Network Effects, Attention, and Twitter

A Twitter presence is getting harder and harder to manage.  Charlie O’Donnell’s “how to manage a professional network online” podcast on BlogTalkRadio gives some interesting guidance in this area for those starting out.  I know Charlie limits himself to following 250 people, but it’s not uncommon for superstars on Twitter to be following thousands.  I don’t know what the number should be, but following 210 people feels very different from when I was following 50.  Why is that?

Twitter is an attention aggregator.  The best conversations on Twitter take place in close to real time, and evolve FAST.  Taking advantage of mobile web or SMS updates to tweet from an event or while away from a computer adds a lot to the experience.  My RSS reading dropped dramatically once I started using Twitter, because I was getting MORE of the folks whose blogs I read: more of their thought process, their likes and dislikes, a bit of their lives…and attention from them.  If Twitter is a network of status messages, its biggest achievement may be to confer status (or as Nate Westheimer put it, the paypal of social capital).  Attention is an input for distributing social capital.

But not everyone can stay on Twitter, all day every day.  While we’re asleep, doing our jobs, even making eye contact with people in real life, living life, we are usually interacting with the world without writing it down.  We get value from Twitter when we pay attention TO it, and everyone pays a little different amount.  Twitter's effects are normally distributed, too.  There is some minority of people it hurts, a great many who get little to moderate value, and some other minority who get supercharged about it.  Twitter changed how I view a lot of events, connected me more closely to co-workers, and made it clear that instantaneous responses from marketers could have an impact on brand reputation.

My next post on this topic will discuss how the necessity of filtering affects social network and community growth.

BuzzMachine >> The new British class sytem: Facebook

No wonder we needed a rebellion.

In today’s Telegraph (and this month’s Vogue), Conde Nast UK head Nicholas Coleridge admits that he’s trapped in the new British class system: Facebook.

I know people – adults, that is, busy people with jobs – who spend two or three hours every single day tending their virtual roster of acquaintances, “poking” people, adding applications, trawling friends’ lists of friends to find new ones to poach, or approaching complete strangers to boost their score.

The second half of 2007 has seen the renaissance in England of social competitiveness. Who has more friends on Facebook, me or you? Or, more pressing, who has the most glamorous friends on Facebook? We have turned into a nation of social-stamp collectors.

Link: BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » The new British class sytem: Facebook.

Chelsea Explosion, Twitter, and Citizen Journalism

So there I was, about to head to bed at the end of a restful 3-day weekend, and I'm exploring the twitter posts I'm getting.  Probably not the best thing I could be doing, but, I surfed to Jeremiah Owyang's twitter and found this tweet (from Chris Messina):

Holy crap! Massive #explosion outside our hotel room on 29th St (NYC)... I think everything's cool, but holy crap!

The post had originated only moments ago.  I went to CNN, the New York Times, and (which had timely coverage of the fire at the Coach building earlier this year) and NOTHING could be found anywhere. NO one was talking about it.

Just as I was starting to have an existential twitter crisis- are these SMS tweets real and believable?- There was another message:

yep, we're all cool, but there's a ton of firetrucks out there. Here's the scene:

Check out the photo- it's a microstory, an article unto itself, with the notes on the photo serving to tell all the important pieces.  This probably happens a hundred times a day, and most of it is not "news" per se. However, in today's New York, this was news, even at 1am.  It turned out to be an explosion caused by a pipe bomb outside a theater in Chelsea [according to the New York Post- thanks NYTimes CityRoom Blog]. 

What does this mean for the future of News?

  1. Community and connectivity, when mixed together, can be powerful and authentic sources of "breaking" news.  We'll never listen to the radio again, because if our nets are wide enough, we'll have people "reporting live" from everywhere we care about.  Twitter makes this relatively easy because you can "follow" strangers or friends of friends relatively easily.
  2. Word of mouth is the same as it always was, but now "holy cow, did you see that, honey?" is heard not just in the apartment, but within an entire user community, with zero geographic boundaries, and with dramatically increased speed.  Should major news outlets subscribe to the global twitter feed?
  3. Skepticism of citizens breaking their own news is not going away- credibility of sources remains important and we will continue to look to journalistic organizations to investigate and add depth to stories.  While the NY Post story, last updated at 9:30 or so this morning, still had no photos, it did reveal that the explosion was a pipe bomb, and that the location of the blast was outside a theater owned by Sopranos star Michael Imperioli.  I could never have known that "in the moment."
  4. What we learn and when we learn it is increasingly a function of our social connections and not our digestion of the mainstream media.  The "alternative media" function well here, as they are driven by relationships between users-this sphere is made up of  blogs, RSS, FaceBook etc.  These media reward contribution, participation, and interconnection.
  5. Social graph based search, as described by  Robert Scoble, might or might not be the future of search- but it sounds awful lot like the information filter we're all going to need. Social networks  model trust relationships, so who you are connected to will play a significant role in the information you receive and its signal/noise ratio. 

New Category: TheNetwork

What is the essence of interconnection?  At NextNY's BizDev 2.0 in November 06 there was a great deal of discussion surrounding the ease with which data from one web service can rapidly be incorporated and leveraged into another- the widgetsphere and RSS are great enablers of this- without the need for "slow" business development activity. 

When this is successful it adds value.  Players with market power/lawyers often see this as disruptive "theft"- see myspace/photobucket or the recent "re-peering" of some major Belgian newspapers with Google (which I think we will come to see as just a passing fad in the protectionism of content, but who knows?)

I wrote a few days ago about the similarity of the myspace/photobucket issue to the peering battles between backbone providers.  "Peering" between sites on the internet
is something we take for granted in our web2.0 world, but I think we need to look at it the way backbone providers do, as an exchange of traffic (visitors instead of bits).  Peering may  be free, in the end, only for dominant providers.  At the same time, "dominant" may turn out to not mean much over the long run, and the market power of sites like myspace may  be nicely balanced by user backlash when appropriate.  I'm going to call all my posts about this "TheNetwork" as I examine the interaction between peering and web2.0.