Pointed Babble

Twitter bird eating a pear.  I know, pretty silly.
We interrupt our regularly-scheduled stream of narcissistic pictures to comment on this story, because we keep saying this in comment threads and Plurks and mailing lists and stuff, and we are a Twitter user, so we thought we might as well say it here:

This “study” is silly.

Silly in, I kinda suspect, the “advertisement thinly disguised as science” sense of “silly”.

Background: some soi-disant analytics company published a glitzy paper full of cartoon diagrams, the major headline of which is that 40% of Twitter postings (more than any other category) are “pointless babble”. And oh by the way just mentioning in passing they are currently beta-testing (but I’m sure have no financial interest in) a new product designed to help people filter that stuff out (and here’s the URL to find out more).

This is making lots of headlines (even here on th’ weblog, sigh), because of course people love to say either “Twitter sux0rs!”, or “does not!”. But in fact the study (and I use the term loosely) seems to have been designed to produce exactly this result, and therefore adds little or nothing to our knowledge of the world or of the suxiness of Twitter.

What they did was, they took 2000 Twitter postings, counted the ones that were stuff you could find on the National News, the ones that were spam (of two kinds), the ones that were obviously parts of conversations, and the ones that had “RT” in them (i.e. “retweets” of something someone else had previously posted), and then labelled everything else “pointless babble”. (A nice objective scientific term, eh?)

In particular, any use of Twitter for the thing it was originally designed for, posting a brief description of what you’re doing right now so your friends can follow along, was presumably categorized as “pointless babble”.

And then they got big headlines for finding out that there’s alot of that on Twitter.

/facepalm

(A more thoughtful discussion can be found on apophenia; I am still at the facepalming stage.)

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2 Responses

  1. Personally… I like “pointless babble.”

    The press really need to find something more worthwhile to discuss… like, I don’t know… drying paint.

  2. :)

    I like (hate) it when the press discusses itself, while pretending to be talking about content. As in “two years ago, we hyped Second Life absurdly; then last year we began trashing it for no particular reason. Will we start hyping it again now? Read our lead story to find out!”

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