Tuesday, June 09, 2009

T-weet t-who?

Twitter has been big news for a while among media folk, with lots of celebrity tweeters singing its praises. If you're unfamiliar with what Twitter is and what it allows you to do, check here. And if you want to see how it's relevant to your study of language, have a look at this blog post from earlier in the year.

But a report on today's BBC news website, casts into doubt some of the hype around Twitter. Who' s actually tweeting who(m)? According to the Harvard research quoted in the article, 10% of Twitter users generate 90% of the content and most people who sign up only ever tweet once:


"Based on the numbers, Twitter is certainly not a service where everyone who has
seen it has instantly loved it," said Bill Heil, a graduate from Harvard
Business School who carried out the work. On a typical online social network, he
said, the top 10% of users accounted for 30% of all production. This implies
that Twitter's resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more
than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network," the team wrote in a blog
post.

So, what are the implications of this research on our study of the language of Tweets and Twitter users? If it's less of a conversation and more of a broadcast or publication, then does this mean that it's more like a blog and less like email, text or MSN? In other words, is it less of a conversation and more of a series of monologues?

Perhaps more importantly, if it's all about numbers - as so much language change often is - and there's a limited core of Twitter users generating most of the content, will there be much of an impact on the language styles of the majority of Twitter users who don't tweet? In other words, will Twitter have much of an impact on the language styles of most of us? Probably not...

Getting the Word Out 2022

WOTY (Word of the Year) Season is in full swing and the lists from the various dictionaries and organisations who produce them, along with t...