It's a confusing moment -- when you're in your feed, you see a tweet with a picture. But then you filter by "Photos" and the tweet isn't there. Why is that?

tl;dr: In CrowdTangle, if a tweet has both a link and a photo, we count it as a link.

If that's all you want to know, there you go! If you want more details, buckle up, because we're going to get deep into this.

Why this is an issue

Picture you're about to post a tweet with a link to an article you wrote about your favorite CrowdTangle tips and tricks. Your purpose in writing this tweet is to let people know about your article and have them click on it. And to help entice them to click through, you include a screenshot of our system. Conceptually, that's a link tweet that happens to have a photo.

Now picture you're going to tweet again, but this time you want to share your great photo of the time where you met our co-founder, Brandon. Since you want people to be able to understand why that's cool, you include a link to Conceptually, that's a photo tweet that happens to have a link.

But in each case, all our system knows is that there's a tweet with a link and a photo -- we don't have the metadata on what your intentions were. So we need to make a decision with what we've got.

So, what do you do?

Now we have a tweet that contains a link and a photo, and we have to make a choice. There are 3 options:

  1.  Label it as a link (this is what CrowdTangle does).
  2. Label it as a photo.
  3. Label it as a link and label it as a photo so it shows up in both filters.

Each has pluses and minuses. Let's go through them:

  1. Label as link: If you filter by "Links," you'll get all of these posts. But if you filter by "Photo," you won't.
  2. Label as photo: If you filter by "Photo," you'll get all of these posts. But if you filter by "Link," you won't. #1 and #2 have the same tradeoff in opposite directions.
  3. Label as both: If you filter by either "Links" or "Photos," the tweets will show up! But aggregations will not work because we can't count a single post in both the Links rollup and the Photos rollup. We'll need to pick a single spot for them for aggregations, or else your totals won't match.

What we decided was to assume was this: More often than not, if a user has a link and a photo, the link is meant to be the focus, and the photo is there to help tell the story about why the link is worthwhile. That makes us think that the tweet is more accurately categorized as a link.

Does this mean that we get it wrong sometimes? Absolutely. But we haven't found a way to split these that doesn't feature the above tradeoffs, so this is the one we use.

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