RE: Trending Topics
You have an opportunity to become the system of record for historical events by re-thinking trending topics.
I love the Twitter trending topics because they reflect the pulse OF THE PLANET on any given day. To date, the trending topics have worked very well for providing insights into most popular topics on any day going back several weeks (using the Twitter APIs). The fact that I can use a Twitter API (for example, http://dev.twitter.com/doc/get/trends/daily) to access the trending topics for a given day, makes Twitter a form of a system of record for the most important topics of conversation on any given day. However, trending topics are not without their shortcomings. Now and again we see that certain hashtag memes and other Twitter memes tend to displace topics related to events of historical importance from the list of trending topics. Because Twitter APIs only return a maximum of 20 trending topics per day, some topics of historical importance that do not make it into the top 20 are essentially lost. In order to preserve trending topics of historical importance and establish Twitter as a reliable system of record for topics of historical importance, there is a need to improve the sophistication of the trending topics. In addition to the current trending topics, I would like to propose the contextualization of trending topics into Trending Topic Categories. Categorizing trending topics into categories such as People, Politics, Sports, Entertainment, Technology, Memes, Finance etc gives the opportunity for trending topics that do not make it into the Top 20 to make it into the Top 20 of their respective categories. Today, we are losing a significant historical record as memes crowd out other historically significant trending topics and potentially depriving future historians, researchers and school kids alike from getting accurate information when they search for answers to the following: “What were the major topics of discussion in technology 50 years ago on March 23, 2011″. I do not think the trending topic “#100factsaboutme” will be very helpful at all.
Given your donation of the Twitter stream to the Library of Congress, my assumption is that you do indeed recognize that you are a system of record of one kind or another. Your meta-data, such as trending topics, has the potential to be used for public good. It has the potential to help future generations understand our generation at a much finer granularity than we have been able to understand previous generations. As I ask you to make this enhancement to trending topics, I do recognize that you are a business and that contextualized trending topics may not be part of your business objectives; that is why I would like to suggest that you work with volunteers (open source-type of collaboration model) who are passionate about putting a taxonomy on the world’s conversations for the purposes of posterity. I, for one, would love to partake and many others will. Putting the categorization of trending topics in the hands of volunteers will guarantee that categorized trending topics are free to the public in the same way trending topics are today.
By re-thinking your approach to trending topics as suggested, you have an opportunity to become an invaluable true system of record that stands to benefit future generations.
PS: If this is not the first time you have heard this request, I hope this letter finally tips the scale for you