On Twitter today I was getting more than 30 times the notifications I normally get. So I took a look to see what is going on. One of my tweets was getting retweeted and liked quite a lot (nearly 100 times each, so far). I figure most likely someone with many more followers than I must have retweeted it.
A bit more investigation and sure enough that is what happened. Marc Andreessen had retweeted it. He has 432,000 followers (a bit more than my 1,600).
This minor internet enabled connection with fame is one of the fun aspects of the internet (to me anyway, I might be a bit odd). I emailed Tim Berners Lee (the creator of the world wide web) a long time ago (probably about 15 years – and I still remember) and received a nice reply. I have written a few posts on my science and engineering blog about his work over the years including a short post on the first web server (Tim’s NeXT computer).
For those that don’t know NeXT is the computer company Steve Jobs headed in between his stints at Apple. In 1999, I was giving a presentation at a conference on Using Quality to Develop an Internet Resource (link to my paper for the talk was based on). I was working for the Office of Secretary of Defense, Quality Management Office at the time. In cutting the time down I eliminated saying that the internet was created by the Department of Defense and giving a few sentences on that history as I figured everyone knew that history. After my presentation, one of the people that came up to talk and somehow I mentioned that history and the 3 people standing there didn’t know it and were surprised. Anyway that NeXT comment reminded me of that story…
The tweet Marc Andreessen retweeted was about research by scientists in London that developed pain-free filling that allows teeth to repair themselves without drilling or injections.
Several people responded that we will never see this in use (based on the idea that announcements of research breakthroughs often fail to deliver). Quite a few people we looking forward to the day when it would be available though. Including some that were sitting in the dentist office while they were reading about it.
Several people also commented on the oddity of the source being the UK for dental innovation. However, it seems to me the stereotype of bad British teeth would make market aware researchers there even more interested in finding good innovations in dental care.
Another person wanted to cancel their dentist appointment for tomorrow. Sadly health care innovation usually doesn’t get to patients until years after we learn about research breakthroughs (if ever – it is quite difficult to take research from the concept to the market). But there are sure to be many people hoping this one does materialize.
This high volume of retweeting is definitely the result of special cause in my normal tweeting process. And it is good special cause that I would like to see more often. You can evaluate what made this special and resulted in Mark Andresseen’s retweet and all the subsequent retweets.
However, while this is a bit more likely to be retweeted than most of my tweets the main factor, by far, was Mark Andresseen’s retweet. If he retweeted 10% of my likely to be popular tweets I image many would get at least half as many as this one (this one is a bit special all by itself, but I don’t think I got more than 1 or 2 retweets directly – essentially all came only through his retweet). And I realize the bulk of my tweets wouldn’t have nearly as much mass appeal – I am making a rough estimate that maybe 10% of my tweets might.
Him (or his assistant?) actually finding mine to retweet was not something I believe I can build a process to repeat, I think it was just an very low likelihood chance events that resulted in the odd situation with him retweeting my tweet. Sadly I don’t think I can successfully replicate that result reliably. And sadly the very tweets I would most like to get noticed are the ones that are the least likely to achieve such status.
Here is a retweet from Edward Tufte (this time I sent him something I thought he would like, so getting that kind of retweet is something that is much more under my control).
Related: Finding a Dentist in Chiang Mai, Thailand – How the Scientific Inquiry Process Lead to Using Fluoride for Healthy Teeth – Why does orange juice taste so bad after brushing your teeth? – False Teeth For Cats – Medical Study Findings too Often Fail to Provide Us Useful Knowledge – Using Nanocomposites to Improve Dental Filling Performance (2012)
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