Is FollowFriday even Valuable?

I’ve been tracking FollowFriday for a while now and using justSignal to power – and today it really, really looked like FollowFriday had jumped the shark.

Here’s the thing. If you compose your FollowFriday tweets like:

#followfriday @joe @mary @steve @beth

You really aren’t adding any value to FollowFriday – as a matter of fact I’d argue you are just creating noise. Here is why. The simple reality is that I only follow about 10 or 15 people who I know well enough, trust enough, and have enough of a complete relationship that I would simply follow someone they told me to. And odds are I’ve been following those people for some time now and follow nearly everyone they would recommend.

So your @username missle for FollowFriday has no effect on me. I’m not following them… my guess is very few others will either.

But, if you compose your FollowFriday tweet like:

#followfriday Follow @micah because he came up with this and @strebel because he has mad design skills

I can determine if I want to follow those people based on WHY you follow them… not just because you said so. Even more powerful is the ability to head over to and enter a filter on the Tweet Stream (click on “filter this content”) for “cool” or “design” or whatever it is you are looking for and see JUST the FollowFriday Tweets with that word in them.

Today, based on what I was seeing and hearing it appeared that the majority of the tweets for FollowFriday looked like the first example. If that were the case – I’d have to say FollowFriday had outlived it’s usefulness.

Conveniently – because we us justSignal to track FollowFriday – we have access to each and every tweet sent about FollowFriday. So I decided to rely on data… and here it is:


NOTE: Tweets of Value is defined as any tweet that does not contain all @names and hash tags. Raw hour by hour data posted after the jump.

As you can see – while a significant number of the tweets (about 20% overall) were just hash tags and @names the vast majority actually contained useful words (hopefully) describing why we should follow the people being recommended.

I’ll grant you that we did not perform any kind of semantic analysis on these tweets trying to determine intent to state why someone should be followed, but I’m still pleasantly surprised that a consistent 80% of the tweets were not all @names and hash tags.

Make sure you tell everyone – only do FollowFriday recommendations with reasons… it is much more effective and keeps FollowFriday valuable.

One other thing I’ll take a moment to mention (shameless plug) – How cool is it that you can think of something interesting to discover from Social Media data and immediately be able to go answer that question? That is part of the power of justSignal… check it out.

Continue reading “Is FollowFriday even Valuable?”

Twitter, @replies and Multicasting

Twitter made a change to how @ replies are handled yesterday and the response has been, well, loud. Essentially you used to be able to see @ replies to everyone you followed, even if you didn’t follow the sender. Under Twitter’s new rules you only get to see @ replies to people you follow IF you follow the sender.

To many this may seem like a trivial change, but to those who use Twitter to discover interesting people… it is a very big deal. There has been rampant speculation (ignited, near as I can tell, by this post from Jesse Stay of SocialToo) that this change “kills” Follow Friday.

I’m including my comment on Jesse’s post here:

Ok… just to clear this one up. I checked (as you know I use justSignal to track Follow Friday for

I have every Follow Friday tweet from 4/13 – 5/13 (last 30 days). There are a total of 771,244 Tweets. Of those 220,166 BEGIN with @username. That is 28.5% of the Tweets.

So definitely NOT most… but a very significant percentage.

Also, we’ve added User Filters to justSignal on FollowFridays. What does that mean? You can filter the total Follow Friday Tweet Stream by what it is about people you want to discover. Want to find PR folks to follow… add a User Filter for PR…

Follow Friday is most certainly NOT dead.

The short version of my take on this is that there are much, much better ways to find interesting people to follow than to rely on the people you follow to tell you about them. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of recommendations, but I also believe in the power of context.

You see, my fictional Twitter Friend Joe is really, really into late 13th century birth control. I – for whatever it is worth – find his updates about walrus skin condoms entertaining. Beyond that Joe and I don’t have much in common. There is nothing atypical about this Twitter relationship… in fact, if I had to bet with my own money I would guess that 90% of Twitter relationships are pretty similar to this. So, Joe’s Follow Friday recommendations are only valuable to me in a very, very narrow window of my interests… so if I don’t see them all am I really missing anything?

What I really want is to see the recommendations from the 10% of the people I follow with whom I have a much broader affinity AND people recommending others because they are really smart about (CONTEXT). Whatever my context of interest happens to be right now.

That is why we’ve added User Filters to the justSignal Tracker on FollowFridays to allow you to filter the live Twitter Stream for your context, your 10%, or whatever else makes Follow Friday work for you. That is what we call – Getting Signal.

Multicasting & @ Replies:

UPDATE: 05/13/2009 @ 4:10PM Pacific Time

I blew it… the below examples misrepresent what the @ reply option did. I’m not going to redact it or change it… because:

  1. I blew it… and that happens and is ok with me.
  2. The example of Tweet distribution as it relates to a multicast system vs. a non-multicast system is still 100% relevant and correct.


Biz made an update to the Twitter blog letting us know that the change to the @ reply system wasn’t really about user confusion – but a technical issue. This is a reason that actually makes sense. It makes sense for one simple reason – the “web” and Twitter were not built to efficiently implement multicasting. The problem with these @ replies is they create a burst of Tweet traffic… why?

If you create a normal Follow Friday tweet like:

#followfriday @joe @mary @steve @mike @larry @meg @biz @wally

That tweet will be sent to joe, mary, steve, mike, larry, meg, biz and wally. Let’s say each of them are followed by 400 people. And let’s say 60% of those people have “show me all replies to those I follow” checked.

This tweet will be sent 1,928 times:

  • 8 – The original 8
  • 240 – Joe’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Mary’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Steve’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Mike’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Larry’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Meg’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Biz’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 240 – Wally’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies

Now lets say we create the following Follow Friday tweet:

#followfriday @scoblizer @mashable @aplusk @oprah @cnnbrk

Again, let’s round things off and say each of these people are followed by 700,000 each and 60% have “show me all replies to those I follow” checked.

This tweet will be sent 2,100,005 times:

  • 5 – The original 5
  • 420,o0- – Scoble’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 420,000 – Mashable’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 420,000 – AplusK’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 420,000 – Oprah’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies
  • 420,000 – CNNBRK’s followers who’ve checked show me all replies

YIKES!!! Now imagine that tweet getting re-tweeted a couple hundred times. This is both why Twitter (I’m speculating here but with a high degree of confidence) “edited” trending topics to exclude Follow Friday AND why the @ reply change was made.

Why Multicast Matters:

Today Twitter (because they don’t implement efficient multicasting and instead rely on publish/subscribe architectures) has to effectively send each of those 2,100,005 tweets serially, one at a time. This consumes massive amounts of computing resources.

Multicast would allow them to send it once to many destinations – thereby removing that bottleneck from their scalability and tweet processing systems.

Those of you who are familiar with large scale real-time communications systems (i.e., VoIP) will immediately recognize this problem – it was central to creating a large scale VoIP service platform in the late 1990’s. The VoIP community resolved it (not without much effort) and now a very small system can efficiently multicast hundreds of millions of status updates/changes per hour.

I totaly buy Twitter pulling @ replies due to technical issues – as exposed by Follow Friday combined with celebrity adoption and massive follower counts. But if you are going to be the real-time web backbone disabling useful things because they create too much load instead of implementing a more efficient architecture isn’t the right answer.

Follow Friday – March 27th 2009 – How big will this get?

You’ve got to wonder – how big is this thing going to get?

As always, all this information is based on midnight to midnight Pacific time.

There were a total of 67,134 Follow Friday Tweets this week. That is a 9% increase from last week.

Here is the chart of Tweets per Hour:


The peak hour was from 8-9AM with 5,908 Tweets. That is slightly off last week’s peak hour of 6,117.

While the peak came down just a bit we sustained more than 5,000 tweets for 4 straight hours – from 7am – 11am pacific.

Also worth noting is that our steady and rapid decrease in tweets which has dominated the chart seems to be changing. We have several periods of increasing numbers of tweets per hour post peak. This is new and is largely responsible for the week over week growth.

I want to thank everyone for checking out – there were a few bumps early in the day with the justSignal real-time Tracker… but we’ve got them worked out and things are working great. Next week should be all kinds of fun.

Last but not least… if you want all the data so you can take a crack at finding the useful information, you can download the full data set in XML right here. You can find the XML specification for that file here.

Follow Friday – March 20th 2009 – The Meme Keeps Growing

Astonishingly, the Meme that is Follow Friday keeps growing.

As always, all this information is based on midnight to midnight Pacific time.

There were a total of 61,739 Follow Friday Tweets this week. That is a 12% increase from last week.

Here is the chart of Tweets per Hour:


The peak hour was from 10-11AM with an astounding 6,117 Tweets.

For those of you familiar with statistics – you’ll notice that the graph, week over week, looks amazingly similar. So we can extrapolate that we have a stable usage pattern.

We also had two straight hours which exceeded last week’s peak hour – from 9am – 11am pacific.

Last but not least… if you want all the data so you can take a crack at finding the useful information, you can download the full data set in XML right here. You can find the XML specification for that file here.

Follow Friday – March 13th 2009 – Follow Friday the 13th?

Good Saturday morning to everyone.

These posts track the meme that is Follow Friday. Today I’m in Austin Texas for Ustream Studios at the Belmont during SXSW (that is South by Southwest). I was on last night live discussing how technology and the real-time web enables Government 2.0 with Francine Hardaway and Tom Serres, C.E.O, Piryx. It was a blast and we are doing it again tonight at 4PM pacific. You can watch at

I get all this information using a justSignal Tracker. If you could use this kind of information about your brand, event or topic(s) drop me a note in the comments and get your own justSignal Tracker.

So let’s get on with it.

For Friday March 13th 2009 there were 54,940 Follow Friday Tweets (midnight to midnight Pacific time).

That represents a 26% increase from last week.

Here is the chart which shows the number of Tweets per hour.


Peak hour was 8 to 9 AM Pacific with 5,105 Tweets. That is a 15% increase from last weeks peak hour.

We had three straight hours (7AM to 9AM Pacific) that had more tweets than our peak hour last week.

As always – to see the results for specific Twitter users – head on over to

As the week over week graphs build out I’ll begin displaying them here. Probably 2 weeks away from being useful information.

Last but not least… if you want all the data so you can take a crack at finding the useful information, you can download the full data set in XML right here. You can find the XML specification for that file here.

Follow Friday – March 6th, 2009 – Tracking the Meme

Well this appears to be my new Saturday morning ritual. Pulling together data from Follow Friday for your viewing pleasure.

I want to thank Mashable and Micah for the post on Mashable yesterday featuring a screenshot of the justSignal Follow Friday Tracker.

Well lets get on with it, shall we?

There were a total of 43,481 Tweets (midnight to midnight Pacific Time).

Here is a chart showing the number of Tweets per hour (again time is Pacific).


The peak hour was 9-10am Pacific with 4,450 Tweets.

Perhaps my favorite fact from this week. 43,728 unique Twitter users were recommended.

Starting next week I’ll be providing week over week trending data… which should be really interesting. Since my data for last week is incomplete we really can not judge growth, but my best guess is that the Tweet volume about doubled.

For specifics about which users received how many recommendations and from who, head over to TopFollowFriday.

Two more things this week. First, I’m making the entire days worth of data available via an XML file. You can download it here. Be warned, it is a 22MB file. The format is described here.

Second, Jeremiah Owyang thought (and I agreed) that Mashable got many of their Follow Friday recommendations via the Re-Tweet of the post Micah wrote. Turns out (near as I can tell based on my analysis of the data) – not so. There were only 65 Re-Tweets for Mashable which would have been counted for Follow Friday.


After the jump you can see those tweets for yourself.

Continue reading “Follow Friday – March 6th, 2009 – Tracking the Meme”

Follow Friday – a justSignal Experiment

UPDATE 5:11PM AZ Time – I added a list of frequent Follow Friday tweeters. You can find it after the jump/at the bottom of the post.

Yesterday a little birdie told me that Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research (@jowyang on Twitter) was looking for a way to figure out who gets recommended the most on Twitter for Follow Friday.

This seemed like a perfect way to use justSignal – we could set up a “collector” that would – using our ability to filter out specific contexts (subjects, topics, events) from everything else being said on Twitter – to grab all the Tweets about Follow Friday, cache them and do some data analysis later.

So yesterday at 9:57:47 AM Pacific time we began collecting the Tweets.

This morning I created a quick script to parse each tweet for Twitter user names (with the @ in front).

Here is what I found:

There were 32,342 recommendations (individual recommendations for a specific user).

There were 16,083 users recommended.

The most recommended user was @mayhemstudios with 127 recommendations.

Ironically the second most recommended user was @ – not sure what that means.

There were 10,684 users recommended one (and only one) time.

Obviously I could spend all day breaking down this data, but I think you’ve got the idea.

For your viewing pleasure I’ve included a table after the jump that contains every user who was recommended 10 or more times.

If anyone would like to work on a site that displays the weekly data (query by user, recommendation trends by user, etc) drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

By the way – the little birdie was @lahne – If you are looking for someone to follow that is who I recommend.

You can check out justSignal Trackers in action here:

Peter Himmelman’s Furious World

UStream Studios as SXSW

US Health Crisis

Demo 09

Suns Tweets

Continue reading “Follow Friday – a justSignal Experiment”