Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bigger Than Jesus, Iran And Michael Jackson

By Darryl Mason

For a few hours tonight, tens of millions of Twitter users in dozens of countries looked at the Trending Topics sidebar and, in a global moment of mass questioning, thought "Who The Fuck Is Rove?"

Whoever he is, for a few hours on Twitter he was bigger than the Iran Election and Michael Jackson. Quite an accomplishment, for an Australian TV show.

Rove McManus of Rove Live became one of only a few TV hosts from anywhere in the world to land in the Trending Topics, and perhaps only Jon Stewart has only also ever reached the top spot. Which is sort of like having a number one worldwide hit single that all but nobody has heard on the radio, for just an hour or two, before quickly fading into general global obscurity.

How did Rove become a topic of even greater discussion amongst Twitter users than the Iran Election and Michael Jackson?

There was a certain amount of manipulation from Rove, urging the viewers of his TV show to get onto Twitter and use the term 'Twitter Time'. Plus, Rove McManus already has 50,000 people following him on Twitter. If a good slab of them are watching his show, already discussing what he's up to as he broadcasts his show, who he's interviewing, and they tag their Twitter posts with #rove, then Rove is clearly a subject of much discussion and comment volume, so into the Trending Topics list he goes.

The fact that he also interviewed Sasha-Borat Cohen, in the guise of Bruno, helped enormously. Viewers twooting along while they watched Rove do the interview discussed Bruno's fantastically obscene knitted fashion choices. Mentioning 'Bruno' in their Twitter comments meant that a few million somewhere else in the world who were searching Twitter for news about the Bruno movie found comments by Rove twooters mentioning the interview. It would seem a few tens of thousands of them then commented that there is a fantastic Bruno interview on some Australian TV show called Rove. Some of the comments echoed a refrain : Why Can't I Watch This Now On YouTube?

So Rove started being mentioned in probably a few hundred thousand Twitter comments, in just one hour, because of the Bruno association.

I'm not quite sure if this actually means that more people were twalking about Rove at the same time then they were about Michael Jackson, but Rove's name appeared in more posts on Twitter, for an hour or two, including all those who picked up on the phrase 'Twitter Time' and asked, What Is Twitter Time? and Who The Fuck Is Rove?

Rove's name became word associated with Bruno and Twitter and Twitter Time. Bruno was already in the Trending Topics on Twitter before the Rove interview aired tonight, and so as Rove viewers twooted about how fucking insane Bruno was, or how funny his knitted penis was, Twitter users interested in Bruno who weren't watching the interview as it was being broadcast (because they weren't near a TV or lived in a country other than Australia) passed on the news about Bruno to all the people who followed them. A chain reaction of interest spreads, and Rove's name is carried along. Rove then becomes known as a name to the millions who were already twooting about Bruno and what his new movie will be like, and as soon as Rove reached the Trending Topics, because of the volume of twoots containing the word 'Rove'. And so, having reached the bottom of the Trending Topics list, the volume increased when people began asking 'Who The Fuck Is Rove?' as many tend to do when they see a name or word in the Trending Topics they are unfamiliar with. They don't go for a Google, they just ask the people who follow them, 'Who Is This? What Does This Mean?'

If that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I've been using Twitter for a few months and I'm still trying to get my head around it. There's not a whole lot to learn, you read comments, you post your own, you follow people, people follow you, but there's a gigatlantic-sized mountain to think about, particularly how Twitter is beginning to become the sort of actual real-time globally shared conversation that many pre-internet visionaries imagined would one day become a part of our digital reality.

While Rove may be hitting sixes using Twitter to promote the name 'Rove', he failed to capitalise on a brief worldwide interest in who he was, and what had happened on his show tonight that furnaced up so much discussion.

The interview with Borat's distant relative Bruno was not available anywhere online, hours after the show aired. In this age of Instant Online Everything, this ranks as something close to criminal. Why not share it all but immediately with those who missed it, or lived in the many countries where Rove is not screened, but where people were asking 'Who The Fuck Is Rove?'

The Bruno interview may be up today, or tomorrow, on YouTube, but that all so brief moment of worldwide Twitter interest passes quickly. I'm sure the interview will become extremely popular on YouTube and will rack up a few hundred thousand hits in four or five days. But here was an opportunity for someone from Rove to whip that clip onto YouTube as soon as it aired, get the link onto Twitter, and watch as five million around the world in just a few hours flooded in to watch the Rove & Bruno YouTube, thanks to the Twitter heads-up.

They didn't do it, so the above is just speculation. But it certainly seems like a scenario that could have happened, had the clip gone up straight away.

Because Kevin Rudd also appeared on Rove tonight, straight after the Bruno interview, and joined the Rove and Bruno and Twitter Time related discussions, our prime minister leapt into the Trending Topics as well. I didn't move fast enough to screengrab that.

Again, by midnight, hours after the show aired, the Rove interview of Kevin Rudd is still not up on YouTube, or any site that can be linked to. The international Twitterfolk who saw 'Kevin Rudd' in the Trending Topics and no longer bother with Googling, were asking their followers 'Who The Fuck Is Kevin Rudd?'

In these days of Instant Everything, not being able to immediately watch something that aired on TV but was missed, feels like you've been slighted.


What the fuck do you mean I can't watch this thing I heard about on Twitter right now online? Why is there no link? And what is this word 'Wait' word you keep using?

It just feels so very 20th century.

Correction : I know the estimates of overall Twitter users is too high. About eight million online at any one time, across the world is probably closer, but I'll go look for some detailed estimates of Twitter traffic.