Last week Jeff Jarvis tweeted the other day that it is time for Twitter to discontinue 'Trending Topics,' that list of what people in Twitter are most following. I could not agree more.
The feature takes up a lot of space, which is Twitter's greatest constraint and could be used for better things.
There was a time when Trending Topics was helpful. "People are pretty much clueless when they first get onto Twitter," Ev Williams has said and he was right of course. The feature was first offered last year in an effort to help people find interesting topics of conversation and it worked well in accomplishing that for a short while.
But now people are less clueless. Nw, when they join the friends they have help guide them along and assist them in finding new colleagues. They can easily discover topics that interest them and join neighborhoods based on those topics.
But Trending Topics, has become all-too-often a list cluttered and dominated by banalities, contests and silliness that is of no interest or use to a great many people, particularly those of us who use Twitter for business, or to learn about events in the world; nor is not useful for actually meeting new people with whom you share common interests.
Trending topics is easy to game. Just create a quiz, invite people to discuss pet peeves or a sex-related topic; be a movie star who dies under questionable circumstances and it will push subjects like the Iran Election right into oblivion.
Obviously, there are more people who like the topics that are making the list than those who do not--or the list would not have picked up the TV Guide quality that it has assumed. But it seems to me that it is bring broadcast media technique to a social media venue.
This may seem like a trivial topic, but it is not. There was a time when thinkers had great vision for television. NBC pioneer David Sarnoff envisioned bringing opera and symphony into America's living rooms. News pioneer Edward R. Murrow thought that the distribution of news on television would level abuses by tyrants and corrupt public officials. Educators dreamed of using television to educate the masses.
And we ended up with American Idol.
Twitter is the fastest growing computer-based technology in history. There is no end to that growth trend in site. It has the potential of letting each of us find others who share our interests and passions without intermediation by bosses, government, advertisers or anyone.
Twitter can be perceived in more ways than the blind men saw the elephant.
"We become what we measure," my friend KD Paine, the social media measurement expert often says. My belief is that if Twitter focuses on measuring Trending Topics, it will become something far less than it could become.