Monday, July 26, 2010

The Misguided Notion of "TRENDING NOW" - Douglas Castle

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The Misguided Notion of "TRENDING NOW" - Douglas Castle

Dear Fellow Futurists and Friends:

The latest fad to stick itself between the eyes of every informationally overburdened and sensorially bombarded "gotta know everything now...gotta be monkey and aspiring corporate climber (despite the notable absence of ladders, steps, and destinations) is the "Trending Now" dynamic ticker that you can see on the homepages or opening pages of all of the major computer hosting and service providers (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, AOL, MSN and a growing number of others).

This feature, which is really a dynamically updated ranking of the top 10, 20 or 30 topics which are most frequently searched by the public at any given moment, is supposed to be extremely meaningful. If they were financial data, they might be useful, but all we can glean from these ticker displays are the fads of the moment. Ironically, they are not even trends -- they are ranked search frequencies as of the moment of measurement. The fact that so many of them change so rapidly attests to their volatility (perhaps a function of some combination of intensity of news story saturation and the fickle and limited nature of many people's attention spans.

Now if you were to isolate a particular search topic and follow its relative positioning daily over a length of time; or, if you were to codo the same thing with two different brands, or ideologies or atmospheric gases...well then, you would be citing a trend. A trend is a measurement of change or tendency in a particular variable over a period of time. The difference between a "Trending Now" display and a "Trend" per se is analogous to the difference between a point and a line.  A point can (possibly) be observed, but its direction is unknown. It takes several points to plot a trend line, or to plot two or more competitive trend lines in a comparative or correlative analysis of  brands or  products. And these points are gathered over time.

If you'd like to see a trend instead of a daily ranking (this is safe experiement which you can do at home without setting the house on fire or putting your kid brother's eye out), just use the same "Trending Now" report, choose a "hot" topic (i.e., Lady Gaga) and examine it daily to see which position it occupies daily. Plot a chart based upon rank. Then, as ranking rises or falls, you can site a trend, or direction. You may even plot a graph with percentage changes and other exciting (stifled yawn) metrics! See how easy this Futurism thing can be?

In Futurism, we do not seek to just 'get the point' -- we seek to find the best-fitting line, and extend it using a combination of skills.

NOTE: By the way, you'll likely notice that the fastest risers tend to plummet the most precipitously, while the slower climbers have a tendency to occupy a higher ranking position (on average) for longer.

Let's just remember that a momentary ranking is not indicative of a trend.

Class dismissed!

Faithfully, and wishing you a wonderfully vertical success path, I am,

Douglas Castle

Douglas Castle
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