Tweeterboard: Yet another useless leaderboard tool

What is this obsession techies have with leaderboards. Everything we do gets rated. Everyone needs to be reassured who is most influential, who gets the biggest audience, who has the largest (whatever). Come to think of it, it human nature to try and figure out who is in and who is not. Not just a tech thing. But it really isn’t a big deal.

Today we see the announcement of a new leaderboard, this time in Twitterland. ReadWriteWeb reports it and they are excited about it, as is Jeremiah Owyang.

Marshall KirkPatrick of ReadWriteWeb writes about the importance of Tweeterboard:

On Tweeterboard you’ll find not only a list of the top 100 most influential users on Twitter – you can also look up any of almost 2000 users and see who they are conversing with and get some idea how much influence they carry in the Twitter ecosystem. Only a small portion of Twitter users are being tracked so far – but if indexing can be automated (!) then this could become a very important service.

Jeremiah has a much better angel at it:

Why is understanding who talks to me and vice versa important? Because you can see who influences me, and who I influence.

I like that argument already much better, because it isn’t about who has the biggest. It is about who influences you and who do you influence. Making it a personal tool. I actually have written a similar suggestion before in the blogosphere. Instead of Techmeme leaderboards I would like to see Newton’s Universal Law of Blog Attraction getting implemented.Now, lets think about this for a minute. Twitter is a tool that helps people to get into on-line conversations, although in probably 50% of the cases it is more a 1-way publishing tool of thoughts no longer than 140 characters. I like Twitter as much as I hate it.

I like it because it is a whole lot of fun getting into 140 character conversations with other people. I like it because it allows free flow of thoughts no longer than 140 characters. I like it because the people you interact with are likely to say smart or funny things when they have little space to use.

I hate Twitter because it isn’t opt-out. I want to be able to interact with the people I follow on Twitter, but if I follow a person, he doesn’t automatically follow me. That makes me a groupie instead of a friend and it sucks. Now this other person might just choose not to follow me (which is fine), but I’d rather have him actively block me (as would be needed in opt-out) than have him ignore me (which is now the case).

So why is Tweeterboard another useless tool? Because it helps you look at Twitter in a way it wasn’t meant to. Twitter isn’t about who is most influential, it isn’t about us all tracking the “whole”conversation. Tweeterboards leads to two unnecessary behaviors:

  1. It is narcistic for those who want to know how important they are (disclosure: I’m not important enough to be on it, I checked immediately ;-)). Fun, but useless all together
  2. It gives those that want to analyse stuff the false illusion that they have a grip on who is influential and what they are talking about

Forget it. Not interesting. The Twitter population isn’t representative of the Web community. It isn’t even representing the techie community. It is only a subset of geeks and other weirdo’s like myself that are out there.

If a popular soccer player in the Netherlands says something weird on TV it’ll have more impact than the most influential Dutch Twitter geek. If Mr Bush decides to go to another war in some foreign country he’ll get more attention than Robert Scoble, on of the most fanatic Twitter users. BTW, I like Robert better than any other influential Twitter user. Why? Because he follows everyone that follows him, and he actually responds to tweets I or anyone else sends him. He is in the conversation, not above it.

Before you know it we are all looking at the same “influential” people again and then Twitter becomes a room with a lot of echo in it. And that would be sad, for it is a perfect way to interact.

But most importantly. I really don’t care that much what “influential” Twitter users say. I care about what Twitter friends say, that is, the people I follow and that take the interest to follow me.

Tweeterboards, TechMeme Leaderboards, who needs them. If you are interested in me or the things I write, you can find me here onTwitter. And I always follow you back ๐Ÿ˜‰


About vanelsas

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7 Responses to Tweeterboard: Yet another useless leaderboard tool

  1. Eric Rice says:

    Agreed and to touch briefly on your point about techies and leaderboards, ‘top 10’ lists are certainly nothing new. We must have some human desire to be ranked, whether it’s movie openings, billboard charts, or Y! Buzz index.

    We love them alpha monkeys. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Pingback: Leveling the playing field: How to be ‘popular’ on Twitter

  3. Alex, thanks and I agree with Eric

    Gaming is indeed a dangerous and narcissist activity be involved with. I’ve published what I’ve learned using the tool, in hopes of sharing with the community

  4. Alexander van Elsas says:

    @Eric and @Jeremiah it’s is indeed human nature. I am no different in that matter. It is “fun” and sometimes feels great to be included into a list. I think @Jeremiah describes the best use of the Tweeterboard. For personal use and to gain insight in why you are twittering with certain people and they with you. The “who is most influential” aspect is not so important to me, although I can see the spin doctors preparing to enter the community and start influencing the talk.
    But honestly, my best experiences with Twitter are the times that I get into a flow of thoughts/comments with one or more people. It is the interaction that is best about it. I will let others worry about communication patterns and simply engage in it because it brings me inspiration.
    Thanks for the response guys!

  5. Gene says:

    Alexander, I think you make some good points here and I’ll definitely have to mull them over. I’ve never said that the TB reputation algorithm is best or only way to measure influence, just that it’s better than the other metrics out there (usually just # of followers, or post volume).

    Regarding the top 100 rankings, it’s interesting to me that this gets the most attention (much of it negative). My goal for the top 100 was to show that citation analysis algorithms could be applied to conversations… not to spoil Twitter for anyone. ๐Ÿ™‚ After this initial bit of exposure, I think people will go back to the regular tweeting patterns.

  6. Alexander van Elsas says:

    @Gene I think you did a good job building it. I do not mind thta tools like these get build. It is the way they are bound to be used that sort of bothers me. I am a firm believer in the power of interaction. Your tool helps me and others get an overview of my own interactions with others, which is fun and interesting. And I assume that is why you created it in the first place. Then again, by calling it the Tweeterboard you emphasise the “Biggest influencer of them all” aspect of the tool, which is a less interesting aspect to me. It seems to attract a lot of people though, judging from the traffic today ;-). And we got a chance to interact, which is always good! See you at Twitter again I hope.

  7. Personally, I don’t care much for leaderboards and other manifestations of the “techo chamber”.

    I’d rather not amplify and perpetuate focus on the thick part of the long tail. I like finding the trinkets on the long tail instead, which is actually very difficult to do.

    The meme tracker I’d like to see is one filtered by affinities, using attention data (not link data). I’d like to see what people with deep affinities to x, y an z are paying attention to, and search through that.

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