How Human Users Are Holding Twitter Back

Twitter is poised to make an evolutionary leap over the next year or so that, if all goes well, could dwarf the company’s impact thus far. The tenfold increase in frequency it’s offering to developers who access its feed — what some call the full “fire hose” of information — will bestow a vast array of apps with the unmitigated power of the real-time web. And its increasing use of location-based information adds another game-changing dimension. These two developments will amplify Twitter’s abilities to the point that, before long, the gating factor on its value will be the people tweeting. At that point, Twitter will make another evolutionary leap in usefulness when it is taken over by non-human users.

Human users of Twitter 1.0 have already proven themselves to be overly passive, poor contributors. A Sysomos analysis last summer pointed out that 75 percent of tweets were created by just 5 percent of accounts and that about 24 percent of all tweets were made by automated “bots.” (Those bots, by the way, represented about a third of that 5 percent of users doing most of the work.) As Twitter flows increasingly through sophisticated third-party apps — applications that are richer and more valuable the more information they consume — only bots will be able to keep up with those apps’ insatiable demand for data.

For example, Twitter’s potential in mapping earthquakes was demonstrated last week during a 4.1 quake in the San Francisco Bay Area that saw 296 quake-related tweets per minute. A system that’s dependent on the independent actions of lots of Twitter users may be well-fed by tech-savvy Bay Area residents. What about tornado alleys in Nebraska or hurricane paths in Alabama where Twitter use isn’t as high? The National Weather Service is hoping to use tweets to track developing storms, but that effort would be greatly limited where fewer people use Twitter and even fewer may opt to tweet about the weather rapidly enough to be useful. A network of tweeting weather vanes and windmills, on the other hand, could be more reliable and informative.

Commercial use of Twitterbots could also explode. Companies already use Twitter to find unhappy customers. But what if the products themselves could tweet whenever they were in use? What if each product tweeted when it broke or when there was an outage? Or when a customer pressed a “dissatisfied” button?

Large companies may prefer to use their own internal systems rather than Twitter for this kind of machine-to-machine communication. But there are at least two reasons to tweet like this: One, it cost-effectively offloads the expense and operational complexity of maintaining a large-scale communications system. And using Twitter allows for the possibility of mashing up machine-sent data with the human kind in interesting, perhaps unpredictable, ways. For instance, going back to the National Weather Service example, mashing up the data from scores of tweeting weather vanes with human-tweeted reports of funnel-cloud sightings could provide a richer, more intelligent, storm chronicler. App makers could also mash up data from seemingly unrelated spheres — perhaps tracking the development of storms together with the flow of evacuees in tweeting cars, for example.

And, of course, the escalation of non-human tweeting — machines tweeting in response to trends in other machine tweets, creating secondary and tertiary trends — may be the real storm brewing.

Question of the week

What machine-to-machine app will transform Twitter?

StatShot: Oprah Topples Gleeks on Twitter

While the fall TV season has been all about Glee in terms of Twitter, Oprah proved that kids singing show tunes are no match for her mighty media empire. The queen of daytime announced last week that she was calling it quits on her eponymous syndicated talk show and focusing her efforts on her cable network. The move sent shock waves through the social media world, with Oprah mentions spiking at more than 48,000 tweets on Friday, though that trending topic quickly cooled over the weekend. (She’s not leaving until 2011, after all.) All said and done, more than 120,000 posts about Oprah hit Twitter last week.

Glee fans, or Gleeks, shouldn’t get too choked up over being momentarily replaced, as it still pulled in a high of more than 42,000 tweets, and got more than 87,000 tweets in total. Rounding out the top five were Heroes with 37,601, Gossip Girl got 27,806, and Saturday Night Live drew 21,469 tweets.

NOTE: The weekly top five most twittered shows is put together from an analysis of tweets matching the exact names of 63 television programs. Trendrr looks at the source data to check that at least 95 percent of the tweets are related to the show. For more metrics surrounding your favorite show, go to and put the name of the show into the search tab.

RSS Subscribers or Twitter Followers: Which Are Worth More?

twitterMark Ormond can’t get his “followers” to do anything. After they increased to several hundred only days after creating a Twitter account, the Internet marketer was encouraged by the prospects. Now he wonders how much influence he really has over the fast-growing but unproven community.
“They don’t click on anything I share,” he says of his followers, admitting that he sometimes propagates links to online ventures he’s involved with. “I get a way better response from RSS subscribers,” he adds, “regardless if I’m genuinely sharing something or commercially promoting it.” It’s a fair criticism. And one that hasn’t been fully explored. So just how loyal are Twitter followers? And which provides a more captivated audience: Twitter or RSS? Read More about RSS Subscribers or Twitter Followers: Which Are Worth More?

Vid-Biz: Hul-U.K.?, Celebri-Tweets, Remote Storage

Hulu in the U.K. in September? Sources tell the Telegraph that the content portal is looking to launch across the pond by the end of summer. (Telegraph) paidContent reports that no such target date has been set. (paidContent)

E! Seeks Celeb Tweets; entertainment network plans to run micro messages from the stars in the news crawl at the bottom of the screen. (Broadcasting & Cable)

Remote Storage DVR Coming this Summer? Cablevision COO tells an analyst his company could reach an agreement with programmers and the controversial technology could roll out soon. (Light Reading)

CW Ad Campaign: “TV Shows to Tweet About;” in a bid to stay hip with social media, the tagline in the TV Network’s ad will change to include TV to “blog about,” “text about” and more. (The New York Times) Crowdsources Film Financing; visitors to the Paris-based site can look through the catalog of films and invest as little as $10 to become a co-producer and potentially earn money if the film generates enough profit. (Variety)

StatShot: Oscar Tweets, Paul Rudd’s BitTorrent Beats

As you might expect, the Oscars buzz moved beyond the red carpet and onto Twitter last night, racking up over 100,000 tweets, according to Trendrr (how many of them were about that silly “the musical is back!” number?)


As American Idol becomes less about a parade of freaks and more about talent, the show is picking up social media steam, with a spike surpassing the normal No. 1, Heroes.


Read More about StatShot: Oscar Tweets, Paul Rudd’s BitTorrent Beats

StatShot: Grammy Tweets and a Body of Lies

The Grammys found gold on Twitter last night, with nearly 27,500 people buzzing about winners and losers. Heck, the official Grammy site had its own Twitter feed going (a poor stand-in for not live-streaming the event). As has been the case for a few weeks with our Top Twittered Broadcast TV Shows from Trendrr, Lost had the most tweets for the week. The big surprise was Saturday Night Live finishing so strong, which is odd considering everything outside of the “Weekend Update” segment blew.


Read More about StatShot: Grammy Tweets and a Body of Lies

Follow Twitter Trends With Connect the Tweets

Connect The TweetsWhen I explain Twitter to the uninitiated, I tend to describe it as my virtual water cooler. It helps me keep a finger on what is happening outside of my office by letting me listen in on what others are saying. Aliza just wrote about ways to use it for work, and it can indeed be a part of a productivity suite. To me though, much of the chatter is the equivalent of overhearing a phone conversation from the cubicle next to me.

Despite my ever expanding list of folks I follow, I know I am only seeing a portion of what is being said. So I am rather intrigued by a new project called Connect the Tweets. Connect the Tweets collects the top trending items on Twitter and attempts to put them into perspective and context. What is this and why is it trending? These are then posted on the site or more conveniently, distributed back out via Twitter by @cttweets.

It’s a simple concept with a simple implementation that creates a Twitter ticker of sorts. By distilling the massive number of simultaneous conversations happening into useful nuggets, it helps me filter out some of the noise while still allowing me to discover and the conversations that are of interest and importance to me. While Twitter’s own search also presents the top trends, I appreciate that the way that Connect the Tweets turns this discovery process into an effortless one for me.

How do you follow Twitter trends?

The ChargePod for true gadget addicts

What looks like a squid and will charge six mobile gadgets at the same time?  That would be the ChargePod by callpod.  The ChargePod works with small devices like cell phones, PDAs and iPods and a handy blue light indicates when each device is charging.  It’s awfully pricey at $50 but if you travel with a passel of gadgets like Matt Miller then it might be worth the price.


(via engadget)

Speech Therapy

Voice recognition software mini-giants Scansoft and Nuance are tying the knot in a $221 million merger. Maybe finally the damn technology will work.