. He's lovely. Whenever he's interviewed he radiates charm and goodwill, and does so in the knowledge that plenty of people harbour an irrational hatred of him. He inspires the same kind of inexplicable loathing that gets directed towards feminists, foreigners and football managers – simply because he produces bland, unremarkable music that a lot of people quite like.


No-one likes being called a wet wipe. James, however, deflects criticism on Twitter in the most self-effacing way imaginable. He just smiles, briefly engages and then lets it go, and we can learn a lot from him, which isn't something I ever thought I'd say. I mean, ideally you wouldn't search for your own name on Twitter, you wouldn't retweet it, you wouldn't even mention it, in fact ideally you wouldn't spend any time on Twitter at all – but given that he does all those things, he's succeeded in giving a social media masterclass in how to respond to criticism with a modicum of grace.


No drama, no subsequent bullying from fans, no blog posts or articles about the tricky social dynamic between celebrities and the general public. (Except this one.) Yep, James Blunt's a good chap. Even his detractors are forced to admit it.



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October 24th, 2013

Falling: Q&A Fails

This afternoon a series of tweets containing the hashtag #AskHarry were posted online by a bunch of people who don't like Harry Redknapp.


The other day a bunch of people who either don't like Ryan Air (or who don't like Ryan Air's Michael O'Leary) posted a series of tweets containing the hashtag #grillMOL, after Ryan Air's social media team suggested that we pose him a few questions.


This week we've also seen a bunch of people who don't like British Gas posting anti-British Gas tweets after the company sat its poor old customer service director Bert Pijls in front of a computer to take part in an #AskBG question-and-answer session.


All three of these trending Twitter topics have been branded as a "spectacular PR fail" or a "Twitter blunder" or a "social media backlash" across the media; ill-judged campaigns that supposedly cast the creators of the hashtags in a poor light. But you can't control hashtags. Everyone knows that. The PR people know that, we know that, the media know that. It's just a filtering device. It lets the PRs find their questions, it lets people who want to be abusive be abusive, and it lets the media find all the funny stuff and republish it on their websites. It's just people saying stuff. People don't need hashtags to say stuff. They've been dishing out abuse for years to the same people.


Neither #AskHarry, #AskBG nor #grillMOL were PR fails, really. The PR fail was Ryan Air providing poor customer service, British Gas raising their prices, or Harry Redknapp inadvisedly buying Christopher Samba for £12m. The hashtags are just filing cabinets plus giggles, innit.

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October 22nd, 2013

Rising: @everyword

Since late 2007, @everyword has been tweeting every word in the English language. The brainchild of digital artist Adam Parrish, it's a bot which spews out the next in a list of 109,229 words every half hour, on the half hour. If you're one of the 69,000 people who follow the account, you'll subconsciously experience increasing levels of excitement over the next few months as the project builds to an thrilling climax, with zyzomys or zyzzyva or whatever. We're already well into the Ts, so let's indulge in that infuriating "me first" media habit of doing a retrospective study of something before it's actually finished.

I thought it might be interesting to see what people's top ten favourite words on @everyword were, judged by the number of retweets each one received. Of course, this is hardly a scientific study, because the account gains followers over time and so words beginning with letters later in the alphabet will obviously be more popular, and other words appear in the middle of the night when fewer people are staring at Twitter. But I think the list gives a flavour of our relationship with language, underlining as it does the fact that we're all a bunch of massive children.

Number 10:


Number 9:


Number 8:


Number 7. (This one confused me. The dictionary says "Mexican dish of seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed or baked in corn husks". But I heard Nicole Scherzinger say it on X Factor at the weekend when describing the appearance of a female contestant, so it must have sexy connotations I'm not aware of – probably because I'm 42 years old and was born in Bedfordshire.)


Number 6:


Number 5:


Number 4:


Number 3:


Number 2:


Number 1. Was there ever any doubt?


Twitter, predictably, was beside itself with disbelief, awe, disgust and titillation.


If you'd like to recreate this experience in your own home, you'll find the word "sex" about 4/5th of the way through a dictionary. Enjoy.

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October 18th, 2013

Rising: @Grand_designz

As we're all massively aware, the property market in the UK is screwed. In the decade following Labour's return to power in 1997, house prices trebled. The free and easy availability of credit fuelled insane amounts of borrowing, which heated the housing market until it was way beyond toasty and verging on infernal. Interest only mortgages and buy-to-let schemes made it worse. Rents spiralled. The ability of young people to buy a place now largely depends on the wealth of their parents. And into the midst of all this sails the 13th series of Kevin McCloud's Grand Designs, a programme which many of us still sit down to watch despite it providing a constant reminder of the kind of absurd projects rich bastards can inexplicably afford to undertake while we attempt to live off a small wedge of their tax bill.

Fortunately, @Grand_designz now exists to rip the piss out of the people featured on Grand Designs and thus provide a small amount of relief to those of us less fortunate than the people featured on Grand Designs.

@Grand_designz's followers have been contributing with both gusto and ill-concealed fury:


You could dismiss all this as a completely impotent expression of hatred for a world that has always been deeply unfair, but if you can't use Twitter to impotently express your hatred for a world that has always been deeply unfair, what CAN you use?

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October 16th, 2013

Rising: Pink skies


This morning, large parts of the UK were helplessly trapped underneath a pink sky. It freaked people out. They couldn’t stop going on about it.


People were unsure as to why the sky was pink. They asked Twitter, in their hundreds.


Answers came there several.


People started looking for new, exciting ways to say "the sky is pink" in order to break up the tedium.


People started posting pictures of the pink sky. Hundreds of vaguely identical pictures.


Not all these pictures conveyed the true pinkness of the sky. One person, and perhaps one alone, saw that as a reason not to post a picture at all, bless him.


People began to openly muse whether the colour of the sky was something they alone were experiencing, even though a single glance at Twitter would have shattered that misapprehension.


Other people became jealous.


But still people continued to observe that the sky is pink.


And then the sky stopped being pink.



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October 15th, 2013

Flatlining: Passion

It's safe to say that the word "passionate" has become a bit devalued in recent years. In the world of resumés, personal visions, curriculum vitae and mission statements, failing to use the word "passionate" is a schoolboy error; it betrays a total apathy, a singular lack of interest in anything beyond the extremity of your own skull. If you're not passionate about something, what the hell are you even doing on this planet? No, you haven't got the job. We gave it someone with a bit of passion.

Fortunately, passion can be easily feigned, and people do it on Twitter pretty much constantly. You don't even have to worry about misrepresenting yourself, because "passionate about" can just as easily mean "vaguely interested in on alternate Wednesdays":


It can also mean "paid sums of money each month in order to express an interest in":


Some people cast their net of passion pretty wide; indiscriminately passionate, they bloody love everything:


Others are passionate about microbiology:


Others are a just a bit weird:


And some, but not many, are refreshingly honest.



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October 11th, 2013

Rising: @SwearingClock

Warning: Today's Twitter Index is predicated upon the notion that swearing is not only big, but it's also clever. Those who fundamentally disagree with this assertion are probably correct, if I'm honest, but my grandfather fought in the war for my right to be childishly amused by stuff like this, so wevs.


Timechecks are, by their nature, unremarkable. They remind us of the time; they serve no other purpose. Alan Partridge demonstrated the difficulties of trying to be clever by embellishing timechecks ("One hundred and forty past seven", or whatever it was he said) but @SwearingClock has established a straightforward way of getting a laugh with a timecheck: by swearing your tits off.


Just over a month old, @SwearingClock grumpily adds superfluous expletives to the time of day. That's all. Where @big_ben_clock provides cute hourly reminders of the time, @SwearingClock erratically tweets at unexpected moments because it simply can't be arsed to maintain any kind of regular schedule.


If you were penning a literary critique of @SwearingClock you could criticise it for lack of imagination; the swearing is often repetitive, with "dick", "prick" and "bellend" often featuring several times a day. But what it lacks it variety it makes up for with needlessly furious consistency. @SwearingClock doesn't like being a clock, and provides its service with maximum resentment.


It's recently been joined by the weather:


and travel:


Making a glorious triumvirate of shitting arsestains to see you delicately into the weekend.

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