The secret to Twitter

I’ve been talking to lots of people about Twitter. Why is it so addictive? Why do new tools, shipped for it, like Quotably was tonight, get passed around so fast and talked about so much?

I’ve gone through stages with Twitter. At some point I thought it was important to get lots of followers. But lately I’ve been telling people that the secret to Twitter isn’t how many followers you have, but how many people you are following. Tonight Sheryl asked me to explain more: “why is the secret how many people you follow? Why is it important to follow so many people?”

Here’s why:

1. Getting followed just means you’re popular. Yes, that’s cool, but it hardly will make you interesting. Paris Hilton will have more Twitter members than I will, when she joins.
2. Getting followed a lot might mean you’re using it for a publishing system. If all you have is followers what makes that different from owning a newspaper, a radio station, a TV station, or, even, a Web site? Hint: nothing.
3. If you’re just trying to get followed you’re probably just needing attention or you might be Jason Calacanis.

But what does following a lot of people say?

1. You’re trying to learn more.
2. You’re trying to meet more people.
3. You’re trying to be a better listener.
4. You’re communicating to the world that you’d like to be listened to (golden rule: treat people how you’d like to be treated).
5. You’re trying to find out about more stuff. More events. More stories.

Now, who would you rather hang out with? A person who only talks and doesn’t listen? Or a person who listens to as many people as he can?

I know I’d rather hang out with someone who listens to more people.

Oh, yeah, and many of us on Twitter have been getting messages like what Mike Arrington got tonight. Now, I really don’t care about people who unfollow me anymore. Go ahead. Doesn’t make me feel bad. But the more people I follow, the smarter I get, the more connected I get, the better the experiences I have in life (see previous post).

So, that’s my new story. The secret to Twitter is how many people are you listening to, not how many people are listening to you.

Agree or disagree?

Twitter now reliable?

I used Twitter a LOT during SXSW and it was only down for a few seconds that I could see. This is a huge turnaround in reliability.

I’d love to know what they did to finally fix their reliability problems.

In the meantime, congratulations to Twitter for finally getting reliable. Hopefully it doesn’t go down tonight to spite me the way Amazon went down when I bragged on Jeff Barr and the Web Services team there.

It’s been a long year, but surviving SXSW is a big feat and one that’s really appreciated by me.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Twitter is growing again because of the reliability upgrades. I’ve gained 1,500 Twitter followers in just a few weeks. My friends are seeing similar growth.

Speaking of Twitter and geeky stuff like scalability, the Twitter tech team is doing a technology blog. Mighty geeky, with some cool stuff, like how to get your stolen iPhone to Twitter home!

Shelley killed Twitter

Heh, just kidding. But I’m seeing all sorts of blogs coming through my feed reader saying “Twitter is down.”

I was wondering why I was answering so many emails today. Hmmm.

Twitterquake: Sitting with TechMeme during earthquake

Last night I was hanging out with a small group of people when Shel Israel told us “there was just an earthquake.” His wife had called him and he happened to pick up the phone. I instantly looked at my phone and saw Maryam had already called me. Turned out that 80% of the people at the table had the same experience — that a wife or significant other had called them and checked in.

But what was fascinating was what happened next: we all went to Twitter where the earthquake was causing its own “Twitterquake.” Damn, were the posts flowing fast. What a lot of people on Twitter realized was there was MUCH BETTER information flowing through Twitter than on any other media. Quickly we realized no one was hurt, no real damage had been done, so we went back to our dinner.

In San Francisco most of us at the dinner didn’t feel it. I immediately left a TwitterGram, so that everyone would hear our voice and understand that nothing happened where we were.

But the more interesting thing was that I was standing next to Gabe Rivera, the founder of TechMeme/Memeorandum, as this was all going down. He predicted, accurately, that the earthquake wouldn’t make it onto TechMeme. He told us that the only way it’d show up is if it started affecting something in technology. He did keep nervously look at his cell phone to make sure that TechMeme wasn’t displaying anything about it.

We did talk at the table, though, that how we get news has dramatically changed. First of all, the word-of-mouth network was the fastest out there. Loved ones are going to probably tell you news like this before anyone else. Twitter is damn fast, too. Beats the USGS Web site with data. And that’s saying something because the USGS sites report quakes within minutes.

Lots of chatter on Twitter discussed that Google News, CNN, and other mainstream outlets weren’t reporting the news. The local newspaper wrote a story, but this demonstrated how inadequate local journalism is: Twitter had far more information than this story had and had it FAR faster and thanks to things like Twitter, Flickr,, Seesmic, Twittergram, and Utterz, we can cover the story with micromedia in a way that the San jose Mercury News simply hasn’t gotten a clue about.

Well, that’s the Twitterquake wrap up. Anything from your point of view that we should discuss regarding the changes in how we get our news?

Oh, during the quake we didn’t lose power, didn’t lose cell phones, and didn’t lose access to Twitter. During a really big quake there will be lots of infrastructure down, but SOMEONE will be able to get messages out and that’ll really be interesting to watch how information gets shared if, say, all of San Francisco isn’t able to communicate with the Internet.

UPDATE: Mike Doeff was tracking Twitter for every mention of the Quake. Wow, thanks for doing that!

Where did Forrester get its Twitter data?

Peter Kim of Forrester writes on his blog “Our data shows that 6% of US online adults use Twitter regularly.”

I say bulls**t.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that many people are using Twitter.

My data shows that the regular users are between 50,000 and 300,000. A high percentage of which are outside the United States. That doesn’t come anywhere close to the numbers required for 6%.

Keep in mind that Hotmail has about 200 million users every month. Yahoo Mail says they have about 250 million worldwide users.

But, I’d love to be proved wrong. Where did this data come from? How was it collected? Does Forrester stand behind it? What’s in the report that Peter linked to (I am not a Forrester client, so don’t have access)? Does it contain other numbers that just don’t jibe with common experience?

UPDATE: Someone just Twittered me this: “Peter Kims’s source on the unique users (he says 447,000 in Aug07) is Nielsen//NetRatings.” I doubt that’s data for “regular” users, or even online adult users in the US. I could see total registered users being that high, but that’d be world-wide. Watch someday and you’ll see that there are lots of users outside America.

UPDATE 2: Peter Kim responded here, and says they didn’t get the data from Nielsen. I still think the survey is very flawed if it’s bringing back such numbers.