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Echo Chamber Fail for Twitter With Authority-Based Search: Let Them Eat Cake!

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 27, 2008

Loic LeMeur wants authority-based search for Twitter where your number of followers will skew the results.  Michael Arrington agrees.

And why not?  Arrington has 36,000 plus followers and LeMeur has 15,000.  There tweets will zoom right to the top of most searches.  What about the rest of the Twitterverse?  Hey, Loic’s French, he understands the phrase, “let them eat cake.”

This is a seriously good way to make Twitter search Fail big time.  No better way to amplify the Echo Chamber.  Is that all Twitter is?  The Follower haves talking while the Follower have-nots listen?  Have nots are to be seen and not heard?  “Let’s move the riff raff aside, this is our conversation,” seems to be the message.

As Arrington says, this is ugly:

The way he argues isn’t pretty (“We’re not equal on Twitter, as we’re not equal on blogs and on the web”) but what he says has merit.

Scoble, fortunately, is a Follower Have who understands a little better what the ramifications will be.  As he puts it:

# of followers is a useless metric. Everyone is gaming that. What I’d rather see is tweets presented in order of most retweets to least. THAT is a metric that is hard to game and very useful.

Interesting idea to use retweets.  It is essentially the Twitter analog of Page Rank where web pages with more links to them get more play in the search results.

Here’s a bold idea:  What if the reason Twitter is so successful is precisely that it doesn’t let the top gamers win?  What if it succeeds through promiscuity at all levels and precisely because it is not trying to be the Techmeme-style Echo Chamber that LeMeur’s suggestion leads to?

If you want diversity then you need to increase friction.  LeMeur’s original issue that there were 7000 Tweets from LeWeb and he didn’t want to read all of them is a manifestation of friction.  If you’re done talking about anything new and interesting, and just want to spread the word of a few, then knock out all the friction.  The Echo Chamber will be alive and well.  I wish there was a knob for all of my different Internet feeds that let me smoothly vary the friction to go from looking at the Echo Chamber to looking at the most diverse fringe elements of the Internet.   I’d like the Anti-Techmeme that finds for me those things off the edge of the radar but within my sphere of interest.  Shiny new things I haven’t seen before.  People I haven’t heard from.  I’m guessing Scoble is on the same kind of mission, given the potent news network he has built up.

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Check out Scoble’s response at the trackback below!

On Twitter Tim O’Reilly says (what’s the right way to mix Twitter into a blog?):

@Scobleizer I’m with you on dumbness of ranking tweet search by number of followers. It’s a naive understanding of pagerank.


There probably is a good way to do pagerank for tweet search, but simple ranking isn’t it! Google uses hundreds of factors in search quality.


12 Responses to “Echo Chamber Fail for Twitter With Authority-Based Search: Let Them Eat Cake!”

  1. Robert Scoble said

    Yup. I totally am trying to bring new voices out. That’s one reason I’ve been liking TechMeme a lot less lately.

  2. Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger » Blog Archive said

    […] Bob Warfield has it all right: Loic Le Meur’s call for authority-based Twitter searches is all wrong. […]

  3. […] “authority debate” got reborn today – this time “twitterized”:Twitter: We Need Search By AuthorityEcho Chamber Fail for Twitter With Authority-Based Search: Let Them Eat Cake!Mike and Loic are wrong about Twitter searchShould Twitter Add Authority-based […]

  4. […] Scoble and Bob Warfield also believe that relevance (defined by popularity of the tweet) should be an important input in […]

  5. […] Bob Warfield has it all right: Loic Le Meur’s call for authority-based Twitter searches is all wrong. […]

  6. purplecar said

    Using retweets as an authority measure is a only marginally good idea. Many of my retweets occur when I forward on a plea for help from one of my followers, and then more of my followers retweet it out again for me. Also, many retweets are funny sayings, comedy, irony, or tweets of entertainment value as opposed to informative value.

    @replies is an OK indicator of reader involvement, but @replies to @replies would be a better indicator of true conversation.

    Followers is too shaky as a measurement due to the sheer number of spammers. I’ve blocked hundreds already. More come daily, and I block every one. Many people don’t bother to block the spammers, they just don’t follow back. I block them because I like to know my twitterverse is filled with real people.

    Link clicks (how many clicks you get on a link you tweet) would be the best indicator of trustworthiness/credibility. People will eat up your links if you have steered them the right way in the past. People who trust your authority will click your links. This would have to be categorized, though. Some people only tweet fun links, others only social media echo chamber links, still others only mommy blog links.

    Favorites (How many people favorited your tweet and for how long did they keep it a favorite). That would need to be categorized too (see above).

    Direct messages. How many direct message conversations does one have? How many characters are the DMs? (closer to 140 characters connotes a deeper conversation than 40 characters or less, which are probably just quick questions). This measurement of characters can apply to @replies too. Closer to 140=more likely to be a relevant conversation.

    A combination of these measurements weighed by value points would be a far better indicator of value to the Twitter community than mere follower rates. Follower rates alone is just plain bad science.

  7. […] Blogs Are So Over? LOLOLO…rnugent on One Week Later on Amazon Web…purplecar on Echo Chamber Fail for Twitter …Mike and Loic are wr… on Echo Chamber Fail for Twitter …Authority, Recency a… […]

  8. It seems to me that reconciling the competitive nature implied in “gaming the system,” and the virtuous ideals of conversational marketing, relationship building, knowledge sharing and collaboration is where the interesting metrics are.

    How big is the gap between the Follower haves and the Follower have-nots, and at what rate is it expanding? No doubt at a rate that will easily accommodate a growing number of fat cats with big heads.

    Quite frankly, I think the vast majority of non-SEO, brand-obsessed, I-need-a-metric-to-validate-my-existence micro-bloggers, the rank and file who simply ask: “What are you doing” hardly give a toss, do they?

  9. […] Warfield claims this will make Twitter fail big time, by transforming it into an Echo Chamber instead of a democracy. Robert Scoble follows up by saying […]

  10. […] written on the Echo Chamber many times in the past (Mediocrity Amplifier, Echo Chamber Fail, Louis Gray Resonation, Deconstructing Techmeme), and all of it negatively.  For me, the most […]

  11. […] written on the Echo Chamber many times in the past (Mediocrity Amplifier, Echo Chamber Fail, Louis Gray Resonation, Deconstructing Techmeme), and all of it negatively.  For me, the most […]

  12. […] on smoothspan blog, I outlined alternative measurements, when combined, that would paint a better picture of a […]

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