Marketing in Twitter: Applicants Must Have 250 Bots or More

It seems I can’t post anything to Twitter recently without suddenly gaining a follower. “What a braggart!” you might say (brilliant word braggart) but this really isn’t a boast. These apparent followers are nothing more than bots, trawling the twitterverse for keywords and automatically following people that use them.

This isn’t that new in Twitter but its frequency – at least anecdotally for me – is becoming much more prominent. For example I recently posted a reply to a follower about books and how they should all have a digital equivalent. Searching for a quote in a book is much quicker when its digital. It appears simply this use of the word ‘Book’ got me a new follower. Hurrah, new found internet fame!

In actuality the follower was simply a bot for a user that was attempting to get individuals to talk about their favourite book. A worthwhile pursuit perhaps, but not exactly an individual interested in me. However I have also gathered other less altruistic followers , law firms simply from discussing IP law, book publishers who picked up on my complaints about the publishing industry and even a brooklyn wedding DJ after tweeting about visiting a wedding venue (which is about 3,445 miles from Brooklyn).

In all honesty (probably killing my internet cred here) I’d say about 85% of my followers on Twitter followed me not because they think I have something interesting to say, but simply because I used the right words and their bot picked me up as a potential customer

The capitalist urge to market and profit has obviously found its way into Twitter, and there are already seminars and courses on how to utilise Twitter for your business. US electronics retailer Best Buy even makes 250 Twitter followers a requirement of their applicants to marketing jobs, whether they count bots or not is unknown. What I find primarily interesting about this is the cycle of innovation and capitalist co-option. I’m sure many were drawn to Twitter for its open nature, the simplicity to talk with people you’d never meet otherwise. This however is also what brought marketing to it, and in a way it’s perhaps making Twitter a little less appealing to some. MySpace appears to be dying off since the News Corp purchase, the primary mainstay being bands using it as a marketing platform. Facebook, already swamped with applications has now reached a massive audience but with audience comes adverts and third party marketing which may be chasing off the early adopters.

This of course is not meant to be an anti-capitalist rant, these services need financial support in some way or another and it appears that advertising has become the primary source for supporting net services. According to the OECD, advertising agencies worldwide pulled in $445 billion USD in 2007 from selling internet advertising slots. These were primarily search based pay-per click and placement such as banner and sidebar ads. However the OECD also noted a rise in ‘behavioural advertising’, what could also be called taste targeted or algorithmic. This was two years ago (20 in internet time) so we’re forced to simply imagine how this has changed by now. However with so many ‘recommendation’ systems (iTunes, Last.fm, Amazon, Facebook ads etc) it has become apparent that we should perhaps get used to paying for these services with information about ourselves… oh I just got another bot.

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I Often Plagiarise Myself

Here’s a thought for those of you that like to mix your academic work with your blogging vices. My university is trialing some software that detects plagiarism. It runs the submitted work through a few trials and tribulations to see if any significant strings match anything found online. It’s primarily there to make sure an essay isn’t actually a liberal quoting of Wikipedia.

However what happens when the software picks up a match for online content that the author of the submitted work is also the author of? What will happen in two years if my thesis gets run through this algorithm and a big arrow points at this blog? Obviously the mess should swiftly be resolved (one would hope) by me explaining the source of the blog. However it demonstrates both the problems of relying on algorithms and the problem that occurs when someone’s output is no longer contained to a professional sphere. Fifteen years ago no-one would expect a student to be airing their work anywhere outside their professional sphere. Now it should be compulsory.

Citation Metrics & the Freedom to Share

Citation Metrics probably aren’t the most exciting thing you’ll hear about this week but they’re incredibly important if you’re an academic, or if you’re concerned about the freedom of knowledge. In the UK the performance of departments in universities is assessed based on an audit that occurs every five or so years called the Research Assesment Exercise (RAE). The result of the RAE translates into how much government money that department will recieve until the next RAE.
So far the RAE has worked through a system of peer review. Every department submits a certain amount of articles
from various staff members along with a statement about the make-up of the department and other academics in the country are assigned to review the work and rank it. At the end all the ranks are tallyed up and a grant is worked out. The whole process can be rather expensive if you consider the cost of administration and dealing with staff having to be taken off their normal schedules to evaluate their peers.
So, bring in the citation metrics. Whenever someone writes an article and submits it to an academic journal it also becomes indexed by a citation index, the best known of these being the ‘Web of Science’ from Thomson Reuters. This database keeps track of which articles cite which articles and so provides a massive resource for ranking academic work based on how many people considered it worth citing. From these individual rankings academics can be valued based on how many other articles have cited their work. This gives them a number value which is often consulted when they apply for jobs. Departments routinely look up their applicants on the index to see how influential their work has been. If they are ranked highly it’s more likely the department will recieve more audit money.
The government has already expressed interest in the idea of moving from an audit based on peer review to one based on the data provided by the citation index. The massive costs required to run a peer reviewed audit certainly makes an audit based on mining already compiled data rather enticing.
To get to the point consider this scenario. Due to certain political aspirations in line with the Creative Commons movement, I feel that if I were to publish my work, it should be done openly, available to anyone to utilise. Most academic journals require you either pay for access to the content, or that you are a member of an institution that pays for your access. If you’re not an academic or willing to fork out money, a massive chunk of intellectual endeavour is closed off to you. If I want to publish outside this system I can, I’m totally free to give my work away for free however I choose. However these articles will never be indexed and so never count towards my ‘value’ as an academic. I shoot myself in the foot for my principles.
There is of course the option of a book, which is my current contingency plan. Over the course of my thesis I’ll have to lock my work away into those closed systems to secure some vague semblance of value. However at the end I can recompile these articles into a book (which i wanted to do anyway) and give that away for free as a seperate piece. As long as I can find a publisher willing to just do physical distribution and be happy to distribute free pdfs I should be set. Although not all publishers are a part of the index either…

Citation Metrics probably aren’t the most exciting thing you’ll hear about this week but they’re incredibly important if you’re an academic, or if you’re concerned about the freedom of knowledge. In the UK the performance of departments in universities is assessed based on an audit that occurs every five or so years called the Research Assesment Exercise (RAE). The result of the RAE translates into how much government money that department will recieve until the next RAE.

So far the RAE has worked through a system of peer review. Every department submits a certain amount of articles from various staff members along with a statement about the make-up of the department and other academics in the country are assigned to review the work and rank it. At the end all the ranks are tallyed up and a grant is worked out. The whole process can be rather expensive if you consider the cost of administration and dealing with staff having to be taken off their normal schedules to evaluate their peers.

So, bring in the citation metrics. Whenever someone writes an article and submits it to an academic journal it also becomes indexed by a citation index, the best known of these being the ‘Web of Knowledge’ from Thomson Reuters (a closed system similar to Google Scholar). This database keeps track of which articles cite which articles and so provides a massive resource for ranking academic work based on how many people considered it worth citing. From these individual rankings academics can be valued based on how many other articles have cited their work. This gives them a number value which is often consulted when they apply for jobs. Departments routinely look up their applicants on the index to see how influential their work has been. If they are ranked highly it’s more likely the department will recieve more audit money.

The government has already expressed interest in the idea of moving from an audit based on peer review to one based on the data provided by the citation index. The massive costs required to run a peer reviewed audit certainly makes an audit based on mining already compiled data rather enticing.

To get to the point consider this scenario. Due to certain political aspirations in line with the Creative Commons movement, I feel that if I were to publish my work, it should be done openly, available to anyone to utilise. Most academic journals require you either pay for access to the content, or that you are a member of an institution that pays for your access. If you’re not an academic or willing to fork out money, a massive chunk of intellectual endeavour is closed off to you. If I want to publish outside this system I can, I’m totally free to give my work away for free however I choose. However these articles will never be indexed and so never count towards my ‘value’ as an academic. I shoot myself in the foot for my principles.

There is of course the option of a book, which is my current contingency plan. Over the course of my thesis I’ll have to lock my work away into those closed systems to secure some vague semblance of value. However at the end I can recompile these articles into a book (which i wanted to do anyway) and give that away for free as a seperate piece. As long as I can find a publisher willing to just do physical distribution and be happy to distribute free pdfs I should be set. Although not all publishers are a part of the index either…