Twitter isn’t a two-way thing

Harvard (MA) – Twitter is a simple one-way, one-to-many publishing service rather than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network, say researchers.

Confirming what many cynics have thought for some time, this week’s trendy complete waste of time, Twitter, has attracted more than its fair share of attention from the media and celebrities, whose tweets about each mundane detail of their glittering lives are avidly followed by slack-jawed, vapid tabloid readers who hang on every dull word.

When the activities of 300,000 Twits were tracked by researchers from Harvard Business, they found that Twitter was more of a marketing tool for celebrities than a genuine two-way communications tool.

Twitter’s usage patterns are very different from other online social networks. A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.

At the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10 percent of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90 percent of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10 per cent of users account for only 30 percent of all traffic.

The researchers say this puts Twitter in the same category as Wikipedia, where 15 percent of contributors account for 90 percent of all Wikipedia edits.

They conclude that this shows that Twitter is more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.