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The Twitter Index


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

November 29th, 2013

Rising: Black Friday

2013 was the year that people living outside the USA became aware of Black Friday. They were intrigued. In their thousands, they took to Twitter to make further inquiries as to what it might be. Back came the answer that it's the day after Thanksgiving, the day when shops open early in order to cater for a particularly violent orgy of pre-Christmas spending. Non-Americans pondered whether that had anything to do with them – after all, we didn't spend yesterday stuffing our faces with turkey and pumpkin pie while the shops remained stubbornly shut. It was just like any other Thursday in November. Consequently, our attitude towards Christmas shopping is as indifferent today as it was yesterday, despite retailers in Britain and beyond desperately trying to make us believe that it's a thing. But it's not a thing, unless it's already a thing. And the evidence that it's not a thing is clear on Twitter for all to see. But the more we asked about Black Friday, the more people became aware of it, and then it started trending, so more people started asking what it is, and suddenly, from it not being a thing, it suddenly became a thing, and retailers could scarcely contain their glee, because next year they'll be able to say that it's a thing, and use that thing as a reason to get us to buy more stuff earlier in the Christmas season, which means selling more stuff, because people who start buying stuff on November 29th will inevitably spend more money in the run-up to Christmas than people like me who start buying stuff on December 21st. So today is about education, about learning what Black Friday is, about learning how to be good consumers. Next year, these people won't be asking. They'll be thinking about spending, or maybe even spending. Whoo-hoo. _______________________________________________________

November 27th, 2013

Falling: The grave of H from Steps

If you have the same name as someone who's just pleaded guilty to grim sexual offences, it can have unpleasant consequences across social media, faintly reminiscent of the paediatricians who were hounded out of their homes during the News Of The World's naming and shaming of paedophiles back in 2000. Stupid people, seeking some kind of vengeance, pursuing the wrong people and looking stupid as a consequence.

Ian Watkins from the Lostprophets – who's admitted sexual offences against children – shares a name with Ian Watkins from Steps, also known as H. Both Welsh, unrelated musically, unrelated criminally. Yesterday, as Lostprophets singer admitted his guilt in court, the obvious joke surrounding mistaken identity was made on Twitter. Not particularly funny if you're H from Steps, having your photo posted under accusations of paedophilia (not that he'd have seen them, as he quit Twitter a few days ago, possibly in anticipation of all this.) But these things tend to snowball, and now we have celebrity site eonline reproducing the error and presenting it as fact.

The departure of H from Twitter has resulted in another perennial Twitter phenomenon; the repetition of the "H's Grave" gag. It's hard to believe that people haven't seen it already, but it's so regularly retweeted that you can only imagine that people have developed a limitless ability to enjoy the gag several times over. Cue pictures of fire hydrant signs in their dozens:

I would post more of these, but you get the idea. Maybe just a screen grab of the results from an "H from Steps" Twitter image search:

Poor H. But I mean genuinely, poor H.


November 25th, 2013

Rising: @PlaceYourHands

When I dip back in time and relisten to Place Your Hands by Reef, my initial thought is how Gary Stringer's opening vocal sounds like he's trying to haul a wardrobe up a small hill with a length of rope while singing "Place Your Hands" by Reef. The song doesn't fill me with joyful memories; it reminds me of occasionally hearing "Place Your Hands" by Reef. As far as Reef are concerned, though, the song represents a career high-water mark, a moment where anything seemed possible, where pop stardom was theirs for the taking and the finest biscuits that money could buy were also theirs for the taking.

A Wikipedia article explains that the song "outlines the grief that Stringer felt following the death of his grandfather, and easing the pain of death. The video features the band members on pulleys and wires to create an energetic aerial display." The incongruity of these juxtaposed statements made me laugh. I hope it made you laugh too.

Anyway, the song still sells. Not many, but it ticks over well enough. And for reasons beyond my comprehension, a Twitter account has been set up in order to highlight how many "Hands" (as the fans call it, probably) are shifted each week.

This week marks the first anniversary of @PlaceYourHands first tweet, and I've celebrated this by creating a sales graph:

Shortly after doing this I realised that there's a Tumblr page where the creators of @PlaceYourHands have already done it, which was a bit annoying. But my graph does raise substantial questions, or maybe just questions. What accounts for the massive spike in sales in January of this year? (You don't have to rack your brains, apparently it was on offer on iTunes for the bargain price of 59p.) And what about the smaller re-spike around Easter time? (I don't know the answer to that one.) And how about the slackening off now, towards Christmas? Straitened economic circumstances? General revulsion amongst the populace towards blues-tinged indie rock from the West Country? We may never find out, but @PlaceYourHands will keep us supplied with the data, and for that we must be thankful.


November 22nd, 2013

Rising: Historical Ignorance

Back in February 2012, during the Grammys awards ceremony, "Who is Paul McCartney" started trending on Twitter. It started trending not because thousands of people didn't know who Paul McCartney was, but the realisation that a small number of people didn't know who Paul McCartney was prompted people who DID know who Paul McCartney was to tweet things like this...

... thus causing "Who is Paul McCartney" to carry on trending, appearing prominently in the sidebar, prompting people to tweet more things like this, and exacerbating the situation still further, giving the impression that vast swathes of the computer-operating populace have no idea who Paul McCartney is, when actually most of them do.

Anyway, some people don't know who JFK is, and with any luck "who is JFK" will be trending in a similar fashion by the end of the day.

There are also a small number of people on Twitter who aren't aware of who the historical figures below are. So when it's coming up to some big anniversary, or there's a newsworthy moment featuring said figures, get ready to retweet these people and prompt another magnificent "who is?" trending topic.


November 21th, 2013

Rising: @kurtquote

Baiting is a depressingly common part of life online. You could say that the media itself is engaged in one colossal bait-o-thon, whether it's the Daily Express erroneously stating that Christmas has been banned in order to rile people who know that it hasn't, or the Guardian running a column with a vaguely anti-condom sentiment in order to fill up the comments section with people complaining about how irresponsible it is. The applicable equation here – except it's not really a proper equation because it's got two equals signs in it – is baiting = attention = triumph.

A gorgeously low-key example of baiting on Twitter can be found at @kurtquote. It comprises low-level mischief of a magnificently mundane kind:

It's not impossible, of course, that Kurt Cobain pointed out at some stage that wine lovers are better off at Asda, but it's unlikely. However, it's not the misattribution of supermarket marketing slogans that Kurt Cobain fans get most annoyed about when they stumble across @kurtquote. It's the fact that Kurt Cobain died in 1994, not 1993:

People even get annoyed about it even when they're aware it's a joke.

They also don't like the fact that the account uses a photo of Alexander Skarsgård instead of a photo of Kurt. They see this as poor research verging on gross negligence.

In the meantime, @kurtquote just keeps on going.

And, with cunning sleight of hand, @kurtquote then constructs an intense social media feedback loop by attributing the criticism levelled at it to Kurt Cobain himself. 1967-1993.

Some may find this childish, but I revel in it.


November 19th, 2013

Rising: @TerbilDraems

A while back on the Twitter Index we celebrated @Crimershow, an incoherent but nevertheless compelling crime drama that continues to unfold in wonderfully misspelled fashion. Thing is, such is the nature of Twitter's fast-moving timelines that it's very easy to lose the thread of the plot – you know, like when you go to spend six months on a kibbutz and come back to the UK and you don't know who anyone on Emmerdale is any more.

If that's the case for you, @TerbilDraems might be more up your street. It's written by the same chap who does @CrimerShow – @AstonishingSod – but each of the tweets can be enjoyed as stand-alone nuggets of perfection, capturing the horror of everyday nightmares in 140 characters.

I wish I could work out exactly why these things of @AstonishingSod's appeal to me so much. I dunno whether it's the language, which seems to be kind of sub-Chaucer crossed with a 4-year old wielding a crayon, or just the joyous freeform absurdity of the DRAEMS themselves. But I could read these all day. I love them dearly.

Anyway, to paraphrase a Crimewatch presenter, please, don't have terbil draems. Goodnight.


November 15th, 2013

Rising: @DaybreakDimwits

Because, Georgia, you were watching ITV+1 last night, you turned on the telly this morning, you didn't realise that you're watching with a one-hour delay, and then you got confused. But Georgia, bless her Corrie credentials, isn't the only one to make this mistake. There are probably hundreds of people doing it, and many of them are moved to tweet about it.

It's not just you, Vikki.

@DaybreakDimwits is now performing the charitable public service of rolling all these tweets up into one convenient social media account, just so we don't miss any. Admittedly, it's something of a one-joke pony, but the regularity with which these kind of tweets roll around on a daily basis is rather delightful.

Manually retweeting people and just sticking an RT before it is generally perceived as poor Twitter etiquette, but in this case it performs a useful function: the offender is immediately alerted to their error, allowing them to perform a red-faced volte-face:

They won't make that mistake again. Well, probably not.


November 14th, 2013

Rising: @YouveBinFramed

I don't believe in the idea of guilty pleasures – except You've Been Framed, which I'd consider a guilty pleasure, so I DO believe in the idea of guilty pleasures, so ignore what I said first up. I'll admit something else: I don't know what's wrong with me, but at some point in the last decade I stopped enjoying You've Been Framed on a "hilarious mishap" level and started deriving far more enjoyment from the discomfort of the humans featured in the clip. The more they hurt themselves, or the more terrified they were, the more I relished it. Forget cute animals wearing thongs on their heads. I just want to see people get upset.

And I'm not alone. I know other people who feel the same way. We figure that if someone's going to get 250 quid for sending in some woozy camcorder footage of themselves, they should have been made to suffer to really earn it. This deeply unpleasant schadenfreude is captured beautifully by @youvebinframed, whose sole purpose is to describe, in flat, unexpressive tones, the scenes of misery contained within this bankable stalwart of Saturday evening ITV.

I enjoy @Youvebinframed more than the actual programme. It saves me loads of time. I can whizz through a dozen tweets in less than a minute. Granted, I don't get to hear Harry Hill's laconic commentary, but that's not why I watch it in any case. I just sit there, sneering, waiting for suffering.

I'd go as far as to say that @youvevinframed provides us with an uncannily accurate facsimile of modern Britain.


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Are you more messy or minimalist?

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Get your boobies and willies out, it's gonna be a honker!

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