One of the first things you notice about twitter is what a positive, happy place it is. In fact, Tweeters are 51% more likely to show love than the world at large. Facebookers show 10% more love than average. Oprah.com, on the other hand, shows 11% less.
How can I possibly know this?
By using Google as a semantic mining engine to assess a web community's culture. While there's a lot noise and inference in this data, it's still interesting and revealing.
For the Google index at large, love dominates hate by an impressive 9 to 1 margin (that stat makes me happy). On Twitter, love wins by a wider margin: 14 to 1. On MySpace, love eeks out a more modest 6 to 1 spread.
I calcuated these ratios by using the results from these Google searches:
To decide if the ratios were higher or lower than the world at large, I compared them to the simple ratio of "love" and "hate" search results on google overall. There are large sample sizes-- Google has 1.7 billion results for "love".
While Twitter gives a lot of love, some sites give even more, like ancestry.com (248% more) and modelmayhem.com (389% more). I guess we do love our families a lot, and fashion models even more.
There are some surprises among sites that give less love. Oprah.com shows 11% less love and BarackObama.com shows 55% less.
Moving beyond the headline-grabbing fun, this analysis is a small example of ways to assess the culture of an online community. By using variations of the same technique, you can gain some inference into issues such as:
-- how happy or sad does the community report being? (symmetrical antinonyms make for easy analysis)
-- how analytical is the community (for example, BarackObama.com has 3X more relative usage of the word "analysis" than the internet overall)
-- how active or passive are the participants in a community? (Tweeters use active voice verbs far more often than Facebook or MySpace.)
While the possibilities never end with this analysis, we are only at the beginning of a trend to study virtual community cultures. I think we will discover that these tools help us to at least partially explain and predict their relative success and failure.
For example, if Twitter is a more "loving" community, does this speak to its relative success, or not? And what about Twitter would make it a more "loving" community?
I suspect that the answers will prove to be similar to what we generally know:
- Community culture is very important in driving behaviors-- and is critical to community survival, growth, and success
- Community culture is determined by the participants and strongly influenced by the governance methods
- Critical issues become: Who governs? How is governance shared? To what ends? With what methods? How is governance allowed to evolve?
I give the Twitter founders a lot of credit for establishing a great culture, including its degree of love and fun. Now it's up to them and the Twitter community to maintain and adapt this culture through their hyper-growth cycle-- no easy challenge. How they choose to govern (including the degree of technological and management openness) will be important.