Turning inner space into outer space

July 2, 2014

Are you as smart as a retweet algorithm?

For better or worse, news organizations increasingly rely on social media such as Twitter to promote their stories, boost pageviews, and — with any luck — bring in more ad revenue to pay journalists.

Some places now have whole teams dedicated to the vagaries of social media, which includes agonizing over the writing of tweets so they get the most retweets possible.

At Cornell University, three computer scientists have created an algorithm they claim does better than the average person at getting those precious retweets.

That’s not something we humans should take lying down. If you think you can outsmart some software, try this test at The Upshot — a blog at the New York Times website. You’ll be presented with two similar tweets and be asked to choose which got the most retweets.

I tried it myself, and mostly got right answers. And I was a little surprised at some of the ones I got wrong. Still, it’s a good learning experience — not to mention a lot of fun.