“2012 on Twitter:” A Spectacularly Stupid Idea for #Failweek

An idea struck me upside the head last night and I can’t get it out of my brain. I keep thinking about it, and something inside me keeps saying, “that is such a stupid idea! If you post that, your incompetence will be revealed.”

I don’t like that little voice, and since it’s #failweek over on Puttylike, I think I’m gonna go ahead and put this out there.

The 2012 election is gonna be insane, and social media is going to come into play more than we’ve ever seen before. The whole world will be watching to see what those crazy Americans are doing now, so why not harness this global conversation to find out what people are REALLY thinking? Let’s see just how big of a gap there is between what people believe and what the media/polling/focus research/surveys etc are saying.

You can’t trust social media tools that measure sentiment. Spammers are getting way too smart, and keywords and tone just can’t be measured accurately at the scale needed for this type of project (which I’m calling “2012 on Twitter”). No, this needs to be crowd sourced with real, live humans.

I don’t have a revenue generation idea, and this is absolutely NOT about money. Everything in our country right now comes down to money. Screw that shit. Let’s do this for the HELL OF IT. Because it will be interesting. Because we may learn something. Because others may learn something. Because maybe it will help the flow of information in our world. Because it’ll be FUN!

The overall strategy is incredibly simple – but takes an enormous amount of manpower to do correctly. Here’s the idea in ten steps:

1. In early 2012, people from all parts of the world are encouraged to sign up for “2012 on Twitter” via a simple website. Their interest and humanity must be verified for them to be accepted into the program. They MUST be willing to share their ideas, defend them, and participate in on-going discussion. This is key.

2. People are placed into communities based on location/timezone. Each community is assigned a super-unique hashtag, but the members aren’t required to use it because they probably won’t anyways. Communities have 50 members, tops.

3. Each community is placed on a Twitter list so the Community Aggregators can monitor the Tweets. (And makes a hashtag useful for sorting out the relevant info, but not necessary)

4. Gates open Summer 2012, when each community is assigned a Community Aggregator who manages the members, engages them in discussion, and reports data back to the HQ team.

5. HQ team tracks ideas, questions, pain points, sentiment, etc from all the communities and creates a weekly report on overall trends. Call out responses about advertising and social media engagement from the candidates.

6. Program ends in February 2013. Data is presented in a timeline format, showing how people’s opinions change, what the key points were, and how happy people are with the results. Hopefully the project will be presented to social media gatherings.

7. Human engagement is key to this program. The Community Aggregators must be prompting discussion, asking questions, etc the whole time. The people participating must be willing to share their beliefs and maybe even defend them or change them as the election goes on.

8. What’s the POINT? A study-group quality on a global scale to see what people are really thinking about American politics. The appeal lies in the humanity of this project. It’s not sampling data across a wide range of people – it’s a person talking with a couple other people about what they really think. People from all over the world are on Twitter, wanting to share their ideas and opinions. They crave human interaction. Let’s give them a voice, while studying what is sure to be a huge event.

9. Maybe by focusing on WHAT people are saying, instead WHO is saying it, we can uncover something new. I don’t think details about age, gender, race, education level, intelligence, hobbies, etc are essential to this project, though they’d probably be useful. I think it’s ok to ignore all those “traditional” and “correct” research techniques in favor of something that is REAL. This isn’t about marketing/advertising, so why do we need to know who these people are? Aren’t their opinions enough? And if the whole thing crashes and burns? Well, I’ll still have #failweek…

10. The biggest issue? Finding people who are interested and talented enough to be the HQ team and Community Aggregators, and to do it without pay. And making sure the community members stay engaged through the whole timeline. Yeah, that would be helpful.

I don’t care how much is wrong with this “2012 on Twitter” idea, and I feel better because I put it out there.

I’m not a researcher and I’ve never done data gathering on a scale like this, but I believe something like this is possible, BUT I want it to be done for the right reasons. (i.e., not for coercion of any kind)

I want to see what people really think about the 2012 election, and how their thoughts may change leading up to and after the results. I want to see how this corresponds with “official” polling, journalism, and research that will be taking place in the next two years. I want to stop listening to what CNN tells me people are thinking, and ask them myself.

Now, if only I had a couple million dollars to make this happen…


5 responses to ““2012 on Twitter:” A Spectacularly Stupid Idea for #Failweek

  1. I think you just failed at fail week, because this isn’t a stupid idea at all. There are some issues with the research methodology (especially since Twitter is not widely used in the general population, making the demographic of Twitter quite narrow), but I think the fundamental idea is really fascinating and would produce interesting data.

    It also makes me wonder since the Library of Congress is archiving tweets what kind of database they’re building around that that might be keyword searchable and if searching their database to pull trends would be alternative.

    Like I said, this is not a stupid idea at all. However, I would agree to do it to the scale you’re talking about would take an obscene amount of money.

    • Eleanor Dowling

      Thanks for your comment (and saying I failed at failweek, that made me laugh haha!)

      You know, a while back I heard about the Library of Congress archiving every single Tweet (which is bangin’ awesome), but I didn’t even think about how that could (and will?) apply to something like the 2012 election. Man, I would kill for access to their database, just so I could look stuff up and absorb the information! Even thinking about the application of all that data is scary but exciting at the same time.

      • Yeah, I’m with you on the LOC. I would LOVE access to what they’re archiving. The countless ways that data could be used in research is crazy cool. And man, do I feel like a geek every time I get excited about data and research potential.

      • Eleanor Dowling

        Don’t worry, I feel like a huge geek too because this kind of stuff gets me so riled up and excited it’s beyond funny, and more like ridiculous. :)

  2. I think this is brilliant! (as Jen said, you definitely failed at #failweek. ;)

    You know what you should do? You should start a website and Kickstarter campaign. You could almost copy and paste this verbatim. Throw in a quick video of you explaining the project with the enthusiasm that you obviously feel, and you’re good to go.

    And if you don’t reach your financial goal then you’ll REALLY be a failure (and can therefore celebrate).

    Go for it Eleanor! You get THIS failure’s stamp of approval. :)

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