To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days

Twitter's suggested users feature

Last month Twitter quietly launched a new feature that generated a list of suggested users to follow. Most likely as a result of this list, the followers to many Twitter accounts increased exponential over the course of the last month. @LiveEarth, my employer’s twitter account (which is maintained primarily by me), saw a rise in followers from the mid 2,000s to over 90,000 between January 16 and February 22, when, suddenly, the meteoric rise in followers came to a screeching halt.

I originally had trouble pinpointing the genesis of @LiveEarth’s sudden climb when it began in January — I was hoping for spikes in followers surrounding the events we were involved with, but it was bizarre that our followers were increasing by 500 a day after months of being more or less stagnant. I wasn’t too preoccupied with why, I was just happy that we’d finally gained traction — quick glances at the latest followers didn’t reveal anything all that fishy. At first.

from 2,000 to 90,000 Twitter followers in 30 days
@LiveEarth's followers 1/23 - 2/23 via twitterholic.com

Pretty soon we were picking up 1,000 followers a day, then 1,500, and by the end of last week @LiveEarth was averaging about 4-5,000 new followers every day. In early February, I became convinced that either the suggested users feature was helping to boost Live Earth’s follower count or something fishy was going on. I inquired on FriendFeed to see if others were experiencing the same steady rise in followers and received no concrete responses one way or the other.

netzoo on friendfeed live earth

The suggested user list came to a controversial head over the past week after Jason Calacanis questioned the sudden rise in followers to @wilw @ijustine and @techcrunch. Brooks Bayne wrote a post suspecting that the suspicious surge of followers may have been automated. “Someone is automating/scripting the creation of fake Twitter profiles and then following a select group of people.

In a comment on Brooks’s post, Twitter cofounder Ev Williams said this was likely the result of the suggested users list. But this list wasn’t generated by some algorithm that generated recommendations based on one’s profile and established follows. It was a static list incorporated as the “last page of the signup process,” according to Ev.

LiveCrunch listed about 50 accounts believed to be on the original “suggested list.” LiveCrunch suggested the list was comprised of influencers as defined by Twitter staff. But why can’t Twitter recommend or suggest users to follow? Should #followfriday be banned too? Are the numbers really that important?

Last weekend Robert Scoble went off on the concept of recommending “influentials” suggesting it was possible that users could pay-to-play — give Twitter money and gain recommended status. At first I thought Scoble was joking. It seemed ridiculous that Twitter would accept money from a select group of users and nobody would leak (or even suggest it) for more than a month. But people got increasingly pissed (Scoble made this comment on Friendfeed which has a similar-yet-different recommended friends function). Even the LA Times wondered why none of its 80 Twitter feeds were featured.

On Sunday I noticed that @LiveEarth’s follower count had hardly budged and concluded that the suggested users listed had been refreshed to feature a batch of recommended accounts.

This is what I had always expected would happen. I also expect the follower account to diminish drastically as soon as Twitter expunges many accounts in a maintenance sweep of fraudulent and/or spammy accounts.

Does Twitter’s “suggested users” feature diminish the value of inflated follower counts? Should a better system be put into place to help n00bs get started? Should we really be taking this so seriously in the first place?

Speaking for @netZoo, I’m happy with Twitter just the way it is.


I Finally Saw Jane’s Addiction Live

Back in 1991 I remember asking — begging — my parents to let me go downtown to see Jane’s Addiction at the Metro. I believe Nirvana was opening. Finally, 18 years later, I saw Jane’s at an even smaller venue and the result was well worth the wait. Jane’s Addiction and their small body of work from 1988-1991 more or less was the best music that I had ever heard and to this day the raw power and authenticity of those songs remain vital and fresh to my ears.

So I felt like a 15-year-old last Monday night when I got to see Jane’s Addiction with a few hundred others at the Echoplex, down the street from where I live. And I’m still buzzing about the show nearly a week later.

Feel what I’m feeling by rockin’ to these great multi-camera video clips with soundboard audio that the band posted to Pitchfork.tv this weekend.

Stop!

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The Credit Crisis Visualized

Please take 11 minutes out of your day to appreciate [part of] Jonathan Jarvis‘s Master’s thesis, “The Crisis of Credit Visualized.” Jarvis is a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. May his grad school debt vanish with great haste.

The context:

The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. For more on my broader thesis work exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world, visit my website here.

Visualization was also a part of my Master’s thesis, though only in theory.

Facebook’s Walled Garden a Gulag?

share on facebookOn February 4 Facebook revised their Terms of Service, removing a clause stating that user content would no longer be under license to Facebook.

Well, now the terms indicate that anything you ever upload or share to your facebook profile — regardless of whether your account is active — is Facebook’s property to do whatever they want with.

UPDATE: Facebook did an about face and reverted to its previous ToS per a blog post on feb 17.

Did anyone receive notification to review the new Terms of Service before someone finally stumbled upon it — an outrageous 11 days after the fact? What if major publishers decide to boycott by removing “share on facebook” links? That’s not happening, not with the increasing traffic these blogs/sites receive via Facebook referrals.

This is the Internet, folks, and this is nothing new and hardly a surprise from Facebook — it was only a matter of time that they reworded the terms of content ownership (check out my previous posts on Facebook privacy here, here, and here).

If you’re someone who openly shares details and content on the Internet (as I do), you’re only fooling yourself if you believe said content cannot be “stolen” or used against you. Think you’re pre-February 4th content is protected (if you have since deleted your Facebook profile? Not likely. Facebook is the model for a walled garden online network. Now we’ll see how far they go with their power to abuse, sell, sublicense and manipulate user data and content.

The key passages of the ToS are below (new ToS / old ToS)

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Twestival: Around the World in a Day for charity: water

Twestival is on — it’s an event taking place in 200 cities worldwide to raise money for charity: water. If the goal of $1 million dollars is reached — as many as 200 communities, or 80,000 people will get access to clean drinking water. One in six people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. And the message is getting out there.

twestival banner live earth
Please visit the Live Earth video site — we are the global video partner for Twestival — and learn more + watch live streams from over 100 cities on this 12th of February, 2009.


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