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Defaming Twitter

Illogic and Cronyism Dept.  
By ADAM REILLY  |  August 19, 2009

0908_twitter-main

Hate Twitter? Then you're probably loving a new, buzz-generating study — released last week by the Texas market-research firm Pear Analytics — which found that the vast majority of Twitter messages, a/k/a tweets, are pretty much worthless. Over a two-week period, the study's authors randomly gathered 2000 tweets and then placed them into six categories of varying worth. The big winner: "pointless babble" (e.g., tweets with info like "I am eating a sandwich now"), which garnered slightly more than 40 percent of the total. "Conversational" tweets, or IM-type communications between users, came in a close second, with 37.5 percent. "News," meanwhile, was the loser of the bunch, comprising less than four percent of the sample.

But how telling are these numbers, really? Let's start with the study's methodology — which, regrettably, bears no resemblance to the way people use Twitter in real life. Twitter's great strength is that it allows users to determine, with minimal effort, both who and what they want to follow. If you do this — and pretty much every Twitterer does — you'll never encounter the terrifying info-tsunami that represents Pear Analytics' conceptual starting point.

What's more, Twitter's build-it-yourself quality makes the study's value-laden categories nearly useless. If you're following a given topic (updates about a particular neighborhood, say) or a given individual (a friend, a politician, a favorite athlete), you're going to value the ensuing tweets in a way that others don't. In other words, one Twitterer's "pointless babble" is another's "news" — a nuance the study somehow managed to miss.

Just one more thing: in a blog post introducing the study's results, Pear founder and CEO Ryan Kelly closed with an eager plug: "Since Twitter is still loaded with lots of babbling that not many of us have time for, you should check out the Twitter filter, Philtro." Unmentioned by nearly everyone who covered the study — with the laudable exception of the UK's Register and thecustomercollective.com — is the fact that Philtro's founder and CEO, Paul Singh, seems to be the same Paul Singh who serves as Pear Analytics' business-intelligence expert. (Both went to George Mason, both were founder and COO of the mobile-messaging company UpSolv, and both like to be called "Mr. Metrics.") Shaky reasoning and a blatant conflict of interest? Pointless babble, indeed.

Related: The Year of the Nerd, Novel idea: Twitter fiction, A fusillade of tweets ring in the new year in RI, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Business, Marketing, Market Research,  More more >
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7 Comments / Add Comment

MayaSte

 Many of Twitter messages are automated and useless for me. I have many followers there, but rarely I can read something nice and interesting. Promotions, links, automated messages, RSS feeds...
That is the reason to search less popular service similar to Twitter, but with quality content. For example I am testing the new start-up service, that is already popular Gloggy (//gloggy.com) and I am satisfied for now.

Posted: August 20 2009 at 4:51 AM

toledo

nice twitter bird image. stealing from talented people is soo fun! right?
Posted: August 21 2009 at 11:37 AM

kevinv

Value is in the eye of the beholder. A tweet about someone eating a sandwich is valueless, unless it's my friend and their at a sandwich shop we're thinking of visiting together then TO ME it's very valuable.

Since in twitter you follow only the people you're interested in, by default your twitter feed is interesting to you and probably no one else. After all, their feed is completely different.

And when someone becomes boring or without value to you, you stop following them.

Posted: August 21 2009 at 11:44 AM

hanshasuro

It's impossible to take you seriously when you start your article with a blatantly ripped-off graphic. Next time, think about the work ethic that The Iconfactory shows with their products, and apply it to your work.
Posted: August 21 2009 at 11:46 AM

MacTyler

DUDE LIEK SRSLY THAT POUR BIRD IS LIKKE SUFFRING! QUIT IT NA0W!!!!!! I cnT BLVE U DID THAT!!! PLUS YOU SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT IN THIS ARTICLE.
Posted: August 21 2009 at 11:48 AM

Shogo Dodo

Slightly altering a software companies clearly recognizable icon for their excellent Twitter Client, in my eyes, de values your news and certainly de values your credibility. I think you need to make amends or at the very least recognize the authors of the material you are ripping off. Heh, here's an original thought ... how about just using the icon as it was meant to be seen with full acknowledgement ....
Posted: August 21 2009 at 11:49 AM

MacTyler

YOU BETTUR TAEK THAT BIRD OFF NOW!!
Posted: August 21 2009 at 4:09 PM
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