Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The BBC Doesn't Get It

The BBC has an article on Twitter which is embarrassingly unresearched.

Not in the facts they present, which are okay, but in the way they present them, as if the fact that few users make the majority of the content is somehow unusual, or a bad thing.

Hey, how about you freakin' research ANY other social networking site? Flickr is the same way. Facebook is the same way. Secondlife is the same way. Every forum - INCLUDING THE BBC FORUM - is the same way.

"Bill Heil" has evidently said that on a normal social network, the top 10% only account for 30% of the content. Bill Heil is wrong. Or, more accurately, Bill Heil is probably talking about a theoretical physical social network. Which is the same as being wrong, especially when the BBC lumps it in as if it's some kind of valid comparison. "Apples have two dozen seeds. Why, that's far more seeds than most other fruits, especially when we posit that a rock is a kind of fruit!"

I don't really like saying that someone is wrong. It might come back and bite me on the ass. But in this case, I doubt it. Bill's just about to graduate with his masters in business, and he doesn't have any papers on line, just a fluffy article on the Harvard business blog with some thoroughly unconvincing graphs. Including one with a line labeled "A social network". Presumably, that's the theoretical social network the BBC was confused by? Being shown as if it's an actual data set, no less. Even if it were labeled more precisely, I would still call bullshit.

Now there are differences between Twitter and, say, any given existing social network site like MySpace. But these differences are matters of a few percent. There is no social networking site which I'm aware of that disobeys this classic percentage of top 10% creating 90% of the content. That's The Dynamic. That's How Things Are. Even in meatspace social networks such as the PTA or a church, they still follow that 10%-90% dynamic.

A lot of time is spent by some developers trying to increase the amount that the lower 90% creates, but in doing so, they empower the upper 10% to create correspondingly more.

I really fucking hate it when someone tries to misrepresent the situation. I don't know whether Bill misrepresented it on purpose or not, but the BBC - which has developed a NOXIOUSLY bad technology section in the past decade - certainly ran with the ball. Ugh.


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