Why the same icons repeat on that cool Washington Post Twitter graphic marking 1 million Twitter followers

The Washington Post

As The Washington Post's Twitter account neared its millionth follower, social media editor Mark Luckie found a use for a template he'd had kicking around for a while: A nifty animated mosaic that would let him pay tribute to the site's followers by incorporating their avatars into a trippy, endlessly clickable portrait.

I wanted to know how he did it. But first I wanted to know why I keep seeing the same two women over and over.

This is someone I'm calling "black-and-white woman." She appears so often I've refreshed the post and tried again to make sure I'm not going insane.
This woman, in a "Thriller"-esque top, appears nearly as often. I asked my boss to click around, and this person appeared a lot for her, too.

Reached by email, Luckie says it's not a conspiracy, and I'm not going nuts. There just aren't a million Twitter avatars in the graphic. "I tweaked the animated mosaic template to pull a sampling of 400 of our Twitter followers (not the total million, which would be unmanageable file-wise)," he writes. "The hand-curated photos were resized and run through a program that identified the dominant color of each avatar. The reason why you see the black and pink avatars more frequently is that there are few avatars from our followers that have that dominant color palette."

Luckie says the graphic was intended to do something special: "We really wanted to honor our followers with more than just a self-promotional tweet marking the milestone," he writes.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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