I’ve been in two minds to blog about the scourge of ‘who is important on twitter’ answers but am moved to do so today by the collaboration between the Independent newspaper and PeerIndex. The reason why I’m moved to blog is that whilst both participants say that tools like PeerIndex and Klout aren’t perfect, they say their system to find the “UK Twitterati” is better because they’ve done more human stuff to the results.
PeerIndex is a “social capital” monitoring tool which is part of ongoing attempts to give the huge quantity of the web some meaning.
The Independent is a national UK daily newspaper which recently launched a condensed version for just 20 pence – it is known as ‘i’.
Twitter is not yet evenly distributed: some fields, like technology and science, have very large communities of fans; others, like literature or art, have more incipient Twitter communities – but are none the less plainly influential. So we also searched specifically (further down the rankings) for people who had particular resonance in certain fields; and further refined our list by focusing on those who were especially trusted by other experts.
PeerIndex wrote on their blog:
On the PeerIndex side we found any candidates in various domains. For every user we capture dozens of features of their ‘interest graph’ – that is the things they talk about and the extend other people seem to care about that. (Simplifying the maths.) We also looked at how trusted people coincided with other trusted people on particular subjects.
The Independent appointed a heavily media-focused ‘Expert Panel’ and appear to have chosen as their ‘certain fields’ some professions they don’t think the raw figures support.
Hooray! Someone in the mainstream media is going to write about the value of twitter’s breadth, I hear you call. But you’d be wrong.
If you look at the paper you’ll find that the categories they appear to have chosen to highlight are very limited and somewhat predictable.
- Showbusiness Tweeters
- Tweeting Sports Stars
- Business Tweeters (well done Lucy Marcus for getting on this list)
- Fashion Tweeters
- Science Tweeters
- Political Tweeters
- Er, that’s it.
Leave out these categories they highlight and you’re left with just a couple of other categories in the top 100. Firstly, Broadcasters, Journalists and Writers e.g. Richard Bacon, Fearne Cotton, Felix Salmon, Jemima Kiss, India Knight etc), and almost all the rest are social media and/or technology people/bloggers such as Zee M Kane (editor of TheNextWeb), Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing Technology).
The problem is that virtually all of these people are already well known as being active on twitter, and the puffing of this ‘research’ only teaches people what they already know.
What twitter is really good at isn’t the broad brush famousness of the famous. It is good at the niche, specialist, small world of the ordinary. What most ordinary people who aren’t using twitter need to know is that world, not the one they already know about.
This exercise fails to find the important people in non-celebrity business, or anyone in the arts outside celebrity, no-one in the creative industries, design or construction. No tweeting professionals like doctors, lawyers, architects. In an ironic twist their ‘top of the class : twitters by profession’ contains hardly any professionals. Why can’t a collaboration like this tell us something useful about Twitter – puff the real people using twitter well. If PeerIndex can’t do this then I agree that Peerindex is broken, or alternatively their claim to show us where the real action is going on in twitter isn’t their real aim at all. It certainly wasn’t the aim of this collaboration.
Twitter isn’t about celebrity anymore, it is real life. Both the Independent and PeerIndex have wasted an opportunity.