Blog Pile

Counting Your Way to the Trending Tweets Pop

cc licensed flickr photo shared by davisayer

There are some grand mysteries that are still un-resolved, Mr Owl…

Over at the neatly named The Clever Sheep blog I came across Rodd Lucier’s eager idea YELP! to try and score a landing as a Twitter trending topic:

Maybe it’s just the hundreds of teacher-learners I follow on Twitter, but it seems to me that there is no other group making such widespread use of this micro-blogging platform for personal and professional learning.

Well I have no data, but given the gazllions of people who are out there, and vapid celebrities with 4,000,000 (sheep? not so clever) followers… well I am hard pressed to really believe that educators are one of the highest percentage users of twitter– studies have “shown” that professors dont tweet and teens dont tweet, hmm who does?

I don’t discount that there is a very strong, vibrant semi fragmented “community” of educators who tweet. But I’d not say that educators are any more advanced in twitter use than say, accountants or bread makers or plumbers. I don’t know but my gut says the relative tweet power of educators is pretty minor.

But regardless, Rodd is excited to round up people to use a hashtag to see if educators can rally and be on the big board…

I’m wondering what might happen if we chose one day to let ourselves be known. What if we ‘edu-punked’ Twitter’s trending topics to demonstrate the amazing range of professional learning that takes place on Twitter?

Here’s my proposal: On Thursday, December 17th, let’s do like the characters in Horton Hears a Who, and let out a collective “YELP”, to let others know that we’re here. Simply append #EDYELP to each of your tweets on that day, and we’ll let the ‘sphere know that “We are here; We ARE here; We are HERE; WE ARE HERE!”.

I applaud Rodd’s enthusiasm and loathe being one to be a doubter. I say go ahead, maybe I’l toss some in, it wont hurt.

But I have to try a little realism. Like the number of licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop, the method be reaching the top of twitter’s popularity is not clearly defined (thats what makes it fun, right?).

One of the most un-useful answers to the question, “How many tweets to become a trending topic?” is from Yahoo answers. The “top ranked answer” (with 1 vote, a landslide?) is, and I quote the data:

150,000 i think

Well, armed with that definitive answer, I have no more research to do.

But there are better answers out there, like from Buzzgain (a PR blog) How many tweets does it take to be a trending topic on Twitter? At least here, Mr or Ms. Gain has done some calculations…

1. The average number of tweets per day is 1.9 Million.

2. The average number of unique twitter users per day is about 631,737

3. The average number of unique twitter users online per hour is 48,233

4. The average number of unique tweets per hour is 83,394 and unique tweets / minute is ~ 1350

5. Number of unique trending topics per day is ~8900 (these are for one specific day, but average over the last 7 days is in this range). Trending topic has a “shelf life” of 11 minutes, most though are less than 5 minutes.

There are about 9000 trending topics per day and most of them have a lifetime span of less than the alleged Warholian 15 minutes of fame.

The Buzzgain article goes on to consider other factors- time of day (because not all of twitter is in your time zone, and different numbers of people are on at different time), nature of topic (it helps to be an embarrassed celebrity, a natural disaster, etc) and location of people who tweet (relates to times of day to do this), suggesting that in the US morning to mid day (6:00am to noon Pacific time), it would take 1700 tweets from about 733 users.

It certainly is do-able, but if I were to make a suggestion to Rodd, I would do this with (a) more advance notice to spread the word; and (b) a narrower time frame to focus the efforts- asking to have tweets over a full day is scattering your efforts a bit widely.

Damn, I just peed in someone’s bowl of cheerios. Sorry.

And modern science still reveals a range of 144 to 411 licks to get to that tootsie roll center, that’s a big delta, eh?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I love the statistical analyisis, and I realize that true trending relies on the timing of tweets. For example, when we ran the first #educhat discussions last spring, we ended up being a trending topic by the time we were 40 minutes into a discussion. That was with no more than say 60 teachers who were posting tweet after tweet in rapid succession.

    In the case of #EDYELP, if every teacher on twitter used the hashtag, it might not trend, unless enough folks were tweeting around the same time. Still, I can’t let that won’t dull my enthusiasm for celebrating the fact that so many teachers are learning inside this dust-speck every single day.

    Maybe by the time May 15th rolls around…?

    1. Hey Rodd, you’ve trended before, so you got one on me! I might guess that your participants in the #educhat were well followed by people that picked it up. Or the stats are wrong…

      Don;t lose any of that enthusiasm, we always need more of that.

  2. I still think #goatscrotum would have made an awesome trending topic. Maybe if #eduyelp works, that could be the next project.

    If the spamfilters are parsing comments, this one should help you keep that adult rating. :-)

    1. Absolutely- that’s what the Buzzgain article describes – when you tweet is related to high zones of activity of twttier users by geography, but its not just a time zone thing, because it matters about the time zones of people who follow you for the secondary wave of tweeting.

      It all feels a bit speculative, but I know that later evening tweets for me in the US are effective in getting the other side of the globs (sometimes, I am not THAT interesting)– Guy Kawasaki also talks about retweeting yourself for getting time zone boosts.

      See also:

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