Predicting reality

Here’s an interesting thing. On Saturday I, along with nearly 20 million others in Britain, was watching Britain’s Got Talent (both for work and pleasure). I also, predictably, was on Twitter, and had several trending and tracking tools – Twitscoop, Twitterfall, etc – open (because I’m a geek and I like tracking the conversation, m’kay).

Once all the acts had performed, it was obvious that Diversity were trending stronger than any other act over Twitter. “If,” I thought, “Twitter is anything to go by, Diversity will win.”

Interestingly, Julian Smith, the third place act, wasn’t far behind Susan Boyle in the trending stakes. Twitter seemed slightly shocked Julian made it into the top three. I initially was, but it made sense following the conversation earlier.

Twitter, to be clear, didn’t win it for Diversity (as I’ve seen claimed in some places) but it did provide a surprisingly accurate snapshot into the mindset of the nation.

Mashable have picked up on a similar point when they used Google Analytics to try and predict the result of American Idol. And, of course, Google have been using their tools to predict flu trends.

Twitter’s a fascinating backchannel to popular culture, and there’s unlocked potential to make it even more useful. Somebody, somewhere, one day not too far in the future, I’d imagine, will develop something that enables them to make a lot of money from this.

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