If Twitter decided California elections...

Ronny Kerr · November 2, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1342

The candidates with the most followers would win these midterms

Twitter election

Imagine a world where social media sites decided elections. Imagine if all the California propositions and candidates facing voters on Tuesday had nothing to do with all those negative television attack ads--impossible to fact-check in the middle of a commercial break--and everything to do with real sources and constructive insights submitted over the Internet.

Granted, the political arena would probably be a little bit more slanted toward the Democratic Party, considering that a major constituent generally associated with that party, younger people, generally votes Democratic. But let’s pretend that’s not true and let’s pretend we live in a world where demographics on Twitter actually match up with demographics in the state of California. With this (probably) crazy premise in mind, here’s a forecast of how today’s elections will turn out, based on Twitter accounts for the most talked-about candidates and propositions.


Democratic candidate Jerry Brown is easily the most popular on Twitter among any candidate mentioned here. The twice-elected governor of California (1975-1983), with 1.1 million followers, is the only one to have broken the one million mark.

The CEO of eBay from 1998 to 2008 and Republican candidate Meg Whitman has only garnered a quarter of that number, in spite of the fact that she is supposed to be the Silicon Valley veteran and has thrown more personal money at her own campaign than any other candidate in the history of campaign financing.

In general, Brown appears to be more active on Twitter, having tweeted nearly a thousand times compared with Whitman’s 800 tweets. Brown follows nearly 900 accounts, but Whitman barely follows 300. I guess she missed that whole study about following people to get more people to follow you.

If this one were up to Twitter, Brown would have it in the bag.


Another high-profile office position up for grabs, another experienced Democrat goes up in the fight against a technology businesswoman.

Barbara Boxer, Democratic incumbent seeking re-election for her Senate position, almost has 24,000 followers, a pretty measly showing for such a well-known figure in California politics. And it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with site activity: she’s tweeted just over 400 times and is following nearly 500 other users.

On the other hand, Republican candidate and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is at least representing her tech roots by being the most active on Twitter (among the four candidates here) with nearly 2000 total tweets. She’s garnered over 300,000 followers and she follows around 350 users herself.

For a Democrat, Boxer sure isn’t appealing to her young constituency supposedly rampant on the social Web. This running easily goes to Fiorina.

Prop 19 (Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010)

Yes on Prop 19, notably backed by Gmail creator and FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit and early Facebook entrepreneur Sean Parker, has more than 5000 followers, while No on Prop 19 barely has 200. Look at it this way: the former has a fifth as many followers as Barbara Boxer. Those stoners might have a chance to smoke marijuana legally after all; Twitter votes yes on 19.

Prop 23 (suspends Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006)

Yes on Prop 23, with major support from big oil company Valero, has around 450 followers, while No on Prop 23 has just over 1000. With these two propositions, it looks like the young ones are deciding it on the Web; Twitter votes no on 23.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.

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