This article was published on August 5, 2010

HP doctors know how tweets become influential. Really.

HP doctors know how tweets become influential. Really.

HP Labs has been hard at work on what makes tweets influential.  Seriously.

Their aim is to determine, “How is it that certain topics manage to get more attention than others, thus “bubbling to the top” and changing the agenda of an online community?”

In a report published today, Dr. Bernardo A. Huberman, director of HP Labs’ Social Computing Lab (sounds redundant) published his research on user influence on Twitter.

Dr. Huberman and his co-authors analyzed 22 million tweets, developing an algorithm that identifies influential users.

The algorithm, according to the research, is unique due to its incorporation of “passivity.”  To automatically identify influencers, the authors devised an algorithm called the IP Algorithm.  This algorithm assigns a relative influence score and passivity score to every user:

– “Passivity” is a measure of how difficult it is for other users to influence him or her

– “Influence” depends on both the quantity and quality of the user’s audience

What can be gleaned from the research?  “A large majority of Twitter users act as passive information consumers and rarely forward (“retweet”) content to the network.  To become influential, users must not only catch the attention of their followers; they must also overcome their followers’ predisposition to remain passive.”

Fascinating findings.  Humourous too.  When science meets social networking, the use of quotes and high level language is amusing to say the least.

The big question everyone wants to know is who is the most influential?  Unfortunately, I am not among them, but that could change (follow @jffcrmr).  That said, the research presents four specific case studies showing four applications of the new algorithm.  Users with the most IP-influence were:

@jokoanwar, @google, @aplusk, @syfy, @smashingmag, @michellemalkin, @theonion, @rww, @breakingnews, @mashable

Ashton Kutcher bests me again. One day Kutcher, one day…

Surprised by the influencers?  Agree with the methods used by HP to determine influencers?