The i’s #iTwitter100: generally accurate, but missing the point

The Independent’s 20p little sibling, i, today published its Twitter 100, listing “a definitive who’s who of the UK’s tweet elite.”

As with any top 100 list (e.g., The MediaGuardian 100, or The Stage 100) there’s inevitably a minor flurry of people huffing and puffing about why so-and-so is in the list and they’re not, or why person A is higher than person B. For the most part, the rankings seem to be based upon PeerIndex’s algorithmic evaluation of how each tweeter interacts with their followers, ensuring that the metrics are a little bit more intelligent than just how many followers you have.

Algorithms which take into account engagement rather than link acquisition will always be more useful. And they can act as a source of encouragement, too: demonstrate to people that they will find Twitter more useful not by accumulating more followers, but by entering discourse with the ones you have, and Twitter will be more valuable for everyone.

But generally, the scope of the i’s list, of “all UK Twitter users”, is ultimately too broad to be of any particular value — except, perhaps, to the newspaper itself (some short term publicity) and those who made the cut (some brief ego-plumping). What’s more important for your average Twitter user is connecting with people that matter to them — and I’m not sure that there are many people for whom “based in the UK” is the only criterion for relevance.

PeerIndex’s pages do seem to be rather more intelligent than some of the other Twitter analysis tools I’ve seen. It does at least attempt to quantify not only an overall score for your Twitter account, but tries to identify whether you’re stronger in arts & entertainment coverage than in politics, for example. But still, the sort of metrics PeerIndex provides are better for judging how you are tweeting — and how you could be doing better in terms of engaging with those who follow you — than working out who is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than anybody else.