25 Mar WeFollow doesn’t do it for me
Everyone’s abuzz about Digg founder Kevin Rose’s new project, WeFollow. It’s essentially a Twitter directory that allows users to add themselves by category/keywords/tags. It then displays all users in that tag, sorting them by putting the users with the most followers up top.
This is where I breathe a heavy, dramatic sigh.
The problem with systems like this is that it reinforces an exponential curve of people whose cups already runneth over with followers. Why is this a drag? Well, because it doesn’t teach the avid Twitter user anything new. Take a look at the social media tag in the directory, for example. Gee whiz, there’s something called Mashable? And they’ve got 3 bazillion followers? Do tell me more.
While I love Mashable and read it daily, I already knew that they were on Twitter, and I’m already following them. Same goes for most of the other keywords I checked out. If I’m going to branch out my Twitter stream with new sources, I want to be surprised– I want the woman no one’s ever heard of tweeting interesting, valuable information.
This is where the kicker is, isn’t it? How does a developer design a system to provide value to sets of users with wildly different needs? It’s not impossible; Flickr does it with photographs. It can’t be that hard to deconstruct interestingness from text, based on some of the factors discussed in this blog post on the Flickr algorithm: favorites, who references it, how often it’s referenced, where it’s referenced.
I encourage people to find followers organically when they reach the point that they’re ready to branch out: look at who you’re already following is replying to, and check out their feed. Mr Tweet simulates this to a certain degree and makes recommendations (but still reinforces the many-followers problem of WeFollow).
In my mind, there’s nothing (yet) to replace the organic chemistry of interestingness in the human brain.