Today is the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. As I write this, “Yoko Ono” is sixth on Twitter’s global trending topics list, and “Lenon” is fifth.
Neither “Lennon” nor “John Lennon” appears.
Why is this? Is it because more people are misspelling John Lennon’s name than spelling it correctly? No. Far more people are spelling it right than wrong — and a big chunk of those who are spelling it wrong are doing so to criticize it.
But Twitter doesn’t measure raw numbers in calculating trending topics, it uses a complex algorithm that values novelty over frequency. So when “Lennon” goes from a lot of hits to a whole huge humongous lot of hits, it doesn’t trend. But when Lenon goes from almost no hits to a lot of hits, just because a tiny percentage of something really big is bigger than a tiny percentage of something sort of big, it does. And when we start tweeting about how ridiculous it is that “Lenon” is trending at all, it trends bigger and longer.
This is why Twitter’s trending topics are broken. They don’t care that we care about John Lennon. They just care that we’ve noticed that some people are spelling his name wrong.