Recently, I read what seem to be two opposing opinions on Twitter. In The Secret to Tweeter, Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) argues that the more people you follow, the more you show that you are a person who listens and interested in what others say. This is better, he says, than to just be listened to (i.e., be followed). So for him, Tweeter is a place to listen and to learn via social interaction.
In Scoble and The Twitterized Conversational Index, Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) asserts that Twitter is "a party, not a pulpit" and that "it's not a good place to proselytize, to endlessly dump 'content' on people". He further proposes that the number of responses to your tweets divided by the number of tweets you send determines the degree of your involvement.
Different Faces of Twitter- Different Qualifiers & Quantifiers
Actually, there is more than one way to look at Twitter depending on what are your expectations and how you use it.
If you are interested merely in conversations- dialogs (party-like, or otherwise), then what @stoweboyd suggests is a good start. But, what about situations where you get a response to your tweet and then you respond to it? Should we not include your response in the mix? And, what about the first responder even if you do not respond to him/her? Doesn’t a response signify the involvement of the responder? These are good indications of one’s involvement and participation in dialogs, but they would not be counted in what @stoweboyd calls "Boyd's Twitterized Conversational Index".
Besides conversations, some people use Twitter to convey and get information. Many times, I enjoy learning about really interesting pieces of information or about links to interesting blogs (see, for example, the tweets of Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) & others). I think we need to take this into account. Then, there are other aspects of Twitter that might be important to some people too.
In the case of tweets containing links to other web pages, one, of course, could count how many times people clicked on the link. But, one needs to also consider how interesting the linked page was to the viewers and the same thing should apply to the tweets themselves or to conversations on Twitter. As many others, I like interesting, meaningful, or entertaining conversations and exchange of information, even at parties. Another good use of Twitter that is common in large urban areas like Washington, DC, and NYC is bringing people together in real life after “meeting” on Twitter. How do we quantify this use?
Not Everything Can Be Practically Measured
The trouble is that it is difficult to quantify the degree of ‘interesting’ and involvement. This fact points out to the general notion that not everything could be measured accurately especially some social processes and characteristics. When dealing with situations that have some aspects that can be measured and some aspects that cannot be easily measured or not at all, it is important that we do not take into account only the measurable aspects and ignore the others. On the same token, following metrics blindly could be misleading.
Twitter is such a case, so evaluating Twitter as a whole is difficult. Given that Twitter is a different thing to different people (e.g., party, learning or teaching place, or a combination of things), it is important to know what are the aspects that are important to a particular group of viewers (e.g., work environment vs. causal group) and find out if they could be meaningfully measured or evaluated and how.