A Quantitave Study suggests that Twitter is not Primarily a Social Networking Site

13 05 2010

A lot can be said about Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social media. What is the best, the most useful, the most popular the most social (and has the least privacy-issues, hehe Facebook)?

You know I love Twitter. Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. The tweets don’t exceed 140 characters, so your message must be very concise. For me Twitter is a very rich source of information and a useful networking site. But it is hard to explain that to others.

Some Most people think that individuals who twitter are just parroting others (hé this is called retweeting, guys!) or are just egocentric bores (“I eat cornflakes for dinner”).

Well, a recent quantitative study by a group of researchers at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology suggest that they might just be right. … Or at least their data suggest Twitter may be less of a social site and more of a news site.

According to Haewoon Kwak et al this is the first quantitative Twitter study ever.

The researchers crawled the entire Twitter site and obtained 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4,262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets. They looked at the follower-following topology, looked at the ranking by number of followers and by PageRank, analyzed the retweets and the tweets of top trending topics.

You can read the main conclusions in the power presentation below and their abstract for Proceedings of the 19th International World Wide Web (WWW) Conference, April 26-30, 2010, Raleigh NC (USA). Below the abstract you can also find links to two download files, enabling you to reanalyze the data
Going Social Now and ReadWriteWeb also give a nice overview.

What are their main conclusions:

  • Twitter is not very “social”
    • It is “I follow you”, not “lets become friends” and you don’t have to approve or follow back. Following thus means that you “just subscribe” to the tweets of that person.
    • Only 22.1% of the relationships are reciprocal, thus 77.9% of the relationships is one way, just one of two is following the other. Surprisingly, 67.6% of users on Twitter are not followed by any of the people they follow.
    • this low reciprocity is unlike all other human social networks.
  • For most tweople, Twitter is primarily a source of information, not a social networking or information dissemination platform.
    • The Majority of topics (54,3%) are headline topics
    • Few users reach a large audience directly.
    • The average path length between two people on Twitter is 4.12. This is much shorter than Stanley Milgram’s original experiment uncovering the “six degrees of separation” phenomena.
    • Any retweeted tweet is to reach an average of 1,000 users no matter what the number of followers is of the original tweet.
    • Once retweeted, a tweet gets retweeted almost instantly on next hops, signifying fast diffusion of information after the 1st retweet.

It is a beautiful study that highlights the topological characteristics of Twitter.

One word of caution. Twitter is analyzed as a whole. There are many subpopulations with their own kinetics and goals. So the majority of people may follow the news, and fans may follow a celebrity by the million, but there are (relatively) small niches on Twitter, like health and medicine (or science) that may not follow the same rules.
I daresay (guess) that more people in this niche follow each other and do use Twitter both as a source of information and as as  network for social communication.
But these small niches are outnumbered by others (news sites, CEOs, celebrities).
At least that is my hypothesis.

Who is going to test this??

Many different Twitter birds in a flock

Credits

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#FollowFriday #FF Dutch @Nutrigenomics @Beatis @TheSofa @DrShock @digicmb

21 11 2009

Last week I announced that I would weekly update my FollowFriday Twitter list.

On the FollowFriday list are people I would like to recommend to you.

When you’re on Twitter you can follow my FF-list here:
http://twitter.com/laikas/followfridays-ff/

This week I would like to put several Dutch people in the limelight.

All these people have in common that they twitter mainly in English about scientific and/or library 2.0 subjects. And they are all nice.

@digicmb (medlib, geek, NL, **) and @DrShock (doctor, psychi, NL, **) were already on my #FF-list

@digicmb (Guus van den Brekel) was on Twitter long before I gave it a try. He knows a lot about Second Life, Web 2.0 Tools (especially all kinds of widgets and Netvibes)  and is always willing to share information. A must follow for librarians. His blog is http://digicmb.blogspot.com/. The Google Wave directory of helpful waves! is a recent post that I liked.

I already knew @DrShock as a blogger. DrShock is a Dutch psychiatrist working in a University hospital. His specialty in psychiatry is the treatment of depression. His blog (http://www.shockmd.com/) is regularly mentioned on this blog. It has a beautiful lay-out with a broad coverage of subjects. DrShock even regularly participates in the Medlibs Round and will be a future host of this Medical Librarian blog carnival as well.

Another Dutch psychiatrist, with a similarly well chosen name: @TheSofa. Georg Fritz is only recently on Twitter, but had interesting Tweets right from the start. He also started a posterous account: georgfritz’s posterous. I like the The November poem I by Thomas Hood, that starts like this: No sun–no moon!  No morn–no noon!  No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–  No sky–no earthly view–  No distance looking blue–….
No wonder people get depressed at this time of year.

Also very interesting are the tweets of @Nutrigenomics, Professor in Nutrigenomics, Wageningen University and Director of NL Nutrigenomics Centre. Main emphasis of tweets is on genetics, nutrition, science and health. The link at his Twitter account goes to the Nutrition, Metabolism Genomics Groupat the Wageningen University.

Last week I first ‘met’ @Beatis on Twitter. She is still not sure about the value of Twitter. I hope she will stay tweeting, because her tweets -that can be best described as (moderately) skeptic- are certainly valuable. She co-authors the (english-language) Anaximperator blog. The purpose of this blog is to warn against alternative medicine and alternative medicine for cancer in particular.

You may also want to read:

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Laika’s #FollowFriday #FF Twitter List

13 11 2009

In my post Twitter’s #FollowFriday #FF – Over the Top. Literally I explained what Twitter’s FollowFriday or FF means, how this Twitter meme started and how FollowFriday should and shouldn’t be used.

In short, FollowFriday is a way to recommend a few people to your Twitter-followers. For at least 2 reasons: to acknowledge those favorite tweeters and make it easier for your followers to find new interesting people.

However, many people don’t use the FollowFriday correctly. For instance, they spend several tweets just mentioning dozens of @people and they repeat the tweets (retweet) about each recommendation they get @themselves. That is annoying for people seeing these tweets appearing in their timeline.

In this FollowFriday post I suggested some Twitter Etiquette Rules as well as some alternatives for the FollowFriday approach.

Now there is another alternative, which can either be used alone or as an adjunct to the normal FollowFriday-tweets:

Twitterlists!

The Twitter List feature is designed to make following and suggesting groups of tweeters easier. Everyone on Twitter can create up to 20 lists with a maximum of 500 Twitter people each. Others can follow these lists as well. So instead of FollowFridays you could construct lists of your favorite Twitter people for others to follow. There is one disadvantage of this approach: context is lost. You can only put people on a list without any further explanation why. Of course, you can create separate lists of categories of people, in my case librarians, doctors and funny people for instance, so others have an idea what to expect.

Some people think Twitterlists make FollowFridays obsolete. However Twitterlists and FollowFridays could reinforce each other. At least that’s what I will try using the following approach.

I will construct a FollowFriday Twitter list on basis of my FollowFriday-tweets. They provide the context. Because Tweets get lost, I will gather those tweets on a separate page, so you can always find my elaborated FF-recommendations there.

For Twitter-newcomers, who know me, but find it difficult to find interesting people to follow, this may be a useful starting point.

In selective cases I also plan to write a #FF post to put someone in the limelight. I intend to do the same with bloggers.

By the way I only include people with useful tweets on the lists, so people with great blogs but with not so interesting or very infrequent tweets won’t be included.
As time goes, I may also prune the list, because the number or quality of the tweets or my preference may change.

What is a good tweet? That is personal, but I think that people should be original, helpful, social and up to date and provide good information (with links) .

When you’re on Twitter you like you can follow my FF-list here:
http://twitter.com/laikas/followfridays-ff/

The Following people are included on my FF-list (listed chronologically according my tweet-timeline)
** means that I often have a chitchat or social talk with that person and/or that he/she is very helpful).

  1. @allergynotes , currently @drves (doctor, immunology, health 2.0, **) 2x
  2. @berci (doctor, scientist, **)
  3. @conorato (health 2.0)
  4. @shamsha (medlib, **)    3x
  5. @amcunningam (doctor, education, skeptic, **)  2x
  6. @pudliszek (medlib, **) 2x
  7. @eagledawg (medlib, **)  2x
  8. @pfanderson (medlib, geek, **)
  9. @digicmb (medlib, geek, NL, **)  2x
  10. @sarchet62 (lib, med. anthropologist, geek)
  11. @dreamingspires (publishing, Aussie, **)
  12. @staticnrg (survivor, health 2.0, science, **)
  13. @bonnycastle (education, **)
  14. @andrewspong (publishing, skeptic)
  15. @DrShock (doctor, psychi, NL, **)
  16. @aarontay (lib, geek)
  17. @MarilynMann (science, cancer survivor, lawyer, skeptic, pharma)
    Following tweets could not be traced back:
  18. @flutesUD (scientist, PhD-student, **)
  19. @palmdoc (doctor, geek)
  20. @doctorblogs (doctor, EBM, health 2.0)
  21. @bgaustin (EBM)
  22. @northerndoctor (doctor, GP, EBM, Skeptic)
  23. @Blue_Wode (EBM, Skeptic)
  24. @precordialthump (doctor, ICU, Aussie, **)
  25. @sandnsurf (doctor, ICU, Aussie, **)
  26. @bitethedust (Remote Pharmacist, Aussie, Art, **)
  27. @giustini (medlib, web 2.0)
  28. @jstaaks (lib, psycho, UBA, bieptweet, NL, **)
  29. @ENTHouse (doc, ENT, **)

Based on the Next #FollowFriday recommendations (as far as I could trace them back):