Thursday, September 12, 2013

About croquetes, Twitter, and the Catalan Way

Photo Sep 11, 4 32 52 PM

Yesterday's Catalan Way—Catalonia's 250 mile long joining of hands in support of Catalan independence from Spain—would not be the first movement to question Twitter's algorithms for choosing trending topics. But I'm sure it's the first one to respond with #croquetes!

Yesterday, Twitter buzzed with reports, videos, and photos from the #CatalanWay, which in Catalan is called the "Via Catalana". Today, it is newspapers all over the world, from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times in the US, to the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent in the UK to Der Spiegel, Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung in Germany, and so on and so on. VilaWeb has a good list.

But Twitter stubbornly refused to register #ViaCatalana, the hashtag marking most of the posts, as trending. During a radio show on RAC1, Jordi Basté explained that Twitter had told them that 1000 people had to be talking about a particular topic in order for it to 'trend', but that it was important that that topic not have trended the previous day. Half in gest, he said, why don't we test that theory with "#croquetes" [a very typical and common kind of special leftovers in Catalonia, generally meat mixed with bechamel sauce and fried, quite delicious].

Within minutes, everyone was tweeting #croquetes, and sure enough Twitter quickly listed it as a trending topic. In fact, it's still trending this morning.

(20) Twitter / Search - catalanway

While some talked of conspiracy and showed that #viacatalana was being heavily used across social networks, others explained Twitter's system for designating trending topics.

My opinion is that whatever Twitter's system is, it does not work. There is absolutely no reason that such an event, closely followed by the world media, front page on Wikipedia, and tweeted by hundreds of thousands of people would fail to 'trend'. Twitter needs to revise its trending topic algorithm, so that we don't have to resort to silly tricks like tweeting about yummy food. And it's true that, totally coincidentally, I had #croquetes for dinner last night!


  1. I think the even more odious issue is that when searching on Twitter for the hashtag (to verify that I was using the right one) what came up as a suggestion was #ViaCatalanaTV3. For some reason, even there you couldn't find the #ViaCatalana hashtag easily.

    The boys in California apparently have their own ideas what the web should be comprised of...

  2. It is good that you clarify why #ViaCatalana didn't trend yesterday. The same happened a while ago with #Wikileaks and #cablegate (see:
    I understand the claim of the #ViaCatalana hashtag as it is a punctual event in the time, but imagine Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Obama trending every single day. This is one thing that 15M movement in Spain sorted out by frequently changing the hashtag they used.

    1. Yes, I've been resisting conspiracy stories, but that is not to say that Twitter's trending topic algorithm is useful. It completely failed yesterday. The viacatalana is not analogous to Justin Bieber, and I'm sure there are many other such cases. Requiring a completely new hashtag is inane.

    2. Having lived in the town where this system was created and having known several people who have worked/still work there, I don't put much faith in it as a system. As a tool to put out tweets, it works. For anything else, it is simply not reliable, especially as they've hijacked all their own analytics systems in order to promote paid advertisement. I'll have to tell you about the Ads system at some point over a "1714 cocktail".

  3. I don't think your "croquetes" taste better than the "croquetas" of my Castilian grandmother!

    1. They tasted pretty good last Wednesday :)

      More info about ¿Qué le pasa a Cataluña en


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