Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Fallacy of Twitter Authority Based on Followers



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Michael Arrington backing up Loic Le Meur’s call for something akin to a Twitter PageRank algorithm with authority based on the number of followers:

Should Twitter Add Authority-based Search?: “I’m with him on this. Most of the time I just want to read everything people are writing about a topic to more or less take the temperature of the masses on whatever I’m researching. But sometimes it would be nice to hear what just the top users are saying on a particular topic, too, since so many more people hear their message.”

I have 3,000 or something followers but I think this is a terrible idea with the following logic:

1) Pagerank sucks (now) for blogs and isn’t a true measure of a blog’s worth, value or credibility.

2) Even then, Twitter is not blogging. Ranking people according to something as transient and flimsy as the number of followers is a worse idea than ranking blogs according to their number of inbound links. Oh, and imagine the gamers.

3) Twitter is a not only a micro-presence platform, it’s a micro-community platform. What purpose would such a “follower algorithm” serve?

Some (most) of my favorite and most “valuable” people I follow on Twitter have under 1k followers. Calling them less credible or their tweets less substantive based solely on the number of followers is silly.

4) I agree with Arrington that it is nice to hear what “top users are saying on a particular topic” rather than crowdsurfing. However, there are already great tools for that. It’s called the follow function combined with RSS or Summize or Yahoo Pipes or Google Alerts, etc. The “top user” on a particular topic such as Hebrew Bible or some niche realm that I’m interested in is not necessarily going to have thousands of followers.

The best metric here is individual intuition and discernment.

5) This isn’t an argument for “wisdom of the crowds” or the “power of the conversation” etc. I’m not a big fan of that mentality, either. Those types of 2006-esque arguments are annoying at best.

Instead, my point is that it would incredibly difficult to institute something like a “worth quotient” on all users of Twitter (even more so than blogging). Putting something like a rank or worth based on the (easily gamed) number of followers a person has makes it even worse.

There Has to Be a Better Way

Don’t get me wrong, If Arrington or Le Meur or Twitter could come up with a ranking or worth algorithm based on something inventive and truly reflective of value, I’d be all for it. If Twitter could put together something revolutionary for determining authority akin to PageRank back in the ’90’s, I’d be the person yelling the loudest from the mountaintop for adoption.

However, this ain’t it.

This seems more like A-Listers grasping at straws to me.

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Posted: 12.27.2008

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