One of the thing’s that Martin appears to have been thinking a lot about lately are metrics for rating ‘digital scholars’, i.e. those of us who don’t do any of the reputation bearing thing that traditional academics do, (though whether that’s because we’re not very good at those things is not for me to say;-)
So for example, in The Keynote Equivalent? he reviews the notions of reputation and impact factor, and in Connectors versus outputs he calls on some really dubious social media buzz metrics to raise the more far more valid issue of how we measure influence within, and value the contributions made to, a social network (peer community?) in order to recognise the extent of someone’s influence within that network from outside of it.
Using Twitter as a base case, one of the many interesting features of Twitter’s ‘open privacy’ model is that in most cases it’s possible for you to look at someone else’s followers to see who they are.
The value of that network to an individual is at least twofold – firstly, as a source of information, observations, news and feedback to you as the person at the centre of your own network; secondly as an amplifier of your own
ego broadcast messages. (There are other benefits of course – like being able to see who is talking to whom about what.) You may also feel there is some benefit to just having a large number of followers, if only in the bragging stakes.
That is, the more followers the better, right? It’s bound to be good for my reputation, if nothing else, surely…?
Well….. maybe not…?
Consider these two questions:
– who follows you? if I look at your followers what can I tell about you, from them?
– what is your blocking policy? who you block is just as much a part of the way you manage your network as the people you actively follow.
As far as my own Twitter network goes, I am on a follow:followed ratio of about 1:4. That is, approximately four times as many people follow me as I follow back. For every 10 or so new followers I get, I block one or two.
I check my followers list maybe once every two or three days, which lets me keep up with the pruning on just one or two screens of followers using the Twitter web interface. If the name or avatar is suspect, I’ll check out the tweets to see if I want to block. (I really miss the ability to hover over a person’s name and get a tooltip containing their bio:-( If the name or avatar is familiar or intriguing, I’ll check the tweets to see if I’m going to follow back (maybe 1 in 20? Following back is not the main source for me of new people to follow – you’ll have to get to me another way;-).
The people I block? People who’s tweets are never replies, but who just tweet out advertising links all the time; Britney, whatever she happens to be sucking or loving at the time; product tweeters; and so on. If you’re following lots of people and only followed by a few? Not good – why should I follow you if no-one else does? If you’re following lots of people and are followed by lots of people? Also not good: either you’re a spammer being spammed back, or you’re an indiscriminate symmetric follower so why should I trust you, or you’ve so many followers I’m not going to get a look in. If I’m not sure about a new follower, it’s 50/50 that I’ll either block them or not, so there may well be the odd false positive amongst the people I’ve blocked (if so, sorry…) And why do I block them? Because they add no value to me… Like junk mail… And because by association, if you look at my followers and see they’re all Britney, you’ll know my amplification network is worthless. And by association… ;-)
The people I follow? People I’ve chatted to, have been introduced to through RTs, or via interesting/valuable multiaddressed tweets that include me; people who appear not to be part of any other network I follow (or who might add value in a sphere of influence or interest that I don’t feel I currently benefit from), and so on.
And the people I don’t follow but don’t block (i.e. the majority) – nothing personal, but I only have so many hours in the day, and can’t cope with too many new messages every update cycle in by twitter client!
So all this might sound a little bit arrogant, but it’s my space and it’s me that has to navigate it!
PS just by the by, it struck me during an exchange last week that networks can also act as PR channels. A tweet went out from @ruskin147 asking if anyone knew anyone “who can analyse how viral emails,campaigns etc, can knock a firm off course?” Now I should probably have recommended someone from the OU Business School, because I think there is someone there who knows this stuff; but they’re not part of any of my networks so I’d have to go and search for them and essentially recommend them cold. So instead I suggested @mediaczar (who blogs under the same ID) because he’s been sharing code and insight about his analysis of connectivity and the flow of ideas across social networks for the PR firm (I think?) he works for. (Some irony there, methinks?;-) And it turned out that the two of them hooked up and had a chat…
So why’s that good for me? Because it strengthened the network that I inhabit. It increased the likelihood of those people having an interesting conversation that I was likely to also be interested in. I get value not just from people telling me things, but also from people in my network telling each other things that I am likely to find interesting.
And as a spin-off, it maybe increases my reputation with those two people for having helped create that conversation between them?
In terms of externally recognised value though? How are you going to measure that, Martin?
See also: Time to Get Scared, People?