Thanks Mike Arrington for taking us off the rails into Twitter idiot land

Yesterday Mike Arrington took us off the rails and into the idiot land.

Listen, I’m as egotistical as the rest of them. I can say “follow me” along with the best of them. According to Loic Le Meur and Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, I have more authority than either of them because I have more followers on Twitter. Their words, not mine.

That idea is patently idiotic. We have been derailed from the promised land of smarter conversations on Twitter and have moved into the idiot land if that’s the way we think.

Even worse, my post yesterday about this got 12x more traffic than my two video posts did (even though one of them was with the guy who named Web 2.0 and is my favorite interview of the year). The 12seconds.tv video post took far more time and money to do (and more time to think about and consume too). The fact that no one cares about actually learning something and trying a new service or hearing about how the entrepreneurs are doing it is telling me a LOT.

We’re off the rails and well into idiot land now.

Why is former TechCrunch author Duncan Riley is writing about celebrity news more on his Inquisitr blog than trying to find another tech scoop? Look at the traffic curves. TechCrunch is headed down for the past few months. Inquistr, Riley’s new site, is headed up.

We are a land of idiots. Idiots care about who is following them. Idiots care more about celebrity news than science. Or technology. Or geeky stuff.

Idiots try to rank things based on who has the most followers. Idiots can’t be bothered with thinking about adding value like Tim O’Reilly or Jay Rosen, all guys who teach you something in nearly every tweet and who I can’t remember ever caring about how many followers they have.

Look at this attitude close up in this post by Jesse Stay, who posted his defense of the follower idiocy on Louis Gray’s blog so it could “get to more eyeballs.”

Aaarrrrrgggghhhhhh.

Of course, Mike Arrington is not an idiot. Neither is Loic Le Meur. Neither is Jesse Stay. So, what are they up to?

They know there is money in idiocy. That is where their future traffic will come from. That is where their profits will come from. There aren’t enough smart people so you gotta create some drama to pull in the idiots. Steve Gillmor figured it out.

Maybe I’m the idiot. Sigh.

Now, to be fair, the post that started this mess, from Loic Le Meur, had a good goal: to make it possible to find better tweets in searches. In other words, to separate the news from the noise. Except Loic used the word “authority” and hooked it to popularity: the number of followers one has.

Loic claims he didn’t do that to start a fight, but that demonstrates he just didn’t know that the idiots would rebel against the thought that they don’t matter as much as someone else. It also fed the idiots who believe that the only thing in life that matters is celebrity. How lame.

Here’s why I’ve been saying for the past year that it is far more important who you follow than who follows you: if you follow people just to get followers you’ll end up being overworked, deep in information overload, and superficial to boot. You won’t have a philosophy. It +will+ show. You might be able to fool most of the idiots most of the time, but eventually they’ll see the difference between the “collect follower” types and the “surround yourself with smart people” types like Tim O’Reilly or Jay Rosen.

I can smell the “follow me” types a million miles away, can’t you?

One crowd is off the rails in idiot land, the other is building something of lasting value.

Which one do we want to incent? The “follow me” idiots? Or the “try to get smarter” crowd?

I know I’m swimming upstream, but I want to get smarter. Screw the page views. Screw the business models. They all are lame anyway. I want better friends. Better content. Better news. Better ideas. That means I need to find better people to be part of my social network. Idiots be damned.

So, when I say that listing search results by numbers of followers is idiotic, now you know where I’m coming from. There are a lot better ways to find the high value Tweets. I covered that yesterday. But no one cared, which is why that post didn’t show up on TechMeme.

I guess I should just give in and join the idiot crowd. I bet this post gets on TechMeme or, even better, Digg.

Aaarrrrrggggghhhhh.

See, this is why I really don’t care about Mike Arrington’s claim that I should blog more because my traffic is going down. If I cared only about building a business or making money then he’d definitely be right.

My goal, though, is to have smarter conversations every day. Does anyone else care about that goal? Or are you all wanting to be celebrities so you can sell stuff on your Twitter account, like what Jesse Stay is advocating for?

How do we get this back on the tracks now that Arrington has derailed us?

285 thoughts on “Thanks Mike Arrington for taking us off the rails into Twitter idiot land

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  4. That idea is patently idiotic. We have been derailed from the promised land of smarter conversations on Twitter and have moved into the idiot land if that’s the way we think. I absolutely agree with this point of view

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  5. My favourite comment by Arjun Singh

    “The larger issue, I think, goes way beyond twitter. How do we encourage a society where people value Tim O Reilly over Britney Spears? That’s a noble question to ponder, IMHO”

    Robert – surely it would be valuable for you to hire someone to help consume all the comments etc. so you can unleash your talents elsewhere?

  6. My favourite comment by Arjun Singh

    “The larger issue, I think, goes way beyond twitter. How do we encourage a society where people value Tim O Reilly over Britney Spears? That’s a noble question to ponder, IMHO”

    Robert – surely it would be valuable for you to hire someone to help consume all the comments etc. so you can unleash your talents elsewhere?

  7. Does the world really cares THAT much about twitter and how they implement their f*ing flawed search functionality?

    Oh boy, the never ending stamina of echo chamber. Yes, Google AdSense made all us much more idiotic; we reward traffic instead of quality. Not much news, though.

    Your post with Tim had 11 comments. This one alone had almost 150, and counting. Does it means that this thread is more important than the former? Yes if you use the same twitter’s flawed logic of followers = importance.

    Paradoxically as it seems, what really matters is the real world. Those – like Tim – with focus on what really matters to real people are doing well. All the rest is pure echo chamber crap.

  8. Does the world really cares THAT much about twitter and how they implement their f*ing flawed search functionality?

    Oh boy, the never ending stamina of echo chamber. Yes, Google AdSense made all us much more idiotic; we reward traffic instead of quality. Not much news, though.

    Your post with Tim had 11 comments. This one alone had almost 150, and counting. Does it means that this thread is more important than the former? Yes if you use the same twitter’s flawed logic of followers = importance.

    Paradoxically as it seems, what really matters is the real world. Those – like Tim – with focus on what really matters to real people are doing well. All the rest is pure echo chamber crap.

  9. @charles – Oh – c’mon – my tweets are more useful than that. Actually, I just looked at my tweets for today – maybe they aren’t!

  10. @charles – Oh – c’mon – my tweets are more useful than that. Actually, I just looked at my tweets for today – maybe they aren’t!

  11. I totally agree!

    Try following industry icons like VC investor Brad Feld with over 2K plus followers and do you get great insight in the investment community or the industry? No you get “I got up this morning and ran” ” I love boulder” (5 times a week) “thinking about running” WTF??

    Is twitter becoming reality TV?

  12. I totally agree!

    Try following industry icons like VC investor Brad Feld with over 2K plus followers and do you get great insight in the investment community or the industry? No you get “I got up this morning and ran” ” I love boulder” (5 times a week) “thinking about running” WTF??

    Is twitter becoming reality TV?

  13. The problem, the way I see it, is not the “ranking”, the problem is that this ranking would be the only way to filter. Imagine that google’s search results are sorted by pagerank – and only by page rank. You got something really hot/useful on your site, but until after the next Google’s PR update – no one would notice, because you’re #7 on page 12.
    Twitter will instantly become useless – to those who’s voices aren’t loud enough – once that feature will be turned on.

  14. The problem, the way I see it, is not the “ranking”, the problem is that this ranking would be the only way to filter. Imagine that google’s search results are sorted by pagerank – and only by page rank. You got something really hot/useful on your site, but until after the next Google’s PR update – no one would notice, because you’re #7 on page 12.
    Twitter will instantly become useless – to those who’s voices aren’t loud enough – once that feature will be turned on.

  15. Let’s face it the internet is a representation of relationships in the real world, human interaction, something which is complex. There are all sorts of people, from different cultures, with different background, jobs, income. Of course there are many idiots around, although that is not an absolute truth. What might look like an idiot to Robert Scoble may not be for Mike Arrington or this modest twitterer. People tend to be competitive, idiots or not, people like to vote, express opinions, be loved, be followed, heard and flattered. Then there are variants, some do it for the money, some for power, for friendship, to learn, to satisfy their own ego. Many of the so called A-List twitterers got there because they won such reputation thanks to the fact they were already influential when it all started. I agree with Liz, the number does not mean you are the voice to be heard, a sort of Tim O’Reilly just to give an example. I would also like to be surrounded by influential voices, sift my followers and only deal with intellectually prepared leaders that understood better, that led the way and set the path. I would like to learn from them and if possible have something important to say. But in doing so I would have to turn my back on other people that at the same might be looking for influential people and not me. Summing up this is not just about who you follow, at least in my opinion. I think there are not many voices, leaders, intellectuals, gurus that can be so, that can be heard without their audience, followers. It doesn’t make sense. Having thousands of useless followers of the spamming kind must be a pain in the a** (I agree on that!). On the other hand, there is an authentic cohort of idiots up there! Although a good amount is also respectable and respectful. Of course these are general thoughts that I thought were interesting to say now that you brought the issue. I like your interviews and friendfeed activity so I am one of those inconditionals :)

  16. Let’s face it the internet is a representation of relationships in the real world, human interaction, something which is complex. There are all sorts of people, from different cultures, with different background, jobs, income. Of course there are many idiots around, although that is not an absolute truth. What might look like an idiot to Robert Scoble may not be for Mike Arrington or this modest twitterer. People tend to be competitive, idiots or not, people like to vote, express opinions, be loved, be followed, heard and flattered. Then there are variants, some do it for the money, some for power, for friendship, to learn, to satisfy their own ego. Many of the so called A-List twitterers got there because they won such reputation thanks to the fact they were already influential when it all started. I agree with Liz, the number does not mean you are the voice to be heard, a sort of Tim O’Reilly just to give an example. I would also like to be surrounded by influential voices, sift my followers and only deal with intellectually prepared leaders that understood better, that led the way and set the path. I would like to learn from them and if possible have something important to say. But in doing so I would have to turn my back on other people that at the same might be looking for influential people and not me. Summing up this is not just about who you follow, at least in my opinion. I think there are not many voices, leaders, intellectuals, gurus that can be so, that can be heard without their audience, followers. It doesn’t make sense. Having thousands of useless followers of the spamming kind must be a pain in the a** (I agree on that!). On the other hand, there is an authentic cohort of idiots up there! Although a good amount is also respectable and respectful. Of course these are general thoughts that I thought were interesting to say now that you brought the issue. I like your interviews and friendfeed activity so I am one of those inconditionals :)

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