Twifficiency & Its Accidental 15 minutes of Fame.

There was a bit of a buzz on Twitter today about a rather silly application called Twifficiency. It calculates “your twitter efficiency based upon your twitter activity. This includes how many people you follow, how many people follow you, how often you tweet and how many tweets you read.” Most Twitterers – myself included – like silly apps like this for the sole reason of curiosity (and perhaps a dash of stroking the ego). So, when I saw the automated messages appear on my Twitterfeed, my curiosity was activated and, like that, I clicked it and had it calculate mine. (45% by the way – in case you care, but really you shouldn’t as it is actually is not real).

Next thing – Twitter goes berserk. Although it states on the frontpage that it will autopublish the result when allowing the app to link to your Twitter account – as with anything in life – most users fail to read the little letters. And are not happy. Bring on accusations of spam, trying to steal passwords, the lot. What really happened was the following:

A 17-year old boy (Dundee based James Cunningham) played around with oAuth, to test how it works and how he could use it. oAuth is the little screen that pops up when using apps outside Twitter, requesting to allow a tool, in the same way Tweetpic or Tweetmeme use access to Twitter for instance. So he created a fun little app to test it with and created the website to go with it. I’ve copied a bit of his Twitter timeline to show his genuine surprise at how it took off. The first one I find particularity cute: “OMFG I HAVE A TRENDING TOPIC!!!!!”. When I checked his profile this morning he had somewhat around 150 followers – as you can see for yourself, that has now risen to over 500 and I presume will go up a lot more. The search I have running for “Twifficiency” still produces around 100 results every minute or so.


In short: young James went viral – and seemed to be genuinely stressed and apologetic about it all, and, to be honest, I can’t blame him. I am 99% convinced that it was all in good faith and in an innocent fashion. If anything, I’d like to hope that perhaps a few doors have opened for James, as he seems to be rather talented and was able to make a silly application a trending topic  on Twitter. Not a lot of us can say that…


36 thoughts on “Twifficiency & Its Accidental 15 minutes of Fame.

  1. Christopher Hewett says:

    I disagree entirely. No matter how innocent it was, and I do believe it was an innocent mistake, this is another win for spam and autotweetbots.

    Remember how twitpic, bitly and foursquare went viral, through auto-tweets. But they added value.
    James has inadvertently created the twitter version of telemarketing. Hyjack a persons twitter stream, post a link and watch.

    This is a boon for spammers and hackers alike, and may cause the end of oAuth.

    1. sNarah says:

      Thanks for all the comments guys.

      Christopher – you do have a valid point, though it does baffle me how many people “allowed” this app to access their Twitter account and then being surprised (outraged?) that it autoposted the result, as it did state so clearly before the “Allow App to access Twitter” button was pressed.

    2. Thomas says:

      Seriously?! The “end of oAuth”? Because you’re too stupid to read the line that said it would post a single tweet, which was all part of the “silly” game mind you. That’s it? No more Twitter apps, no TwitPic.. all because of your inability to read?

      The bottom line is anyone who used this app gave it permission to send a single tweet and that’s all it did. It has nothing to do with spam or any other bull**** you’re claiming. If you have a problem with that then educate people on how to read. Don’t demonize the app developer or oAuth or anything else that clearly had nothing to do with it.

  2. Martin English says:

    I actually had the website up ready to click calculate when I saw a tweet about about the auto’s, so I didn’t bother.

    It’s a very bare, simple page – It’s an interesting examination of how much we see / read / comprehend !!!

    1. David Ferrie says:

      Oh, I think it will go higher than 13%. @Christopher, I do think that it shows people click allow with really checking what they are allowing

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  4. Michael C. Harris says:

    When Twifficiency was launched, it didn’t have the warning that it would auto-tweet the score, that was added later. Still, lots of people were quite happy to give an unknown app access to do anything to their accounts, just as many people still fall for the password anti-pattern.

  5. jason carlin says:

    I’m not really that mad at the guys, but… an explanation is not an excuse. Autopublishing to Twitter is not acceptable and I’m surprised that Twitter’s terms don’t preclude it.

  6. jamEs says:

    The part I was baffled by was what metric it used to measure things. Obviously he hadn’t fleshed out his idea, but the fact it gave me a 50% based on that one sentence kinda baffled me. Usually they would have an explanation of what might be used to measure the equation.

  7. Dr Memals says:

    My problem was the first auto post I saw was from a very trusted person. The wording made it appear that he wrote it and I duely (stupidly) followed it and then failed to read the warning.
    Trust circles are only as good as the weakest link.

    1. sNarah says:

      Very true Dr Memals – and I presume most people clicked it (myself including) after seeing the message pop up in their twitterfeed. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  8. Harry says:

    “he seems to be rather talented”
    How on earth is this talent? Massive incompetence and irresponsibility, if it happened the way you say it did. A touch of dishonesty too in implying people will learn something relevant or interesting, and then fobbing them off with some nonsensical invented percentage without a word of explanation.

    1. sNarah says:

      Talent as in the ability to build a working platform – which is something I, for instance, can’t do. You will find more details on his Twitter account of which elements he used for calculating the scores and which factors he used.

      1. Harry says:

        He didn’t “build a working platform”, he created a silly and very buggy app which created a lot of disruption and ill-feeling, and caused him to become famous for 15 minutes because of the way it went viral in a quite accidental and unplanned way. So he doesn’t appear to be a very good developer, and as for entrepreneur, as some people are calling him, as is he was the new Zuckerberg, what exactly is his business plan? Has he made any money out of Twifficiency, even by accident?

        I’m not sure what “on his Twitter account” means but if you can point me to anywhere he explains what the caculation actually is and what it’s supposed to prove, I will be very surprised. He doesn’t explain it in interviews and I strongly suspect it’s complete nonsense. As he says himself, he was trying to learn oAuth, not about measuring anything. What he says in his Twitter bio may be the best clue: “Doesn’t always make sense to anyone other than myself”.

      2. Harry says:

        Oh and his website simply contains the one word “Offline” (which of course it isn’t or we wouldn’t even be able to read that), so no clues there.

      3. sNarah says:

        Hi again Harry – I do absolutely agree with you about the silly and buggy app and it’s accidental fame (which was the point I was making in my blogpost). I would definitly not go as far as calling him an entepreneur or experienced developer at all – tbh, I don’t think he made any money off it nor will in the future. As far the calculating method goes – he says it works like this: “Twifficiency isnt just random numbers. It uses Following, Followers, Tweets, @ replys and lists” (quoted from his Twitter account), but again, I tend to agree to with you that most of it is probably bull.

      4. Harry says:

        Absolutely. The main problem is that no-one even knows what efficiency would mean in the context of Twitter. He mentions a few variables you could measure, whether it’s “Following, Followers, Tweets, @replys and lists” or the slightly different set mentioned on, “how many people you follow, how many people follow you, how often you tweet and how many tweets you read” (and how can anyone possibly know how many tweets I read?), but not what he does with them or what the percentage is supposed to represent. So it was nothing if not intriguing. I feel stupid for being suckered by his app, some people even say it’s an appeal to vanity, but it would be interesting to know whether and how you could measure someone’s use of Twitter, quantatively or comparatively. But that would have to be a subjective question I imagine.

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