(How Ike became the #1 Twitter Elite of Planet Earth)
We just came out of an election season where there were multiple ways to keep score:
- Popular vote
- Electoral vote
- States carried
In the above instance, we have a constitutional mandate that tells us which one matters. Life is often more fuzzy than that. Take the college football standings in the Big-12 South, where three teams finished with seven wins and a single loss.
- Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35
- Texas Tech beat Texas 39-33
- Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 65-21
If you spin them head-to-head, you just keep rolling in a circle. The Texas fans think their win ought to count for “more,” because it happened on a neutral field. The Oklahoma fans say Poppycock (or something equally rustic, and likely demeaning to both cowboys and cows), that they lost to Texas within the state of Texas. Also, Oklahoma appears to win in both overall strength-of-schedule and in point differential.
The Texas Tech coach, realizing his team was too far out of the conversation to matter, said his team’s higher graduation rate ought to break the tie.
Instead, the division championship came down to which team was highest ranked by an arcane formula involving two separate polling efforts, six computers algorithms, a field mouse and SCUBA gear. No one knows, we just trust the result. Or complain about it.
Laughter, the best disinfectant
Hidden processes are at the heart of how one can claim victory in something few understand. Which is exactly what Matt Bacak did earlier this week.
Mr. Bacak – in a fit of self-promotion, powerfully promoted his wares as a marketing guru with a press release touting his score on a service called Twitter Grader. He claimed to have risen to the rank of #3 in the Atlanta Twitter Elite. And every bit of it was true.
What is also true is that on the very same day, I truthfully proclaimed myself the #1 Twitter Elite of Planet Earth.
Unlike Mr. Bacak, I won’t sell you any expensive secrets. Here’s how it’s done.
- Find a service that offers some type of rankings.
- Figure out what impresses that service.
- Emulate, taking as many shortcuts as you can.
Holes in the System
Here are the secrets Matt won’t tell you.
First, Twitter Grader rewards people who appear to have more “followers” than they actually “follow”. There are many users of the service who pride themselves on maintaining as even a ratio as possible. So Matt added as many as he could – waited for the reciprocal follow-back – then did a mass dump of his “following” list. As of yesterday, he was being followed by over 1900 people, but he was only following 32. The ratio makes you appear more influential than you are.
Second, the location definition for “Twitter Elite in ________” is arbitrary and has no heirarchy. If you put “Muncie, IN” as your location, you will only be compared to those with a match. Switch to just “Muncie” and you’re in a different pool. It’s entirely possible that you could be far-and-away the TwitterKing of Muncie, yet not show up in a search for the state of Indiana. I chose “Planet Earth” for my location. I could have claimed the whole galaxy. It doesn’t matter.
Other than changing my location to “Planet Earth” for a day, I did nothing to game the system.
Tempest in a Twitpot
This is worthy of more than a laugh. There are a couple of object lessons here.
I can’t feel very sorry for Matt. Either he knew precisely what he was doing and ought to be ashamed for promoting it, or he has no clue and ought to be prevented from drawing consulting fees from businesses that don’t know any better.
Additionally, this is a call to feed your inner skeptic.
- When someone makes a claim, ask for the proof.
- When you see the proof, ask for the innards of the algorithm.
- When you don’t understand the algorithm, ask for an explanation.
- When you don’t understand the explanation, run.
Does this mean I need to quit relying on the almighty Google? That depends. Am I satisfied with the results? Mostly. Is it costing me anything? No. But at least I’m putting the algorithm to the test.
And you should, too.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, algorithm, search, marketing, BCS[/tags]