It was a tweet. One tweet from Stephen Fry made my stats leap. And this poses some interesting journalistic and technical questions.
The internet is rightly recognised as giving an unprecedented level of freedom. Those who oppose authority can now get their voice out. My son is doing GCSE history, and studying the Cold War. We were watching some newsreels about the partitioning of Berlin and I reminded him that anything he saw was going to be an official, sanctioned view. Those being subjecting to the division didn’t have camera crews.
Today anyone with a mobile can be a news source. The graph above shows however that this is not completely true. Some are more powerful than others. It’s fine when those holding the power are good people like Stephen Fry, they occupy the space of the benign dictator, and where if they spend too much time plugging their latest movie you understand that they have a vested interest. The twittersphere however is an emerging phenomenon and we can’t expect it to all be used for good.
It can’t be long before twitter ids with their followers become tradable commodities. While the Levinson enquiry is busy clipping the wrong wings of press freedom the power base of influence has moved on.
Just as who says something has an effect, what they say and what they are talking about is very important. One of the reasons Stephen Fry’s tweet was powerful was that he gave my site an endorsement. His 3.5 million followers had a reason to click on the link, this is what he said:
But if you dig deeper the endorsement really matters. Stephen Fry wasn’t the only person to tweet about my site last week. If we take the three Fry days out here is a graph of the site accesses.
What caused the spike from 200 to 350 visitors a day?
ZDNet’s very own Jack Schofield, who has nearly 18,000 followers tweeted this:
At about the same time, Sharon Marshall who has over 48,000 followers tweeted this:
Which do you think had the bigger response? Would it be the request to help a university researcher if you are over 65 or the offer of a competition where you could drive classic cars?
It was Jack’s tweet, there were more than ten times as many visits to the university blog page as there were to the competition page. I put this down to an editorial effect. While Jack recommended people help, and the tweet came from hi, Sharon just relayed my request, heavily laden with vested interest. I very much suspect that if she had recommended that people enter the result would have been different.
This hands even more power to the individual who tweets. Again as these are all good, balance people the power is in safe hands, but there it does raise some interesting thoughts. One is the possibility of a DoS attack. My site stood up well to the pressure, not least because the wonderful webmaster Dom Ramsey spotted 700 concurrent users and installed some caching software, but a less robust site could be targeted by a social media mogul with less benign intentions.
It's going to be interesting to watch
You can see the site Simon talks about here at FussFreePhones