The Noisy Channel


Loic Le Meur Misses the Point of Twitter

December 27th, 2008 · 14 Comments · General

Loic Le Meur wrote a post today arguing that we need search by authority for Twitter.

His argument:

Comments about your brand or yourself coming from @techcrunch with 36000 followers are not equal than someone with 100 followers. Most people use Twitter with a few friends, but when someone who has thousands, if not tens of thousands of followers starts to speak, you have to pay attention.

I think he’s missing the point of Twitter, or perhaps viewing Twitter narrowly through the lens of a viral marketing evangelist. Twitter is a communication platform, not a marketing platform, and there’s a subtle difference. Much as I wouldn’t want my email or phone prioritizing people based on their number of friends, I wouldn’t want Twitter to apply some global “authority” filter when I’m perfectly capable of deciding whom I want to listen to.

It’s easy to speculate that Le Meur’s argument is self-serving, since he has over 15,000 followers. He also follows over 15,000 people, which shows how little value he actually places on following someone (unless he’s the world’s fastest speed reader).

I don’t dismiss his idea entirely; I can see some value in getting an aggregate view of online punditry. In fact, I’m responding to his argument myself, precisely because his opinion carries weight in the online community and deserves a rebuttal.

But I suspect that Twitter, with its design for immediate, personal communication, isn’t the best vehicle for assembling this view. Note that I’m responding by blogging, not by tweeting.

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roy Scribner // Dec 27, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Forgive my melodramatic mood this morning, but I find monsieur Le Meur’s argument rather amusing 🙂
    The revolution in Russia was terrible for the proletariat in the long years of its development and it is terrible now, after the victory. But at the actual time of revolution it was easy, and this was due to the peasants.
    Herman Gorter</a

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Dec 27, 2008 at 10:47 am

    “Elitism – It’s lonely at the top. But it’s comforting to look down upon everyone at the bottom.”

    — Larry Kersten

  • 3 Pooxi // Dec 27, 2008 at 11:29 am

    interesting point of view.

    althought the “authority filter” can be just optional

  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // Dec 27, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Of course. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be built. Rather, I’m trying to make two points:

    1) No one’s built what Le Meur is asking for because there isn’t sufficient demand. I think it would be cool to see a richer set of filtering capabilities in Twitter clients, including ones based on someone’s follower base. I don’t find number of followers isn’t a particularly useful filter, but perhaps others would.

    2) It’s ironic that Le Meur is pushing for it because he wants *his* tweets prioritized. From his post: “I have nearly 10x the number of followers of Ben so I had to be answered immediately”. That is, to put it politely, a self-serving attitude.

  • 5 Loic // Dec 27, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Daniel you quoted me out of context, see what I wrote just after “Ben has almost 2000 followers, I think Sprint should actually pay attention too.”

  • 6 Daniel Tunkelang // Dec 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Loic, point taken. But I don’t believe I’ve mischaracterized your overall argument. And I hold that filtering should be driven by the needs and desires of listeners, not by those who stand to gain more attention market share by filtering out competing claims on that attention.

  • 7 Roy Scribner // Dec 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    …filtering should be driven by the needs and desires of listeners…

    Exactly – the client application is where the functionality belongs, giving control of the filtering to the user.

  • 8 Daniel Tunkelang // Dec 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I believe Le Meur intended for this filtering capability to exist in the client, or I’ll at least give him the benefit of the doubt. But there’s still a question of who wants this. If the only people crying out for this feature are Le Meur and Michael Arrington (who expresses his agreement with Le Meur at, then they deserve the overwhelmingly negative response that they’re getting in the blogosphere and on Twitter.

    I did like what Sprint social media manager Justin Goldsborough had to say on Le Meur’s blog:

  • 9 Jessica Gottlieb // Dec 27, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I got more responses when I had less followers, perhaps I had a better relationship with them?

  • 10 DigitalMofo // Dec 28, 2008 at 6:04 am

    You’re exactly reflecting what i came to discover after a week twittering. I’m still missing the social part. So far i see people advertising for theyr blogs and yelling… even some of the “gurus” that preach you should listen, never actually answer but rather spitting one url after the other.

  • 11 Daniel Tunkelang // Dec 28, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Jessica, it might be they felt you were more likely to be paying attention–though that would seem to depend more on how many people you followed, rather than how many people followed you. As I was initially getting my head around Twitter, I followed far too many people. I’ve since cut back to a number I can actually follow. As for the people who follow me, I can only hope they find value in doing so.

    DigitalMofo, we’re a species of people who like to hear ourselves speak, some more than others. But yes, it can be quite ironic at times.

  • 12 Daniel Tunkelang idealizes Twitter | Text Technologies // Jan 2, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    […] amounts to, at least in his eyes, the abuse of Twitter. (My word, not his.)   For example, he writes in criticism of Loic LeMeur: Twitter is a communication platform, not a marketing platform, and […]

  • 13 A Twitter Analog to PageRank | The Noisy Channel // Jan 13, 2009 at 12:28 am

    […] few weeks ago, there was a flame war about Twitter authority, and I was all too eager to throw fuel on the pyre. But now that the blogosphere has calmed down a bit, I’d like to propose a ranking measure […]

  • 14 Twitter Lists as an Influence Measure? | The Noisy Channel // Nov 1, 2009 at 1:41 am

    […] I’ve been chatting with Chris Langreiter, who is working on enhancements to TunkRank to address some of the oversimplifications of its model, as well as with Jonathan Glick and Ken Reisman at TLists. I’d like to see online influence–on Twitter and in general–measured more effectively. It will be great if lists can help, but we can’t make the same naive mistakes as those who were quick to embrace follower count as a measure of authority. […]

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