As I was standing at the bus stop on a grey drizzly morning, there was a lorry parked on the opposite side of the road. It was an utterly unremarkable scene.
But the words on the side of the lorry were a bit strange. They almost, but didn’t quite, make an email address. They almost, but didn’t quite, make a twitter handle. They almost, but didn’t quite, make a URL.
So of course I took a photograph. It scores nothing for artistic merit. It’s not even a complete picture of the lorry. But with nothing better to do before the bus came, I tweeted it.
Confusing stuff this modern media – does M&S want to tell us about its email address, Twitter handle or website…? pic.twitter.com/WpGdtFlDWI
— Stefan Czerniawski (@pubstrat) October 15, 2014
It got one or two retweets, one or two favourites, after which the minor interest it had occasioned should have drained quietly away. What happened next was a bit surprising. The numbers started shooting up, reaching 51 retweets and 6,612 ‘impressions’.1 For you, those numbers may be normal; for me they are more than a little extraordinary.
It turned out that that tweet was almost exactly my 10,000th, 1,975 days after joining twitter. So was it the one in 10,000 chance of random virality?
I can remember only one other tweet in that league, which was even more frivolous. Trying to track down a late running flight, I spotted a plane on flightradar24 making the arduous journey from Gatwick to Heathrow.
— Stefan Czerniawski (@pubstrat) February 10, 2014
This is, in fact, wholly unremarkable. Airlines move planes from one place to another for all sorts of reasons, and swapping planes between Heathrow and Gatwick is a matter of daily routine for BA.2 So nobody should have cared about that one either. But it got even more retweets than the lorry, and still more bizarrely Twitter has it down as having received 35,473 impressions, making a not very interesting flight about seven times more exciting than a not very interesting lorry.
I like to think that over the years some of my tweets have been interesting, a few even thoughtful. But they are as nothing. Whether I like it or not, these are my two sort-of-viral tweets. Making a career hit rate of 0.019938%.
Look upon my tweets, ye mighty, and despair.
- I suspect impressions to be a somewhat dodgy currency, but they are what Twitter counts and they are at least some indicator of scale. And still creeping upwards, now 6,858, 6,859… ↩
- As some replies were at pains to point out. Inevitably, there turns out to be a site which keeps track of these things, which is faintly alarming. ↩