How not to critique Twitter

 According to a new study of Twitter content that's getting a ton of play today, there's not much gold in them thar Tweets:

A short-term study of Twitter has found that 40% of the messages sent via it are "pointless babble."

Carried out by US market research firm Pear Analytics, the study aimed to produce a snapshot of what people do with the service.

Almost as prevalent as the babble were "conversational" tweets that used it as a surrogate instant messaging system.

The study found that only 8.7% of messages could be said to have "value" as they passed along news of interest. 

With all due respect to the good people at Pear Analytics, these numbers strike me as close to worthless.

Here's the problem. The numbers in question come from a random sampling of one of Tweets; after the researchers gathered 2000 messages, they classified them and evaluated their worth. 

If that sounds reasonable, it isn't--because this approach bears no resemblance whatsoever to how people actually use Twitter. After all, Twitter's great strength is that it allows you, the user, to determine who you follow--which means there's no need at all to subject yourself to a random deluge of content.

What's more, if you're following someone--a friend, a politician, a favorite athlete, whatever--you presumably attach "value" to most of what they have to say, even if it's "conversational," or "pointless babble," or "self-promotion[al]." If you don't, guess what? You stop following them. It takes about half a second.

Even though I'm a Twitter user, I think there's a legitimate conversation to be had about the service's value. But this study won't contribute much.

UPDATE: Here's much, much more on the study's bogosity.

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