The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Monday, May 04, 2009

JTA's Fail Whale of a Twitter List

The jTwitterati were all abuzz Friday about JTA's list 100 Most Influential Jewish Twitterers.
In the Erev Shabbos rush, I didn't have time to mull over the list in it's entirety . . .

The introduction to the list, which purports to be the first to use "multi-faceted" criteria in the attempt to rank the top members of the Tribe on the micro-blogging network, seems rather uneasy about the very service it wishes to rank. After mentioning Nielsen Online's rather dubious report

"that 60% of the Twitterati do not revisit the site one month after signing up for the service."
- a statistic that by means of its very method of rating shows how little Old School Media know about Twitter. For the statistic claims that 60% of those who sign up, fail to return to the Twitter site. Not accounting for the fact that only 27% of those who use Twitter access the service through the site . . . the rest using Tweetdeck, text and other applications that use the API (for a full analysis of Nielsen's statement, see Marketing Pilgrim) -

The author brings further 'proof' to Twitter's contested status with series of satirical videos on Twitter (which for all I can tell are equally likely to be good natured jabs made Twitter users as themselves!).

After laying out their 'system' for judging the top jTwitterati - a combination of number of followers, and the "influence" and "clout" rankings from Twitalyzer which for the life of me I don't fully understand - they enumerate their list.

And there, any semblance of credibility ends.

efore we delve further, let me state very clearly that I do not wish to take away the honor bestowed upon those who received it. I have no beef with many of those mentioned - some of them, such as @Kvetchingeditor, @Jewishtweets and @ylove are friends - and I am sure many of the others are mentioned are worthy as well.

I do, however, find the JTA's list to be so self-righteous list that it laughs in the face of any true scientific study or earnest attempt at compiling a who's who of the jTwitterati.

The list itself seems to be entirely half hazard in it's composition:

While regulars such as Gruven Reuven, who has 581 followers, a 1.7 influence and 3.0% Clout on Twitalyzer (whatever that means, it's higher then the 1.5 influence and 1.8% clout with 260 followers of number 25 on JTA's list), and Elipongo (who has a whopping 2,248 followers), where left to fend for themselves - even those who were listed, laughed at the top 100's integrity, saying:
"Proof that "top xyz" lists have no grounding in reality. sorry to disappoint my new followers w/my non-influential tweets."

When it comes to their top 25 Jewish Organizations the ludicrous picking and choosing continues . . .
, an organization that JTA itself describes as "Neither Jewish nor Israeli in character" is on a list purporting to be of Influential Jewish Organizations.
While SixthandI (#24) and NJDC (#10) are on the list, Askmoses, an account with more followers then either of them (albeit with a clout less by .1% then that of SixthandI) is left off.

One friend of mine pointed out the suspicious lack of Lubavitchers on the list (as well as the apparent presence of all of JTA's advertisers).

There is one exception to the Chabad void - the presence of @chabadorgnews.

Before we continue, in terms of full disclosure I must admit that I am involved with, but do not express the opinion of, the @Lubavitch Twitter.

@Lubavitch was started over a month before @chabadorgnews (Which in the short existence of the service is not as trivial a period of time as it sounds). After the tragic attacks in Mumbai, an event that can serve as a tentative epoch in twitter's meteoric rise to fame, The New York Times mentioned its use.

While Chabadorgnew's 'influence' is tied at .3 like @Lubavitch, the clout of @Lubavitch is greater (with a 'Generosity' - something for whatever reason not accounted for in JTA's list- of 23.5% to Chabadorgnew's 0). Until the list, @Lubavitch's list of followers was greater as well.

In short, for all that I can tell, JTA's list is not worth much more then any other random grouping of new people to follow on an average #followfriday - a cute way to branch out to others, but bearing little objective significance.

Perhaps all of this is only a side effect of an aging media entity struggling to adapt to the rigors of Web 2.0 'social' media and beyond . . . While JTA does make valiant efforts to remain relevant and competitive in an era that has several times over passed the eponymous Telegraph of its title,
only a month ago JTA struck out at social media saying, in a fund-raising email,
Without a strong JTA, the storytelling will be left to bloggers, twitterers, and non-professionals. Is this the best way for our future Jewish stories to be told and recorded?
True, efforts were made to back-peddle and apologize for the swipe, but at the very least it is clear that JTA is an organization that is not fully aware of the workings of New Media. Let's hope that future lists are made of stronger stuff.


Leora said...

They left @elipongo off? They have no idea what influence means. Or maybe they found out what #jcot means and left him off? Suspicious.

Hebrewzzi said...

I think JTA was pretty clear that the results were not very, it's not like any of us on the list won anything except a bunch of new followers. Had this been Time's Most 100 Influential People, I could understand an in-depth post like this. Honestly though, it's not worth stressing out over. But, I do have a 3.0% influence, 87.9% signal, 50.5% generosity, and 5.2% clout. :-)

Y-Love said...

My influence is over 5.5. Should I have been left out? Should @matisyahu have been #1? Come on bro... But I do see your point tho.

SusQHB said...

The study wasn't great. At least they admit their flaws AND honestly ranked themselves the #6 Most Influential Jewish Newswire and not higher up on list (I assume this is bc they are fairly new to Twitter and only spout links not engaging followers). I myself think I'm ranked too high (#17) and people I immensely enjoy following (like @Mottel and @Gruven_Reuven) were nowhere to be seen. They both engage their followers very well and should be recognized. Unofficial list or not.

Jack said...

Mottel, I completely agree that their method of assembling the list is a bit odd and am equally surprised by some of the folks who got excluded. That said, I'm glad they made the list (and not at all because I ended up on it). It has provided a talking point with folks at my synagogue about the role and value of Jewish social media. My rabbi, for example, want to schedule sometime with me to talk about how he might or should get himself and our community involved. So whether I agree with their definition of influence or not (and I don't), the fact that the JTA used the term seems to have some clout in my town. And that's a good thing for all Jewish twitteres and bloggers, even if they got overlooked by the list itself.

Mottel said...

Before I respond to individual comments, I'd like to get a few things out.
First I'd like to reiterate that this is not an attack on those who made the list. You guys are awesome and deserve it big time!

Yes it's the JTA's list and they can put on it whoever they want, and true we're talking about a small time list . . .
That being said, the list is does carry some clout out there - enough to have those who won come and defend the relative authority of the list, and those who lost to come out against it. If the JTA truly feels it's the voice of the Jewish narrative on the internet (as they've made abundantly clear that they do - see Daniel Sieradski response to their email, as linked to in the post), then it's irresponsible to make such a sloppy list.

-Leora: Truth be known you were also on my list - but I cut it down to two examples. It could be that they left out the more conservative voices out there . . . I don't however, know enough enough of those listed to make an informed opinion.

-Hebrewzzi: There's a difference between making an unscientific polling (I doubt there is any true scientific way to truly analyze one's weight in Twitter - most of the tech folks out there (Leo Laporte et al) at least seem to feel that way), and a completely random list. I'm very sorry.
Imagine they made a list of the top Jewish thinkers of the 20th Century that looked akin to this:

*Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik
*Arthur Hertzberg
*(lhavdil)Ashton Kutcher
*Baruch Spinoza

While the first two are deserving of their place on any list, there are several grievous errors and omissions. What of Martin Buber? What of the Lubavitcher Rebbe or Harav Kook? Wrong dates, non-jewish pop culture artists (despite their ties to the Kabbalah center) and shnucks like me are entirely in appropriate.
While I'm sure I may belabor the point by comparing the twitterers to great minds, the idiocy of the JTA's list remains. It was entirely subjective, random, and poorly prepared.

-Ylove: For them to decide they don't want pop influences is their prerogative while compiling the list . . . They can define whatever zany rules they want for their top 100 (top 100 left handed Jewish twitters with between 300 and 600 followers, so be it) but once they make them, they need to stick to them. I don't think you should have been taken off - I would find it entirely ridiculous if you were. What bothers me, however, is not who made it - kol hakavod to all of you - but those who didn't. The exclusions they made show the whole thing is entirely meaningless in its authority.

-SuSQHB Where do they admit their flaws? If anything, they stress the multifaceted nature of their method, giving very clear guidelines for how it's made: Number of followers, 'influence' and 'clout' (though no mention is made as to how much the later two play a role in ranking). I don't think I should have made the list . . . but it bothers me that they tout this hodgepodge chullent as a top 100.

-Jack: I'm glad they made it as well. It is important that twitter get good press, and people out there see the power and good use to which it can be put. By that very fact, however, it is to their detriment to produce such a sloppy list, and the reason why I'm making a 'big' deal about it.

Chaviva said...

All I can do is second most of what everyone else has said. The methodology was imperfect, obviously, and ending up at #5 tied with another fellow has me a little shocked. I'm flattered (flittered, you know), but I agree that my placing up after YLove is probably a little, well, inaccurate. I like to think that I'm making waves and doing my best to brand myself and my readership in a positive light in the Jewish community. And if anything, this list -- no matter how unscientific and ridiculous -- has managed to garner me new followers, blog readers, and potential friends and colleagues in my pursuits.

There are some people I would have liked to see on the list, but some of these are also people who just aren't around that much on Twitter. If there were a 50 Most Influential Jewish Bloggers, I think the list would be very, very different.

Julie (sugarblum) said...

I agree. While I was surprised and pleased to be on the list at #49, I don't begin to understand how I got on there.

@712 said...

jta=evil;letters of thought=good

gruven_reuven said...

As Mottel said, "Yasher Koach" to the folks who made the list. It was really awesome to see a lot of my friends get well deserved shout outs!! I do however blush that Mottel wrote this blog post, just as I blushed at the number of public tweets and private DM telling me that I "should have made the list". Thanks everyone... I guess I need to weigh in my 2 Zuzim

Hope this doesn't come off sounding like sour grapes because it's not... I've been interviewed and or written up by the BBC, Jerusalem Post, NPR, Forward & New York Times for the informal Kiruv work I do on the Internet. (I also lead Torah Study Groups on Secondlife) So me not not making the list from JTANews really isn't a big deal.

For me, It's not about lists. Matter fact I feel uncomfortable about the "love" I get on #FollowFridays. Admittedly, I don't list folks back. Not because I do not appreciate my friends on Twitter, but more so because I don't want to offend folks by leaving them off. I also don't want to sit down and select folks like that. I share the love by re-tweeting posts that stike my fancy.

I tweet about Torah, because I had my eyes opened to Torah 9 years ago when I became a BT. I love nothing more then to turn fellow Jews on to this most amazing multi faceted gem we have. I do not tweet to see how many followers I can get or what lists I can make. I tweet because I love to share Torah. I tweet because I like to show folks you can be Very Frum and still be plugged into the world around you. I like to tweet to show the world being Frum doesn't mean separating yourself from society, It's about connecting with fellow Jews from ALL walks of Judaism to talk words of Torah.

From my point of view this list was obviously nothing more then an effort to get much needed eyeballs on the the JTA website. The real question is NOT why isn't gruven_reuven or Elipongo on the list, but why isn't the likes of LeahJones, Matisyahu Or Lenny Kravtiz on the list. (I didn't even know Lenny was on twitter :-) JTANews specifically called these folks out for being too popular.

Time Magazine just released a similar list of the 100 most influential people in the World. Of course Obama made the list. Would it make any sense to exclude him from this list because he's the president of the United States, and naturally would be influential? Of course not! That wouldn't make any sense at all.

So WHY exclude big name Jewish Twitter users? My theory is that these folks really wouldn't care about making this list and wouldn't blog or tweet about it. What JTANews wants is folks to re-tweet and blog about being on their list, thus getting eyeballs on their site.

Again as noted, I also find it in "bad taste" that the JTA advertisers that have a presence on twitter made their list.

So really, I wouldn't sweat this list. To me (at first glance) this list shows that JTA does not have a reputation for journalistic integrity, nor is its analysis really insightful. TO BE FAIR, this was the only article I've ever read on JTA, so I can't generalize the organization based on one article based on questionable analysis. Heck, even Jimmy Rollins strikes out sometimes.

Michal bas Avraham said...

I don't actually tweet. However, I know that ASK MOSES, as a site is relatively well known.

Actually, without tweeting, I can see that the clout of a twitterer would be tied into the person's other activities: their website, their Facebook, their Yahoo groups that they run, and finally articles they may write for the paper.

I'm actually thinking of Aliza Hausman, who is the only individual on the list I've met in person. Although, I read Frum Satire, too. Oh, there goes more examples: youtube accounts, performances of stand up rants.

When I read this list, there were quite a few people that I said, "huh? WHO is that?" to. Actually, that youth group was one of them.

Y-Love, while you may not have as many twitter followers, I hear of you constantly, so, I don't find it weird that you would be on the list.

I mean after all, isn't twitter following, dependant to some degree, on having a following? So, you would expect people on the list to be people who you hear about even if you're not on twitter.

There are soooo many poeple on this list that I've never heard of.

Phyllis Sommer said...

i lol at how much buzz we are all giving the JTA after they basically bashed all of us "bloggers and twitterers" a few weeks back as being incapable of carrying on the task of "telling the Jewish story" - and that they, the JTA, were particularly suited for the task (oh, and we should give them money...)

i can only chime in with others who agree that some of the people on the list we've never heard of, or are newbies at's okay, it gives them a chance to be followed!

i wonder if the JTA only used their own follower list. i personally unfollowed @jtanews because i was getting their emails and that seemed like enough (too many tweets!)...if you don't follow the JTA, they don't know about you? just a thought...

i also think that twitter is intentionally scattered and...squishy...hard to pin down and hard to determine "authority" or "importance"'s about what is important to you as you read your own twitter stream!

Mottel said...

@Phyllis I have no problem showing some love to the newbies out there . . . I followed a few new people from the list. It just irks me that they did such shoddy worked and then passed it off on all of us to get us buzzing about them.

Twitter is hard to pin down, which is why things like this are very are to calculate.

I'm actually very much 'over' the whole thing . . . I still hold by my opinion, and am interested in what others say about it the subject too - but I almost feel as if this whole thing is becoming overkill . . . and playing into the JTA's game.

Jack said...

They should give it three months and revisit the list to see if they still agree with their selections.

IsraLuv said...

i have to agree with your post mottel. I was quite surprised by the list and more importantly - saddened by the lack of some of the "bigger" tweeters being neglected. I was sad to see a lack of international Jewish tweeters on the list (most were from Israel or America)

Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

I am as mystified as everyone else, though not utterly unappreciative of my reign as #9 on the list. Someone is going to need to sit down and explain all this to me. When I learned I was #9, I decided that maybe I had been spending too much time on Twitter after all. :)