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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)

January 20th, 2014

Flatlining: Getting out more

Earlier today I was tweeting some inconsequential guff about advertising jingles when someone had the temerity to suggest that I should "get out more". I was affronted by this. I mean, the truth is that I do spend a fair amount of time indoors, but they weren't to know that. I'd also like to strongly refute this notion that staying indoors somehow narrows the mind. Earlier this morning I was indoors, reading up about the various factors that have caused the current conflict within the Central African Republic. If I'd "gone out" instead, I'd have been gormlessly wandering past Waltham Forest's waste disposal trucks as they complete their weekly collection and occasionally coughing. No contest.

Having established in the previous paragraph that "you should get out more" has little if no real meaning, I'd like to go further: "you should get out more" really means "I don't fully understand or appreciate this". It's intended as a lofty slap-down, but as far as verbal jousting goes it's on a par with "Your mum". To illustrate this, I've compiled a list of "get out more" rebuttals delivered recently on Twitter that either weren't particularly fair, or just make zero sense:


This one is actually quite funny, as it was tweeted to the bloke who won Big Brother 15 and who was shut up in a house in Hertfordshire for several weeks:


Here's a notable one as it's delivered by art critic Adrian Searle to Alain de Botton:


And two from Chris de Burgh:


Anyway, I think I've made my point, whatever it is.
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January 17th, 2014

Rising: Click-spoilers

So many links. Hyperlinks, everywhere. It's overwhelming. You'll have followed a link to get here, and after you've read this you'll probably follow another one to go somewhere else. Bearing in mind that the average Twitter user will scan approximately 400,000 links in the space of a single hour, I might be exaggerating, social media "experts" have got pretty good at writing descriptions of links that make people want to follow said links. Because we're curious humans, and we're predictable humans. Things like see naked women click here actually work. As does find out the secret of instant weight loss – despite the links invariably failing to fulfil their promise.

The classic way of seducing us into clicking is to pose a question, a riddle or teaser, and then put the answer behind the link. Things like this:


But now we are seeing the rise of spoiler accounts, operated by people who resent what they see as clickbait and just want to give you the information, e.g:


@HuffPoSpoilers is the pre-eminent spoiler account, but it's being caught up by @UpworthySpoiler, which saves us time and energy by summing up the inspirational video we WOULD have otherwise watched by just telling us what's in it.


Some might say that these dastardly operations are denying the Web Content Economy valuable revenue by encouraging us not to click, but you can't deny that it's a labour-saving way of absorbing information:


You may be familiar with the idea of QTWTAIN, or "Questions to which the answer is no", often used by headline writers to provoke fear, apprehension or excitement in the reader, e.g. "Are 26 million Romanians about to steal your car?" or "Have scientists solved death?" Well, it also works with questions to which the answer is YES, e.g:


So there you go. Click-spoilers. An efficient way of consuming news, perfectly tailored for the Twitterverse.


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January 15th, 2014

Rising: Am I The Only One?

With at least a couple of hundred million people active on Twitter, there's a lot of common ground. However you feel about a certain issue, however you behave in certain situations, however your body has reacted to the over-consumption of tortilla chips, there'll be someone out there who has had a very similar experience. However often we're told that we're all unique individuals, that we're special, that we're uniquely us, and however much we buy into that idea, the truth is that we're all mooching about feeling the same as a load of other people. When people tweet "Am I the only one?" the answer is invariably no.


Sarah, meet Eddie's Princess:


Bea, I'd like to introduce you to Ghïwāā:


XIUpao™, you should meet Cactus:


Kendall, there's someone I think you should get to know. His name is Matt.


You're not, xolaurenemily, you're not. Look.


Michael, you saucy flirt, no, you're not. Here's Faith:


Devin, you'd get on like a house on fire with Marie:


There are many such people, A, including Nina:


No.


Yes.


Yes.
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January 13th, 2014

Rising: @hottestsingles

Some of my favourite things makes absolutely no sense to me, but they have such purpose and clarity of vision behind them that I feel magnetically drawn to them, like secrets that I'm desperate to be let in on. Trout Mask Replica is a good example; as Simpsons creator Matt Groening once said, recalling his reaction to the album as a teenager: "It sounds awful... but... they mean it to sound that way!" I'm bewitched by things like that, intrigued to know from which creative well they spring from.

You don't get much of that kind of thing on Twitter; it's mainly people like me posting links to things I've written in the hope that people will read them, or other people slagging off women for daring to have opinions. But I recently stumbled across @hottestsingles – and I don't have a clue what it's for, what it's about, what it's pastiching (if anything) and where it's all leading, but I love it.

If you remove the phrase "hot singles in your area" from the beginning of any of the tweets posted by @hottestsingles, they become slightly sinister, Lovecraftian scenarios, suffused with bleakness and torment – but the point is that they DO all begin with the phrase "hot singles in your area", and that instantly transforms them into unsettling but compelling comedic gems.


From the meagre amount of online research I just performed it seems that the creator of this wonderful creative cul-de-sac is Daniel Manitou, aka @ActualPerson084, whose own Twitter account has recognisable similarities – although without any mentions of hot singles in your area...


(Actually, ignore the above. I've just been contacted by the actual creator, it's not Daniel Manitou, it's one Jordan Shiveley, @jmshiveley. My mistake.)

Anyway, I can't say I was ever particularly seduced by the phrase "hot singles in your area"; anyone of sound mind knows that it promises more than it could ever deliver, and you should be as wary of it as a mailshot that tells you that you "may already have won" £200,000. But now, "hot singles in your area" has a different resonance. Something hellish and otherworldly. Beware.



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January 10th, 2014

Rising: @MPSHaringey

Twitter is often a good way of getting decent customer service when all other avenues have failed. Mindful of the very public nature of social media and the potential embarrassment that complaints can cause, companies seem to be all over any online disgruntlement like a rash, offering swift money-back offers to angry tweeters while the telephone hotlines remain permanently engaged.

This, however, does not apply to policing. "Please do not try to report crime using Twitter," begins the Metropolitan Police Service Boroughs and Neighbourhoods Twitter Policy, and a quick search of Twitter for "My friend has been stabbed, help" indicates that people are still sticking to 999. Sensible.

So why are the Met on Twitter at all? They set up a few accounts this time last year in order to connect with local communities in an abbreviated, digital form; we were promised operational updates, appeals for information, crime prevention advice and much else besides. Some boroughs took to it more readily than others, but the force who seem to enjoy it more than any other are @MPSHaringey. Firing out regular updates from its base in Wood Green and while on the move in surrounding streets, @MPSHaringey has adopted such a cheery tone that you wonder if the constable responsible (great name for a constable, that) is on an exuberance-related bonus.


Their reports of criminal activity and subsequent pursuit of offenders are reassuringly light-hearted and remind me slightly of 70s children's TV programme Trumpton:


"We will endeavour to answer all sensible questions put to us on Twitter," says the Met's Twitter policy – but @MPSHaringey go further than that, butting in to show their appreciation of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page:


I feel strangely reassured by all this stuff. It comes across as the human face of policing, a reminder that there are friendly, approachable people wearing police uniforms. More cynical people would describe it as merely an elongated PR stunt, while professional offence-takers would probably take great umbrage at the game of "guess the location" that was being played out on Twitter in the early hours of Wednesday morning.


But personally, I quite enjoyed it. (It's the junction of Lordship Lane and Bruce Grove, by the way.)

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January 8th, 2013

Falling: People being nice to each other

With the guilty verdicts delivered yesterday to the two people who sent menacing tweets to campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, there's been yet more stuff written about online unpleasantness, ranging as it does from thoughtless insult to sustained campaigns of abuse. It's a grim world, once you immerse yourself in it; last night it only took a couple of clicks to uncover another mass of derogatory tweets directed at Criado-Perez for her terrible crime of appearing on news bulletins to talk about the two cases.

Today, however, I set myself the challenge of finding some people who conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion online, showing great politeness and respect for others. We'll start with a couple of follow requests, because let's face it: if you're a fan of some boy-band or other it's a tiring old business, endlessly beseeching your idols to click the "follow" button in order to validate your existence. Many resort to posting the same impertinent follow request again and again and again, prefixing each request with a consecutive number that can get as high as 100 before they get bored. But what better way to distinguish yourselves from the morass of fans by saying it nicely? I mean, it still won't work, but what harm could it do?


More notable than this, however, are the fine folk who calmly back down during Twitter arguments. Traditionally, the internet is no place for backing down; you should persist in ramming your point of view home, relentlessly, until you and some other sad sack have filled up four pages of YouTube comments with the most tedious diatribe imaginable. But occasionally, just occasionally, you'll see people change their mind, admit that they're wrong, start to offer a fulsome apology, realise that fulsome doesn't mean what they think it means and offer a sincere apology instead. So here, for your general amazement, like a handful of exhibits in a freak show, are the people on Twitter who have dared to say sorry in the first week of 2014. Bless them all.


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January 6th, 2014

Rising: @WilliamsDiaries

What with him having died over 25 years ago, Kenneth Williams doesn't have a Twitter account. If he hadn't died 25 years ago and was still going strong, he still wouldn't have a Twitter account. He may have been a prolific diarist, compelled to log the minutiae of his day-to-day life – the long, solitary walks across London, the spats with Sid James, the hush-hush encounters with Tunisian boys – but his work was longform, full of lengthy extemporisation and intricate detail. Cramming his observations into 140 characters would have been impossible, like, uh, trying to get a fridge freezer into a fridge.

But if you've read his diaries – collected in book form ages ago and beautifully edited by Russell Davies – you'll know that they're full of pithy one-liners, generally miserable in tone. So what better way to kick off the new year, characterised as it is by poor physical health, a bleak meteorological outlook and the grim prospect of filing your annual tax return, than reading the thoughts of someone who's far more miserable than you are, or possibly ever were? Here's a choice selection:


But it's not all misery; Ken does occasionally lift the spirits with unexpectedly upbeat reflections:


Part of the joy of these is that each tweet appears on the anniversary of each diary entry, allowing you to progress through the year with Kenneth – albeit jumping a few decades to and fro. It would have made a fantastic tear-off day-by-day year calendar, the perfect gift for the grumpy bastard in your life. Russell Davies missed a trick, there. Happy New Year!

February 12th, 2014

Rising: Curveball tweets

People spend a long time establishing their Twitter brand. Followers become used to your regular updates about horses, or comments regarding the fluctuating scoreline in a tense rugby union international, or thigh-slapping jokes based upon the undeniable fact that some words sound a little bit like other words. And then, from nowhere, comes a curveball so unexpected that it sends a small section of the Twitter community into a tailspin. Where did that come from? Why did they do that? What's happening?

Take @coffee_dad. Coffee Dad can be relied upon to post pretty much every day regarding coffee. As noted in an earlier Twitter Index, tweets related to consumption of coffee are pretty much endemic throughout Twitter, but in the case of @coffee_dad it's his raison d'être. He lives for coffee, and for tweeting about it.


But then, for some unknown reason:


Take @RealCarrotFacts, who has amassed over 150,000 followers by occasionally giving tips, advice or making observations regarding the humble carrot.


But then, for some unknown reason:


Take @ReutersPolitics. Day in, day out, you'll see links to news stories hot off the wires regarding political manoeuvrings in the USA:


But then, for some unknown reason:


Judging by the number of times they're favourited and retweeted, it's clear that posting an occasional curveball tweet does wonders for your popularity. It's almost enough to make me go on Twitter right now and post something about palaeontology. Or something.
_______________________________________________________

People spend a long time establishing their Twitter brand. Followers become used to your regular updates about horses, or comments regarding the fluctuating scoreline in a tense rugby union international, or thigh-slapping jokes based upon the undeniable fact that some words sound a little bit like other words. And then, from nowhere, comes a curveball so unexpected that it sends a small section of the Twitter community into a tailspin. Where did that come from? Why did they do that? What's happening?

Take @coffee_dad. Coffee Dad can be relied upon to post pretty much every day regarding coffee. As noted in an earlier Twitter Index, tweets related to consumption of coffee are pretty much endemic throughout Twitter, but in the case of @coffee_dad it's his raison d'être. He lives for coffee, and for tweeting about it.


But then, for some unknown reason:


Take @RealCarrotFacts, who has amassed over 150,000 followers by occasionally giving tips, advice or making observations regarding the humble carrot.


But then, for some unknown reason:


Take @ReutersPolitics. Day in, day out, you'll see links to news stories hot off the wires regarding political manoeuvrings in the USA:


But then, for some unknown reason:


Judging by the number of times they're favourited and retweeted, it's clear that posting an occasional curveball tweet does wonders for your popularity. It's almost enough to make me go on Twitter right now and post something about palaeontology. Or something.
_______________________________________________________

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