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The Sunday Times says my bot is a Guru

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16 May 2011
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On Friday, The Sunday Times jumped onto the social influence bandwagon by launching the Sunday Times Social List. According to them, “the algorithm focuses on other people’s activity around an individual’s postings, rather than raw follower numbers.”

At the end of last year, I proved that bots who tweet regularly, but non-interactively, can get very high Klout scores. I repeated this experiment against Peerindex, with somewhat better results.

Obviously, the next target should be their list, should it not?

Sunday Time Social List is Flawed

Just a quick reminder of the setup:

  • I have set up 4 Twitter bots, which have been tweeting random quotes since September 2010.
  • The tweet frequencies of the bots differ. The busiest bot tweets once every minute; the laziest one only tweets every half hour. The other two tweet once every 5 minutes and once every 15 minutes respectively.
  • The four bots tweet randomly from a single set of quotes. The mean content of their tweets is thus identical, except for the tweet frequency.
  • These bots follow no-one, retweet no-one and don’t have any avatars or other custom profile settings.

As you can see from the results below, the total amount of registered profiles was ascending quite rapidly at the time of writing. To provide a comparable metric, I have calculated a normalized rank for each bot, which is the percentage from the top that the bot ranks.

Number 1 would be 100%, number 500 out of 1000 would be 50%, and so on …

Now, without wasting your time on any further philosophical meanderings, herewith the results:

Bot 1: 1 Tweet per 1 Minute

Rank: 776th (out of 2867)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 73%
Social Status: Guru

Bot 1: 1 tweet per 1 minute

Bot 2: 1 Tweet per 5 Minutes

Rank: 1199th (out of 2894)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 59%
Social Status: Linchpin
Bot 2: 1 tweet per 5 minutes

Bot 3: 1 Tweet per 15 Minutes

Rank: 1880th (out of 2920)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 36%
Social Status: Hotshot

Bot 3: 1 tweet per 15 minutes

Bot 4: 1 Tweet per 30 Minutes

Rank: 2203rd (out of 3085)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 29%
Social Status: Graduate

Bot 4: 1 tweet per 30 minutes

So, my bot is a guru?

Keeping in mind that the mean content of the four bots is identical, and that the normalized rank seems to grow consistently with tweet frequency, it seems that the Sunday Times have managed to, quite successfully, build an algorithm that estimates how often you tweet, regardless of whether you’re an actual person.

It doesn’t sound right, does it?

In short, as with Klout, you can reach a pretty high score on the Sunday Times Social List merely by tweeting feverishly. Out of the three major services we’ve analyzed, only Peerindex successfully manages to determine that these accounts are bots and assign them appropriate scores.

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  • By Quora on May 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Has the Sunday Times Social list got greater credibility than @peerindex or @klout?... OK we just did our first test on the Social Media List Ranking and this is what we found. To summarize, our bot that Tweets the most was found to be a 'Guru'. > Keeping in mind that the mean content of the four bots is identical, and that the normali...

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