HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Journalists shouldn’t lose their rights in their move to private platforms
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Nov. 15, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

In which Occupy Wall Street (though not #occupywallstreet) finally trends on Twitter

More evidence that Twitter’s algorithm rewards spikes over steadiness.

I wrote last month about new research analyzing why #occupywallstreet, despite its trajectory as a political event and despite its seeming prevalence on Twitter, never became a trending topic in the epicenter of the movement: New York. Last night’s occupation of the occupation — the NYPD’s evacuation of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, apparently at the behest of the (public) park’s (private) owners — has changed that…sort of. The Occupy movement trended in the U.S. and (for a brief moment early this morning, Eastern time) globally.

That’s not surprising — the evacuation was and is important news, and it’s being copiously documented on Twitter, by participants and journalists alike — but it offers evidence that would seem to support the theory put forward by SocialFlow‘s Gilad Lotan to explain #occupywallstreet’s trend truancy: that Occupy Wall Street’s steady growth over time, as a movement and as a subject for discussion on Twitter, might have actually hurt its chances to trend. Since trending isn’t just about volume, but also (and apparently more so) about the changing velocity of the usage of a given term or hashtag, Twitter’s algorithm rewards spikes over steadiness. And last night’s raid of Zuccotti — and the flurry of reporting and commentary it occasioned on Twitter — provided a prime opportunity, it seems, for just that type of spike.

However. It’s noteworthy that #occupywallstreet itself, the umbrella tag, still didn’t trend. Nor did #ows, or any of the other broader terms of the movement. Instead, it was specific #ows terms — “Zucotti Park” [misspelled], “The NYPD,” “Foley Square” [the spot where OWSers evacuated to], and “Broadway and Pine” — that trended, along with trendtastic classics like #HottestPeopleOnTwitter, #iwannabe, and (aw) “Hate Sleeping Alone.” Again, further evidence, it seems, that Spikiness is more important than Stickiness when it comes to trending terms.

The bigger question here is whether trending actually matters. And the broad answer is that it doesn’t, much. Occupy Wall Street — though, as a movement, it relies on social media both to spread and to amplify its messages — doesn’t need to trend on Twitter to get the word out. It has other ways to do that. Still, trending topics are pretty much the mother of all hashtags; in that, they’re one-stop-shops for the ideas that matter, across communities, at a specific moment in time. For a movement like Occupy Wall Street — like #occupywallstreet — that kind of convening power matters. And, given some conspiracy theories that have accused Twitter of censoring activist efforts on its platform, it’s worth noting that the latest evidence tracks with what Twitter has been saying all along: that trending topics, more than anything else, “reward discussions that are new to Twitter.”

POSTED     Nov. 15, 2011, 12:30 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Journalists shouldn’t lose their rights in their move to private platforms
The shift to distributed content means concepts like fair use are increasingly in the hands of private companies — like SoundCloud.
How The Forward, 118 years old, is remaking itself as the American Jewish community changes
The newspaper, first published in Yiddish, is facing all the familiar pressures of print, combined with a shifting base of potential readers.
Newsonomics: Are local newspapers the taxi cabs of the Uber age?
Local newspapers still act as if they’re monopolies — despite all the new players eating away at their audiences’ attention. Is there room to adapt?
What to read next
2401
tweets
The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising
“The Economist has taken the view that advertising is nice, and we’ll certainly take money where we can get it, but we’re pretty much expecting it to go away.”
889A wave of distributed content is coming — will publishers sink or swim?
Instead of just publishing to their own websites, news organizations are being asked to publish directly to platforms they don’t control. Is the hunt for readers enough to justify losing some independence?
550What USA Today Sports learned covering the Final Four on Periscope and Snapchat
These new platforms are optimized for realtime news on phones, but there are lots of questions for news organizations — from what content to share to how to measure their effectiveness.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Dallas Morning News
Facebook
Hechinger Report
Houston Chronicle
ProPublica
The Atlantic
SF Appeal
Upworthy
Mashable
Mother Jones
Foursquare
Tribune Publishing