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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)

December 20th, 2013

Rising: Christmas threats

Christmas is traditionally a time for giving. But, more importantly, it's also a time for receiving, receiving lots of stuff, specific stuff that you've asked for, repeatedly, to a point where it's surely inconceivable that the message hasn't got through, so if friends and/or relatives then fail to comply with your simple requests then the only possible consequence can be revenge, brutal revenge, dispensed immediately and without any pleas of mitigation taken into account.

We deserve this stuff, for god's sake. We've spent all year attempting to rein in sullen moods and curb the force of our tantrums; surely we deserve our just rewards on December 25th? Surely we're entitled to feel a sense of entitlement at this, the most wonderful time of the year?

PS – Just for a sense of balance, let us reflect on the words of goody-goody Hayes Poole, who clearly has no idea what the spirit of Christmas is all about:


December 19th, 2013

Falling: @utterbollocks

Those of us who have immersed ourselves in Twitter, who scan its fast moving columns of badly-typed messages several dozen times a day, who can't imagine living without it and who leap to its defence when people insist on calling it "Twatter", have to acknowledge that it's a baffling experience for newcomers. We accept Twitter's idiosyncrasies without a second thought, we roll our eyes at breaches of etiquette and laugh at those who struggle to understand what it's for, how to use it and why on earth they're bothering to send a message of support to Tom Daley that probably won't even be read.

David Coplet doubted the value of Twitter when he set up his account on the 10th May 2011. His ambivalence towards the social media channel was reflected in his choice of username, @utterbollocks. Judging by his Twitter output, he joined in order to find out more about the rumours that were circulating online about various celebrities but had been suppressed in the press by super injunctions.

David will have learned precious little about super injunctions by tweeting the words "super injunctions". He will have posted his tweet, looked at his computer and thought "Now what? This is stupid." With no-one to guide him through the Twitter maze and precious little interest in discovering how it works, David took two weeks off.

But the frenzy of speculation surrounding the identity of people involved in extra marital affairs, spankings or worse, drew David back to Twitter. He needed to know more. He had once piece of information – that footballer Ryan Giggs was involved in something or other – and decided to use @utterbollocks to draw that information out of the social media whirl.

But, once again, Twitter failed to deliver any intrigue to David's door. David had had enough. He departed Twitter for good, leaving us with a two-tweet legacy that's a testament to Twitter's steep learning curve for those who aren't social media-savvy. Thousands of accounts spring up like this every day: famous ones like Moira Stuart's (her account, now deleted, contained three tweets – “moira_stuart… is new to Twitter and is confused”, “Fiona Bruce” and “is new to Twitter”) and ones like David's that don't even self-consciously refer to their state of confusion.

I don't know for sure that this is true, but if you happen to bump into David Coplet and you ask him his opinion on Twitter, I reckon he'll say "It's utter bollocks." And who's to say he's not right?

December 17th, 2013

Falling: Hippocrates

Hippocrates revolutionised medicine. He brought discipline and rigour to a practice that was riddled with superstition and hamstrung by religious belief. Prior to Hippocrates, the physicians of Ancient Greece had precious little knowledge of the human anatomy and were reluctant to diagnose. He recognised the importance of cleanliness, diet and exercise. He made important discoveries relating to the treatment of lung and heart disease, and stressed the important of physicians’ findings being meticulously recorded. He transformed medicine into a profession.

On social media, however, he remains a divisive figure. The last 24 hours has seen a flood of contemptuous tweets pouring scorn upon the father of modern medicine.

I suppose it's a small mark of respect that the people who invoke the name of Hippocrates continue to capitalise his name, but it still seems unfair to blame him for so much.

It's also unacceptable, in my view, to infer that he had a massive bum.

IS Hippocrates. Not ARE Hippocrates. IS.
It's notable that other figures of Ancient Greece don't come in for anything like the same level of criticism, although I'd have to say that I can't condone this kind of behaviour:


December 16th, 2013

Rising: Getting drunk

We live in stressful times. The economic outlook is bleak. Job security is poor. Wages are, in the main, failing to rise in line with inflation. We work harder and harder for less money in real terms. Fortunately it's the festive season, and we can attempt to put this all out of our minds by drinking ourselves into oblivion.

The last couple of days has seen Twitter reverberate with positive intent. There are plans afoot. Those plans are to get totally alcoholled.

This will, albeit very temporarily, make things seem marginally better than they actually are. In fact, the reverse is true; a situation is being created where things are going to become marginally worse, because tomorrow morning everything will be just as it was except your head will hurt, your digestive tract will be pulsating with the aftershock of tequila and you'll have left your wallet in Streatham.

Last Friday was a popular day for the annual work Christmas party, which only expedited the need to get utterly wasted:

This, of course, is a question that barely needs to be asked. Here's another one:

Answer: everyone. Here's hoping you made it.

December 12th, 2013

Rising: Prime numbers

Prime numbers are fascinating. No, really. We all know what they are, of course; that information was drilled into us at school while we flicked bits of paper at each other and laughed at blowoffs. A prime is a number greater than one that has no divisors, other than one and itself, right? So the first one is 2 – the only even prime. There's an infinite number of them, as Euclid pointed out in 300BC or so. As the numbers get bigger, the gaps between them get bigger – except, for some reason, there's the odd pair that are only 2 apart, such as 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 − 1, and 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 + 1.

Raise two to the power of a power of two, add one, and that's a prime. There's a theory that every number greater than two can be expressed as a sum of two primes. We know lots of stuff about them, but they're endlessly mysterious. There's a constant pursuit of uncovering the biggest one – the most recently being the Mersenne prime, found lurking in the numbersphere earlier this year with some 17.5 million digits to its name. By 2024 we'll be finding primes with a billion digits, thanks to laborious computations undertaken by high-powered processors and blokes standing near them with mugs of coffee, roaring them on to success.

There are numerous conjectures surrounding them, from the Elliot–Halbestam conjecture to the Dickson conjecture to the Polignac conjecture to Golbach's conjecture – and also "Goldbach's weak conjecture", which isn't as good as his other conjecture. Cryptography depends on them entirely; the multiplication of two huge prime numbers is the cornerstone of everything from online banking to buying a scented candle on Paypal.

And now, prime numbers have finally been given the recognition they finally deserve on Twitter. 70 days ago, this tweet appeared.

A new prime is posted every hour. Today, we're already up to:

But the Twitter community's biggest affection – count all those retweets, um, seven! Also a prime! – is for Prince's Prime, or

It's a big job, but someone's got to do it. Or, as one wag put it:


December 9th, 2013

Rising: Rest In Peace

When famous people die, as they inevitably do, it's a cast-iron certainty that Twitter will go RIP-tastic. And the eagerness with which thousands of people state their desire for deceased famous people to remain peaceful can be a curious thing to behold.

I should say at this point I don't doubt the sincerity of anyone who actually experiences strong emotion in such moments (I mean, on Twitter, who would dare), but it just occurred to me that I don't really know anyone who would say "Rest In Peace" in real life (let alone "May he/she rest in peace") but there's something about the internet that seems to bring out everyone's inner vicar.

Today I've already learned through RIPtweets that a writer called Mickey Knox and a director called Edouard Molinaro have died, and that we've just passed anniversaries of Jim Morrison's birth and John Lennon's death – both marked with a good deal of RIPping.

Maybe it's my atheist nature that leads me to doubt the usefulness of wishing RIPs. But the huge volume of RIPtweets following the death of someone very well-known – let's say for the sake of argument Nelson Mandela – means that for the first five minutes that the news has broken, many of the tweets that state "Nelson Mandela #RIP" don't actually mean "Nelson Mandela, rest in peace" – they mean "Nelson Mandela is dead," or "Have you heard, Nelson Mandela is dead?", or even "I heard that Nelson Mandela died before you you did." And thereafter, it almost feels like people feel compelled to publicly post an RIP message, lest it be thought that they don't give a shit about Nelson Mandela. As a result, news of deaths sweep across Twitter in a curious way: invocations that would normally remain private become viral information carriers. I don't know why it bothers me, but it does, a bit. Not much, just a bit.

Hence the currently trending topic #RIPAlexTurner, a symptom of our need to a) publicly express our condolences to humanity on the death of someone famous (even when it's a hoax, as this one was – the Arctic Monkeys singer is OK)

and b) our incredulity that someone would perpetrate such a hoax.

And as the RIPs mount up, they seem to be somehow devalued, and I suddenly wish that there were another way of expressing sadness at someone's passing, but then I realise that there isn't one, and I should probably be thankful that at least it's RIP and not OMG.

December 5th, 2013

Rising: Is It Christmas Yet?

Christmas Day has become the most widely heralded date in the modern calendar, mainly because it's synonymous with the handing over of large amounts of money. The idea of it passing by unnoticed, like March the 9th or October 23rd or something, is absurd. The countdown is long, and the countdown is shrill; whether it's a depressed bloke in a Santa outfit half-heartedly mumbling "Hohoho" on a street corner, or the ding-a-ling of an over-sparkly rendition of "Let It Snow" fizzing in your ears at Primark, reminders are everywhere. You're more likely to forget your own surname than forget the oncoming Christmas juggernaut.

The notion that Christmas might actually slip your mind, then, seems to make for a compelling running gag. If you want to check whether it's Christmas yet, you have many options; a website with black writing on a white background, or, if you don't find that aesthetically pleasing, another one with white writing on a red background. You have a 4-star rated app for Android, with one reviewer suggesting that the "NO" wasn't big enough, another complaining that it didn't even say "YES" after midday on the 25th, and another claiming that it makes them laugh "everyday – my family have even starting asking 'Is It Christmas?'" If you want a fun-packed Christmas Day I suggest you wangle an invite to their house.

And then there's Twitter. Back on 16th July 2011, someone successfully ported across the idea of a Christmas reminder, with little fanfare:

They half-heartedly kept it up until August, before giving up.

This year, however, there's a new kid on the block – although with @IsItXmasYet having being taken, they've been forced to use @IsItXmasNow instead, which probably pissed them off slightly when they realised, but they've probably got over it now. And look, people can't get enough of @IsItXmasNow. Look at the retweets:

Who needs an Advent Calendar? The 4,500 followers of @IsItXmasNow will anticipate the word "YES" being tweeted on Christmas Day with frenetic enthusiasm – and then it'll happen, it'll get retweeted about 5,000 times or something, and then we'll wait to see whether the person operating it can be arsed to carry on. (Because, judging by the time the tweets are being posted, it's not an automated bot.) If they make it to February I'll give them 10 quid as a reward for dogged persistence.

December 3rd, 2013

Flatlining: Telling it like it is

You don't have to be using Twitter for long to realise that it's a vehicle for expressing views frankly. Whether you're calling a celebrity a knob, advocating voluntary repatriation or laying into cans of no-drain tuna because you actually had to drain them a bit, people are incredibly prone to splenetic venting. They rarely pause to think, to consider the other side of the story, to take a moment to reflect upon their own position in the wider scheme of things. No, they tell it like it is.

Thing is, Sabha, if you didn't tell it like it is, maybe acknowledge that you're telling it like you think it is, or perhaps canvas opinion from a broader section of society, then reach some kind of consensus and THEN tell it like it is, people wouldn't hate you.

But it hurts! Don't tell it like it is, please.

Mince them, Marie. Mince them up a bit.

Suffer them, Seyon. It'll make things nicer. What we're looking at here, basically, is people admitting openly to character flaws while somehow simultaneously claiming that they are powerless to change.

Don't call a spade a spade, then.

Don't speak as you find.
Don't call it like you see it.

Don't be brutally honest. Maybe just be honest. Couch your thoughts within gentler language in order to spread a small amount of harmony very thinly.

Be nice now?

That's just who Anthony is.

You've got to stop speaking your mind, chaps. It's an overrated virtue. I'm just telling it like it is.


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