what's trending

Users discuss whether or not Brian has built the dumbest website of the year.

There are many different ways to explain the internet, and nobody has settled on a good way to do it. There used to be really good blogs that did this, now there are "internet culture reporters" and stuff. You could run a YouTube channel or Instagram meme account. You could run an independent newsletter devoted to weird, dumb, web-related topics of your choosing. You could slap the word "stonks" on the cover of your magazine, as if it were still 2013 and you thought you'd get credit merely for showing up. Many different possibilities and options in this space.

One of the most thankless internet-explaining jobs is performed by the people who have to summarize Twitter’s trending topics. I, and probably a growing number of people, have developed a low-level fascination with these things, which feel like they were written by aliens who don’t know what knowledge to assume of their audience. Here are a couple of recent ones.

Every time I read one of these things, I think “Well, that cleared everything up.” The trouble with Twitter’s trending topics — or any similar trending system — is that it mistakenly equates volume of conversation with quality or importance. A lot of people talking about something does not mean anyone is making a good point. (Plus, many mentions of a topic are often people asking “Why is [topic] trending?”

Because platforms have no identity of their own, the people who wrangle these topics are tasked with deciding what they should tell people and what they should not. Twitter is a company that thinks it needs to tell me explicitly that The Wire aired from 2002 to 2008, but also thinks that nobody needs the term “Dream SMP” defined for them. (It’s a “survival multiplayer” Minecraft server hosted by content creator Dream; hope that clears everything up.)

The weirdness of these Trending Topic descriptions is in how they are way too general in some respects (“People are talking about…”) and far too specific in others. You can read more on why that is here or here. It’s like an alien crash-landed on earth and was tasked with putting together a whole report on human society using those little snippets at the top of Google search results.

One thing that cannot be denied, however, is that it is very funny to talk in the Trending Topics voice.

Like, imagine Twitter Trending Topics throughout history.

I have found it a fun and stupid way to pass the time, mocking up trending topics and sending them to people. It is for this reason that I’m pleased to announce…

The Trending Topic Generator

Yes, that’s right: I was bored yesterday and built a STUPID tool for mocking up your own trending topics. Just plug in the requisite information and you too can have your own bespoke trending topic to screenshot and tweet with a caption like “damn is this true?” You can pretend you’re important or clown on someone else. Go make some fake news or whatever! Have fun with it.

When everything is trending, then nothing is trending. Together, we can destroy the metric of “trending” once and for all.



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