Twitter Needs Actual Trending Topics

Today an historic event occurred in the US with the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the US Army which banned gays from openly serving. As always, the topic was highly popular on Twitter, with #DADT tags everywhere.  And once again, #DADT was nowhere to be seen on the Trending Topics list of Twitter.  This has been explained in detail after the debate last week about why #wikileaks wasn't trending on Twitter.  The answer, the rules that Twitter uses to determine trends are highly skewed towards novelty and are very subtle.  This allows perpetual trends like Justin Beiber to stay off the list, but it also means that real events which have trending previously will not show up.  A case in point, today "REPEALED" is trending but #DADT is not even though most messages contain both, not just one, of those terms.

I understand why Twitter does this, to encourage discover of novel trends and churn discussion.  But its misleading to simply have that list and hope everything understands.  What they really need is two trends lists. One using the current Trending Topics algorithm and another that simply lists the top 10 terms.  This Top Actual Trends list would not change much.  Likely "bieber" would always be on it.  Probably too would be "sex" and "food".  But it would be possible to make a simple list that excludes common words from speech but gave and idea of the main topics being discussed.  Seeing the two lists side by side would remove the confusion. It would also mean that when the Actual Trending Topics list changed, or a new term appeared on it for the first time (that could even be highlighted, or the number of weeks on the chart could be listed) then it really would be news.  It would mean that something new was going on.  At least we wouldn't feel like the real discussion was being ignored.  As it is the TT is becoming meaningless.

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