New Republic's botched list of global Twitter leaders

New Republic ListCanada’s Stephen Harper does remarkably well in a list titled “The Most Popular World Leaders on Twitter” published in the current edition of the Washington-based magazine The New Republic. Harper is ranked 6th on this list of the “10 Most Popular World Leaders on Twitter.” (Excerpt at right)

I’m a little sceptical, though, about The New Republic‘s methodology. It is not clearly explained and, on its face, makes no sense.

To begin with: a list of “most popular” on Twitter inevitably means “number of followers”.

But get this: While no one would argue with Barack Obama’s top ranking on The New Republic‘s list — he has more than 40 million followers — what the heck is Herman Van Rompuy doing in the number 2 slot on this list? Quick, tell me: Who is Van Rompuy?  Ok, so you fancy yourself a smarty pants and know that he’s a European politician. So here’s a tough one: Is he the president of the European Commission or the European Council? To be honest, I’m sure I’d get that last question wrong at least half the time and I don’t know how many international summits I’ve been to where I’ve watched Van Rompuy in action and actually asked him questions! Now, Van Rompuy is always hanging around with Jose Manuel Barroso who is whatever Van Rompuy isn’t, namely the president of the European Commission or the European Council. They go everywhere together, these two EC presidents. Barroso, a Portuguese politican, is way more fun to put questions to at international press conferencesThe New Republic says Barroso is the third most popular world leader on Twitter.
So, Continue reading New Republic's botched list of global Twitter leaders

The G8 Twitter Scorecard: Which leader has most Twitter mojo?

G8 Family Photo
The G8 Family Photo, as seen by me on the TV screen in the Media Centre a few kilometres away from the Lough Erne Resort, Northern Ireland. From left to right: Euro Commission Pres Jose Manuel Barroso, Japan PM Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian Prez Vladimir Putin, UK PM David Cameron, US Prez Barack Obama, French Prez Francois Hollande, Cdn PM Stephen Harper, Italy PM Enrico Letta and (cut off out of frame) Euro Council Pres Herman von Rompuy

The G8 is wrapping up here today in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. When the leaders are apart from each other, will they use Twitter to stay in touch? Some do. Some don’t. And if you want to reach German Chancellor Angela Merkel, better use the phone. Here’s the Twitter Scorecard: Continue reading The G8 Twitter Scorecard: Which leader has most Twitter mojo?

My first-ever tweet and, 50,000 tweets later, some other meditations on Twitter


Some time on Tuesday, I expect I will send out my 50,000th tweet. Seems like a lot when you look at a big number like that. But then, this is post number 3,743 at this blog and these posts are way longer than 140 characters. So when I think about it,  3,743 blog posts sounds like way more work than 50,000 tweets.

In any event …

Continue reading My first-ever tweet and, 50,000 tweets later, some other meditations on Twitter

Politics, Twitter, and the MSM: What to make of it all?

Highly recommend an essay by Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns in a recent issue of Journalism Practice. It’s called “(Not) The Twitter Election: The dynamics of the #ausvotes conversation in relation to the Australian media ecology”. [Like most scholarly publishers, the publishers of this paper insist on locking this up behind a paywall so you’ll have to seek out your favourite library, I’m afraid]  Here’s the abstract:

This paper draws on a larger study of the uses of Australian user-created content and online social networks to examine the relationships between professional journalists and highly engaged Australian users of political media within the wider media ecology, with a particular focus on Twitter. It uses an analysis of topic-based conversation networks using the #ausvotes hashtag on Twitter around the 2010 federal election to explore the key themes and issues addressed by this Twitter community during the campaign, and finds that Twitter users were largely commenting on the performance of mainstream media and politicians rather than engaging in direct political discussion. The often critical attitude of Twitter users towards the political establishment mirrors the approach of news and political bloggers to political actors, nearly a decade earlier, but the increasing adoption of Twitter as a communication tool by politicians, journalists, and everyday users alike makes a repetition of the polarisation experienced at that time appear unlikely.

Some quick notes after reading the paper: Continue reading Politics, Twitter, and the MSM: What to make of it all?

Margaret Atwood: The Turnip Who Would Be PM and other Tales from the Enchanged E-Forest

I’ll bet a nickel that this is the first time the populist Toronto Sun has been cited in the New York Review of Books, a favourite of left-wing intellectual elites. (I read and enjoy both!).

The citation comes via Margaret Atwood who blogs at about Twitter, The Rotating Skull, The Ford Brothers, The Turnip Who Would Be PM, and other Tales from the Enchanted E-Forest. An excerpt: Continue reading Margaret Atwood: The Turnip Who Would Be PM and other Tales from the Enchanged E-Forest

On the death of a Twitter friend

I never met Penny Lankshear. In fact, until a few hours ago, I did not know that the Twitter friend I knew only as Penlan was, in fact, Penny Lankshear,  a retired librarian living in Stratford, Ont. [As I come back to this post two years later, in Feb. 2013, I see Penlan is now someone else’s Twitter handle. Click through. I wonder if the new user knows about the Penny … – Akin]

I now know her name — and a little bit more than that — because she died.

Some now are blogging about her passing and I’m thankful for that to learn more about Penny. [I refer here to blog posts by James Curran, Liberal Arts and Minds, and Susan Delacourt].

So why am I both touched and saddened to learn of Penlan’s — Penny’s — passing even though our only relationship was through Twitter? To be honest, I don’t exactly know the answer to that.

I suspect though that it has something to do with that fact that our relationship, such as it was, was based on the fact that I believe we took each other seriously. I wanted to read what she had to say and, though I don’t know for sure, she seemed to be interested in what I had to say. She would re-tweet and comment on my stuff and I would do the same to her. She was, as it says in her Twitter profile bio, a “voracious follower” of Canadian politics. I, too, of course, am a “voracious follower” of federal politics. And that common connection – a serious interest in federal politics — was apparently all it took for each of us to take each other seriously when we bleated something out on Twitter.

And really, isn’t that what all of us want when it comes to political discourse? We want to know that others are listening to us. That we will not be insulted, demeaned, or hollered at for what we say about politics in this country but, rather, that our contributions will be considered, debated, and taken seriously.

So, thank you, Penny, wherever you may be now, for taking me seriously. (I should point out, in case it’s not clear that “taking me seriously” does not mean she always agreed with me. Indeed, she often disagreed with me. But she took my reportage seriously enough that she wanted to respond to). You have no idea how how important and meaningful that is for journalists who are always wondering if anyone ever cares about the things we write.  And, similarly, thank you for your contributions to the debate. I and many others, it’s now clear, took your contributions seriously. We wanted to hear what you had to say.

But beyond that, Penny’s death has forced me to think about the relationship, such as it is, that I have with other pseudonymous Twitter followers who, like Penny, contribute in positive ways to online political discusssions and who seem interested in the contribution I have to those discussions. I find myself asking myself this evening: Is everyone else OK? What are your names? Where do you live? What can I do to help?

Twitter and the Internet are strange beasts. I reported on Internet culture for a decade from 1995-2005 and was fascinated by how computer-mediated communications affect human relationships. And now, for reasons, as I said, I’m not quite clear about, I feel saddened to learn of the death of someone for whom the relationship consisted of little more than a frequent “Re-Tweet” or the occasional “modified tweet”.

MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who I have long admired for the her thinking and commentary when it comes to issues about how human relationships are being changed by the impact of always-on, Internet-connected gadgets, has a new book out right now called Alone Together. I have not yet read it but it’s generating a lot of reviews and commentary. She is, if I read the reviews and discussion correctly, down on new technologies, like Twitter, that we are using.New York Times review Jonah Lehrer says Turkle has concluded that the Internet is “a ball and chain that keeps us tethered to the tiny screens of our cellphones, tapping out trite messages to stay in touch. She summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence: “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”

I’m looking forward to reading Turkle’s apparently bleak assessment of how we have become “Alone Together” but I will read it knowing that, without Twitter, I would never have known that “Penlan” was a woman named Penny Lankshear who may even have been from the town I was born in and who wanted to talk about politics for all the right reasons.