Despite no longer having an organization or a job or maybe even a desk, former Boston Phoenix staff writer David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) still managed to break the story that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino would not run for another term (this is huge news in Boston — physicists have determined that Menino is the city’s Constant).
That feels like an obvious observation. Perhaps it’s even unnecessary. Surely we all know that blowhards mouthing off on Twitter are not duly appointed representatives for The People. Right?
But we forget that sometimes. The adrenaline kicks in when we see millions of passionate tweets zipping about. Reason is subsumed by volume and velocity. “Wow! The world really loves/hates this person/product/policy!”
That’s not true though. And we need to keep that in mind as each of us, individually, filters the signal from all that noise.
This particular paragraph really drives the point home:
Twitter users are not representative of the public. Most notably, Twitter users are considerably younger than the general public and more likely to be Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. In the 2012 news consumption survey, half (50%) of adults who said they posted news on Twitter were younger than 30, compared with 23% of all adults. And 57% of those who posted news on Twitter were either Democrats or leaned Democratic, compared with 46% of the general public.
I write this mostly as a warning to myself. I’m older than the demographic noted in that excerpt, but I tend to align with the political perspectives you see on Twitter and Reddit and the like. When I think back to the heated moments of the 2012 election, I can see now that I fell into the trap of emphasizing the predictions and conclusions I wanted to see — and I favored outlets that provided those comforts.
The Dalai Lama would never put himself on the cover of every issue of his own magazine, but fine. I can live with this (though @OfficialStedman or @GayleKing would have been better choices). At this point the algorithm has arrived at the party and is mingling appropriately.
Twitter has become like high school, where the mean kids say something hurtful to boost their self-esteem and to see if others will laugh and join in. Aside from trolling for victims after some tragedy, Twitter isn’t used for reporting much anymore. But it is used for snark.
The thing I like about the Hype Cycle is that the ominous “Trough of Disillusionment” is followed by the best parts: the “Slope of Enlightenment” and the “Plateau of Productivity.” These are the stages when a technology pushes through the noise to emerge as something truly useful.
Blogging is a great example. Does anyone talk about blogs anymore? Is anyone hot and bothered about this new wave of personal publishing?
That’s because blogging rolled along the hype cycle and settled into its true identity: a simple, powerful and democratizing publishing technology. Like all good utilities, blogging became boring and genuinely useful.
Twitter is following the same path. When we all stop complaining about it — and writing linkbaity headlines — that’s when we’ll know Twitter has matured into the technology it was always meant to be.
Just because you tweet, don’t expect your followers to see it. Few view their feed comprehensively. They check in and check out. Catching only bits and pieces. Even forgetting your fake and dormant followers, which are voluminous, far fewer than fifty percent of your followers see one of your tweets. Actually, I’d be stunned if 10-15% of your active followers see one of your tweets.
10-15% is generous. I’d put it closer to 2%.
Regardless of the specific number, this point stands: To harness Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or any other platform we have now or in the future, you must acknowledge the limitations and work with them.
(Related: I didn’t even know Lefsetz was on Twitter. I get his updates via email.)
The United States celebrates Black Friday Eve tomorrow. To commemorate a day that should make people feel downright horrible about their gluttonous ways, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has a whole bunch of holiday shopping factoids!
This is my favorite:
Six in 10 shoppers (59.0%) plan to spend an average of $139.92 on “self-gifting” this holiday season.
“Self-gifting.” That’s gold! I’m going to use that after the next Apple event.
But there’s more …
… the biggest portion of shoppers’ budget this year will go towards gifts for family members with the average person planning to spend $421.82 on children, parents, aunt, uncles and more. Additionally, people will spend $75.13 on friends, $23.48 on co-workers and $28.13 on others, such as pets and community members. Consumers will also spend on food and candy ($100.76), greeting cards ($28.66) and flowers ($19.55.) When it comes to decorations, the average person will spend $51.99, up from $49.15 last year and the most in the survey’s history. Total spending on holiday décor will reach $6.9 billion.
Let’s repeat that last sentence.
“Total spending on holiday décor will reach $6.9 billion”
Here’s an interesting piece from the New York Times that looks at Facebook Connect’s growing role as a sign-on / social graph utility. Twitter and Google have similar products. Why is this important? This excerpt sums it up: Since Facebook…
Since Facebook Connect was introduced in December 2008, more than 80,000 Web sites and services have put the log-in feature to use, said Ethan Beard, director of the Facebook developer network … “Facebook is evolving through Facebook Connect into much more than a Web site,” said Mr. Beard, who works closely with Facebook’s community of third-party developers. “It’s also a technology and a service to provide social plumbing and creating a social layer the whole Web can leverage.” [Emphasis added.]
These sign-on services, along with other APIs, attempt to achieve lock-in through ubiquity. That’s infinitely fascinating to me. Take Twitter, for example. It’s become the standard for micromessaging (or microblogging or whatever you want to call it) not by forcing people into a Twitter.com silo, but by allowing the Twitter service to seep into the web’s nooks and crannies. Put another way: “platform” is way more powerful than “website.”
Anil Dash follows up his great post on Twitter’s suggested user list with an equally great piece that politely challenges Twitter follower counts. As he notes, analytics and inflated self-importance are nothing new: It’s a bit like when I worked…
It’s a bit like when I worked at a newspaper: Every reporter thought “Well, our circulation is a million copies, that must mean a million people read my column.” Facing the reality that only 10,000 of those people read the column, or that perhaps only 1,000 of them were reading the advertisement on the opposite page, forced a useful and important reckoning into some false assumptions that were underpinning that industry’s workings.
The key here — and Dash mentions this in his post — is to dispel overblown notions so analytics become useful. Follower counts have value, just as page views, uniques, user-session times, circulation figures and subscription numbers do. But all those numbers have to be filtered through the realities of passivity and engagement.
Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that…
Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that seek to duplicate the limitations of print are ridiculous. Hear that, Amazon?
Thankfully — seriously, thank God for this — it looks like magazine publishers are getting the message. From the New York Times:
Sports Illustrated’s demonstration version — developed with the Wonderfactory, a design firm — lets readers organize the magazine by subjects like baseball or football. They can circle photographs or articles and use a toolbar to e-mail an article, print it, view comments, view related items, see relevant Twitter posts or save the article to a favorites file. They can rearrange the order of the issue, see dozens of photos that don’t make it into print and pull live scores from all the teams they follow. [Link and emphasis added.]
One last thing. I try to include a source link with all of my tweets and excerpts; just a little something that allows people to go deeper if they’re so inclined. That’s why tablet editions need a link-to feature. It could take the form of a web-based version of the article (with advertising and marketing all around it, of course). Perhaps it’s some sort of intermediate, email-to-a-friend edition. Maybe it’s an iTunes-esque redirect. I really don’t care what the links look like. They just need to be there.