Twitter Aims to Fix Trending Topics

6 11 2009

Written by Jolie O’Dell
Finally, the powers that be are planning to put a stop to #liesboystell, #goodhead, and… well, all the other asinine, vulgar, and generally pointless trending topics one finds in the right column of the Twitter web interface. Over the summer, we noticed that Twitter was submerging some adult-themed trending topics, and we noted the absolute need for more top-down policing of the trends list, which should be available for surfacing interesting and timely items to engage users.

Today, Twitter has finally acknowledged the brokenness of the feature and has stated its intentions to fix the issue. Twitter rep @jennadawn (no real name given, and no link from her Twitter profile, either) wrote on the official Twitter blog, “We’ve noticed an increasing amount of clutter in the public timeline, especially with trending topics. Trends began as a useful way to find out what’s going on but has grown less interesting due to the noisiness of the conversation. “So, today we’re starting to experiment with improvements to trends that will help you find more relevant tweets. Specifically, we’re working to show higher quality results for trend queries by returning tweets that are more useful. The improvement won’t be very noticeable at first, but this is a small step toward unearthing more value in search and getting you more relevant results.”
We are interested to know exactly how this new algorithm will work. Clearly, the wisdom of the masses has proved to be anything but. We hope that, beyond editing the tweets that qualify as representatives of a given trending topic, Twitter will acknowledge that they already do police trending topics, and we hope they will do so with greater diligence, intuition, and intelligence. Vulgarity and inanity aside, we worry about dupes. For example, right now, FortHood, Fort Hood, and FtHood are all trending topics. Likewise, every time a good football game rears its majestic head, we see the name and city of each team start to trend, along with NFL and the like. There are many ways in which trending topics are busted, useless, and irritating – hence, many opportunities for making them customizable, interesting, and useful. We’re sensing an opportunity for third-party apps to step in here.

Traditionally, Twitter is late to the game in making official features from ideas third-party developers have been working on for ages. Unless Twitter takes some impressive and noticeable action, an app might fix trending topics before Twitter does. via readwriteweb

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