Who is the twitority online?

Question for you, leave me a comment at the end of the article with your answer.

Who is the twitority? (AKA Authority) ?

In short, firstly, twitority is a tool that lets you search Twitter posts and then filter the search results by authority. Check it out for yourself at twitority.com.

Back to the question, it’s not a trick. Are you an authority figure? If you said Yes, then in what? Who says? What qualifies the classification as an authority? Similarly, if you said No then why not? Chances are you’ll be more educated in your field than most if your job is in a space when your knowledge is important to your company. You’re an educator, so yes, you are an authority.

I’m fascinated by the idea of authority on an online space which is completely open and unmonitored. The idea of authority to me brings more questions than it answers.. There is no right or wrong answer so we’re going to try and shed more light on the situation with a host of quotes from various individuals who have authority in their fields.

Before that, let’s take school as an example of a place where there is a definite line between student and authority. Authority being the teacher or headmaster/mistress. Students are at school to learn and the teacher is there to impart their learnings, knowledge and wisdom on their students. The teacher has the authority to merit or discipline the student and the head of department or headmaster/ mistress has the authority over the teacher to overrule their decision. In it’s simplest form, that’s the hierarchy of school. Same can be applied to a business environment. CEO, Head of Dept X, Manager, Exec.

So when we’re used to hierarchy and authority, how can we apply this to an online space?

We can’t.

On the internet, it’s a free for all. Everyone is deemed equal. In turn, everyone is a specialist in something. Regardless of age, background, job title, online you can find out as much as you want about anything! When you’re looking for advice on buying a product, where do you look? The Internet proves to be the most important source for researching consumer electronics information for example, according to a survey conducted by Synovate on behalf of Microsoft Advertising.

Who are the people to ask for a valued opinion? How does the definition of authority differ and what can we learn? Here’s a few ideas.

“Authority is based on perception. Once an environment of trust is created between people or people and companies, authority can be authorized! As it is all relative there is no one single source, just 5 billion sources with a number greater than zero perceiving and therefore regarding each as an authority or not.”

Jonathan MacDonald

Completely agree. It’s all subjective.

“Page rank is a surrogate for authority already based on the amount of inbound links as a vote.”

Ged Carroll

One way for assessing authority currently is through the Google Page Rank. What is a Page Rank? It reflects the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that Google believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

“I think trying to apply authority to twitterers based on followers is like trying to build a house out of spongecake.

Authority is EARNED and I just INHERENTLY know now whose word to trust on a particular topic when advice is sought.

It’s far more complex than being able to have an algorithm applied to it – any such algorithm’d be flawed. In fact so flawed as to be misleadlingly useless.”

Drew Buddie

All good points, especially the house built out of sponge cake!

“It depends if they can truly measure authority by topic and not assume if you have lots of followers you have authority on all topics.”

Kerry Gaffney

Nail. Head. I really believe in this.

“Calling me an idiot will increase your popularity but not your authority.

Explaining why I am an idiot will increase your authority but not necessarily your popularity.

If I call you an idiot I will be neither authoritative nor popular. Life isn’t fair! :-)”

Robert Scoble

Following on from Kerry’s comment above, let’s take a well known example in the online world, Robert Scoble. I’ve got nothing at all against the guy, he’s one of the social media pioneers but I’m betting that the large majority out there would see him as an authority on anything and everything because of the numbers that read his blog or that follow him on Twitter (45,962 on last count). He puts it an interesting way himself above.

“You can only quantify authority so far in my opinion – so what if someone has 1000 followers, how many are actually listening?”

Paul Borge

This is key and brings me back to thinking about the old adage of quality over quantity. Also, links to my thoughts about ROA (Return on Attention) over the traditional ROI (Return on Investment) in Social Media when I spoke with Jamie Burke at P2PR in a previous blog post. In brief, my thoughts were that a project can be more successful by targeting the ‘right’ 100 people, instead of going for a general 1000. The ‘right’ 100 can in turn send the information on to 10 of their friends and so on, it’s a domino effect.


“Popularity over time = Authority. Unfortunately it is meaningless. In 1905 who had more authority Einstein or Newton.. and who was right?”

Anton Mannering

He’s got a point..

What’s your view? What do you think about the idea of a search engine based on authority? Is authority subjective? Is there a universal authority on topics?