Dave Winer joins a long list of unhappy Twitterers including Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, and new media stars who’ve not yet translated to the mainstream media hot list. Winer already has earned 20,000 followers the old fashioned way, and mostly he’s not pleased at having that number dwarfed within hours by inclusion of the Twitter favored list.
He, Scoble, and others suggest this awarding of Twitter Whuffie, or Twuffie is in fact a cash gift, one that by extending this logic should be declared on the next tax return. Certainly it’s good for business when 100,000 followers show up. Or is it? Let’s pretend this is a game show, and follow the implications of such a gift.
On a game show, if you win a new car you have several choices. You can drive it away, knowing that you have to pay taxes on the list price. If you have a comparable car already, you can sell that car to pay the taxes, or sell the gift and pocket the difference. Regardless of what you do, the value of the car drops to the actual change in your net worth. And in a down market for cars, the relationship between the list price and the book value (or the even lower market value) may be minimal.
Now to Twuffie. Let’s say that the list price is 100,000 F’s, the original (book price) was 20,000, and the market price is… what? If Winer, Scoble, Laporte, and Calacanis were each declared winners, what would happen to the 50 other people who would want in as a result? Would a silver and bronze award be meted out? If so, how would this affect the book price, which by all logic should remain the same as it was prior to the award?
So we have a previously stable book price and no way to trade that price to establish a market price. You can’t sell Dave Winer’s accumulated experience, political chops, and technologist rank to someone else, nor transfer ScobleRank to anyone else except his new employer, whoever that will turn out to be this weekend at 3PM Pacific on the Gillmor Gang.
In fact, flooding the market with artificial Twuffie does little more than slightly downgrade the value of 100,000 F’s. If you can’t buy into the earlier market, how does the juiced market change anything. To understand why this is not a real market, we have to understand what 100,000 followers means more than 20,000 real ones.
First, followers are not eyeballs except for the first few posts. If we zoom in on one of those 100,000, they have approximately 150-200 maximum people they can handle without Track, which as we know doesn’t exist. In effect, they have a few different quotas they have to manage, one of which is the Twuffie group. If they have 4 groups to juggle – say, Twuffies, Realies, Newsies, and Bizies – that’s about 40 or 50 in each.
We’ll leave the first two for last and start with the Newsies: there aren’t 40 of them, more like 20, and they are verbose. I love the New York TImes, but I don’t read every article or even one in 10, and if it’s a heavy news day the duplicates with competitors like the Journal and CNN start piling up fast. Noisy and bursty. Bizies are similar – like the Newsies but sourced directly from the newsmakers – Microsoft, Google, Apple, the Techmeme flow, the broadcast networks, the Cartel. It’s gossip triangulated for business strategic purposes. Maybe 30 of them, but hard to manage at that flow.
The Realies are the guys that do the real filtering of the first two categories, which is why they’ve built a solid audience based on ROI. You follow them, they produce good to excellent signal to noise ratio, and the Follow size tracks the real market value of the information. Here’s where you make up the difference between the allotment of the first two categories and what you actually use, maybe a surplus of 50 or more. Add that to your 40 or 50 and you’ve got a nice round 100. These guys pick their shots, so it’s less noisy and more valuable than any other group.
Finally, our Twuffies. If they were already Realies, they gain new customers for their proven services. They don’t get noisier, just more are made aware of them. If they are celebrities, they have to learn the business of not spamming and overwhelming the pipeline. If they are Newszies or Bizies, they’re not helped by being on the list because their business is siloed volume and they are pissing on their shoes unless they are really good at what they do on Twitter, in which case they’re already Realies.
The net outcome of the Suggested List is the increased pressure for Track services. Large populations of newbies will be drowning in a marketing swamp with no time or tools to parse the stream. Once the Twuffies stabilize, Newbies will have to find services to separate the wheat from the chaff, and inevitably they will show up at the Realies’ door with hat in hand begging for scraps of triage wisdom.
The Twuffies will soon want to be associated with Realies, preferably ones not on the List, to trade on their Twustworthiness. The Twuffies and the Twusties need each other, the former more than the latter.