Return On Narcissus

The Edu-Pundit Industry loves faux-business-like measures of their effectiveness, so here’s one for you — the Return on Tweets.

In my first “Narcissus” post about Twitter I suggested that Twitter encourages some people to talk much more than people actually want to listen.  So I developed my first faux measure of the ratio of Tweets to Followers to capture that.

In my second “Narcissus” post I suggested that there is perhaps an unhealthy compulsive nature to high-frequency Tweeting.  So I developed another faux measure of the number of minutes on average during people’s waking lives between each tweet.  I identified “The Lost Threshold” to highlight folks who Tweet more often, on average, than once every 108 minutes of their waking lives.  As with the characters in Lost who believe they must enter The Numbers into a computer every 108 minutes, it is ambiguous whether they are engaged in an incredibly important activity (like saving the world) that is worthy of this compulsive behavior or maybe suffering from a manic delusion.

In this third post I calculate how many tweets people have sent between April 2, 2013 and March 27, 2014 as well as the change in “Followers” each person has experienced during that period.  Dividing the number of new tweets by the change in followers, I get the Return on Tweets.  If tweeting is influencing the world, rather than just enjoying listening to oneself talk, then more people should be attracted to listen, or follow, as people talk, or tweet.  People who have to issue more tweets for each new follower have a lower Return on Tweets.

I’m constrained to use the same list of people as I used in my initial post because they are the only ones for whom I have historical information on the number of tweets and followers.  The list for the initial post was identified from Mike Petrilli’s ranking of the most influential education policy Tweeters.  In addition, recent tweet and follower counts have sometimes become less precise when they are large numbers because Twitter has rounded that information to the closest hundred or thousand.  But this is good enough for a faux measure in a dumb blog post about a dumb activity.

Name Handle Tweets Since 4/2/13 Change in Followers Tweets / New Follower
Sherman Dorn   @shermandorn 5,642 338 16.69
Morgan Polikoff  @mpolikoff 9,024 710 12.71
RiShawn Biddle  @dropoutnation 10,486 984 10.66
Sara Goldrick-Rab  @saragoldrickrab 18,784 2,058 9.13
Neal McCluskey  @NealMcCluskey 4,634 651 7.12
Matt Williams  @mattawilliams 1,125 176 6.39
Marc Porter Magee  @marcportermagee 3,968 677 5.86
Deborah M. McGriff  @dmmcgriff 3,571 647 5.52
Ashley Inman @ashleyemilia 1,098 225 4.88
Jenna Schuette Talbot  @jennastalbot 1,935 437 4.43
Laura Bornfreund  @laurabornfreund 1,372 328 4.18
Mike Klonsky @mikeklonsky 4,625 1,126 4.11
Nancy Flanagan @nancyflanagan 5,746 1,449 3.97
Eric Lerum  @ericlerum 2,452 649 3.78
Kathleen Porter Magee  @kportermagee 3,327 881 3.78
The Frustrated Teacher @tfteacher 1,958 527 3.72
Matthew K. Tabor  @matthewktabor 119 34 3.50
Allie Kimmel  @allie_kimmel 3,694 1,106 3.34
Matthew Ladner  @matthewladner 1,004 308 3.26
Sam Chaltain @samchaltain 2,658 829 3.21
David DeSchryver  @ddeschryver 570 179 3.18
Ben Boychuk  @benboychuk 116 39 2.97
Andy Smarick  @smarick 9,160 3,257 2.81
Rachel Young  @msrachelyoung 266 99 2.69
John Bailey  @john_bailey 3,155 1,226 2.57
Andrew P. Kelly  @andrewpkelly 2,560 995 2.57
Roxanna Elden  @roxannaElden 407 166 2.45
Joanne Jacobs  @joanneleejacobs 1,160 477 2.43
Gary Rubinstein  @garyrubinstein 1,791 739 2.42
Larry Ferlazzo  @larryferlazzo 23,185 9,984 2.32
Ben Wildavsky  @wildavsky 828 364 2.27
Robert Pondiscio  @rpondiscio 1,559 801 1.95
Ulrich Boser  @ulrichboser 613 328 1.87
John Nash  @jnash 800 446 1.79
Mickey Kaus  @kausmickey 6,087 3,438 1.77
Bruce Baker  @schlFinance101 2,314 1,311 1.77
Adam Emerson  @adamjemerson 370 218 1.70
Doug Levin  @douglevin 1,687 1,040 1.62
Linda Perlstein  @lindaperlstein 215 135 1.59
Neerav Kingsland  @neeravkingsland 1,500 972 1.54
Terry Stoops  @terrystoops 384 264 1.45
Kevin P. Chavous  @kevinpchavous 831 575 1.45
Anthony Cody @anthonycody 5,441 3,836 1.42
Patrick Riccards @Eduflack 3,344 2,429 1.38
Randi Weingarten @rweingarten 18,247 13,329 1.37
Heather Higgins  @TheHRH 482 355 1.36
Lindsey Burke  @lindseymburke 441 327 1.35
Alexander Russo @alexanderrusso 6,246 4,635 1.35
Michael Petrilli @michaelpetrilli 6,333 5,204 1.22
Justin Cohen  @juscohen 611 506 1.21
Irvin Scott  @iscott4 947 821 1.15
Mike McShane  @MQ_McShane 605 562 1.08
Matt Chingos  @chingos 772 734 1.05
Howard Fuller  @howardlfuller 1,721 1,697 1.01
Charles Barone  @charlesbarone 675 781 0.86
Kevin Carey  @kevincarey1 1,275 1,660 0.77
Jeanne Allen  @jeanneallen 672 945 0.71
Andrew Rotherham  @arotherham 2,546 3,975 0.64
Richard Lee Colvin  @R_Colvin 231 361 0.64
Greg Richmond  @GregRichmond 200 332 0.60
Dana Goldstein @DanaGoldstein 1,018 1,880 0.54
Matt Kramer  @kramer_matt 710 1,525 0.47
Vicki Davis  @coolcatteacher 10,491 23,600 0.44
Michael Barber  @michaelbarber9 1,532 3,583 0.43
Tom Vander Ark @tvanderark 3,956 9,495 0.42
Jay P. Greene  @jaypgreene 220 586 0.38
Lisa Duty  @lisaduty1 896 2,585 0.35
Diane Ravitch @DianeRavitch 11,102 32,944 0.34
Sara Mead   @saramead 404 1,851 0.22
Wendy Kopp  @wendykopp 725 6,885 0.11
Vicki Phillips  @drvickip 292 5,209 0.06
Michelle Rhee @m_rhee 620 14,855 0.04
Alfie Kohn @alfiekohn 283 12,011 0.02

As you can see, Alfie Kohn, Michelle Rhee, Vicki Phillips, Wendy Kopp, Sara Mead, and Diane Ravitch have a very high Return on Tweets.  Kohn gets almost 50 new followers for every tweet.  Diane Ravitch may tweet on a near-constant basis, but she attracts new followers even faster — almost three new followers for every one of her 11,102 tweets over the last 359 days.

On the other end of the spectrum are some folks with a very low Return on Tweets.  They send many tweets for each new follower. Sherman Dorn issues almost 17 tweets for each new follower; Morgan Polikoff almost 13; RiShawn Biddle almost 11; Sara Goldrick-Rab more than 9; and Neal McClusky more than 7.  I actually enjoy “following” many of these folks, but that may be an acquired taste.

It is no accident that “powerful people” with money to dispense or popular programs to trumpet show better Returns on Tweets than do scholars.  Maybe Twitter just isn’t the right place for scholarly exchange.  It’s fine for telling a joke, sharing a link, or following breaking news, but as a place for serious policy discussion Twitter seems to have a very low return on investment.

11 Responses to Return On Narcissus

  1. Patrick says:

    Sara has 18k tweets in a year? Over 50 per day? How does she have time to teach and research?

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Is there a relationship between how many followers you started with and the rate of Return on Narcissism (RON)? Can you divide RON by number of followers on April 2, 2013 to see if starting from a low base helps, or starting from a high base helps?

    • I don’t think it matters much whether people started from a high or low base of followers on this. I could actually run an analysis to confirm that, but that sounds like work and no fun. Violates the prime directive!

      • Greg Forster says:

        But it would be fun for Matt, Collin and I to see the results. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few . . . or the one.”

  3. For your next post, can you try a Hunger Games theme? I’m already thinking about who I want to form alliances with. And who I’m going to target the second I get into the arena.

    Fun post, boys. I’d Tweet about it, but that would be narcissistic.

  4. WT says:

    I’m surprised Sara Goldrick-Rab hasn’t already tweeted 20 times about this post. She must be incapacitated.

  5. J.B. says:

    Fascinating. My assumption is also that true public figures like Ravich, Kopp, and Weingarten have staff who contribute to this making the behavior of these others all the more surprising. The rates seem more like manic behavior and not at all healthy or productive for the individuals or society.

  6. Ben DeGrow says:

    Young Eddie (@EdIsWatching) was a little heartbroken he didn’t make the list. I had to explain that narcissism wasn’t necessarily something to which he should aspire. He should recover emotionally by the time he turns 5 again.

  7. WT says:

    Oh yeah:

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    @mpolikoff Once is a joke. Twice isn’t.

    Retweeted by Sara Goldrick-Rab
    Morgan Polikoff ‏@mpolikoff Mar 29
    @tchmathculture @saragoldrickrab @jaypgreene since my (& your) CV speaks for itself, I assume this is just a silly joke and enjoy it as such

    Retweeted by Sara Goldrick-Rab
    Morgan Polikoff ‏@mpolikoff Mar 29
    @tchmathculture @saragoldrickrab @jaypgreene the #1 habit of people who don’t understand twitter is making fun of people who do.

    Retweeted by Sara Goldrick-Rab
    Ilana Horn ‏@tchmathculture Mar 29
    @saragoldrickrab @mpolikoff @jaypgreene keep on tweeting sister.

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    More people I now collaborate w BC of twitter @susannahtahk @minhtuyen @DA_Houston @bmckib @Jessifer @audreywatters et tu @jaypgreene ?

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    Measure ROI on Twitter in concrete terms- new partnerships, pubs, grants. I now work with @RudyRuiz_MKE @tressiemcphd @ClareCady bc of it

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    @mpolikoff @jaypgreene My extensive grants & pubs in last year also suggest his readers are way off base. Sad sad sad sad sad.

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    .@mpolikoff @jaypgreene and Jay’s readers- wow. Yep dudes, I tweeted 18K times in last year (w 2 months off) AND won Early Career Award.

    Sara Goldrick-Rab ‏@saragoldrickrab Mar 29
    .@mpolikoff @jaypgreene I find this hysterical & pathetic. @rickhess99 gets what matters. Jay misses point entirely.
    View conversation

  8. FabiS says:

    Is this a parody or are these real comments by Professor Sara Goldrick Rab? Somebody please tell me!

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