In twitter, much like life, there is no rhyme or reason

I’ve never noticed it before, but apparently now you can look at your Twitter Activity Dashboard to see which of your tweets are actually being seen.  I could already guess which of mine would be the highest ranked this year because I can see which ones get retweeted or favorited, but I thought I’d check to see if I was right.

According to twitter analytics, in the last 28 days I’ve had a few million impressions (Impressions = # of times people saw tweets).  That seems like a lot but I’ve written a ton, adopted a new member of the family, captured a possible ghost phantom on camera, joined Instagram, and live-tweeted an unexpected visit to a ghost-town where we were escorted by a bossy emu and several llamas.

I expected that my highest ranked tweet would be the ones I wrote during a particularly terrible night, because they were retweeted and favorited the most:

“90% of the people I know right now are falling apart physically or mentally this week. Be kind. To others and yourself.”

“You’ll get through this. I promise.”

Surprisingly, the actual tweet which blew everything else out of the water (according the analytics) was apparently much more important….

enchilda on plane

Conclusion:  Twitter is just as baffling as Facebook now.  Also, enchiladas are more dangerous than expected.  And now I’m hungry for enchiladas.  Thanks, twitter.

PS.  Seriously, does anyone understand the actual algorithms for Facebook and twitter regarding which updates actually get seen?  Why do I never see some of my friends updates but see others constantly?  Why do I see things on my timeline days after they’ve been shared?  Is it witchcraft?  Because it feels like witchcraft.

113 thoughts on “In twitter, much like life, there is no rhyme or reason

Read comments below or add one.

  1. A committee sat down and dreamed up ways to take something that wasn’t broken, and break it. You know, typical stuff.

  2. As far as I understand it, Twitter doesn’t hide your updates from your followers… but many people don’t actually scroll through everything that’s been posted to their timelines since they last looked at them. If people are looking at Twitter when you post something, they’ll see it. Otherwise, they probably won’t.

    Facebook? I’m comfortable going with the witchcraft explanation.

  3. Does anyone understand what an actual algorithm is? Because it SOUNDS like witchcraft to me.

  4. It is a baffling algorithm which also takes into account moon phase, time of the sunrise on Mount Everest, how many apples are in a barrel of oranges and the answer the mathematical llamas discovered when the calculated the effect of the rotation of Mars on the spotted tree frog.

    Very complex.

  5. Question: “does anyone understand the actual algorithms for Facebook and twitter”
    Answer: “No, it’s all bullshit that changes (seemingly) daily, like the love a 14 year old has for their latest crush.

  6. I’ve been looking at mine too and have been baffled by some results as well. Though now I seriously just want to tweet random stuff and see what happens.

  7. I am so perplexed by social media. I facebook-it, sure. But twits? Twittering? Tweets. Right. No clue. Thought about joining. Didn’t. Got confused on sign up. Might try again. Downloaded instagram last night and I have no clue why. Maybe to keep up with my son who never posts anything on it. I did join pinterest, AND I have a couple followers. But I had no clue you COULD follow people, so that’s kinda shot to hell until I decide to actually look into it instead of just liking Harry Potter quotes and yoga poses. Right now, facebook is used to post funny memes that highlight inside jokes for people I just saw a few minutes ago. Online shit baffles the fuck out of me.

  8. How disappointing! I didn’t realize that Twitter did that now. I did wonder how I kept missing my friends’ tweets, but I figured it was my own messed-up Twitter account that hasn’t let me favorite or retweet for days. I always liked Twitter way more than FB and FB became practically useless once they started only showing posts sporadically. I’ll be so sad if Twitter goes the same way!

  9. Pip just described my experience in any advanced math class I’ve ever tried to take. To me, anything beyond balancing my checkbook and calculating how much paint to buy for so many square feet in a room might as well be witchcraft to me. 😜

  10. No one is allowed to know. If by some means you come to know, an elite squad of assassins will visit you late one dark and stormy night. Because no one is allowed to know.

  11. Your tweet generated a lot of favorite and RTs because it was meaning full and resonated with a high % of your followers who were online. Rts are great, but for them to generate impressions requires 2 things: 1) that the people who RT your tweet have a bunch of followers and 2) that many of those followers are online at the time that the RT happened.

    Since your tweet happened in the middle of the night, few people were awake to see it. It would be like if the NFL moved the Super Bowl to 2:am. many people would stay up to watch it, but not nearly as many people as watch it now when it’s shown in prime time.

  12. I think Facebook gives more weigh to posts from people you’ve recently commented on or liked a post. I had to unfollow (but not unfriend) a few of my friends to keep from constantly seeing their posts.

  13. I’m pretty sure I missed that tweet, and that it is the only tweet of yours I ever missed.
    I think I’m part of the algorithm.

  14. It is absolutely witchcraft. I don’t mind for my own blog page but I photograph all the lost and found items for our schools fb page and only about 5% of the people who signed up for page updates get them. So frustrating.

  15. I am trying to figure out why there is an order history option in the settings for Twitter? What kind of things can you order from Twitter that can be explained in 140 characters? This is one of the things that keep me up at night, I need to know this now haha

  16. My sister in law flys enchiladas back to her husband in PA whenever she comes out to SoCal to visit. Totally weird in my opinion, but I guess they can’t get good enchiladas in PA.

  17. I’m pretty sure Facebook just takes the posts you were the least interested in seeing, removes the ones that you actually went to the trouble of hiding, and then shows you just that. The older the post is, the better. Because who wants to see someone’s post from two years ago that a complete stranger went to the trouble of digging up and commenting on? Facebook, that’s who.

    Witchcraft also works as a good explanation, assuming the witch in question is out to annoy the crap out of you. Which is a really weird hobby for a witch. If I had magic I would be making people to give me all their cookies and money. Unless someone pissed me off, in which case I would spend a lot of time trying to annoy the crap out of them. I’m just not sure there are enough witches in the world to curse almost everyone with bad algorithms

  18. I don’t understand Twitter, I’m not cool enough for Instagram so I guess I should stick with Facebook. And Facebook has become the Chili’s of social media, Btw, Chili’s has enchiladas. You want I should get you one?

  19. I’m too new to Twitter to get the statistics. As for Facebook, I think we are all just puppets with Mr. Zuckerberg as the marionette. But hey, he just donated like $75 million to a hospital, so I’m okay with it.

  20. Who needs a knife to eat an enchilada? Can’t you just use your fork??
    FWIW, both of these helped me when I saw them, so thank you:

    “90% of the people I know right now are falling apart physically or mentally this week. Be kind. To others and yourself.”

    “You’ll get through this. I promise.”

  21. I think Facebook works like this: the people you see most are the people you tag, like, or comment on the most. Also, the more your friends like a comment/post, the more likely you’ll see it too and then the people that show up randomly do so because you recently liked their comment on something else, searched for them or something similar to them, or they are posting some content that you regularly look at, comment on, or search for.

    So yeah, witchcraft and AI. Scary shit y’all.

    No enchilada for me, I had ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, and homemade ham gravy. I may eat that every day for the rest of my life. YUMMY!

  22. Facebook works very sneakingly, but on the left menu of their site when you are in the ‘feed area’, there is an option under news update or something (my Facebook is in Norwegian so I translateish) and there you have two options, either to select Top News or Newest Happenings. Newest happenings is chronological updates from your friends and stuff, while Top news is the most liked/popular/commented upon.
    Good luck on social media! Hope you got an enchilada!

  23. Once when I was a flight attendant we had two women who reeked of old fish. No one on the plane knew where the fish smell was coming from, just that it involved these two. After a 4 hour flight of recirculated air, most of the passengers (and crew) were completely nauseous. It wasn’t until we announced arrival that they decided they were hungry and pulled two previously concealed fish dinners from an airport restaurant out of their backpacks and started eating. Lets just say on the way out the other passengers confirmed we were all thinking the same thing the entire flight: the smell wasn’t coming from actual fish.

    Anyway, thats my story. Thank you and good night.

  24. I believe these algorithms are created by angry Algebra teachers who are tired of being told that we would not need algebra in our adult life and therefore are seeking revenge.
    Enchiladas are way too messy for flight, they should have tried something self contained like a burrito.

  25. Technology is awesome when it works. When it doesn’t it makes my brain hurt. Sometimes I feel like I should just sit in front of the computer and bang two rocks together and the end result would be the same but at least the rocks would relieve some stress.

  26. Comparisons to a Facebook algorithm might be kind of insulting to witchcraft. Doesn’t magic traditionally have at least one willing participant and a planned outcome?

  27. Okay, you’re tweeting about something and I have to find out this way… I feel cheated on. Some of us don’t tweet you know…

    It’s like I don’t know you anymore…

  28. Comment 27 is the most likely culprit. I have to change the setting back to ‘recent posts’ all the time bc FB likes to change it to ‘most popular’.

  29. Suspect that highly paid engineers and mathematicians have spent billions to develop an artificial intelligence algorithm that weighs hundreds of factors to determine precisely which tweet will cause maximum embarrassment in years to come when your children/parents/significant other/bank manager/employer/commanding officer/vice president reviews your online history.

  30. Facebook itself does not know how it’s own algorithms work. Think room full of monkeys, typewriters and/or laptops. Result? A Swiss Army Knife stuffed in a Taco.

  31. Facebook is all about trying to make you pay to have people see your stuff. Because that business model worked so well for classmates.com. As for Twitter, I think it’s just a testament to the power of images compared to simply text. More people are likely to notice a picture and be impressioned ? by it.

  32. I didn’t see your tweet about falling apart, being kind, and getting through this, probably because life has been falling apart here too. I keep a few of your tweets bookmarked for times like this, and I do go back and reread them when things are both awesome and awful, when I need to be reminded of the light, when it’s hard to keep breathing. My son was born 3 weeks ago, 10 weeks before he was supposed to, and has already had surgery for a congenital heart defect. I spend 4-5 hours a day in the car driving to and from the hospital every day. You have no idea how much your words help me through the dark times, and how even the silly things you share help me smile a little when it’s hard to smile. Please never stop being you.

    (I can’t imagine how raw and exhausted you are right now. I was going to suggest checking into a Ronald McDonald house so you won’t have to travel as much but I’m guessing you want to be home with your other son at night? Keep breathing. Ask for help when the adrenaline fades. Things will get easier. Sending love. ~ Jenny)

  33. You gotta post the pic for us. So that we can also help you analyze it better. 🙂

  34. I read this whole thing as “echidna” about 9 times. Couldn’t figure it out. Enchillada now tame in comparison.

  35. My teen dd announced she was quitting life to become a burrito recently. I told her, “That’s not allowed, or I would’ve done it years ago!”

    I guess I should be grateful she didn’t announce she was becoming an enchilada.

  36. You have a choice on your news feed–to see the most recent posts or to see what Facebook calls “top posts”. You can set your feed to “most recent” but FB will keep changing it back to “top posts”‘, sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve started just checking the feed setting every time I go to FB.

    (I change it all the time and Facebook changes it right back like, “I FIXED THIS FOR YOU. YOUR FRIEND DIED A WEEK AGO BUT I’M PRETTY SURE YOU’D ONLY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT NOW.” Jesus, Facebook. Get it together. ~ Jenny)

  37. I have no ideas about the algorithms. Why can’t I just see all the posts of people I follow? That’s kind of why I follow them.

    But, I did just have delicious chicken enchiladas verdes.

  38. Cheese enchiladas are my favorite food. I’ve never thought to bring one on a plane and now I can’t because TSA will suspect there is a knife inside and tear it open. Even when they don’t find a knife inside, my enchilada will be ruined. You can’t get the taste of those latex gloves off of the enchilada. Thanks, Obama.

  39. you’re fed what they believe you need to eat…they tell you it’s good for you..and the masses believe it, and digest it..don’t question it, that’s not what facebook and the masses are about. Just go along with it, try to be as cool as you can and collect plenty of likes..whatever you do, don’t rock the boat baby..individualism ain’t where it’s at in this space

  40. I’m bamboozled by FB and Twitter and how they decide whose stuff is worthy and whose is not…and then I’m annoyed that I spend so much time stressing about it when I COULD JUST BE WRITING or sneaking contraband onto airplanes via hot, delicious Mexican food.

  41. I can’t even change the date range; it keeps resetting to just today, and I didn’t tweet anything today… Twitter has just found a way to be even more confusing 😐

  42. Maybe I’m doing this wrong, but the analytics tool just tells me “user doesn’t exist” when I try to connect my Twitter account. I guess if I don’t exist, despite 17.5k tweets, I’m sure not influencing anyone at all. I feel so insignificant. Invisible, even. I hope you can see my comment.

  43. Pretty sure it’s witchcraft. Yes. I don’t understand anything. Oooh! I think I’ll add enchiladas to this week’s menu!

  44. Facebook infuriates me. The constant switching back to Top News drives me batty, but it’s worse that the Most Recent doesn’t seem to actually include all the recent posts by people/pages I care about… but DOES of course include things like one random high school acquaintance’s current content-limited comment on someone else’s picture from 5 years ago (“LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ROFL!!!!!!!!!!”). And somehow I DON’T hear that someone else got married, or that everything at my favorite store is now 50% off. Comments are not news, Facebook. Show me the posts! All the posts!

  45. I’ve been on Twitter long before it was cool. So what I’m saying is, I’ve been without a girlfriend longer than most Twitter users have.

  46. Is there a protocol for stealing, um, quoting a comment? The comment about Facebook selecting which posts is SPOT ON. People think I’m lying about not seeing their posts. 🙁

  47. Facebook algorithm was created by Joseph Heller. The more likes/comments/shares a post gets the more it is seen. Less activity means FB won’t bother showing it to anyone else. Makes perfect sense if you’re Major Major Major Major. :-/

  48. Twitter may behave strangely but it’s still not as evil as facebook. After trying for 8 months to get Facebook to allow me to link my blog on there, they’re still not having it. So I cancelled my facebook account. Screw ’em.

  49. Oh no, I clicked it and it said “NOW WE’RE GOING TO MONITOR YOUR TWEETS, MWAHAHAHAHA!” :C

    Facebook is a clusterfuck. I mostly use it as a kinf of measure: if I’m on facebook and I’m not checking out a restaurant, writing a message or posting some music link it means I should either go to sleep or back to work.

  50. It’s definitely witchcraft. Little known fact: The Facebook and Twitter moguls are part of a secret cabal who worship the moon Gods at Stonehenge and use karmic runes to decide which updates to show to people.

  51. I know nothing about the magic behind Twittet—I just like to read what you and some other folks I follow read! Can’t help with Twitter, sorry!

    BUT, I can designate YOU (and any of your designees) to receive any Enchiladas that are presented to me! So you have that going for you, which is nice.

  52. I’m pretty sure “algorithm” (I always want to spell that “algorythm” and put it to dance music) to facebook & twitter is the same as “HI! WE MAKE SHIT UP AND CALL IT SOMETHING TECHNICAL-SOUNDING AND YOU BELIEVE IT SO HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  53. It isn’t witchcraft, because if it was, you’d see things as they were posted by people/pages you follow rather than 24 hours to late to actually enjoy some fun times that are being shared… #algorithmssuckballs

  54. It’s a crazy mess, isn’t it? I gave up trying to figure it out so I would still have time to live a life. In the real world, as opposed to the online one. So far, it’s working:).

  55. Dammit, Jenny, now I want enchiladas. And I just finished the last of the carnitas I made, last night. And can’t really afford to go out tonight.
    And I really want some enchiladas.

  56. I believe Twitter just shows whatever is being posted in real time. Retweets and favorites might allow more impressions. Then there are people looking at hashtags, people looking at extended conversations, etc.

    Facebook is screwed up through. I almost got a job doing social media stuff and I was not going to have precise Like/Reach goals for Facebook because it’s Facebook and it’s weird.

  57. I’m still learning Instagram…and Snapchat totally baffles me. I only have like two friends on Snapchat, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to find people I know (same issue with Instagram).
    I’ll Snapchat something to my daughter (one of my two friends) and then I’m all, “Shit! I needed to send a caption on that.” and so I’ll send it again, but I’ll have hit the wrong button half-way through whatever caption I was trying to do…and so I’ll try again and end up sending her picture of my elbow.

  58. Remember when you were in school and were all “math is hard” and “when I grow up, I’ll never use math”, and the teacher was like, “you’ll totally need it, and will thank me later.” Okay, maybe that was just me. Turns out, we all should have paid more attention, because nobody understands algorithms.

  59. Today I was completely baffled that Facebook was showing me photos of my friends as adverts on the sidebar. Turns out this is their new way to sell me things. Also, according to Facebook, “liking The Velvet Underground on Facebook is linked to lower levels of conscientiousness, while liking The Guardian is linked to higher levels of conscientiousness.” Ahem. I wonder what Facebook thinks about me LIKING YOU? Do any of us really want to know?

    As for Twitter, shouldn’t they be paying you for all those millions of impressions? You’re a content creation dream for them! This is why I don’t get invited to parties anymore. Because I like the Velvet Underground, dead stuffed animals and you. I’m sure of it.

  60. Twitter… I joined but live in turtle time. By the time I’m done processing something, it’s all so yesterweek.

    A bossy emu? You saw a real Gunju Jackdaw? They can be as bossy as they like in my direction. I’d be too busy squeeing to care. Gah, so jealous!

  61. I was with you on title alone before I even got to the meat of the post. I am a new Tweeter and I am clueless (I like to think in an endearing way, but it’s probably not.)
    After reading the content I’m even more down with your post and I’m going to raise you 2 Danny Glover “I’m getting too old for this shit’s” because that’s how this technology makes me feel.

  62. I don’t know about the twitters, but your facebook problem is easily fixed. Top left corner, right under your name, there’s “News Feed” and a little arrow. Pull that down and select “Most Recent”. The default is “Top Stories”, which are chosen from your feed based on likes and comments and such. So the posts of the annoying much-younger cousin who has nine hundred thousand friends, every one of whom comments on her posts with “lololololol” and “gurl….” are going to filter to the top.
    You will have to re-select this option from time to time. It re-sets itself, and you start seeing lots more stories about faux profundity than you want to. “I was totally baked last night, and I was thinking, like, what if this is all a dream? And I’m like IN someone ELSE’S head?”

  63. Facebook and Twitter are bugging me.
    Seems like they just want to make money from ads these days so they swap algorithms so that they can control who sees what. I’m bored of being shown old selective stuff.
    Wish social media would go back to how it was!

  64. I think FB shows us stuff in our newsfeeds ONLY on days ending in Q unless there’s a quarter moon and the earth’s gravitational pull is stronger than usual. On THOSE days, FB shows us next to nothing, and should go suck a dong.

  65. I once brought sushi on a plane. With ice blocks, so I could share the new-fangled idea with my family back home. One person tried it…she didn’t like it… I was sad. But I had a great breakfast.

  66. Thank you! I hardly ever use Facebook, but it does this stuff to me all the time. My family doesn’t believe me. Nor do they ever get “I’m sorry you’ve had trouble logging into Facebook” just because they typed their password wrong. Stupid Facebook.

  67. I JUST noticed the twitter dashboard thing too. A MILLION views is nothing to shake a stick at.. I’m not sure why that’s a phrase but I like it. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever physically SHOOK A STICK. I should do that.. Thanks for today’s inspiration- STICK SHAKING. I’ll probably live tweet about it later. Maybe i’ll get a million views and it’ll all come full circle. #DreamBig

  68. Facebooks’ junk changes weekly. Right now they let more people see when you share someone else’s link than your own. So if my blog page posts a link to your blog, they’ll show about 30% of my followers that link. If I share something I’ve written, it will be shown to less than 1/10th of a percentage of my followers. Because obviously, you don’t create a blog facebook page to share about your own blog… oh wait.. yeah, you do. It’s all about the Benjamins to them. They want you to pay for people to see what you write. If you don’t, then fewer people will see it. That’s how it currently is anyway.

  69. Zuckerberg just wants us to boost posts so he makes getting anywhere free difficult. I am more frustrated in FB then anywhere. I love enchiladas and echidnas but I wouldn’t eat them both at the same time. I would bring neither on a plane.

  70. I was taking a redeye flight in 1988 with my two year old, and just as everyone was dozing off, this very large woman, two rows behind me, leaped up (no small feat) and started screaming bloody murder. “OOOOOOH, Sweet JESUS! Help me, Lord!” The flight attendants ran over, and all I heard was the word ‘snake’. Yup, snake on a plane. Seems that the woman behind me had smuggle the little asp on, in her purse, and when she fell asleep, he slithered out of the tiny opening she left for him to breathe. Snake came right up between the seats and hissed at the rotund woman, who they promptly moved to first class and began to ply with alcohol. I looked down, and he was laying on my shoe, apparently completely tuckered out from his hysteria making. The woman who smuggled him in got all up in the pilot’s face, after he caught the thing in a pillow case and stuck it in the bathroom, and locked the door. She was complaining that it was a tropical snake and it was too cold in there. He told her she was lucky he didn’t flush it. The pilot asked me and the now drunk woman in first class if we wanted him to put the plane down in the first airport they could find, but I said no…I was fine. I probably should have become hysterical, as the drunken fat lady got four free roundtrip tickets. When I got off the plane, I saw the snake lady in handcuffs. The flight started in Dallas. I have to admit, your book made me wonder…maybe someone who was related to you? Anyway…that is my weird stuff on a plane contribution.

  71. There is a way to get Facebook to show you replies by date (most recent) instead of by most popular. I find it helpful anyways. Just add a (without quotes) “/?sk=h_chr” to the end of the address and save that in your favorites. Helps me to not miss some of the things my friends have posted. Facebook’s algorithm tracks what you view, what you like, and whose pages you visit most often (among other things). It extrapolates data from there to show you more posts and updates of a similar nature, effectively isolating you from people with viewpoints that aren’t matched with yours. Beyond that basic bit of info I don’t know how it works though. See here for more info: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/30/facebook-news-feed-filters-emotion-study

  72. It’s definitely witchcraft and none of it has anything to do with what we want or what we want to see. It pisses me off regularly. But I am lame and I live with it.

  73. Yes, this is a really great tool for viewing some analytics and user behavior. You can gauge what is working for you and adjust accordingly to increase your user engagement.

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