Twidiots of the World, Unite!


Twitter, as the latest social networking fad brilliant microblogging innovation, is attracting a huge following.    The appeal of Twitter is hard to explain until you’ve actively participated for some time, but I’m finding it’s a very enjoyable distraction from more pressing concerns.     Not only can you eavesdrop on usually intelligent tiny written conversations going on all over the world, through the “following” and “followers” features you can filter those conversations and control what you see and send to others.    Arguably the most important feature is that you can link out to blog posts or other URLs of interest, making Twitter a way to filter the increasingly overwhelming stream of data a bit more coherently than otherwise.    Twitter’s most practical application is probably simply “keeping in touch” with others both when they are distant and when you find common ground (e.g. at a  conference).   Tweetups are real life meetings where people who gather online get together for real – usually at a conference or in a city such as the one scheduled for CES 2009 in Las Vegas.

Loic LeMeur, the very popular Seesmic Founder, LeWeb Conference Organizer, and Twitter guy suggested improvements to Twitter search that would rank the material by the *authority* of the person writing, and this sparked a nice debate about how to assign value to the massive and constant stream of human commentary at Twitter.     I didn’t like that idea:

NO.   I’m OK with Scoble’s approach but I think the search by “authority” will deliver the same problems we have now with blogging – the best posts about a topic are not generally surfaced by authority measures. Instead, we get the most algorithmically appealing posts which are usually either a product of old A list bloggers sticking together and linking very opportunistically or overly SEO’d posts that suck but do a great job fooling the algos. Mostly ranking is now a combination of those two factors (old stuff and SEO measures).

One of the *great* things about Twitter is that it limits exposure fairly democratically. Authority search will help the twitter “rich” get richer, but I hardly think that’s a noble objective – it’s the same problem we have now where early adopters with a superficial voice are elevated above quality journalists.

Unless I’m missing something it sounds like you and Mike want to make sure Twitter does not threaten the status quo with more democratic ranking. I think it’s a great idea. In fact I think it would be interesting to *reverse* the algo you suggest – I’d rather hear from some Grandmas in Peoria about their iPhone experiences than from Jason Calacanis about [groan] the wonders of Mahalo.


Mike at TechCrunch
had a somewhat opportunistic take on the situation saying this was a fine idea.   I didn’t agree with him either:

Mike my beef with the idea is the notion that popularity or even authority *in any form* is something we should work hard to protect and promote. I’m tiring of a mostly regurgitated news stream and increasingly I want to know what Peoria is thinking as much as what Mountain View thinks.

Even though Peoria is rarely as interesting or well articulated or technologically sophisticated, it’s far more *representative* and if I’m looking for business ideas or social trends…I’d like to hear from Grandma as much as from you and Loic.

The game as it stands mostly retains the status quo and limits the debate. There’s a much better way and, collectively, I think we’ll find it soon.

Scoble was getting closer but still missed the key point here that we need to work *away* from the elitist “my speech is more valuable than your speech” nonsense that somewhat ironically now drives many of the Web 2.0 debates:

Robert I appreciate the fact you are arguing against something that would benefit you far more than others. However my beef with Loic is the idea that popularity or even authority *in any form* is something we should work hard to protect and promote. Call me a digital anarchist, but I’m tired of TechCrunch’s often regurgitated news stream. I find that increasingly I want to know what Peoria is thinking as much as what Mountain View thinks. Even though Peoria is rarely as interesting or well articulated or technologically sophisticated, it’s far more *representative* and if I’m looking for business ideas or social trends…I’d like to know that.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
This entry was posted in CES, CES 2009, Social Networks, Techcrunch, twitter and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Twidiots of the World, Unite!

  1. Changing Twitter search to be done with a popularity contest totally screws twitter, and the people who participate. There are already 55 friggin lists about “who to follow”, “who is cool”, “top 50 tweepies”, “top twitterers”. People know how to find these guys….it’s the people who AREN”T as readily accessible normally that have the ability to produce great content on Twitter.

    I am sick sick sick of the Twitter elite.

    Great blog post, ps.

  2. Divergent and varied voices add authority to the entire stream. I would rather pull out unknown or ‘unauthoritative’ voices to challenge my own viewpoint rather than blindly accept what a few popular people tell me is the truth. The brillancy of the Internet is that it allows anyone to express their opinion. I may like it or reject it, but I have the power to assign ‘authority’ to anything I find valuable, no matter what anyone else may deem is worthy of sharing with the masses.

  3. Pingback: Posts about Web 2.0 as of December 29, 2008 | The Lessnau Lounge

  4. Agitationist says:

    Thanks for calling it a fad, even if you did cross it out. I agree with that assessment:
    http://agitationist.com/1500-more-reasons-twitter-must-die
    But if it must live, your approach makes sense. These Twitter “elites” are just people who just want to get up a ladder first and then throw sh*t down at the ones behind them. Marketers, self-promoters, PR/ad people…exactly the ones with nothing to say anyway.

  5. JoeDuck says:

    Thx for thoughtful comments. Yes Carrie I’m sick of many of the twitter/blog/ tech elite as well because they no longer represent the best voices out there. This is a combination of poor writing, narrow focus, and commercial concerns. There are exceptions but it would be nice to get away from the cults of personality that are starting to plague technology. Maybe that is not possible but I thought it was what the new media was all about.

  6. glenn says:

    Joe the first four letters of Twitter sum it up nicely.

  7. FoolsGold says:

    It seems to be a means of assigning individual tweets some sort of popularity ranking as a means of determining value. Well only in junior high school is popularity equated to value.

    Will it play in Peoria has always been a necessary consideration. Peoria may be viewed as not quite as technologically au courant as Silicon Valley, but its those Peoria dollars that count!

  8. Joe Duck says:

    FG I’d argue that, ultimately, Peoria rules. However as we get there the Silicon Valley gangs will have hugely disproportionate influence. That’s not necessarily bad, just interesting.

  9. Bobby Mucic says:

    I totally agree about Twitter being fun, but as a business/marketing/advertising tool – it only helps if you already have an online following. That is, becoming a trusted internet resource takes more than mini-posts and chatter.

    So people like Guy Kawasaki, Matt Cutts, Steve Jobs, etc can immediately benefit and connect to the masses with twitter… but what about a small to medium business?

  10. FoolsGold says:

    “…I would rather pull out unknown or ‘unauthoritative’ voices to challenge my own viewpoint rather than blindly accept what a few popular people tell me is the truth…”

    Good!! Its those ‘outlier’ opinions that often the most interesting ones. So mining the twitter stream for the less authoritative might be more informative.

    “Follow” on Twitter seems to embrace a simple act of keeping informed about something but it also seems to include an obsessive fan-club focus as well.

    As for that ‘small to medium sized firm’… the use of a twitter widget will draw followers.

  11. I agree – if you don’t already have an online following you’ll be twittering to yourself which doesn’t accomplish much!

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