OK, so when Twitter came out with its Suggested User List I went through a bunch of emotions. Hatred. Jealousy. Self loathing. Blaming. Anger. Denial. All that kind of stuff. I have lashed out at it over the last few months here and there. Pissing off Tim O’Reilly and Veronica Belmont and a whole raft of other people. After all, I had more followers than any of my friends did before this list came along and now they all have millions of unearned followers that were gifted to them by winning a lottery called “the Suggested User List.” Also known as the “SUL.”
But the other day I heard Tony Robbins give a great speech at the Twitter Conference (the recording will be up soon, I hear, it will be a must watch) but he pointed out that looking at the world that way is destructive.
So, I went back to a talk that Jim Fawcette gave at one of our offsites back in the 1990s (he ran the magazine company that gave me my first job out of college). In that slide deck he pointed out that there were two kinds of people: those who viewed a half-full cup as half empty and those who looked at it as half full.
For most of 2009 I’ve been the half empty kind of guy when it came to the SUL.
Today, I thought I’d turn it around and look at it as half full.
First, lots of people are asking what the Suggested User List (aka SUL) is. That’s Twitter’s list of people it recommends to new users when they sign up for Twitter. Here’s Twitter’s own blog about what the list is and what it’s supposed to do and how it’s chosen (I don’t believe that the definition is given is right, but we’ll go with it). It has a few hundred people on it. How can you tell someone is on the Suggested User List? Well, if they have more than 150,000 followers they almost certainly are on the SUL because that’s the only way I’ve seen someone legitimately get that many followers. Oprah being the most famous example.
So, last night, I took a different tactic — a glass is half full one — where I went looking for really cool people who are NOT on the suggested user list. I Twittered a bunch, here’s the list, hope this helps you find some more people to follow. Please do share your own list in comments here, or on your own Twitter account.
These are in no particular order. Hope you enjoy!
Twitter’s founders @ev (Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and cofounder) @biz (Biz Stone, Twitter’s CEO) ARE ON the SUL (you can tell, they have more than a million followers). @dom (Dom Sagolla, Twitter co-creator and author of @thebook and co-founder of iPhone Dev Camp) is not (he was the eighth user of Twitter and one of the original team). @noah was one of two guys who came up with the idea, as the story goes, for Twitter and even he isn’t on the Suggested User List.
CNN’s @AmanpourCNN (Christiane Amanpour) is the best journalist on CNN and she can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List.
@OndiTimoner (Ondi Timoner) is the only movie director to win the Sundance Film Festival TWICE and she can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List (her movie “We Live in Public” is an awesome movie about the New York Internet Scene in the late 1990s and what happens when one group of people decides to live online 24/7).
@Pierre (Pierre Omidyar) started eBay but can’t get into the Twitter Suggested User List. Of course Steve Case @stevecase started AOL but he can’t get on either (and he even gave a talk at Twitter’s headquarters a couple of weeks ago).
@OSTRICK (Marc Ostrick) did Obama’s campaign video and can’t get on the SUL.
@Zephoria (danah boyd, social media scholar) isn’t on it and she’s keynoting @sxsw next year that’s where Twitter got hot. Heck, @missrogue (Tara Hunt) wrote a book on how companies can increase their Whuffie and she isn’t on it.
You can write lyrics for the Grateful Dead, like @johnperrybarlow did (he also co-founded EFF), but that won’t get you on the SUL.
@paulocoelho (Paulo Coelho) wrote some of the most popular (and best) books ever and can’t get on Twitter’s SUL.
You can run camera for NBC at the White House, be on first-name basis with Obama, like @newmediajim (Jim Long) does, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can blog under government oppression like Isaac Mao does in China @isaac but that won’t get you on the SUL.
@IBMResearch invented the hard drive (among other things) and can’t get on Twitter’s SUL.
You can start Creative Commons like @lessig (Larry Lessig) did (he also argued a case in front of the US Supreme Court), but that won’t get you on the SUL.
@liamcasey (Liam Casey) makes lots of stuff you use in his supply chain company in China (you would be shocked), but isn’t on the SUL.
You can teach and make one of the most popular web 2.0/social media videos of all time (watched more than 10 million times), like @mwesch (Michael Wesch) did, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
There is 100x more smarts at MIT’s @medialab than most other places but they can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List.
My favorite recommendation site @yelp finds me lots of great places to eat but can’t get on Twitter’s SUL.
Every geek who uses @GogoInflight raves about it (wifi in airplanes) but they can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List.
@mattcutts (Matt Cutts) is Google’s best blogger and even he can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List.
@rsarver (Ryan Sarver) runs Twitter’s API team and he can’t get on Twitter’s Suggested User List but at least he probably has lots of Twitter stock options to make up for it.
You can run the Rhode Island School of Design like @johnmaeda (John Maeda) does but that won’t get you on the SUL.
@scottgu (Scott Guthrie), who runs developer tools at Microsoft and is one of the smartest people I interviewed while I worked there, is not on the SUL.
Tim Bray, who is one of the authors of XML, is not on the SUL.
You can be a grammy nominated musician, like Peter Himmelman @furiousworld (great show, by the way to watch on Tuesday nights) but you won’t get on the SUL.
You can be a former rock star turned physicist who works at CERN and now is a famous face on the BBC, like Brian Cox @profBrianCox, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be President at the world’s largest hosting company, Rackspace, like Lew Moorman is @lewmoorman, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can know more people in the tech industry than anyone else, like Buzz Bruggeman, @buzzmodo, CEO of Activewords does, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be CEO of a big and important technology research firm, like George Colony @gcolony is of Forrester Research but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be the chief marketing officer of one of the largest retailers in the world, like Barry Judge, @BestBuyCMO, CMO for BestBuy, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be a Republican Congressman from Texas who does videos from the floor of the House of Representatives, like John Culberson @johnculberson does, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be a conference where Bill Gates releases mosquitos, like @tedtalks did, on stage, but that doesn’t mean you will get on the SUL.
You can invent the wiki like @WardCunningham (Ward Cunningham) did but you won’t get on the SUL.
You can invent a lot of what made blogging possible, like Dave Winer @davewiner did, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can invest in Twitter, like Fred Wilson @fredwilson did, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can say Office and RSS and Comments are dead, like Steve Gillmor @stevegillmor has over the years, but that won’t get you on the SUL. Maybe the SUL is trying to tell Gillmor something?
You can draw funny little cartoons on the backs of business cards, like Hugh Macleod @gapingvoid does (he also did the SXSW bags last year, and all the Techcrunch posters, among other things) but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be one of the best-known people in Tel Aviv, Israel, like Orli Yakuel @Orli is, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be one of Silicon Valley’s best and nicest investors, like Jeff Clavier is @jeff, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can run the Demo conference for more than 10 years, like Chris Shipley @cshipley did, where tons of famous companies have launched, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can say markets are conversations and co-write one of the most important business books of the past 20 years like Doc Searls @dsearls did but the SUL won’t let you onto it.
You can come up with the commercial web browser and do lots of other interesting things in technology but that won’t get Marc Andreessen @pmarcablog into the SUL.
You can hire three people to help you Tweet, like Guy Kawasaki @guykawasaki does (he has the most organically-grown Twitter followers that I know of), but that won’t help you get onto the SUL.
You can be the one who gets Scoble on FriendFeed, like Louis Gray is (and continues to find cool new social media startups before I do) @louisgray but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be a great photographer like Chase Jarvis @chasejarvis (who also has the coolest iPhone photo app out, released this week), Kris Krug @kk, or Thomas Hawk @thomashawk are, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be ultra cool robot maker @bre (Bre Petis) but you can’t get on the SUL (he founded MakerBot, which makes robots that make things). Neither can the smart people at @carnegiemellon (Carnegie Mellon University, which has one of the best robotics departments in the world).
You can teach everyone to make a mean cocktail like @drinkboy (Robert Hess) does (he also owns the Museum of the American Cocktail) but he can’t get on the SUL. He also is one of the smartest people at Microsoft and his team makes and evangelizes lots of bleeding-edge developer-focused stuff.
I blame Drew’s cancer that @drew (Drew Olanoff) isn’t on the SUL (he recently learned he had cancer and instead of letting cancer win, has started a movement with the hashtag #blamedrewscancer and has raised tons of money and awareness for organizations fighting cancer.
The @gatesfoundation (Bill and Melinda Gates and team) is making millions of people’s lives better but can’t get onto the SUL. Neither can most other charities/nonprofits.
You can be a “sir” and one of the best speakers ever like @SirKenRobinson (Ken Robinson) but he can’t get on the SUL. (Look for his videos on Google, I especially like the one about how schools kill creativity).
The best writer at Fast Company magazine @ellmcgirt (Ellen McGirt, who has done cover articles on tons of interesting executives and causes) can’t get on the SUL.
He might be a key player in the HTML 5.0 spec, but @diveintomark (Mark Pilgrim) isn’t on the SUL.
Bob Cringely @cringely was one of first Apple employees, works for PBS, is one of smartest people I know, is building moon rockets, and can’t get on SUL.
Everyone I know in tech industry reads @techmeme but that can’t get onto the SUL (great tech news from blogs). Of course, the guy who invented Techmeme, Gabe Rivera @gaberivera, can’t get on the SUL either.
This guy @tedr (Ted Rheingold) steps in dog poop so you don’t have to (he runs Dogster.com, which is very popular with dog owners) but can’t get on SUL.
Running Salesforce.com and getting the world to believe in cloud computing won’t get @MarcBenioff (Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s CEO) on the SUL.
If you read the “TwitterGate” papers that @techcrunch published you probably understand why @marissamayer (Marissa Mayer, Google VP) isn’t on the SUL. (The TwitterGate papers revealed that the Twitter team didn’t like her approach with them). Oh, and TechCrunch got kicked off of the SUL shortly after these were published and @arrington, who founded TechCrunch, has never been on the SUL.
Neither is @myspace.
@megnut (Meg Hourihan) was one of the cofounders of Blogger with @ev and she can’t get on the SUL. Neither can @LisaStone (LIsaStone) one of Blogher cofounders (famous blog and conference for women). In fact, none of the BlogHer cofounders, including @jorydj (Jory Des Jardins) and @ElisaC (Elisa Camahort) are on the SUL.
One of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley @tseelig (Tina Seelig) who runs entrepreneur program at Stanford University isn’t on the SUL.
MySpace might have just synced up with Twitter but @danidudeck who runs PR at MySpace isn’t on the SUL.
You can start Europe’s coolest music app (will be huge here too) called Spotify like Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) did but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can be a great designer, even one who works at Twitter, like @stop (Douglas Bowman) or one who doesn’t @veen (Jeffrey Veen) @zeldman (Jeffrey Zeldman) or @AvantGame (Jane McGonigal) but they can’t get on the SUL.
You can be the one who really made Twitter popular, like @leolaporte Leo Laporte did, but talking on his technology radio shows and on his podcast network about Twitter (which made it popular at @sxsw in 2007) but that won’t get you on the SUL.
@CERN started the web, might discover the meaning of life, or destroy the earth, depending on who you believe and is not on the SUL.
The NYTimes Tech team @nytimestech isn’t on the SUL. Neither is @huffingtonpost or @ariannahuff (very lame not to have them on it, after all, they have a seat at the White House but don’t have a slot on the SUL).
@nicknotned (Nick Denton) started Gawker, one of the most successful blog companies around, and he’s not on the SUL.
@savitz (Eric Savitz) covers tech for Barrons and isn’t on SUL.
You can be CTO of Amazon like @werner (Werner Voegels) is but that won’t get you on the SUL.
A great follow @MichaelHyatt (Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) publishes more bibles than anyone and he can’t get on the SUL. @god isn’t either. @RickWarren (Rick Warren, who runs one of USA’s biggest independent churches, and did Obama’s innvocation) isn’t either.
You can start one of the top three most popular websites, like Craig Newmark @craignewmark, did (Craig’s List) but that won’t get you onto the SUL.
You can sell more than five million records as a rapper, like @Chamillionaire has, but that won’t get you on the SUL.
You can start Apple, be one of the only people alive on earth who has designed and built their own computer from scratch, not to mention be a damn nice guy, like Steve Wozniak is @stevewoz, but you won’t get onto the SUL.
Anyway, I could keep going. There are hundreds of thousands of interesting people who aren’t on the SUL. I personally wish that Twitter would just get rid of it.
It is causing Twitter’s engagement scores to go down and I believe that this has been one of the reasons that Twitter’s usage scores have started to go down.
See, if you slap your community in the face with something that isn’t merit based then people lose interest in your service and go elsewhere.
How to fix this? Get rid of the list altogether. Turn off follower counts for everyone and come up with a new “engagement score” that is more focused on how you use Twitter and how people engage with you. That’s more important anyway than how many followers you have, especially since so many followers are lurkers at best or bots and spammers at worst.
It’s time to change the game Twitter. Or leave the door open to Facebook.
Oh, and only one person I know of has turned down being on the Suggested User List. That’s NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.
Update: my real “SUL” (Scoble’s User List) is the 3,267 people/brands/objects I’m following (which include all these stars and many other innovative people). Follow me @scobleizer and then troll through the list of people I’m following.