No more Tweet Counts

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Twitter have recently announced that they will stop supporting the API endpoint that allows developers to show how many times an article has been tweeted. Services such as Jetpack, Shareaholic or even the old fashioned Twitter Button can no longer display a number next to them.

Although announced a while ago, on the 20th of November 2015, Twitter have flicked that switch – and all those tweet counts have magically disappeared from the internet. That’s tough for those who have been relying upon those numbers to see how popular they appear to be.

Because logic dictates, the higher your share counts, the better a person you are: Those with less shares are quite clearly rubbish, while those with more are obviously the gods of the internet.

I always found that logic to be flawed: who cares how many times an article has been SHARED, if no one takes the time to read it? How many times have people retweeted or refacebooked something without ever clicking the link they’re sharing – just because the headline seemed meaningful?

It’s different for cat-pictures and one-liner gags of course, because whoever shares them will have most likely read the content in its entirety. But those creators with 500+ words per article, or those creating audiovisual content have seriously nothing to worry about. Share counts are not a realistic metric of how popular any writer, person or service is.

What is far more interesting is how many times an article has been read by a human, and how much user interaction a piece gets.

Take this site for example: it’s a seemingly random collection of informational tidbits I’ve written for myself, just so I won’t forget. There really is no cohesive subject here. You could argue I’ve been primarily writing about 3D and graphics for the last year, yet one of the most popular articles is about the difference between HDCAM and HDCAM SR I wrote in 2010. It’s been viewed over 12.000 times, so it’s clearly interesting to some humans.

But since its publication, it only ever had a single Twitter and Facebook Share.

I see a similar trend on my other websites too: something I’ve written years ago, almost in passing, full of spelling mistakes and seemingly without focus keeps people coming back – while other more carefully worded articles do not garner much interest, even though they may have been retweeted several dozen times. Some of my iOS Articles for example have been viewed close to 50.000 times, have dozens of user comments, but they’ve seen less than a handful of social shares.

So there you have it, my two cents on this hotly debated issue. Stats and comments are interesting, while Tweet Counts and Facebook Shares aren’t important. They don’t relate to what people actually read. If anything, they confuse your audience as to how popular an article is.

Let me leave you with one final thought here about stats in general. Stats can be interesting, but they’re nothing to live and die by: if the steady flow of visitors or social followers would disappear overnight, it wouldn’t stop me from writing. I think some content creators forget who they’re creating content for. But I guess that’s “to each his own”. I personally do it for me and my future self, rather than an audience of anonymous users whom I will likely never see again.

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4 thoughts on “No more Tweet Counts”

  1. You have taken the words right out of my mouth, without me even realising those thoughts go around my brain on numerous occasions.

    I was thinking back to the day I decided I was going to have a page just about the history of my small town, I had discovered such a lot while researching my family tree and, well, I think I was starting to drive my family crazy with my spurts of knowledge.
    So on the day i started the page, my first post was simple and to the point:

    “Well, here I am alone and I guess I’m about to talk myself to death”.

    Of course I expected my sister to pop on every now and then, maybe even my boys (well … men now) but I wasn’t writing all this for anyone else but myself really so I never gave much thought.
    And somehow, over a few days, the people started to come, by the hundreds!

    From all over the world, there were ex-Black Country “Wenches” & “Chaps” posting, asking me things I needed to research because .. well … I didn’t know ‘THAT’ much about Wednesbury!
    (I do now) 🙂

    And soon the page was being visited (regularly I must add) by over 4000 people!
    I even received a certificate of education off our very own Mayor …. I was doing meets & greets when i came home .. it was scary because I not only became popular on my little page, I was becoming famous in and around Wednesbury!

    And that started me on a downward road because, I only wanted to talk to myself, ramble away as we do on pages and blogs.

    And yet those stats, they got me very interested …. and I’ll be damned, I blooming loved them. 🙂

    I have had a year off from my WordPress blog and face book page, handing the reins over to a very talented man …. but the visitors are dwindling …. it seems it was the history that brought them there, but it was me, rambling away to myself that kept them there … how strange?

    I even moaned about the mess that people were leaving on the page while I was at work,
    (A virtual mess made up in my crazy head … that is)

    And now I have proved my point … I just can’t stop tapping once I have started!

    I love this place because I know this is all for you (You do remind me so much of how I write …In ‘spits & spurts’… but your spelling is perfect.. unlike mine)
    Yet it has been a well of knowledge to me. I learn so much.

    Which brings me very nicely round to asking how much you know about 3DMAX?

    Today I decided to dip my toe in, and I’m quite lost, (I can’t afford a software like this so, I have blatantly stolen it off my eldest boy for awhile.
    And I need to learn as much as I can before he finds it missing 🙂

    So I’m hoping that you have already got your feet soaking wet in 3DMAX? 🙂

    Sorry for babbling on …. :-O

    • Funny, isn’t it? I think that’s what makes blogs such an interesting reading experience: when people write honestly and true to themselves, we can’t get enough of it and keep coming back. I remember helping someone setup their own site a while ago, and she was writing about her experience of being a dry alcoholic, and the pressure she felt living her daily life. The way she wrote made me come back time and time again.

      About 3DSMAX: Like you, I could never afford that software, much like Maya. Sadly I don’t have a son I could steal the software from, and although I’d love to try it out (for longer than 30 days), I have never used it. The only Autodesk product I know a little bit about is SketchBook Pro, I could just about afford the $15 for an annual license on Cyber Monday… but $3600 (or $1500 per year) is just too much to pay for a toy.

      If I’d be more talented and knowledgable, and start raking in $2000 per month from 3D sales at Renderosity, perhaps this would be a worthwhile investment. It’s sad about Autodesk: they used to have a Personal Learning Edition of Maya, fully functional and completely free. Every exported object had something embossed so you couldn’t use it for commercial projects, but it was great for hobbyists and those who were learning the software. They should do that again and give people like us a break: let us learn what that precious software can do, how it works with our brains, and if we want to use it commercially we’ll start paying for it. Would that be so hard?

      • It is a real shame this software is beyond a lot of peoples budget, it would be lovely to be able to play around with it for awhile (30 day trial doesn’t even get close to cutting it)
        But, even though i have had a very short time with it so far, I still don’t think its worth that kind of money.

        I only wanted to play with it because certain software (iclone) seem to say that its worthless trying out for content provider unless you have his and that statement alone has seriously flawed my feelings on iclone.

        But, what on earth is so very special about 3DMAX?
        I seem to find it very very similar to another much cheaper software. and even a free one too (Blender)
        But as I search for ever more 3D software, another has caught my eye:
        (I believe my son has this also , all part of his job is receiving such ‘gold’)
        And this is Cinema4D … Have you tried this at all? Just curious as this is also a bit expensive but much cheaper that 3DMAX.

        • Sadly not, Cinema 4D is much like Maya and Max out of my budget. What makes these apps so expensive is the willingness of CGI companies to buy them at that price, because they sell a service that their clients pay $$$ for I guess. It’s not about them being better or worse than Carrara for example, but they’ve become such an industry standard that people like Autodesk can charge so much for them.

          A bit like what Adobe do with Photoshop.


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