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Twitter: the "Ten Theses" gain empirical validation

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Paul Mason | 08:50 UK time, Saturday, 1 May 2010

Following widespread retweeting of my Ten Theses on Twitter, research emerged yesterday that seems to confirm one of them with stats. In the first ever quantitative analysis of twitter, analysing a month's complete usage data, Haewoon Kwak et al, of South Korea's KAIST, have come up with the following conclusions (big PDF):

  • 85% of trending topics are headline or persistent news
  • Twitter users are 4 degrees of separation from each other
  • 35% of retweets occur in the first 10 minutes
  • After the first hop, retweeting becomes almost instantaneous
  • Any retweeted tweet reaches an average of 1,000 other users

I take this as provisional validation of thesis III and VIII for starters.

There's a slideshow and abstract of the research here. The researchers write a summary paragraph whose last phrase deserves a lot more thinking about:

"We have crawled the entire Twittersphere and obtained 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4, 262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets. In its follower-following topology analysis we have found a non-power-law follower distribution, a
short effective diameter, and low reciprocity, which all mark a deviation from known characteristics of human social networks."


  • Comment number 1.

    Signed up to twitter to have a look,but struggling to see any relevence beyond the latest social networking fad thus far...possibly because i dont have any friends on it and talking to yourself about what you are doing has a certain therapeutic aspect but thats about it!!

    In my day it was CB radio. I cant even remember what my 'handle' was now.. Dr Snuggles possibly after a popular cartoon at the time. I settled on jericoengineer this time...obviously i have been on quite a journey since my early teenage years!!

    oh and by the way in case anyone is interested I am typing this while propped up in bed,my youngest daughter has just brought me a daffodil bulb and asked me what it is, my oldest had just finnished watchin Avatar (again) and is now engaed in cyber chat via the disney forum ''club penguin''.

    The cat just came in and is laying on my discarded trousers on the floor (good job the mrs is working today clothes on the floor seem to elicit a disproportionate response from her for some reason..especially clothes with cat hairs on them).

    Anyway,apart from that, politicians are still, in the round, a bunch of grasping psychologically needy types with undiciplined minds when it come to assessing problems and solving problems and we are back in the realms of late night sunday meetings to bail countries out (this time) before arkets open on Monday.

    I thought the articles in the economist this week offered an interesting view into the dysfunctional decision making processes going on in europe at the moment concerning the greek bailout and the euro nations hand wringing over it.

    Greece cheated to meet the criteria to get into the euro it seems (assisted by goldmans), personally i cant see any option but for them to come out of the euro and re-instate the drachma.

    Nothing else is likely to be paletable to anyone I think or work long term. Clearly their economy was never suitably aligned economically, membership of the euro only served to mask that and allow the problem to grow.

    But will the european leaders face up to this deeply uncomfortable issue for them, which will role back the federalism they so covet?

    I ont have faith in them to have the moral courage or unleverage problem solving skills scientists and engineers have to resolve this.

    By the way, the cat is asleep now and i am going to cook some lunch for the kids.

  • Comment number 2.


    Do the twits have any idea of real issues? Do they understand that political party games are a symptom of Westminster Malaise. Are they discussing how to break free of Westminster's self-perpetuating grip?

    Newbury is starting to get the idea.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think you will find that the 'hip young things' are already moving on.

    Twitter is so yesterday.


  • Comment number 4.

    Anyone else remember this one from university days?...

    The The - 'Uncertain Smile'

    Jools Holland on the piano is sublime...

  • Comment number 5.

    Twitter version

    ''Greek bailout buys time but has no political substance or long term traction''

    Blog version

    Monetary union is not possible without genuine political and cultural union. You can paper over the cracks but eventually it will rise again, just as it is in the UK, nevermind Europe! Currency is tied into cultural identity which people tend to be very passionate about (I say this while looking at my bank of Ireland £5 note and wondering whether my local corner shop will accept it)

    Angela merkel seems keen to come across as being all statesman like, issuing a warning to other 'naughty PIGS' that the austerity measures germany will impose on you will be severe.

    Something tells me that will not go down too well with those sovereign nations...who does angela think she is ...our president?

    Who is she to tell us how to run our country?

    Do the Brussels career european federalists even realise what thin ice it is that they are skating on?

    By example given above i can see the attraction of twitter to a certain connected generation, journalists and politicians alike and hence it does punch above its weight as a kind of cultural subtext.

    However, for people like me whom are outside of that micro socio political climate, it does not have the same relevence.

    I have not given up on it just yet but those are my thoughts thus far.

  • Comment number 6.

    #3: What's the latest fad then? 'Talking to each other on the streets' perhaps? Wow, those KrrrrrAzy Kids!! ;)

  • Comment number 7.

    "In its follower-following topology analysis we have found a non-power-law follower distribution, a short effective diameter, and low reciprocity, which all mark a deviation from known characteristics of human social networks."

    so in layman's terms, non-hierarchical* in structure? Wow, fancy that!!

    paul, - by what Super-Hero Ability do you manage to keep track of social movements like this, whilst still following the International Debt crisis, and current Greek social/economic crisis??? :o

    *meaning pure consumer choice, bottom-up control of the information users receive and distribute, if i've understood the jargon correctly?


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