A couple of days ago Buzzfeed ran an interesting piece that looked at the hilarious results that could be obtained by entering various keywords into Twitter’s people search tool – for example, “huge idiot” brings up such luminaries as Mitt Romney, Piers Morgan and forty percent of One Direction amongst the first ten results. You can get equally amusing outcomes with some other choice keywords, too.
Good times. Buzzfeed concluded that Twitter’s people search leaned on keywords commonly associated with each user, which is a polite way of saying that the naughty Twitter is probably doing this on purpose. Still, ‘Twitter’ is as much about the millions of people who use it as it is the platform, and they could tweak this search algorithm accordingly (and, of course, how they see fit) to live up to expectations.
But it got me thinking – what if we flipped this on its head and looked for positives? How about if we searched for who Twitter (the platform, the people) thinks are the funniest people on the network?
Well, all you have to do is punch in “funniest” into people search, and away you go. According to Twitter – and, again, this is as much you as it is them (probably) – the twenty funniest profiles on the network are:
1. Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais)
2. Colin Quinn (@iamcolinquinn)
3. Funny Or Die (@funnyordie)
4. Rob Delaney (@robdelaney)
5. Todd Barry (@toddbarry)
6. Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman)
7. Russell Brand (@rustyrockets)
8. Louis C.K. (@louisck)
9. Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson)
10. Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers21)
11. Tim Siedell (@badbanana)
12. Lena Dunham (@lenadunham)
13. Jimmy Carr (@jimmycarr)
14. Simon Pegg (@simonpegg)
15. Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo)
16. Joan Rivers (@joan_rivers)
17. Chris Rock (@chrisrock)
18. Brian Posehn (@thebrianposehn)
19. Jerry Seinfeld (@jerryseinfeld)
20. Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs)
This list is subject to change, of course, but here’s a screenshot for proof:
Now, what’s interesting about this – and any people results obtained from Twitter search – is whether there’s some kind of pre-selective process in place in the algorithm. You’ll have your own favourites from the list above, and taste is, as they say, very much a matter of taste, but I can tell you this much – some of these folks, while hilarious in real life, are not really all that funny on Twitter. Less that they’re trying and failing, and more that they’re not making much of an effort.
At least, I don’t think so. But that’s the beauty of comedy – if it’s funny to you then it’s funny, period. But what we individually find funny isn’t a constant across the collective (i.e., you and your parents), which once again takes us back to the part about HOW Twitter is generating these results. Is it, as Buzzfeed surmises, based on how these people are talked about by other users on Twitter (i.e., their username is often tweeted alongside the word “funniest”)? Are these guys tagged in some way by Twitter as comedians (they’re all big accounts after all)? Or is some other witchcraft at work?
We’ll probably never know, as algorithms are worth a lot of money and are almost always kept under wraps. It’s certainly in Twitter’s interest to make sure that people we recognise are at the top of these lists – nothing worse than everybody going, “Who?“, after all – so I think there’s some manipulation going on here.
Which is probably fair enough. Until we know more, there’s at least half a dozen people worth following above, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide who that is.