do not step out
05/Apr/2008 | 01:02

Social Network Equity

Call me nuts, but Twitter has its own economic system, and I've become fascinated—no, obsessed with it lately. As I see it, the monetary ebb and flow of a social networking site can be described, in an absurdly non-useful sense, by the ratio of nodes to which you're linked in either direction.


Following a person's Twitter feed adds information to your stream.

Gaining a follower sends information you produce to another person's stream.

We can elaborate:

  1. At a specific moment, there are a finite amount of people in the Twitter Information Economy.
  2. Each person you follow costs you time, and each person who follows you gains you some mindshare.
  3. Some people have a fairly equal ratio of followers:following.
  4. Some are richer than others, and have followers:following ratios that tip in the followers direction.
  5. Some are "poor" and their ratios tip toward following more people than they are followed by. (The funny juxtaposition is that in reality, they're information-rich.)
  6. Because it doesn't take following a thousand people to flood you with information, it's possible to be overwhelmed even when your ratio tips toward phat bank.
  7. Once the rich get rich, they always get richer; those with popular feeds continue to snowball followers through little work of their own. (I'm reminded of a saying: "Turning $1 into $100 is work; turning $1 million into $10 million is inevitable.")
  8. Even though there's no real-world cost or barrier involved, the economy will always be this way.
  9. Every day, the finite amount of producers and consumers increases, and with that the economy inflates further.

Anything I missed? Endless subtleties guarantee that there's no way I'm completely right. Twitter at me with your thoughts for a follow-up article and I'll be your best friend.