The Web Does Not Need More Ranking

Dear Twitter

The web appreciates and works best when tweets are equal. When users are given the respect to discover, read and place their own value on 140 characters, the Twitterverse thrives and has purpose.

When algorithms attempt to place value, using carefully guarded recipes, on the value of a message, everyone loses though.

The use case for adding a “filter_level” to your API so that tweets can be given a rank of none, low, medium or high value may be based upon a need to monetize feeds better, develop more useful ad units or assist users with uncovering tweets of value, but the ultimate cost is a value risk for the Twitter brand.

On the web, Twitter is valued for its open playing field. Each tweet is given 140 characters of opportunity to do something or nothing. We the users are able to apply our own nuanced filters as to what is valuable or not. In fact, what is not valuable one day, may be just the thing we’re looking for the next. A message that originated from one account that has only 10 followers may contain more value than that which has been retweeted XXX times by XXX followers – let’s not even talk about the effects of bots.

Also, never follow the logic that a lack of engagement is due to poor content. We are busy users. We don’t always retweet or favorite content that is valuable. We don’t need content presented to us on the basis of follower counts, retweets, favorites or other high-schoolish metrics.

In fact, could not the problem of uncovering tweets of value better be addressed through innovation and user education rather than following the tired trend of letting algos do all the work?

We users are capable of deciding what tweet holds value. How often I’ve heard that no one wants to know what someone has had for breakfast. The thing is, that’s not for Twitter or anyone else to decide. That tweet might hold value to some foodie. It may be of value to the tweeter for a very important reason.

Let us decide though. We’re also capable of educating others on the tools and usage patterns that make Twitter the great place that it is.

To those who argue that this filter level will help us discover better content, I point to Klout. The once popular reputation ranking system built to provide a score on value, failed to do just that. Rather than shining the light on good content, it merely appealed to folks who valued being ranked and who thought it was a good idea to sit with the cool kids. It encouraged content along the lines of, “I’ll give you +K, if you give me some back!” It’s failure has been sufficiently written about ad nauseam.

The whole point with Twitter, is that anyone can add value to a stream. A tweet does not need a score.

Twitter is supposed to allow us to see the pulse of the planet. It offers 140 characters written for the now, usually about the now or a delta not to far from the now. Let us, the users, define our own “filter_level”. An official “filtler_level” only risks obscuring the value that is Twitter.

It’s not the job of an algo, 3rd party client or secret band of elves to surface what is valuable. We can do it.

In the mean time, I know that “filter_level” will continue and become a thing of the Twitterverse this coming Wednesday.

Since it’s not possible for your algorithms to know what is of value to me now or then with much depth, and follower counts mean nothing to me, not to mention that others have tried to rank value only to produce a “how to game the system” mentality – I rank the “filter_level”: “none | low | medium | high”; with my own personal filter called /dev/null.

Tweet scores will go into this bit bucket, never to be contemplated upon again – never to produce some perk or ad unit of value – never to tarnish what social is all about.

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