A while back we embarked on a study that evolved after a having a debate in the office as to how people are using and consuming Twitter. Some felt it was their source of news and articles, others felt it was just a bunch of self-promotion with very few folks actually paying attention. But mostly, many people still perceive Twitter as just mindless babble of people telling you what they are doing minute-by-minute; as if you care they are eating a sandwich at the moment. (See our last post on Twitter: Is Anyone Paying Attention?).
So we took 2,000 tweets from the public timeline (in English and in the US) over a 2-week period from 11:00a to 5:00p (CST) and captured tweets in half-hour increments. Then we categorized them into 6 buckets:
News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value.
The results were interesting. As you may have guessed, Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total tweets captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the tweets captured.
I will not go into my critique on the study’s methodology (sample size, time of day captured, operational definitions, etc.), but my first reaction to the findings is: pointless to whom? The study gave an operational definition of “pointless babble” as tweets like “I am having lunch” or breakfast, dinner and probably some daily mundane activities deemed pointless to the researchers. Well, those might not be so pointless to Kellogg, McDonald’s, Starbucks and many restauranteurs.
Not long after this study declared that 40% of the 2,000 tweets it analyzed were “pointless babble,” two reviews (here and here) of The New York Times technology columnist David Pogue‘s book, The World according to Twitter, gave a different and broader perspective of Twitter.
Having not read Pogue’s book, I skimmed through 28 free pages here and am amazed how people can share their wits, wisdom and humor in 140 characters. I think Twitter skeptics would be disappointed to expect Twitter to be what they think it should be, especially when they took a microscopic approach. Twitter gives you an access to endless streams of human psyche, (well, @Sockington, yours too) from all walks of life and you have to take a holistic look to get something out of it.
As Lindsey Turner wrote in her review that “Twitter’s chock full of micro-Chaucers. The key is finding them.”
Or as Moses Ma put it so eloquently in his article, “Understanding Psychology of Twitter” :
“To me, the twitterverse is like a river of human awareness, composed of billions of tiny 140 character molecules — each a snapshot of life or a thought or a reflection. A river of pure information that equals energy, according to the laws of quantum thermodynamics and stochastic processes. A river of life flowing by us as we meditate at its bank like some Siddhartha wannabe, in tattered jeans and Oakley sunglasses instead of orchid robes and begging bowl. And now, after long last, we see.”