All Hail The (New) Twitter Elite List

    by Dharmesh Shah

    Date

    January 12, 2009 at 2:32 AM

    Twitter is all the rage as illustrated in this report on the State of the Twittersphere report.  The information in this report is based on data from Twitter Grader.

    Twitter Grader  is a tool that measures the authority and reach of a twitter user.  It has really taken off since it’s introduction a few months ago.  The software has now graded over 900,000 individual twitter accounts and gets used over 20,000 times a day.  The Twitter Grade is a score from 0–100 based on the power and authority of a twitter user.  It is used to build the Twitter Elite list — a compilation of the top twitter users.  (We also generate a list of the top twitter users by keyword and by geographic location ).

    The Twitter Grader algorithm has withstood a fair degree of scrutiny — exacerbated by the fact that the rankings generated don’t always agree with some other “top user” lists that rank purely on the number of followers.  But, one factor in the algorithm that has generated some debate is the reduction in grade that occurs when a given twitter user has a low follower:following ratio.  This is when (on a relative basis) a user has a lower (or equal) number of followers than the number of people they are following.  Stated different, on average, users who are following a bunch of people get a lower grade (all other things being equal).  The common complaint about this is “why would you penalize users that are following other users — doesn’t that go against the spirit of social media sites like twitter?”.  This is a fair question.  And, I have a reasonably fair answer:  One of the surest signals of a low-authority twitter account is that it has a very low follower/following ratio.  Using the follower:following ratio in the algorithm works great — except when it doesn’t.  Like when power users  like Guy Kawasaki ( @guykawasaki ) don’t make it into the Top 100 list.  Clearly, there was something wrong with the algorithm .  Guy’s a highly connected, highly engaged, highly authoritative twitter user (and I’d say that even if I wasn’t a raving fan, which I am). twitter grader

    The problem is, it can be a bit difficult to tell the difference between a spammy twitter account that is using automated follows and a high quality, authoritative account.  It took some near-sleepless nights, but, I think I’ve finally figured it out.  Finally, the  Twitter Grader algorithm has been improved .  Significantly.  In addition to the existing factors, Twitter Grader now looks at the degree of engagement a given twitter user has.  It looks at how well a given user is fostering conversations in the twitter community.  Clearly, Guy is really, really good at fostering conversations.  So, Guy is back on the Twitter Grader elite list of top 100 twitter users, where he belongs.  So are a bunch of other powerful twitter users  — and a few new surprises. 

    If you’re a power user on twitter and think your grade and ranking was too low before, please try it again.  And, if you’ve got ideas for how we might improve the software and make it more useful, please leave a comment. And, if you’re looking for me , you can find me @onstartups .  (Oh, and for the record, my Twitter Grade dropped a lot after this algorithm update — which is also as it should be).

    Happy twittering.

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