Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its Local Trends feature to everybody on the network.
When you login to Twitter.com, you’ll be given the opportunity to set the trending topics to your choice of 22 different locations.
Immediately, of course, you see the problem here – while Twitter has stated that they’re working on adding new locations, chances are that most people who use the service will find that Local Trends is anything but for them at this moment in time.
Indeed, the nearest ‘local’ to me would be London. And, being absolutely frank, being able to quickly see what’s trending on Twitter within London isn’t of much more benefit to me than being able to quickly see what’s trending on Twitter everywhere.
Moreover, the differences between what is trending around the world, in the United Kingdom and within London aren’t as staggeringly different (or interesting) as you might expect.
As you can see, the UK are clearly more interested in the tennis at the Australian Open than the rest of the world, and you would expect a UK-specific event such as Holocaust Memorial Day to only be trending within these shores.
And it amuses me that Londoners seem to favour the iPad as the name of choice for Apple’s soon-to-be-announced touchpad device, while everybody else is all about the (God-awful) iSlate.
Otherwise, it’s all about the glory of #nowthatsghetto.
Here’s the thing: being able to see trending topics in any given location is always going to be less useful to me than the facility to be able to set whatever filters and parameters I like from scratch.
For example, the option to simply search within the tweets of those people in my immediate network on Twitter would be something of significantly higher value. Using this method one could quickly and easily poll trends and opinion from those whose judgement we already trust. (And if not, why exactly are you following them?)
And being able to remove trending topics that are of no interest with the touch of a button would also improve the output dramatically. I accept that hashtag memes are popular with many, but they’re of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever. I’d rather not see them, to be honest, if only because they’re taking up space that might be better used for something that’s actually of value.
As it is – and I dare say this would be the case if Twitter ever gets round to providing local trends for my home town – aside from the novelty value, seeing what is trending in any one location is never going to be of much benefit. If something big happens in London and is only trending in London, that’s really only of use to Londoners. And even that’s a stretch, as if it’s big enough to be trending, it’s likely already in the greater consciousness, as that’s why it’s trending.
(Although how or why Danny Dyer’s television show about UFOs has generated such a level of interest is anybody’s guess.)
And that’s the rub in a nutshell: the problem with trending topics is that they are too general. This is why they’re trending, of course, because lots of people are talking about them, but while you can occasionally get surprised by something on a trending topic, when it’s still trending a week later it’s little more than an irritant. Especially when the reason why it’s trending is wrong.
If we could shape this output the value would increase exponentially.Â And it would be nice to see outside just the top ten, too – after all, chances are that there are many worthy things of interest in the long tail between numbers eleven and infinity, but the bulk of these never get a look in simply because once a trending topic is inside the top ten it automatically gets a lot more attention. In this way, it works a bit like a music, movie or book chart. The real quality is often just outside the very top, going unnoticed by the general populace.
It’s good to see Twitter rolling out all these new features of late but I do wish they’d adopt a sense of priority. We still have major problems with Twitter search, a block function that doesn’t work, a very ropey direct message system and never-ending problems with spammers and bots.
Perhaps if and when these things begin trending we might start to see some solutions. Of course, if you’ve set your Local Trends to the wrong location, chances are you won’t even notice.