Sunday, December 28, 2008

Twitter Authority Firestorm

As often happens during the weekends, another big debate is brewing on Twitter. Loic LeMeur wrote a post yesterday stating that Twitter needs authority based search, where the number of followers influences the search results, sort of like Google’s page rank. LeMeur says on his blog,

“We're not equal on Twitter, as we're not equal on blogs and on the web. I am not saying someone who has more followers than yourself matters more, but what he says has a tendency to spread much faster.”

And Michael Arrington strongly agrees.  Thus, tweets from high profile users like LeMeur (15,000 followers) and Arrington (36,000) will jump to the top and ours will fall to the bottom.  The whole issue started because LeMeur did not want to read all of the 7,000 tweets that were generated by his recent LeWeb conference.  He only wanted to read those of the “important” people.  I’m sure he had no problem taking the money of the unimportant that attended LeWeb.

Several notables have railed against authority based search.


And on the blogs:

  1. Bob Warfield first responded with “Let Them Eat Cake”
  2. Sarah Lacy wrote “Thank God Loic doesn’t run Twitter”
  3. And today Robert Scoble (with his 45000 followers) jumped in with “Mike and Loic are wrong with Twitter search”

I find it interesting that everyman Scoble strongly opposes others in the big follower club and references Warfield’s blog, one of those smaller voices that Arrington/ LeMeur don’t want to read.

Following the discussion, Jon Wheatley and an enterprising team of developers quickly created Twitority, an authority based Twitter search engine.  You can try it out to see what you think.

What are your thoughts about authority based search?  Do you think there is a place for it? Or is it just another bad idea?

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Jessica Gottlieb said...

not a particularly useful search.

Just because you have "authority" doesn't mean you're someone I trust.

Mack Collier said...

Great post, Warren. The prob with going simply by followers is that many in the SM realm especially, go out of their way to boost their # of followers. So a high follower # doesn't NECESSARILY mean more influence. I know a guy that has 10K followers. But he follows 20K. I can think of many ppl with a fraction of the followers that I would deem to be far more influential in this space.

Bottom line for companies, they should listen to ANYONE that is talking about them. Period. End. Of. Sentence. The 'authority matters' argument is often championed by those that get excited by making the frontpage of their favorite aggregator ;)

Karen Swim said...

I think it's a bad idea as # of followers is not a definitive measure of authority, and certainly not when we view the bigger picture. Twitter represents a small subset of the population, many influencers don't tweet, or may have smaller followings, does this mean their "authority" is only valid by these metrics? I am looking forward to the day when we do not view every engagement platform as an opportunity to dominate the kingdom but a real opportunity to connect and listen.

Warren said...

Jessica, Mack and Karen,

Thanks for your comments.

The whole preoccupation with number of followers and other rankings is just foolish. As you all say, there is a lot more to authority and trust than just how people follow you.

It's all about engagement and connecting regardless of status/ statistics.

Bill Cammack said...

The way to only read posts by "The Important People" is very simple.

Make an account which only follows people with over 15,000 followers and then set your notifications to alert you about the word LeWeb or the word Seesmic.

Warren said...

Bill, absolutely right. There is always an easy, effective way like you described. But then if you did that, you wouldn't be considered one of the elite, controversial, must-follow people now, would you?

DT said...

While it makes sense and a good idea, Twitter is horribly gamed and as Karen mentioned not quite the reality.

Personally, building a blog is still the key determiner for authority.

Olivier Riviere said...

The statement made by Le Meur is another proof that what makes so called A-bloggers so different is their oversized ego rather than the depth of their thoughts.

Warren said...


Great point, the need for the "A-listers" is so yesterday. Happy New Year!

karen said...

I thought I left high school and the 'popular crowd' years ago.

Michael Cayley said...

I have been thinking that the ratio of tweets to followers is an indication of the quality of the tweets.

But number of followers can be gamed for sure. The Digerati, those who adopted early or make their living from our attention seem to link to each other but at some point they are obligated by their position to cover the interests of their followers.

Warren said...


Tweets to followers is an interesting metric. Definitely better than followers alone, or following to followers. My only concern is that certain popular or public figures will have very high tweets to followers even though they are probably not authorities. People may just be obsessed with getting a tweet from Britney for example.


JINQIU said...

Maybe Twitter should begin to limit the number of people one can following, for example, 500.

Denis Florent said...

Trying to define "Twitter Authority", I experimented with some formulas, and came up with those results :