"I think we should expect continuous acceleration for years to come," predicts Alex Iskold, a smart Twitter observer and founder of fast-growing entertainment check-in service GetGlue. "We are, as a society, continuing to create staggering amounts of information and Twitter is a perfect information routing bus." GetGlue helped its users publish an average total of 10 Tweets every second during this year's Oscars, for example. What might an explosion of Tweets from many different sources mean for our lives and work? We asked some of the smartest people we know and their answers are below.
Facebook's Not the Only Game in Town
Saad says Twitter's growth rate, along with the growth of other networks he observes, "shows that there will always be a heterogeneous social web - which is good news for everyone."
"The social web is not just Facebook," Saad says. "There's a lot of conversations and value being created in all kinds of diverse networks."
There's also a lot of noise from bots, but Twitter only counts non-spam messages (at least the company said so about last year's number) and spam hunting on the network is fairly aggressive. One person's RSS Bot annoyance is another person's handy tool, though. It would be nice to know what percentage of these messages came from the mouths of human babes vs cyborg monstrosities. (Try searching for the name of any major tech blog on Twitter and you'll see what I mean.)
Too Much Noise?
Does Anyone Read the Tweets?
What about the recent Yahoo Research study that concluded 50% of all the Tweets that anyone actually reads are published by a mere 20,000 power-Tweeters? If a Twitter account is limited to publishing a maximum of 1,000 messages per day, that would mean at absolute most 25% of all Tweets published ever get read by anyone. (20k*1000*2/155m) Presumably, if you buy that math and the research it's based on, the real number is much, much smaller than that.
Twitter HQ says that's crazy talk. "You are combining our metrics with third party metrics, which won't allow you to make logical or accurate conclusions," says Twitter's Carolyn Penner.
Fair enough. I just thought I'd ask, as I'm sure some readers would wonder. I know I try to read every single Tweet I see, by hand, very carefully.
All that conversation can become difficult for an individual participant to handle - and it sounds like it may get even harder with future growth. Nova Spivack is now co-founder of a pre-launched company called Bottlenose, which aims to add structure to overwhelming social streams so they can be sorted and enjoyed more easily. Spivack thinks Twitter and other networks will soon become all-out broadcast networks drowning in blathering overkill as people and companies compete for attention.
"I think people and services may start doing periodic tweets of the same message so they get it out there once an hour all day," Spivack says. "It's bound to happen - a continuous broadcast of sorts. I think Twitter is going to fill up with more noise than anyone can presently imagine and the only solution will be semantics and filtering. Messaging systems like Tibco solved this over a decade ago but Twitter is going to have to reinvent the wheel."
Like Selling Sand in the Sahara
With so much conversation flying around, what's the point of saying anything more? Is there any opportunity anymore to build an audience? If that's what you're into, it may be time to take on a new strategy.
Says Dana Oshiro, Senior Analyst and Publishing Strategist for NetShelter (and a former ReadWriteWeb staff member),
"It's rare to see a community-wide Twitter influencer anymore. If a user follows and is followed by tens of thousands and the majority of their tweets remain ignored, then they might as well be a bot. The real influence in a community as large and as fast moving as this is in topic-based niches. Instead of making a grab for followers, it's better for users to own specific topics and Twitter search results. You own a category by being useful or amusing. Your effectiveness is obvious by the number of times people list you, click on your links, retweet you and converse with you."
But for Developers - Great News
155 million messages per day, each with at least 40 different fields of data associated with them, means there are 6.2 billion data points in play for developers of software and services to slice, dice & build on top of. Every day. Deriving value from all that data has just begun.
Kevin Marshall, creator of stream mining and personalization service KnowAboutIt, feels happily overwhelmed. "It's awesome. I can say from a developer point of view dealing with the data at any scale like this really requires using the streaming API [as opposed to in single requests for data dumps]," says Marshall. "Even though it's all open and available. Because of the scale [of the flow] it's getting a little harder to hack things at a larger scale than it used to be...but that's a good problem to have."
What do you think the future will bring? What do you think the consequences of such rapid growth of Tweets might be?