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50% of Tweets Consumed Come From .05% of Users 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the hogging-the-conversation dept.
ajensen201102 writes "A mere 20,000 Twitter users steal almost half of the spotlight on Twitter, which now ropes in a billion tweets every week. That means only 0.05% of the social network's user base attracts attention, according to a new Yahoo Research study. From the article: 'Like findings in previous studies, the researchers for this one conclude Twitter resembles an information-sharing hub rather than a social network, with the top generators garnering huge follower tallies but not following their content consumers in return.'"
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50% of Tweets Consumed Come From .05% of Users

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  • by kieran (20691) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @04:37AM (#35676012)

    Twitter is such a shit social tool I actually started unfollowing all my friends; it's still great for following news feeds, though.

    • by N1AK (864906) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @05:25AM (#35676204) Homepage
      I've tried to see the point in Twitter, but apart from making it easier to have group conversations by SMS I really can't work out what it is supposed to achieve. Most 'good' sources on Twitter are effectively informative, and could provide the content more effectively using RSS, email etc.
      • by dingen (958134)
        But you cant reply to an RSS-feed and e-mail isn't public. That's the combo where Twitter fits in. It clearly has its uses, altough it might not exactly be what the creators had anticipated.
        • That's one thing I can't understand about Twitter — how can you have a conversation with arbitrary people, and have others view that conversation, if only Tweets inside follow-cliques appear on a person's timeline? Do conversations instead happen on hashtag streams, or Is it expected that one should monitor the "mention" tab so you can talk with people you don't follow (even though people watching your timeline will only see your side of the conversation).

          When it was getting of the ground, Twitter

          • Is it expected that one should monitor the "mention" tab so you can talk with people you don't follow (even though people watching your timeline will only see your side of the conversation).

            Almost all Twitter clients notify you in some way that you've been "mentioned" (that is, your @username is in a message someone posted). You don't really watch someone's timeline. You follow them and watch their stream of broadcasted messages, which does not include messages beginning with "@[someone who isn't you]".

            If you include "@kstrauser", in a message, I'll see it. If your message starts like "@kstrauser Hi from Slashdot!", none of your followers will see it unless they also follow me or unless they'r

            • by Mandrel (765308)

              Thanks for the explanation.

              I didn't realise that putting @username at the start of a Tweet sent the username user an explicit notification. What's the etiquette about ignoring these, or turning them off? And is there any easy way for someone (who may or may not follow one of the two people) to view both sides of the conversation?

              • Any app that uses the statuses/mentions [twitter.com] API call (which is every app I've ever seen) will receive a list of every message that contains the string "@username" somewhere in it. The Twitter version of "reply all" is to write message like "@user1 @user2 Hi, guys!". In fact, that's what every app I've seen does when you hit "reply all": it starts a new message containing every username that was in the message you're replying to (minus your own).

                The etiquette for mentions is the same as email: reply to anything

              • Oh, and I should mention that "@" only hides messages from "uninterested" parties when it's the first character in a message. If you write something like "I follow @slashdot on Twitter.", then all of your followers will see the message. If you write "@slashdot I follow you on twitter.", then no one will see it unless they also follow @slashdot or they've navigated to your profile and they're reading your entire public timeline.

                Putting "@username" in the middle of a message is kind of the idiom for open mess

          • That's one thing I can't understand about Twitter — how can you have a conversation with arbitrary people, and have others view that conversation, if only Tweets inside follow-cliques appear on a person's timeline? Do conversations instead happen on hashtag streams, or Is it expected that one should monitor the "mention" tab so you can talk with people you don't follow (even though people watching your timeline will only see your side of the conversation).

            I think you hit the nail on the head on why most slashdotters hate Twitter. It doesn't make sense from an objective point of view. Yet most people like it and want to use it. I think the fundamental lesson is that people *want* to use the best of what is available to them that they understand, and that they think other people are using, whether it really is the best tool for the job.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        I've tried to see the point in Twitter, but apart from making it easier to have group conversations by SMS I really can't work out what it is supposed to achieve.

        To illustrate: I went to a convention a couple of weeks ago and started following quite a few interesting people. They didn't have to do anything to push their comments to me, so it that sense it's like they all run their own mailing lists or RSS feeds. Some of their comments led to conversations, and at that point the analogy stops.

        The only other people who see those conversations are Twitter users who follow both that person and me. That is, the people who follow me for other reasons aren't dragged into c

      • I've tried to see the point in Twitter, but apart from making it easier to have group conversations by SMS I really can't work out what it is supposed to achieve.

        Twitter is basically a promotional tool. If you are a celebrity, even a minor one, or have business or something else that needs to be promoted, you get a twitter account and do your promotions there. Fans and people interested in what you are doing subscribe and listen in. Lots of people have it set up as SMS so it is essentially instantaneous ma

      • by osgeek (239988)

        I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't "get" Twitter. Every time I poke around on twitter.com, I'm appalled by the pathetic levels of narcissism and celebrity following. The site has some okay potential for information dispersion, as you say; but the main way I see it used reminds me of how pathetic our culture really is.

        • I'm appalled by the pathetic levels of narcissism and celebrity following.

          So don't follow celebrities.

          I felt exactly the same way as you 2 years ago. Recently I tried it again, and found it unbelievably informative. I don't follow celebrities, and I've stopped following the higher-profile geeks, whose feeds inevitably turn to narcissism. But I've picked up great things from local political activists (including those I disagree with), local businesses who offer discounts to their followers and other info, and people working in my industry who want to point out interesting articl

      • by rdnetto (955205)
        Twitter seems limited to 2 major applications: announcements and ideas. If you have a large no of people (or bots) you need to broadcast an announcement to, then it fits the bill pretty well. The idea seems to be that the message should be short and sweet, or a short summary with a link to another page providing more detail. It's a pity that Twitter requires you to host that page on a seperate server though - they should have intergrated it or at least provided their own URL shortening service. The other ap
    • by antdude (79039)

      I follow my friends, but I only have about five so it's not too bad.

    • by tyrione (134248)

      Twitter is such a shit social tool I actually started unfollowing all my friends; it's still great for following news feeds, though.

      Don't use it as a tool to discuss all your thoughts for all the world to read. That's what a Journal is for and if you haven't figured out that rambling publicly wouldn't be any better than reliving high school then you really are a slow learner. Treat is as a tool for connecting yourself with various industries, news, ideas and more that can be a means to new interests, added skills, etc. You either learn to discern between value and gossip or you don't. Blaming a tool for your shortcomings is like blaming

    • by MrMarket (983874)
      That's how I use it. I follow news sites and columnists, and I never tweet. So, these stats reflect my personal use of the service.
    • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @11:32AM (#35679092)

      Twitter is such a shit social tool I actually started unfollowing all my friends; it's still great for following news feeds, though.

      No, it's fucking not. I only use Twitter because certain Android devs think there's no other way to post news... but there's something about only reading 140 chars (or was it 150?) before having to click through to see WTF the topic of the tweet actually was that seriously pisses me off.

      SMS is the root of all evil, and it's ruined a perfectly good service. A centralized alternative to RSS (which is all Twitter really is) would've been great... although tbh: Google Reader's interface kicks Twitter's ass anyway.

      Why are we using this crap again?

      • Google Reader's interface kicks Twitter's ass anyway.

        My version of Google Reader doesn't have a "reply" button.

        • And why would you reply to a news feed? Nobody wants to hear what you (or I) have to say, unless the article is on a site like Slashdot - and sites like Slashdot have their own commenting system...

          • You said Twitter is like a centralized RSS systems, but it's not. I can reply to people I'm following on Twitter, and I've gotten responses from all sorts of people from local reporters to famous authors.

    • by Jim Hall (2985)

      I'm the same way. I joined Twitter about a year and some ago, because I was moving 3 hours away and thought it would be a good way to keep in touch. I immediately followed about 20 in-real-life friends. And almost as quickly, I unfollowed most of them.

      There are 2 main issues I have with these people:

      1. They thought it was cool to connect their Twitter feed to Facebook. So now I see exactly the same thing on Facebook as Twitter whenever they update their status.

      2. They post completely random shit, all the fu

  • The only thing I use Twitter for is for hearing about updates to Minecraft and when the occasional celebrity/corporate scandal breaks out because of a "tweet". Considering I see Twitter mentioned nearly every where I have to wonder how much they are spending to generate such a large buzz for such a prosaic service.

    Twitter stopped being relevant technologically when "everyone" got smart phones which enabled them to do updates bigger than a SMS while away from their computers.

  • by camcorder (759720) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @04:43AM (#35676030)
    "90 percent of everything is crap"
  • A lot of people really have nothing to say!

    Please see below and other things to do with pot and kettle ethnicity.
  • I read that as "0.05% of Twitter users have something interesting to say."
    • by MrHanky (141717) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @04:59AM (#35676104) Homepage Journal

      Actually, that should read as 0.05% of Twitter users are big celebrities.

      • by lorenlal (164133)

        Add to that, there's the status symbol of the "Twitter Ratio." Pretty much it's #of followers/#people you follow.

        The higher the result, the more awesomer you are.

        • by MrHanky (141717)

          I'm not sure it's all that much of a status symbol, really. Either you're a real life somebody with a lot of followers, or you're an internet nobody with a lot of followers. Tweet a lot, be helpful and engage in discussions, and you'll gain followers, but I don't think being big on Twitter gives all that much status, even on Twitter.

          But sure, the whole social networking concept does appeal to vanity to a sickening degree.

      • by geekmux (1040042) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @07:07AM (#35676636)

        Actually, that should read as 0.05% of Twitter users are big celebrities.

        You misspelled "narcissists".

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        Well, celebrities, news sites, and spammers.

        My news site has a twitter feed. I could care less about it, other than a handful of people were bugging me to do it. So we put up somewhere around 20 messages a day. That probably puts me into that 0.05%, which really wouldn't be right. That's sad, when you realize that 0.05% is the fluffed up number. Round it off, and you see how much people use it. 0%.

        Once in a while I go through and delete all the damned spammers who dec

        • by MrHanky (141717)

          Your news site? Would that be Free Internet Press, followed by a whopping 109 people? No, sir, that doesn't put you anywhere near the 0.05%. Millions of people use Twitter, your site just doesn't have much presence there.

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            It's up to 109? Interesting. So we're well past the "double" point now. :)

            I wasn't saying by myself I account for anything resembling a substantial portion of that, but my site, and likely over 100,000 like it it do [thefuturebuzz.com]. I believe for most of the blogging softwares out there, they have plugins/addons that will do it for you, no coding required.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @05:01AM (#35676114)

      In other words "99.95% of twitterers are twits."

      Sounds about right.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "In other words "99.95% of twitterers are twits."

        Hardly. At least half of them are twats,

    • I don't know that I'd equate popular with interesting. I mean, I don't pay attention to what Sarah Palin says because I think she's got a really intriguing perspective.
  • Foreword: I am not taking part in any social network (well, if you exclude LinkedIn but I am a completely passive user also in that case).

    From the outside, social networking is about showing off connections and getting the illusion of being in touch with people that, in the real world, wouldn't give a damn of you. All those people telling you their private business, they would never talk with you if they had to call you on the phone or send you an email.

    On the other hand, they are still cool for getting in

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by somersault (912633)

      Sure most of my Facebook friends are people I would never bother to talk to otherwise, but occasionally there is something worth "liking" or chiming in on. Also, it is great for organising stuff with everyday friends, or getting to know new people better. I prefer to go through my initial awkward/quiet phase with new people online, where I can get comfortable knowing that people actually are speaking to me because they want to, rather than just because we happen to be in the same physical location. Previous

      • by nschubach (922175)

        I would never bother to talk to otherwise, but occasionally there is something worth "liking" or chiming in on.

        That sounds a bit narcissistic in relation to your group of friends. Of course many things "in relation to your friends" could be considered that, but this is very public. To me, it feels like two people standing in a grocer isle talking about a movie at the top of their lungs so everyone can hear them. Maybe a better analogy would be going to a party you were invited to and doing the same thing. The other patrons can choose to ignore it, but there's something inherent to the person doing the wall post

        • ^ This.
          Reminds me of people with loud public phone voices and that shit-eating smirk that says, "people find me fascinating and want to hear every word I speak". God, those people get on my nerves! Unfortunately, some of them are family and friends.
          • That is definitely not me. I hate being the centre of attention in public. I don't mind so much giving my opinions online, but if you're going to get upset at people discussing things online then why even bother to post on Slashdot?

        • If I thought my viewpoint was that important, I'd be "chiming in" on everything rather than where I felt it was relevant... but yes oftentimes I have to restrain myself from saying things just because they'll sound big headed, and because to be honest a lot of my friends are not geeks and would either just not appreciate or not understand certain things. I don't deny that I think I'm smarter than average (with good reason of course, I'm sure many Slashdotters will have been among the top performers in their

      • by Dan East (318230)

        I'm posting this to clear my moderation. Clicked on the drop list, and immediately your comment was modded Flamebait when I was intending on Interesting. The drop box didn't even appear, and the page scrolled up as soon as I clicked it. Slashdot's new DHTML crap really irks me.

        • Yeah, I think there are a few interface components that have messages bubbling back up the chain even when they shouldn't be. Real pain in the ass when trying to edit comments and a click sends you to the top of the page..

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xaxa (988988)

      Foreword: I am not taking part in any social network (well, if you exclude LinkedIn but I am a completely passive user also in that case).

      Yet you still feel qualified to comment?

      I actually use a social network (Facebook), though generally only the bits I'm interested in (events, status updates, occasionally photos, contact details). I seem to have 280 "friends". Lots of them I ignore most of the time, but I want to passively keep in touch in case they're in London (most are, eventually).

      I use it to keep in touch with people who live too far away -- just last week I arranged to meet up with some people I met at a music festival last year at a

  • Power law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordNacho (1909280) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @04:50AM (#35676058)

    This isn't really so surprising. Just like Twitters, most of the world's men have only shagged a few women, while a few guys have done it with hundreds. A huge number of people live on a dollar a day, but some guys at the top can make over a billion a year. Most entertainers are unknown wedding singers, but a few are known by everyone on the planet.

    Not saying it's right or wrong, just these kinds of distribution occur.

  • You can only steal what anyone else wants. Else it's just taking it without a challenge.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @05:35AM (#35676252) Homepage
    The real secret of success of twitter is that it makes the other 99.5% of narcissists believe that what they write is Really Important. Remember the Twitter Revolution in the Islamic Republic of Iran? Twitter users really thought that their tweets were important, and all they had to do was wish hard enough and the theocracy would fall. Strangely enough, it didn't happen. I know, I don't get it, either. How many bloggers changed their page backgrounds to green? Still, the religious nuts didn't get the signal. If they would have all had twitter accounts, they would have seen just how much opposition there was, and surely they would have resigned - to avoid the devastating ridicule of twitter users if nothing else. Another thing: either there needs to be a universal translator or these theocrats need to have mandatory English lessons, otherwise how can they understand the depth of condemnation the world sends their way?
    • by migla (1099771)

      All those so-called twitter- or facebook-revolutions are actually more accurately described as Al Jazeera revolutions. Not that they tried to flame them, but just that they brought real journalism to people. Or maybe they would have happened anyway, since people were fed up with oppression.

  • by MadeInUSA (2028028) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @05:49AM (#35676310)
    Twitter was originally conceived as a way for everyone to voice their thoughts and provide visibility to others into their lives. After this, my only conclusion is that NO, technology by itself won't make everybody famous and followed. Things happen in the twitterverse just as they happen in the real world, that is, most people disappear in their irrelevance while a few get followed and admired by everybody. Sad but true, you're lucky if you even get your 15 minutes of fame...
    • by umghhh (965931)
      So when only few but possibly really interested people are following your posts compared with thousands not really interested but still following some small starlet that is sad - why? One more thing as a side note really: there are of course quite some that are obsessed with starlet sex life too but I guarantee you that you do not want to be followed by those. So here we are - comparing mob against few friends.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Long time ago (as in before the term "blog" was invented and when Geocities was gave you a whopping 5 MB to set up your free web site) this got an Internet version already: "everybody can be famous for 15 people".

      I'm sure this still applies for Twitter, and Blogger, and related sites. As for Twitter I'm also in the "I don't get it" category. Twittering about having just finished a tough meeting or having an egg with your breakfast is so uninteresting, and the 140 character limit doesn't allow for any more

  • I've been using Twitter for around half a year now. In some ways it's highly useful. I use it mainly to share links and some casual observations. There are times when I participate in brief discussions as well.

    There's one thing the whole concept fails at, though: following. The system is just too general by default. There is no simple way for me to cherry pick topics I'm interested in. I know there are hashtags but they don't quite fit the bill. I would like to be able to combine these concepts somehow (fol

    • In some ways it's highly useful. I use it mainly to share links and some casual observations.

      ...Which no one gives a shit about.

  • by samael (12612) * <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Thursday March 31, 2011 @05:56AM (#35676326) Homepage

    The definition of celebrity is "Someone who is known by more people than they know" - of course Charlie Sheen is followed by more people than he follows. He also appears in more celebrity magazines than his followers.

    Next you'll be surprised that there are more people reading Linus Torvald's blog than he reads in return.

    I use Twitter to keep in contact with a few people I know in person (20-30), and to keep up with a few people who say things I'm interested (about the same again). Same as with Livejournal/Blogs.

    No, the average person isn't interested in whether I went to the cinema and enjoyed Rango - but (some of) my friends are. So I wouldn't expect to get followed by 10,000 people - just by my friends.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      The definition of celebrity is "Someone who is known by more people than they know" - of course Charlie Sheen is followed by more people than he follows.

      Hmm, that actually points out a numerical use for this. I've long felt that the Internet was a great equalizing force on the social landscape. No longer do TV and movie studios have a monopoly on world-wide fame and celebrity. With the Internet, anyone who comes up with something interesting or catchy enough can become famous worldwide.

      The problem wa

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      The definition of celebrity is "Someone who is known by more people than they know"

      Hrm. I have REALLY bad memory for names and faces - does that count?

  • Since very few people originate most tweets with high following, corporations and advertisers would woo them. They will set up their paid tweeters backed up by huge number of paid assistants. The followers will realize the conflict of interest and calibrate their truthiness of tweeters. Eventually it will reduce to a second rung of media, like bloggers, less scrutinized, highly fragmented.
  • It just shows that Twitter follows Zipf's Law (or at least Pareto's Law). As more and more people join Twitter, the balance gets shifted more and more to the top few.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @06:20AM (#35676432)
    Twitter, to me, is just the combination of one fairly new concept - cell phone texting - and one old and antiquated concept - the POTS "party line". Consequently it takes interpersonal gossip and makes it broadcast gossip..

    The only thing I want to read in 140 words or less is the weather.
    • The only thing I want to read in 140 words or less is the weather.

      You're welcome [swasalert.com].

      • lolll..thanks, but I get my weather from Wunderground [wunderground.com] on their sidebar gadget and from Forecast Fox [mozilla.org] in Firefox.

        Don't figure I need alerts to my cell, 'cuz when I'm dependent upon it I'm out in the weather.
  • Who would've thought that the public at large would find yet another tool to deify and revere the drug taking *'upper class'. Most people simply cannot be without leader figures it seems. Twitter's a giant pile of shit that the media seem to have glommed onto in some desperate attempt to remain current and hip, and they routinely talk about it and the internet in general in a most basic way. Understanding just how the internet works, and the sort of technology that goes into it should be a requirement befor
  • I was wondewing why I haven't been getting my tweets! They been consumed by a tiny puhcentage of da usahs.

    Sewiouswy... "consume"?

  • Wait until AT&T hears about this!
  • It feels kind of strange, but I've never had a Twitter account, and seem to be living okay without it. I have "consumed" postings, mostly from people who put their feed on their website or some such, but without an account of my own, it's hard to keep up with conversations or threads. From the article it sounds like I'm not really missing much. Maybe in 5 or so years I'll be fighting it out with a New Guinean tribesman as "the last man without a Twitter account".
    • by wed128 (722152)

      Speaking as someone who signed up to see what the fuss was about...you're not missing much. There's no more content having an account then just going to twitter.com; it only allows you to subscribe and organize posts. tweeting feels a lot like yelling into a crowded room full of deaf people.

      I don't get it, honestly.

  • It's just like a real live social network? Glad we wrapped this one up, experiment successful apparently. Besides, isn't it nice to know that the introverts need no longer be bothered by the popular extroverts taking up oxygen in the real world when they can be blathering away online or following celebrity blather? I think of it as a solution to the info sphere version of second hand smoke.

  • Otherwise more commonly known as the 80-20 rule. You see it everywhere... even if not in those exact percentages.
  • by theghost (156240)

    Anyone who hasn't figured out by now that twitter is really only good for advertising and ego-tripping attention whores probably is an ego-tripping attention whore.

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