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The Weird Poetry Of The Olympics Twitter Tracker

Multiple exposures show why Shaun White's performance on Wednesday night shot up the charts at the Twitter Tracker ... and everywhere else. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

If you can stand one more little Olympics-related doodad, let me tell you about the Twitter Tracker.

Now, for whatever else you want to say about NBC's coverage of the Olympics (such as: it's insufferable most of the time), you can't take anything away from the sheer quantity of stuff — I feel like that needs to be Quantity Of Stuff — on their Olympics site. Live video, features, full-length replays of what you missed, opportunities to buy stuff ... they've just about everything you could want and a lot that you undoubtedly don't.

But it wasn't until yesterday that I saw the Twitter Tracker.

The basic idea of the Twitter Tracker is that it takes tweets about the Olympics and tries to give you a general idea of what people are talking about right this minute. It renders different topics in boxes of different sizes, based on what's getting the most attention. Now, there's no way they're capturing everything anybody tweets about the Olympics, don't get me wrong. But it's still an interesting little snapshot.

The best part is that every box has the most-mentioned terms on that topic inside it. Right this second as I type this — ask in 60 seconds and it will have changed — there is a box that says, in words of decreasing size, "Curling pants Norwegian Olympic Olympics team." We're not the only ones who are fascinated by those pants, to say the least.

Another box — much smaller — has room only for "Johnny tonight."

You wait a minute, and it changes again. "Shaun White Olympics gold night last mctwist double amazing."

It's accidental poetry of a sort, where unrelated words bump into each other in unintended ways — "double amazing" — and all of a sudden, it's just, "Why, yes. It was double amazing. Thank you, unwieldy hive mind!"

Now the curling box has changed again, and it says, among other things, "Olympic pants team." Now that is a sport. (I imagine this: "I'm Bob Costas, reporting on the progress of the U.S. Olympic pants team, where the always powerful Russians are the biggest threat to hopes for the nation's first gold in the pants event in more than 30 years.")

There's a lot of clutter at the NBC site, and everywhere, but I must admit that for oddity alone — "Stephen Colbert Obama astronauts" — this little gadget weirdly wormed its way into my heart.