The Ring of Gyges and the cat’s backside


The Ring of Gyges is a magic ring discussed by the philosopher Plato in his Republic. It granted the wearer the gift of invisibility, and was used by plato to explore what would happen if an intelligent,  moral and upstanding man were to be given this gift.  After all, he’d be able to go anywhere, do anything, with the absolute minimum risk of being caught. Would such a man be able to stay morally and ethically upstanding, or would his morality stretch as far as “I can’t get caught, therefore it’s party time!”

In other words – would such a ‘gift’ corrupt even the most upright citizen.

Sounds familiar? Well, HG Wells’ ‘The Invisible Man’ certainly features this idea, and it’s been suggested that the ‘One Ring’ in The Lord of the Rings is a more forceful version of the Ring of Gyges – one that actually corrupts the wearer rather than allows the wearer to corrupt themselves.

I started writing this post – OK, I wrote the title – about 3 years ago, back in 2012, just before I fell away from blogging. Back then I was pondering whether the relative anonymity of the Internet was acting like a Ring of Gyges that was available to anyone online who chose to operate behind an anonymous account or an alias. At the time I was still recovering from spending a few years as Admin of an online forum with a few folks wearing such rings and acting like idiots.

What’s surprised me in the meantime – and what triggered me to finally write this post – was that it’s now possible to see people being total arses under their own names, often with a photo visible! Online anonymity in some places has fallen by the wayside, and I have to say that I expected people to behave more like they would in ‘face to face’ discussions.  It’s a sobering experience to look through the posts in discussion threads on Facebook – where real names are at least in principle required – and see just how belligerent, aggressive, and abusive some people are, even under their own names.

I have to say that I’ve been surprised. I’ve always used my own name when publishing online; part of this is that ‘once a writer, always a writer’, and I just love seeing my name out there, but there’s also an element of removing the temptation to behave badly!

So…is the Ring of Gyges an outmoded concept? Are people just more shameless? Do folks just not care when they’re being badly behaved and everyone can ‘name and shame’ them for it?

Or, is it what might be called the ‘cat’s backside’ syndrome? Just after we adopted our cat Jarvis he was quite nervous for a few days, and would try and hide in various places around the house.  Unfortunately, his approach to hiding was to hide his head so he couldn’t see me, whilst leaving his backside out in the open.  Not a cunning plan….

Maybe all these folks just think that because they can’t see us, we can’t see them?  And if so, just how dumb are they?

And Facebook carries on downwards….

In my last post I questioned the value given to Facebook in their IPO.  It became clear at the close of first day trading that things hadn’t gone according to plan; the usual ‘Day One Spike’ associated with high profile technology IPOs just didn’t happen, and I have a feeling that the only reason that Facebook didn’t end the day lower than it did was because the underwriters of the IPO bought up stock to shore up the price.

Of course, that what the under-writers of IPOs are partially there for; they pick up the spare stock and keep the price up, but given that the slump has continued for two days trading now, I am beginning to wonder whether the initial price was artificially inflated for the egos / benefit of those involved.  If so, that is totally unacceptable beccause it means that the ‘civilian’ buyers of the stock – those not in on the game – paid over the value of the company from day one, and it is increasingly possible (and indeed likely) that everyone involved in the launch KNEW that.

There is an interesting article here, by Michael Wolff, that states what quite a few of us have wondered for a while.  Given that, beneath the hype, branding and bells and whistles, Facebook is an advert supported site, how on earth do they expect to make such money as a 100 billion dollar price tag suggests?  And Wolff should know; he wrote the book ‘Burn Rate’, which documented the crash and burn of the first dot-com boom a decade ago.

The problem is that it’s not just Facebook at risk here; a bad IPO in a sector colours the views of those preparing other stock market launches.  Out there are lots of technology start ups, all wondering about financing.  A solid Facebook IPO would have possibly led to a market place that was more willing to put money in to smaller companies that needed much less money and that might even have been producing goods and services of greater value than the ability to play Farmville or post statuses.  And by ‘solid’ I mean exactly that – a sound valuation – if the fall continues then it may well be that a valuation of 40 to 50 billion dollars was MUCH more realistic – that didn’t require urgent under-writer support, that showed healthy secondary trading over the days after launch and that also showed a steady growth as people realised that Facebook had some value that could be exploited – given availability of money.  After all, that’s what an IPO was ORIGINALLY supposed to do – give some money to the founders but mainly give the company money to develop.

As it is, Facebook was clearly over-valued – whether by intention or accident we don’t know – and analysts are finally asking the questions that should have been asked months ago.  Facebook’s last minute purchase of Instagram to try and grab mobile traction looks increasingly like panic.  The company may settle down to around $50 billion dollars – still, IMO, overvalued but the markets could probably live with it.

But back to those other comanies in the wings.  Based on previous technology trading cycles, a bad high profile IPO:

  • Makes the companies queuing up to do an IPO pause in their tracks.
  • Reduces the value of such IPOs and dents market confidence
  • Causes investors in any technology companies to remember that there might be a downside risk and so be more careful about investing – which isn’t always a bad thing, but sucks if you’re a ‘real value’ company.

Historically this tends to lead to a deflation of the tech market place – the last thing we need now.

As is said in the Pythian Scrolls in Battlestar Galactica : “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

The obligatory Facebook IPO post….or…Hey! Zuckerberg! You’re my bitch!

Well, despite the state of the world economy, Facebook finally managed it’s IPO today and ended the day at roughly the same level as it launched at, having had a high point of about $42 and a start point of $38.  Now, when I were a lad we did IPOs differently – take the VA Linux IPO in the 1990s – a first day increase of nearly 700% on the starting price…..

But the world is different today, and the markets are older – although given recent behaviours not any wiser.   The Facebook IPO was never going to be a show-stopper of the type we saw in the first dot-com boom, no matter how people hyped it up.  But, even Linked In, that had it’s IPO more recently, opened at $45 and closed at around $90 on the first day. So what happened to facebook, and why should we care?

To start with, the opening price was, in my opinion, incredibly high for a company that simply peddles user generated content, games access, in game currencies, personal data access and adverts.  And that’s why we should care, because ultimately the value of Facebook will depend upon how advertisers and data crunchers value that content and the 900 million users of Facebook, and whether those users will keep playing the Facebook game.

Why did Facebook go public?  Traditionally, companies go public when they need a market in which to sell shares in the company to investors in order to raise money, typically for expansion, moving new products to market, etc.  In recent years – especially in tech industries – the IPO has been seen as a means by which the people involved with the startup can flog their shares and get rich quick, and I’m afraid that’s what I see happening here.

The big question is – how is Facebook worth $100 billion dollars?  That’s more than Ford and more than Macdonalds.  Last year Facebook returned a profit of a billion dollars on revenue of 3.7 billion dollars, which isn’t bad going.  Ford had revenues of over $100 billion, and profits of over $6 billion in 2010, having reduced it’s debt by $12 billion in the same year.  Not bad either. But Ford only has a market capitalisation of $38 billion.  So, that market capitalisation of Ford of 38 billions is related to a profit of $6 billions.  Now, whilst you can’t compare Internet and non-Internet stocks, if I were to apply the same rules I’d start thinking that Facebook should, on those proportions, be floated at no more than $6 or $7 billion.

Let’s be fairer and take Google as our reference point.  It’s Internet stock, after all.  Current Market Capitalisation of $197 billion, revenue of $40 billion and income of $10 billion.  Applying some ratios again, Google seem to have a profit of about 25% of revenues, and a Market Cap. of around 5* revenue.  Now, Facebook has profits which are not that far off of the same ratio as Google – 1/3.7*100 = 27%, so if we apply the 5* rule we get 5*3.7 billion – let’s be generous and say $20 billions.

So, Joe’s rough and ready calculations say that Facebook should have sold at $20 billions.  Now, I’m not a stockbroker – in fact, I’m not brilliant with money at all, but this seems….logical.  The difference between Google and Facebook, of course,  is the magic words ‘Social Media’.  After all, Social is the future, according to the pundits, so it must be logical that the Facebook valuation reflects something of the massive profits that people expect to make from Social Media in future.  Yes?

Right…let’s look at Linked IN.  Recentish float, social media company, not so many users, blah, blah.  Market capitalisation of $10 billion dollars (no missing zero), Revenue about $670 million, profits about $17 million.  Oooer.  So Social isn’t necessarily the magic word.

So what could that magic ingredient be?  What do analysts think makes Facebook worth so much?  Do me a favour.  If, like me, you’re a Facebook user, walk to the bathroom, look in the mirror.  Say Hi.  You’re looking at 1/900 millionth of Facebook’s secret sauce. Those investors are putting a lot of money in to the hope that we will continue spending money that can, in some way, be associated with our use of Facebook.  Now, I’ve not spent a dime through any Facebook related advert, game or doohickey in the 4 or so years I’ve been on there.  I rate every advert that pops up in my Timeline (except for the ones from Charities and non-profits) as offensive.  How we use facebook from here on in will make or break a lot of fortunes.

If you want something to put a smile on your face today, remember that 1/900 millionth of Mark Zuckerberg’s arse is yours.  Collectively, Zuckerberg is our bitch.


If it ain’t on your machine, it ain’t yours.

Yesterday I found out that Yahoo had pulled the plug on the Delicious application, amongst a few other APIs and services.  There will no doubt now be a spate of articles about how to move your content from these applications to somewhere else, and it may be that new services spring up out of the Internet eco-system to fill the gap.  But hopefully the users of these systems will have learnt a valuable lesson:

If it ain’t on your machine, you cannot rely on it being there.

This isn’t rocket science for those of us who cut our computing teeth in a pre-Cloud, pre-WWW world, but it was pointed out to me the other day that there are now large numbers of children and teenagers who have never lived in a world without the WWW.  Scary.

A couple of years ago a Forum that I was an occasional contributor to shut up shop in a sudden and pretty final manner – the owner simply closed the shutters with little warning.  For me this was vaguely annoying but no biggie, but for other users of the Forum who’d committed some pretty large articles and intellectually robust commentary over a period of time, it was almost the equivalent of Edmund Blackadder having his novel burnt by Baldrick.  Of course, the site owner was perfectly within his rights to do this – free forum and all that.  But the general feeling was that a form of social contract had been broken.  However, one could easily say that the authors had not taken backups of their content…

I mothballed a forum myself a year or so back – it’s still online, all content there, but posting has been disabled.  I have to say that in these times of almost limitless server space and cheap hosting it almost seemed churlish to pull the work of others. 

But there may well be a point at which I let the domain go or re-use it for something else.  It’s perfectly within my rights to do so, and that content will then exist only as a zipped up backup on a DVD somewhere, and anyone who posted anything there, who wants it back and didn’t take a copy will have to whistle.

And there is the issue; the ‘universal availability’ offered by browser based applications, the Web and the Cloud means that many people no longer own their own data, in anything but an intellectual property sense.  They don’t know where it is stored, they don’t know who gets to look at it, search it or mine it.  They don’t know how often it’s backed up, and have an assumption that ‘smeone’ will be taking care of it.  The increasing focus of Operating Systems on hiving off document and data storage to servers ‘out there’ in the Cloud or on the Internet (like Google’s new Chrome OS) is regarded as a great positive for those involved in Internet service related businesses – after all, it could well be the next big thing in what you can be charged for – always something folks like. 🙂

There is something rather neat, in my opinion, about having your data on your hardware, under your control.  Yes, it’s your responsibility, but we need to start regarding personal or household data in the same way previous generations have looked after old letters and photographs.  If you need to work on stuff whilst away, then why not just put the files in question on USB sticks?

And finally, data ‘out there’ is under the legislation and jurisdiction of whatever country the servers lie in.  You might want to look at things like the US PATRIOT act before saving your data anywhere that crosses US jurisdiction.  Whilst you might not think you’re a terrorist or a troublemaker, the definitions these days are flexible.

Ultimately, there is something rather reassuring about having your data at home, under your roof, where the only way it can be seized or searched is when the stormtroopers kick the door in.

Social Media and the mob

One of my favourite films is ‘The Fisher King’ – one of the most haunting scenes in it is where Radio ‘Shock Jock’ Jack Lucas repeats the words ‘Forgive me’ from a TV script he is hoping to star in, whilst, unbeknown to him, thoughtless comments made by himon his radio show have driven a mentally ill caller to take a gun to an upmarket bar and open fire on people there.  The next scene in the film is of him three years later in a drunken rage after his life has fallen apart in the aftermath of the shooting, with his anger being directed at the actor who DID get teh role.

A few words uttered thoughtlessly in a public arena; in the film it was talk radio, but today it’s just as likely to be Facebook or other Social Media.  Of course, Social Media is a valuable tool with which to organise groups that are angry at social and political issues, for example.  But there are also a number of groups that go beyond what is acceptable:

There have been similar items featured on YouTube and Twitter – and as long as there has been any sort of media – starting with the pub on a Saturday night – there have always been public threats made against people.  The reach of Social Media though makes these sorts of groups and viral campaigns different in some major ways:

  • Sheer numbers – let’s face it, with Facebook you have a potential audience of 400 million people for your campaign.
  • Persistence and visibility – until such a group is removed it’s there all the time and can be found via search engines inside the Social Media site and indirectly form outside the sites.
  • Speed of activity – something can grow rapidly – much more rapidly than any campaign arranged through traditional media.

The obvious immediate result of this sort of mobilisation is the generation of ‘flash mobs’ – often for very good causes – where groups of people assemble, do something. then disappear.  This can frequently be done in the space of a few hours, rather than the days or week traditionally required to get a traditional demo together.

However, a less obvious but more sinister aspect of the use of Social Media is what’s best called ‘validation’.  This is something I’ve touched on in a previous blog post here on Joe’s Jottings – ‘Gazing in to the abyss’ – and it’s possibly more dangerously relevant when we look at the role of Social Media in generating a good, old fashioned, pitch-fork and torch carrying mob.

If you’re one slightly disturbed individual who thinks that a public figure deserves death, then the chances are that until recently you’d find very few people who agreed with you – or even if they agreed with you, would be very unlikely to publicly state it.  Today, the world’s a different place.  Your views can find validation in a number of ways – someone may set up a ‘jokey’ ‘Let’s kill X’ group or web site; other nutters may be more serious about it; or you might see groups on the Internet who just don’t like the person.  And you might see all of these people as somehow validating your point of view – a little like Jack Lucas’s deranged listener.

Let’s just hope that we don’t have too many people saying ‘Forgive me’ as a consequence.

Your email address CAN be harvested from Facebook…a heads up!

Or…yet another reason to watch who you befriend….

Facebook attempts to be what’s known in the online world as a ‘Closed Garden’ – interactions with the rest of the Internet are restricted somewhat to make the user experience better…or to keep you in the loving arms of Facebook, depending on how cynical you are.  One of the tools in this process is the Facebook API – a set of programming tools that Facebook produce to make it possible for programmers to write software that works within the Facebook framework.  Indeed, Facebook get very peeved if you try automating any aspect of the site’s behaviour without using the API.

One thing that the API enforces is the privacy controls; and one thing that you cannot get through the API is an email address.  Which is cool – it prevents less scrupulous people who’ve written games and such from harvesting email addresses from their users to use for other purposes.  It also ensures that all mass communications are done through Facebook.

Of course, if you’re determined enough you could go to every Friend’s profile page and copy the email address from there…or there are scripts that people have written to do the task by simply automating a browser.  The former is tedious, the latter is likely to get you thrown off of Facebook.

However, a method documented hereshows how this can be done through the auspices of a Yahoo mail account.   It is apparently a legitimate application available within Yahoo Mail for the benefit of subscribers.  How long Facebook will allow this loophole to be exploited is anyone’s idea, but given that I have a number of Facebook friends I felt it worthwhile warning folks.

The problem is not you, my trusted and good and wonderful reader, who would only use the tool for what it’s intended for – added convenience in contact management.  The problem lies with people who are a bit free and easy about who they make friends with.  If you do end up befriending a less than trustworthy individual, they could quite happily get your email address through this method, and soon enough you’ll be receiving all those wonderful offers for life enhancing medication and get rich quick schemes.

So…watch who you befriend.  Today might be a good day to prune out those folks that you’re not one hundred percent sure about!

Facebook friends limited to 150 by the brain?

facebookAs anyone who’s ever heard me rant about the ‘numbers game’ side of networking – especially on sites such as Ecademy, Linked in or Facebook – will testify, I’m a great believer in quality rather than quantity, and until the software on such sites can do more for me than it currently does in terms of augmenting my memory and the cognitive abilities I apply when trying to remember ‘Is Fred interested in Mousterian Variability or is that Jill?’ then I use these sites to more conveniently keep in touch with roughly the same number of people I would via non computer based means.

So I was pleased today to read this item, suggesting that the brain has a top limit on how many people we can keep track of.   It’s called Dunbar’s Number and is suggested by anthropologist Robin Dunbar to be about 150.  It shouldn’t be surprising; it’s been realised for years that there are optimum sizes for small teams of between 6 and 10 people, which fits with the old military idea of the ‘Brotherhood of the table’ – the ideal size of a small, self contained, fighting unit being a section of about a dozen men.  In such small teams personal loyalties develop and the team bonds quickly.  Larger groupings are employed in companies, but few large companies now look to any ‘business unit’ as having more than a couple of hundred people in them, as management becomes impersonal and the whole unit becomes less effective.

I’ve held for many years, even before the advent of Internet social networking sites, that the quantity over quality brand of personal networking is more to do with train spotting, stamp-collecting or the MI5 Registry than it is to do with maintaining close and friendly business or social relationships.  The numbers approach reduces everything to the level of transactions -‘What can ‘x’ do for me today?’, or ‘I need to know ‘z’, who can help me?’  Whilst this is indeed part of social relationships, the more is beautiful version of social networking makes it all there is to having a network, which is painfully sad.

The natural extension to this approach is what we’re seeing now; many ‘numbers based’ networking sites end up as platforms for the exchange of low-value ‘opportunities’ between people, which are rarely of value to the recipient.  Spam may be too harsh a word, but what else can you call it?  If you have a network of 2,000 people, then you’re much more likely to feel OK about ‘cold calling’ them all than you would if you had a more tightly defined network of respected confidantes, friends and valuable professional associates.  Same on Twitter – it’s easy to spam 20,000 people with marketing messages in 140 characters because you simply cannot know them all.  You’re working as a publisher.  there’s nothing wrong with that but don’t fool yourself in to believing that your relationships with those 2,000 or 20,000 people are anything other than, in most cases, opportunities for you to push your message to them.

Of course, true relationships do develop from these large numbers of what I call ‘transactional friends’, but they enter in to the 150.  The vast majority of these thousands of friends and followers seem, therefore, to be just stamps in a collector’s album.

I for one don’t want to be a collector!

The dumbing down of Twitter starts here?

dead-twitterI’ll admit it.  Deep within me is a snob.  As far as I’m concerned, the online world started heading down hill when you no longer had to know how to install a full TCP/IP stack to use the Internet.  Most online discussion forums should, in my opinion, have an intelligence test before you’re allowed to post on them – basically the ability, for an English language website, to string together English sentences without text speech or foul language is a good starting point.  OK…where was I….oh yes. 

Seesmic, the company who produce  the popular Twhirl Twitter application, are producing an application that they basically believe will bring Twitter to the masses of online users who are yet to Tweet.  The software has been endorsed by Twitter and developed in collaboration with Microsoft, who may be planning on installing it as part of Windows.  The program, called ‘Look’, is designed to be used by people who’re not currently tweeting and who may not feel that they have much to say – looking at it I’d say that it appears that twitter are starting to commoditise their platform – increase the numbers of users and volumes of traffic prior to some efforts towards monetisation of their network.  In yestreday’s piece about BlippyI mentioned the ‘database of intentions’; perhaps Twitter are looking towards a massive increase in numbers of users to swell the flow of data that can be used to generate another part of this database.   Twitter’s traffic / user levels have also been flat for a while – perhaps twitter see this move as a means of breaking through the current plateau and getting things moving again before the next new thing comes along.

Now, as you can gather from the title I have a few issues with what’s happening.  To some people, the idea of ‘dumbing down’ Twitter may sound daft – after all, many folks think it’s pretty dumb already – so let me explain what I mean.  Twitter is a platform that carries messages which users can filter and hence determine what they see.  In principle, therefore, a large influx of new people shouldn’t necessarily change the culture too much; after all, people filter which Tweets they see.  If Twitter does become a hotbed of text speech and obscenity (OK, even more than now! 🙂 ) then it shouldn’t affect most of us because we can filter out the noise.  This is a different proposition to spam email or discussion Forums where the signal to noise ration – i.e. the amount of good stuff compared to the dross – does decline radically when larger numbers of users come on board.

However…all this new traffic will be using Twitter’s infrastructure, and unless the twitter infrastructure is improved I can see many more occurrences of the ‘Fail Whale’ in the months after the introduction of this new package.

As for the dumbing down; I am concerned; if Twitter are going in this direction to play the ‘numbers game’ then I can see good content becoming harder and harder to find.  Twitter’s search facilities are pretty poor; using them to search through large amounts of juvenilia for the valuable nuggets of content is not going to be easy.


Crazy, obscene or good investment?

entropiaEvery now and again I come across something online that leaves me staggered, infuriated and thoughtful in reasonably equal measures.  The other day I encountered this little gem – a chap has spent $330,000 on a ‘virtual space station’ in an online computer game.  Yep, that’s right – a third of a million dollars on stuff in a video game.

I was actually quite surprised to read that back in January 2009 $600 million was invested in virtual worlds, and that in China ‘virtual currency’ is a $2 billion industry.  Scary.

OK…I’ll walk you through my thought processes now.  My first impression was ‘WTF? Is this man crazy?’  After all, I’m someone who thinks that spending thirty quid on a video game to be the height of extravagance.  I already started worrying about how his email inbox was going to cope with all the letters from long lost Nigerian relatives wanting to share money with him – after all, they probably reckon that anyone who spends money like this must be easy pickings for a 419 scam.  Next up came ‘This is truly obscene.’  Now this is obviously a personal judgement of mine – I do think spending $330,000 on a piece of game terrain is pretty dire when the world’s in the state it’s in, but it’s his money, he’s earned it, so that’s his judgement call.

Now, assuming he’s not crazy – and anyone who’s gathered together $330,000 in disposable income is unlikley to be totally barking, that leaves us with teh thought that at least he believed he’s got a good investment opportunity.  And, putting my own moral and ethical scruples aside for this post, he may be on to something.  The figures quoted above are pretty big numbers.  The Swedish company who run teh Entropia game have obtained a ‘real world’ banking licence, allowing them to run a bank.   Given that the in-game currency has a fixed conversion rate to the US Dollar, it’s a good move for the company.  Second Life, whilst not having the hype it once benefited from, is still an environment in which people buy and sell virtual goods, and most large scale multi-player games have some means of making real money (even if they’re frowned upon by the game designers).

 In other words, there does indeed appear to be money made in them thar virtual environments.  The owner of the Space Station is now in a position to try and make money from people who wish to run virtual businesses in his station, and will no doubt think of other means of leveraging his investment.  Of course, the whole model depends upon people having Internet access, machines capable of running the games, disposable income to play the games and further disposable income to buy in to resources in the game – like rents for space on a virtual space station.  I think I’d be happier with the investment opportunities offered by the online gaming world in a less recession-struck world.

But thinking on the positive side…to build a virtual city you don’t have to destroy a forest!!

The Social Media Numbers Game

twitter-logoI’m old enough to have used an address book and still have a Rolodex on the phone table.  When I actually sit down and think about the people with whom I have reasonably regular ‘quality’ contact in a 3 month period, either electronically or face to face, it probably amounts to no more than a hundred or so.  I guess it’s safe to say that in the world of networking I’m a ‘quality over quantity’ sort of fellow.  I’ve never been a great collector of large numbers of business cards or people details – collections are fine for stamps, coins and locomotive numbers but are kind of creepy for people. 🙂

Back in the late 1990s / early 2000s I used a networking site called Ecademy – I stopped after a while because it seemed that people were making contact with you purely from a sales oriented viewpoint.  Allow me to explain – if I’m interested in AI, and someone brings something to my attention that’s even vaguely related to the field – that’s cracking!  That’s exactly what I’m there for – and hopefully I’ll be able to reciprocate.  On the other hand, if someone steams in with a ‘Hi, I’m Fred, I’m in marketing, blah, blah, blah’ I get the feeling I’m receiving a boilerplate message which is likely to end up as a boiler room selling attempt.  The site seemed to encourage numbers of contacts over quality – and that’s one of the reasons why I eventually jacked it in.

I’ve noticed in recent days that I’m being followed by people who are following thousands of others.  And the odd thing is most of them appear to be selling something that is as relevant to me as a comb to Sir Patrick Stewart.  The ‘Bio’ of one such follower (soon to be ex-follower in my daily purge) – “A Business Dedicated to providing free online MLM training videos, articles, books and webinars”.  If I received an email like this I’d call it spam – pure and simple.  I know that Twitter has policies around spam, but my point is that most folks following 20,000 people seem to be in the MLM, ‘sales and marketing’, ‘social media consultancy’ sort of areas.  They’re cold calling – they sure ain’t networking.

Bottom line – there is NO WAY, realistically, that the content generated by the 20,000 people these bods follow is ever registering in any meaningful manner with these people – I assume it’s simply being harvested electronically and searched for keywords that might suggest a sales lead. 

Joe’s categorisation of Twitter users…

  1. Vast number of followers, smallish number of followed – publisher / celeb.
  2. Vast number of followers, vast number of followed – probably sales / mass marketing
  3. Smallish followers, large number of followed – probably spammer
  4. Smallish followers / smallish followed – personal / business networking

OK – it’s not a brilliant classification but it works for me.  Just watch out if you’re in category 2 or 3 ‘cos I’m binning you!

 Whilst I was drafting this yesterday, I came across this piece on the same topic:

Don’t get too hung up on your numbers on Twitter.  If you’re following lots of people, just check WHY.  Do they add value to your day?  Amuse / entertain you?  Educate you?  Guide or enlighten you?  If not, ditch ’em.  And those following you – just take a look at their numbers and think about what I’ve said.

And I hope you don’t chuck me off your lists. 🙂