Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Pointless babble"--40% of Tweets

HP Mini and TweetDeckImage by bwana via Flickr

You may have heard about the recent study revealing that 40% of tweets fall into the "pointless babble" category. I've been planning a snappy comeback to offset this finding. I finally tweeted that snappy comeback today. Here's what I said:

40% tweets mindless babble. Those I follow, don't babble.

I went searching for the study to learn more.((pdf file at Pear Analytics conducted the study by randomly taking 200 tweets every half hour of the day (except over lunch) from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. They collected their total of 2000 tweets over a two week period. (They have some interesting charts in the report.)

The 2000 tweets were categorized under six different headings:
  • News - Any topic from regular media but not tech media (Mashable or TechCrunch). E.g. via Ann Curry: AP: Former Chief Financial Officer for Bernie Madoff pleads guilty of conspiracy.
  • Spam - Want you to look at their pictures or get lots of followers. E.g. 300 twitter followers in a day -
  • Self-Promotion - Usually business in nature. Want to sell you something. E.g. We'll hook you up for school with HP Days. This week there is a huge selection of the coolest HP products on sale.

    Aladdin (film)Image via Wikipedia

  • Pointless Babble - This is when someone is telling you what they are doing right now. E.g. "Watching Aladdin. Bored" "Feeling blue tonight. Thinking about my wonderful Dad who passed away on May 8th this year. I miss you Dad." (Do you see an issue here? The first could be pointless babble. The second is not. Full disclosure here. The second tweet I wrote because I was sorrowing about my Dad.)
  • Conversational - When people are talking to each other using the tweets. Tweets that begin with @ were considered conversational even if they had other hash tags or URLs in them. E.g. GardnerCampbell tweet: @AdrianEden You're most welcome. Thanks for the kind words. AdrianEden tweet: @GardnerCampbell my pleasure. have a good weekend.

I have heard so many people shout out the news of this study that 40% of tweets are mindless babble. However, when you really look at the study, the findings are suspect. Are they assuming that most people tweet only during the working day? What about on the weekends? How are they defining mindless babble? As long as there is @ or RT in a tweet, it falls into a different category.

Here's a sample tweet: RT @JackieCourteau: RT @yeagerhood: #FollowFriday #MADNESS! @marketbeater @sassy53227 @JackieCourteau @nedrunning @Apriss @ZnaTrainer
(I did not make up this sample tweet. I did remove the name of the person who created it though.)

Now, I'm sorry folks, but I would call that "mindless babble". Pear Analytics would call it either a Pass-Along tweet because of the RT (retweet) or a conversational tweet because of all the @'s in the tweet.

So here's what I've decided. I'm going to take this report with a grain of salt. I'm going to continue to enjoy thoughtful and interesting comments people make about what they are doing (even if Pear Analytics terms them "mindless babble"). I'm not going to feel guilty about my penchant for tweeting and enjoying other people's messages.

One thing I could use help with though. What is it with that sample tweet? What are the origins of #FollowFriday? Does this kind of tweet make sense to you? Could you please help out this newbie to Twitterville? Things might get a little easier, once I understand.


Pear Analytics (August 2009). Twitter Study. Online at
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  1. Hi Ruth,
    Here's a post I found a while back on how #FollowFriday started.

    And I do enjoy your 'mindless babble' too ;-)

  2. Joyce,

    Thanks for the comment and the URL to help me understand the #FollowFriday thing. I just joined Twitter in early July and am still getting the ins and outs of the whole thing figured out. Some of those Friday posts using that hashtag, just seem so meaningless. So I will look up the link you gave me.

    What do you think about this whole mindless or pointless babble thing? It almost feels as though a machine were judging us for the content of our tweets. Something within me resists that judgement.