Obama wins Twitter statfest. So what?

In the world of meaningless statistics (see many NBA, NFL, MLB, and other sports stats), TPM has emerged as a new faux arbiter of political reality. You don’t grok TPM? That’s “Tweets Per Minute,” knuckleheads.

From @gov, Twitter’s government and politics team:

A new record political moment on Twitter: @barackobama drives 52,757 Tweets per minute. Over 9 million Tweets sent about #DNC2012.

And PCMag enthusiastically passes on Twitter’s parsing of the tweets by one-liners in the speech:

• 43,646: “I’m no longer just the candidate, I’m the President.”
• 39,002: “I will never turn medicare into a voucher.”
• 38,597: Discussing Medicare
• 37,694: “We don’t think government can solve all our problems.”
• 34,572: Quips about the Olympics and “Cold War mind warp.”

And more tweet stats are offered as well without an ounce of analysis what they mean — if anything.

Then there’s Mashable, running with this hed over a video of Michelle Obama’s speech:

Watch the Michelle Obama Video That Destroyed Twitter

So what if Michelle toppled the Twitterverse? Brett Smiley at NYMag.com gets it:

The [@gov] team added that [Obama’s] line, “I’m no longer just the candidate, I’m the President,” spurred the second biggest TPM spike for Obama with 43,646 tweets per minute, while “I will never turn Medicare into a voucher” scored the third highest with 39,002 TPM. The peak figure translates to almost 880 tweets per second, or total nonsense if you don’t believe Twitter has a role in shaping people’s attitudes about political moments. [emphasis added]

What meaning do these tweet counts actually have? For example, I’d like to know:

• What is the political affiliation of the senders? The receivers?
• Who reads them? With what persuasive impact, if any?
• What research demonstrates that TPM is a meaningful measure of public opinion?
• Where’s the research that examines political speeches before and after the advent of Twitter and demonstrates whether speechwriters are adjusting to write easily retweetable one-liners? (After all, television had its “write for the soundbite” impact on political speech.)
• What percentages of Obama’s TPM represent Twitterer authorial bloviating (a technical term, of course), journalistic accounting of this is what’s happening right now, and a commingling of the two?

So a lot of people can type with their thumbs. So a lot of people believe political discourse can be enhanced 140 characters at a time. So Twitter has some really good marketers who created a statistical media darling.

Bah. Quantity of anything is never a warranty of its quality.

3 comments on “Obama wins Twitter statfest. So what?

  1. This after the fact that Romney had ads saying tweet mentions this past week Romney 411k Obama276k, whatever happened to that annoying little window. That is right now it’s who cares, truly sad Romney has to flip flop on strategies since most are easily foiled.

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