Today,Loic Le Meur blogged that "We're not equal on Twitter, as we're not equal on blogs and on the web."" He was talking about the need for Twitter to start filtering searches by authority--and by authority he means the number of people following them.
It's laughable...the idea that someone has "authority" because a lot of people pay attention to it. Isn't that the most anti-Web 2.0 thing you've ever heard? Did we forget about the long tail? Wasn't that the whole point? Level playing field... hear the small voices... excuse me, is this thing on?
So, mark this date down. Today, December 27, 2008 is the day that the digerati jumped the shark--the day that a guy who raised $12 million for a video blog commenting platform with no revenues or any idea of what the business model would be told the world that he only wants to listen to Twitter users with a lot of followers.
Perhaps that was his mistake in the first place--thinking that the only people worth listening to are people who are already big into Twitter.
A lot of companies that will not survive the next 12 months because they will not get additional funding and don't have enough user traction. Many of these companies were fueled by echo chamber ideas--they didn't solve big enough problems for nearly enough people nor did they have any sense of where the potential business value might get created.
Along with the creation and support of these companies, we got a cavalcade of stars--voices that were early, and built up followings for mostly that same reason--the Robert Scoble's and Mike Arrington's of the world. They became water coolers, and in talking about new technologies that were going to overtake the establishment they became the establishment.
I think that's when, slowly, people started realizing--these new voices we were all paying attention to weren't really all that relevent. Ask anyone in PR what they tell their clients when they say they want to be on TechCrunch--it isn't worth it. You'll get a firehouse of traffic that will be gone in a week, with few of the people likely to be in your target audience anyway--unless your audience is other Web 2.0 entrepreneurs.
There's been an explosion in Web 2.0 "experts" and people have started carving out their own niches. If you are a non-profit, you are much more likely to pay attention to a social media expert from the non-profit world than you are still going to listen to Steve Rubel--another key early voice. Sure, Steve might have introduced you to blogging, but there's probably a more immediately relevent expert out there that you found using the tools that Steve taught you about. In fact, this person probably isn't even an "expert" with a shingle--they're probably someone just like you, a working professional trying to solve an immediate business need.
So while the RSS numbers are still there for these early folks--because we all filled our RSS readers with them early on, we've actually stopped paying attention to our RSS readers nearly as much.
We're much more likely to find worthwhile reading on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr--places where the screen in which I view the world is my friends or people I care about associating with--not the aggregate number of followers someone has.
We're pulling back... and the smart money listens to smaller, more focused, more immediately relevent voices--people we're likely to meet up with, share a Shack burger with, etc. Sure, there are people with 40,000 Twitter followers, but there are over 1000 people who have more than 2700 followers. Twitter is actually flatter than the blogosphere (and getting flatter--maybe because it's just easier), and it's not surprising. Following a blog is a very low cost activity--having too many feeds in your feed reader is annoying, but it's not going to make you miss something cool going on right outside your door this very minute. Follow too many on Twitter, on the other hand, and you're going to get overwhelmed quickly... or go bankrupt in SMS billing.
And the traffic is showing that we're drifting away from the early to the party folks. Techcrunch traffic has been largely flat since June--although Mashable traffic, with more writers covering a more narrow space, with less of that patronizing, even sometimes mean, authoritative tone, continues to grow slowly but steadily.
Scobel's blog traffic appears down, and Techmeme--the water cooler of water coolers, is flat, as is Micropersuasion.
As technology increases engagment, we'll demand much more relevence... and we're less likely to follow the water coolers just because they're the water cooler. Most of what the masses are saying just isn't nearly as interesting as what your best friend wants to tell you or some smart person in your industry (Web 2.0 is not an industry) is talking about.
This is a good thing, btw. We need better ideas from more people. We don't need an authority filter--one based on sheer numbers. We need a relevence filter... and we're getting that--it's in our own head. We're getting more and more likely to unfriend, unfollow, clean out, etc... and the economy will sweep its share of noise out the door in the next year as well. Remaining Web 2.0 compaines one year from now will be stronger, more stable, more useful--and the voices that most people pay attention to will likely be the builders--the other entrepreneurs and professionals doing your job who have encountered the same issue you have--not the sideline pundits. There isn't much money left in being a sideline pundit anymore--just ask the newspapers.
At the end of the day, I hope Loic gets his feature request, though--so that he can only pay attention to the other Twitter users that have as many followers as he does. This way, he's not likely to notice when the rest of us stop paying attention to him and become our own little water coolers.