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Sifting Authorities From Celebrities On Twitter 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the signal-to-noise dept.
holy_calamity writes "Celebrities like Britney Spears may be the 'most followed' on Twitter, but new service PeerIndex mines the content of tweets and tracks the spread of links and phrases to reveal the hidden experts in specific areas, from cloud computing to venture capital. The authorities the site finds for a given subject often have only a few hundred followers, but the content of their tweets is known to spread widely. Could data mining tools like this be the future for people or businesses looking for new collaborators, advisers and influencers?"
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Sifting Authorities From Celebrities On Twitter

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  • If you want idiots (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Only if you want collaborators, advisers and influencers that are idiots and use Twitter.

    • Twitter Twaddle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday August 09, 2010 @06:59PM (#33197634)
      Pretty much. The idea that anyone would go to Twitter for "experts" is, well, staggering. Twitter content it pretty much Twaddle.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by blair1q (305137)

        It's a means for humans to interact.

        If all you're getting is twaddle, maybe that's all they think you can understand.

      • Re:Twitter Twaddle (Score:4, Interesting)

        by neogeographer (1568287) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:15PM (#33197810)
        You've never used it have you? I now have the ability to instantly follow, and communicate with, all the experts in my field as if they were my co-workers. I know what they are reading about and what new technologies they are employing, instantly. No other exchange mechanism has been this easy to use and this powerful. It takes a deft hand to chose the right people to follow, true, but even a Slashdotter should be able to pick out those who represent expertise in their chosen field and could learn from the interactions now available, for free.
        • You've never used it have you?

          I've tried it repeatedly and hate it every time.

          I now have the ability to instantly follow, and communicate with, all the experts in my field as if they were my co-workers. I know what they are reading about and what new technologies they are employing, instantly.

          Yes but is Twitter the best way of doing this? Twitter is only a single implementation of near-limitless communication possibilities.

          No other exchange mechanism has been this easy to use and this powerful.

          The telephone's pretty cool too.

          It takes a deft hand to chose the right people to follow, true, but even a Slashdotter should be able to pick out those who represent expertise in their chosen field and could learn from the interactions now available, for free.

          I think a lot of people's problems with Twitter is that it takes a lot of work to make sure you get no work done. Twitter seems like it's for people who talk about doing things because people who do things don't have time for Twitter. Slashdot appeals to me because it doesn't take a lot of work

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Hate is a strong word, but it's your post, not mine, so I'll let you be your own editor. It could be that you really do hate it. But the telephone? I'm an Alexander Bell fan as much as the next guy, but if a bunch of people called me up 150 times an hour with news I would freak out. There is no comparison. Twitter just silently passes interesting messages (yes, interesting, because you pick who to follow and thereby are picking those who are interesting to you).
            If you curate your 'friends' list well, it wil

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by darien.train (1752510)

              Hate is a strong word, but it's your post, not mine, so I'll let you be your own editor. It could be that you really do hate it.

              I do hate it. It teases me but doesn't deliver on the meat. It's a million quiche appetizers being force-fed intravenously without ever sitting down for a steak. But that's just my opinion. If it helps you out at work and gives you pleasure more power to you.

              But the telephone? I'm an Alexander Bell fan as much as the next guy, but if a bunch of people called me up 150 times an hour with news I would freak out.

              In no way did I imply that anyone use a phone as one would tweet.

              There is no comparison.

              I compared it to the telephone as a contender in powerful exchange mechanisms per your post and I'm still waiting for a reply for where justify that Twitter is more powerful than the t

              • I do hate it. It teases me but doesn't deliver on the meat. It's a million quiche appetizers being force-fed intravenously without ever sitting down for a steak.

                Most of the tweets I see contain 1) a link, and 2) a brief explanation of why I might find it interesting. If you don't want to follow the link, well, enjoy some more quiche.

                I'm still waiting for a reply for where justify that Twitter is more powerful than the telephone.

                Two reasons:

                1) Many-to-many > one-to-one

                2) You don't get charged interna

            • by umghhh (965931)
              150/h??? That makes it more than twice per minute and you actually inhale all this and can do something? Well I was almost certain that Santa is dead and superman was a myth and there are no superhumans no more but obviously I was seriously mistaken as there are some and they are all on twitter.

              I find it interesting how the twitter works and how human interactions look like there, all the same I see no reason why I should waste time there when I am already wasting time here and at work, club, pub etc. Fro

          • No other exchange mechanism has been this easy to use and this powerful.

            The telephone's pretty cool too.

            Yep, I regularly get calls from Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg, Eric Meyer, Graham Linehan, Dave Mustaine, Jono Bacon, Chris DiBona, Miguel de Icaza, Derick Rethans and Ben Heck telling me what they're up to, sharing information, links etc. Seriously, I don't know what all the brouhaha around this twitter thing is when the humble telephone can do everything much more easily! The GP's post was a bit over the top...("No other exchange mechanism has been this easy to use and this powerful.")...but for the purpose, Tw

            • The only real alternative is for everyone to blog and publish an RSS feed.

              How is that any different from Twitter? Last I checked it was a micro-blogging service wrapped up in a bunch of manufactured marketing speak with a data scheme that provides maximum compatibility amongst various device classes. An interesting implementation of IMing and blogging services? Yes. Necessary for keeping up with who's who and what's what? No.

              From the fact that you've "tried" Twitter, "repeatedly" and "hated it every time", I'll infer that you tried it for short periods of time and never really gave it much of a chance

              Why can people not believe that I gave it a decent shake and just didn't like it? I try new software all the time (just like you) and then I come to a co

        • But I can't find a valid use for Twitter! Surely that means Twitter has no value?

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You've never used it have you? I now have the ability to instantly follow, and communicate with, all the experts in my field as if they were my co-workers. I know what they are reading about and what new technologies they are employing, instantly. No other exchange mechanism has been this easy to use and this powerful.

          Really? Did you miss the whole USENET thing? Newsgroups are far more powerful, far more directed, and just as fast.

          It takes a deft hand to chose the right people to follow, true,

          Not really a problem with newsgroups.

          Yes, Twitter is just a fad. I imagine it'll suffer the same fate as USENET, only sooner.

        •   There is a huge difference between following the commentary of people you know and trust, and following the commentary of the average idiot or claimant to fame or expertise. It's just like it was before the internet, the only difference now is that it's faster and easier.

            I only follow Twits if I have exchanged correspondence with them outside of any of the social networking systems.

          GSVEMR

        • by eison (56778)

          Do you really want them to teach you 140 characters at a time?
          Aren't web pages (blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, forums) a better way to actually convey information?

          • That's why people often post links to such things in their Tweets. They don't try to teach ideas within 140 characters, but they say, "Hey, I just posted this HowTo or such here. -tinyurl-"

            If anyone knows a better way of spreading that kind of info, short of Slashdot, let me know.

            Or maybe they should have a website with links to their websites, so you can go and load up dozens if not hundreds of differents websites to learn about their websites?

            I like the notifications I get on Twitter (and Facebook) of ne

        • by Jeprey (1596319)

          Plenty of us have.

          I'm not sure what you do for living but frankly if you time for tweeting all the time, but what you do must be fairly lightweight stuff, uncompetitive and you must be pretty shallow. Academic? Or low-level line employee? Really hard kinds of work don't allow for the Twitter kind of luxury or openness of communication.

          Frankly what I do is none of these. My competitors gain far more from knowing what I do than my company or our customers. I work in high tech, but not the Web 2.0 faux te

      • It must suck getting old, fearing change and wishing that it could 1985 forever.

        Being stuck in the past is a good sign that your life sucks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A more significant issue with this and any other measure of competence based on popularity is that being expert and being popular/linked to are not remotely connected.

        Expert != popular
        Expert != well liked
        Expert != referenced hundreds of times by people who know nothing about the domain

        Expert, at least in the old-fashioned sense, means knowledgable and skilled in a particular domain.

        The reason twitter is full of twaddle is that the minds of most people, collectively, are full of twaddle, and they like it tha

        • Expert, in the old-fashioned sense, was probably hunted by Good Christians for being a witch.

          Experts, these days, now have a means to hold up that expertise for everyone to ooh and aah at, and even better, to learn from.

          Why, exactly, are experts not referenced hundreds of times by people who know nothing about the domain? Why shouldn't they be? Shouldn't be use these tools we have now to help spread that expertise? Or is it really better to just leave people who know nothing about a given expertise, but

          • Why, exactly, are experts not referenced hundreds of times by people who know nothing about the domain? Why shouldn't they be? Shouldn't be use these tools we have now to help spread that expertise? Or is it really better to just leave people who know nothing about a given expertise, but might be interested in it, in the dark?

            Experts may or may not be referenced hundreds of times. More likely experts will be ignored and LOLCats will be referenced hundreds of times instead. Witness the mainly prurient commen

      • Some intelligent people DO use Twitter. I don't know why, but they do.

        That said, using Twitter as a medium for finding them is giving yourself A LOT of extra work.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by General Wesc (59919)

      Yeah, only dumbasses like Tyler Cowen and Aza Raskin.

      There may not be much expert discussion on Twitter, but when you dogmatically insist that everyone on Twitter is an idiot you're actually identifying only one person as an idiot.

    • by feidaykin (158035)

      Only if you want collaborators, advisers and influencers that are idiots and use Twitter.

      Tribalism much? Making a broad, sweeping generalization about millions of people is generally a good way to be wrong. While I personally believe twitter isn't much more than a noteworthy fad, and there are obviously a lot of morons using it for inane banter, there are also very intelligent people making the most of those 140 characters and you can't dismiss them with mere hand-waving.

    • by davev2.0 (1873518)
      Yes, because @neiltyson (Neil deGrasse Tyson), @TheScienceGuy (Bill Nye), @michiokaku (Michio Kaku ), @donttrythis (Adam Savage), and various NASA astronauts are idiots and not experts in their fields. /sarcasm
  • by SIR_Taco (467460)

    If, recent, history tells us anything..... anything that is "social" that corporations jump on board with, will die a horrible fate.

    Think SecondLife... MySpace.... Facebook (it's going that way)....

    Twitter has been corporation-ized from (nearly) the start and will die a slow painful death. It's like getting junk mail in your mailbox..... it just pisses you off.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Wrong. There is no 'unfollow' choice for spam. The ability to aggregate one's news feeds on Twitter is astoundingly powerful; it is up to the user to make the choice about who to follow and what to care about. If one Twitter feed sucks, drop it and move on. That is not spam.
      • s/Twitter/RSS/g
        s/unfollow/delete feed/g

        Still works!

        And I could even choose to add someone's twitter feed to my RSS feeds, if I wanted to give myself a headache.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

      by c0lo (1497653) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:50PM (#33198196)

      If, recent, history tells us anything..... anything that is "social" that corporations jump on board with, will die a horrible fate.

      While I tend to agree with you, it is not the Twitter that would die a horrible death: it is the experts that the PeerIndex will identify would they choose to hire their twitter-voice to the corporations.

      To elaborate: the most influential persons are upright-standers. For example (without being limited to):

      • the "cool" persons (non-conformists, I-don't-give-a-damn-of-what-you-think)
      • persons which stand for some principles/values/etc, or which have expertise/wisdom/experience worth following (with no disrespect for any religious values, think Jesus and the apostles, if they would have used twitter ;) )

      What do you think would happen with their stand if they'd offer it for hire/sale to corporations?
      Granted, if this would spread at phenomenon level (rather than in some isolated cases), Twitter's fate will be the death: as anything with the sole purpose to distribute advertising (i.e. corporate spam).

    • by solevita (967690)
      Speaking of slashdot; I can "claim" my twitter account and also tell them about what I do on LinkedIn and Facebook, but not Slashdot? Clearly they're missing out on the good stuff there...
  • Predicted (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordSnooty (853791) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:03PM (#33197672)
    There was an essay from around 2003 or maybe earlier which predicted that these so-called "news aggregators" would become as famous as the news-makers themselves, and would hold the most valuable positions in the information age. Someone refresh my memory, as it seems it might have been incredibly accurate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137)

      Marshall McLuhan said "The Medium is the Message" nearly half a century ago.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Stating anything in 140 character tweets give what kind of message?

        Twitter is nothing but a circle jerk.

        • Well, you did manage to get your point across quite vehemently in 104 characters, and so did I just now!

        • by blair1q (305137)

          "Stating anything in 140 character tweets give what kind of message? Twitter is nothing but a circle jerk."

          Your message is 111 chars long.

          Tug harder, you're not that pretty.

      • by owlnation (858981) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:23PM (#33197898)

        "Marshall McLuhan said "The Medium is the Message" nearly half a century ago."

        He also coined "Global Village", and the problem with twitter is that it makes you realize that there's one hell of a lot of village idiots in the village.

        • by blair1q (305137)

          They give you an Unfollow button to go with the Follow button.

          But if you're going to click on Trending Topics there's no help I can give you.

        • the problem with twitter is that it makes you realize that there's one hell of a lot of village idiots in the village.

            I sense a new sig meme approaching, force five... wait, wait, it's redundant! Cancel the alert!

        • by tsm_sf (545316)
          He also coined "Global Village", and the problem with twitter is that it makes you realize that there's one hell of a lot of village idiots in the village.

          The intelligent man realizes that he's surrounded by idiots. The wise man knows that he's one of them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DeadDecoy (877617)
      The problem I see with this, is that twitter twitter seems like a constrained information channel that would limit how much an expert could convey. Imagine if we tried cramming Knuth's collected works down a 140 character channel: and for the proof of why this sorting algorithm is O(n log n) see tweets 234 - 702. Tweets, because of their brevity are more suited to spontaneously commenting like: meet at mvies 2pm or omg I have bellybutton lint lol.
      • You've never heard of a hyperlink? What if one was to link to Knuth's collected works? There would still be ~100 characters left to add a comment or a joke.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DeadDecoy (877617)
          That's certainly a possibility, but tweeting a hyperlink seems like adding a superfluous layer of indirection when google and google scholar already do a pretty good job of looking up people by topic. But, to be fair, I wouldn't know if useful information can be extracted from tweets until it's done.
          • If you respect the opinion of someone you follow, they may point you towards an interesting article or subject that you might not have considered or encountered on your own. It becomes a helpful tool that even allows the user to ask questions or communicate with the poster of the Tweet in question. And the news is so immediate! I really do like that part as well. One must use it correctly (no bathroom break Tweets, please- if there is too much of that than I drop that feed), but once that is taken care of,

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          And in that context, assuming they understand the material, it really doesn't matter much if the people commenting are experts or celebrities, so long as the people they're linking to are the former and not the latter.

          Unfortunately, when used in this manner, Twitter becomes little more than an RSS aggregator, but without the consistency of the feed being provided by the same people who created the original stories, often with summaries written by people who don't fully comprehend the subject.

          Any limit that

          • I heartily disagree- I have a few Twitter accounts set up. One feeds my sports addiction (which really enhances watching games by getting information from beat writers and others) and one that I use professionally to follow and communicate with those in my field (GIS) who have been working in it for decades and can help advance my career by pointing out new technologies and career opportunities. And I am able to reach out and talk with them if I am struggling with a script. I have really learned a lot from

        • by jvkjvk (102057)

          But the channel itself does not convey that information, it merely points to the location.

          The information contained in that link is simply the location of the text.

          I do not believe the information content contained in a set of characters includes any use of such a referent.

          Regards.

      • They wouldn't be publishing their collected works to twitter, they would probably be commenting on things other people say. For instance, if a news article is circulating--say on the P=NP--which they could intelligently (but concisely) comment on, they would, possibly linking to a blog post, or to a post/paper they already wrote a while ago, or to a post/paper they read a while ago from another informed source.

        Being a source of information means more than being able to publish, it means being able to grasp

  • by bbtom (581232) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:10PM (#33197752) Homepage Journal

    ...their notion of expertise is limited to only the sorts of things Silicon Valley types think are valuable. 'Social media', 'cloud computing', even Apple.

    Actually, it'd be quite useful for both business and politics to be able to find if there are people on Twitter who are influencing people on science, who are influencing our democratically-elected representatives, our media figures and so on.

    (After writing that, someone from PeerIndex has just responded to me moaning on Twitter and said that they are tracking a wider variety of categories and will be exposing that in the future.)

    • by azeemazhar.co.uk (606883) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:25PM (#33197922)
      Yeah. That would be me. We have a pretty flexible topic model, which let's you build authority networks within those topics. So for example, we have a super cheery one called "brain disorders' (mostly neurooncological); and things that are a bit broader like 'Web development frameworks'; as well as things like "space science" etc. anything missing, let us know and we'll probably rope you in to help us. cheers aa
      • This is a really great idea. Thanks for setting up the site!
      • Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is an "authority network"? To someone who grew up before the internet, it sounds like a modern buzzword replacement for "propaganda".

        Is the authority network peer reviewed, and is the peer review audited and signed by people in the particular field that the topic of the submissions or postings are concerned with? How do you validate your authorities? Given the ongoing fight wrt wikipedia, it would seem to me that you are facing a pretty difficult probl

        • The Authority/Hub model was a ranking algorithm proposed by Jon Kleinberg [wikipedia.org]. The web pages on the internet would be classified as hubs, meaning lots of pages would be linked from them, and authorities, meaning lots of pages would link to them. The idea is that if you view a web link as an arrow representing "click here for more information", then you can identify the sources and the sinks as hubs and authorities.

          If you draw the relationships between people as a set of arrows (called a social graph), then p

          • While it seems like a good tree model for classifying the internet (see below), I think that it'd be best if the term "authority" was not used inside the model. That term has connotations that in addition to being misunderstood will likely be misused, especially by some of the not so savory media types.

            No offense, but I view the attempts to diagram the relationships on the internet with some amusement. The internet is and has been for at least a decade and a half much more complicated than

            • I forgot to do so before, but I should point out that I'm not associated with the PeerIndex described in TFA. Within the internet / web 2.0 / social graph / data mining context, the concept of an authority nearly always derives from Kleinberg's (very influential) early model. It's best to take the terminology as jargon rather than a fundamental truth. The media will always find a way to misuse it if it sells stories.

              As to the relationship with (proper) social science, it's not necessarily the most importa

              • Didn't assume you were.

                You said it very well. It's not really science, but the pseudo-science that is part and parcel of the phenomenon of consumerism; which has deeper sociological roots.

                I do object to the use of terminology as jargon, however. Terminology for the most part describes the use of words that reflect specialization in science, and should not be misused as propaganda. We don't live in a perfect world, however; and the misuse, and, more frequently lately, abuse o

        •   One of the worst misconceptions one can live with is to assume that everyone that one deals with are just as rational as one is; and regarding your particular project, that they would be willing to be categorized as cleanly, and that the algorithmic results would make sense when applied to the real world.

          Don't count on it.

          GSVEMR

  • My prediction: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deadhammer (576762) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:16PM (#33197824)
    This will be gamed by spammers before it even launches.
    •   PR personnel, as well (who in this modern day and age might as well be considered spammers for all the real net worth of the crap they publish; perhaps we should call them "Corporate or Government Sanctioned Spammers" )

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No need to waste any more time on this venture funds destroyer.

    Err, make that "global climate change" too.

  • Gabe is an authority on his own bowel movements, but it seems only Tycho retweets from Gabe. The retweet tree begins from Tycho. What does that mean?
  • Probably not, because many domains don't have Twittering experts. Go look for experts on programming language research, for instance. The terms used won't even appear in search results. If it can't be marketed, it won't be on Twitter.

  • There are lots & lots of musicians, actors, writers, etc. etc. whose artistic output I greatly enjoy & admire.

    But I don't get this idea of celebrity worship or hanging on to ever single thing they say or do, and never have done.

    To me, the whole system works because I hand over some money for some interesting entertainment (a book, a CD, a cinema ticket, etc.) and I get some entertainment in return. If it's entertaining enough, I'll probably go back for more of the same at a later stage and hand over

    • by neminem (561346)
      I follow a few (non-mainstream) musicians on twitter. Why? Because their twitter posts have stuff like, say, how their new album is doing, where they're thinking about touring, secret links to unreleased covers they've recorded, that sort of thing. I also follow one (also non-mainstream) game developer twitter, because their game is hilarious, and so is everything else they write, including their twitter posts. I agree, twitter is mostly just full of hype, but occasionally people do use it in useful (or at

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