What the trend
Update: yes, there are more such services now, I just discovered tagdef.com which does more or less the same. And is much less complete as of late Aug. 2009. Their complementary twitter account is @newtagdefs.
Since Twitter search officially launched, Twitter trends have become an essential part to keep up with the service. These trends are shown on every search page.
Many trends are marked by the often cryptic hash tags (e.g. #www2009 stood for the WWW conference, 2009 edition.
But also regular terms emerge in the trends if people are using them often enough, for example names like Susan Boyle become real Twiter trends this way.
In many cases, looking at the trends will give you a quick impression what is hot right now in the world. But sometimes terms and hash tags are not obvious at first glance, if at all.
A new service, whatthetrend.com, has been launched to solve this problem. The site shows the latest trend terms, along with a small user-editable explanation what the trend is about. This looks a lot like the awkwardly named technorati experiment WTF (intended to be a funny acronym for where’s the fire).
Clicking on such a trend displays related tweets, news and photos, very neat.
Of course, whatthetrend comes with its own @whatthetrend twitter account which announces new trends and invites followers to explain them. And you can also use wttrend.com to save on your 140 chars limit.
I really like this service!
Some more random observations around Twitter trends
The local timezone of an event is often very relevant for something to become a trend. Right now, #hksummit is trending (Apple event in Hong Kong, at local time somewhere afternoon). With Twitter becoming more and more popular, geographic restriction on search/trends might become useful for disambiguation and better signal to noise ratio when following local events.
Spammers are starting to abuse the popular tweet terms and post tweets with just these terms, together with their spammy links.
There is one twitter account (which I won’t mention here to avoid free publicity) which does just that: take all trend terms, convert them in a Amazon search query with affiliate code and post a tweet, many times per hour.
This was first discovered by the @paggr folks during #www2009. They are now trying to keep the spam out of their system, yet another arms race against spam has started.