“I take thee, Twitter…” Mixed Views on Big Data, Crowdsourcing, and Social Media as Worthy Companions

San Francisco homeowner Tom Coates has a Twitter account for his house with various contraptions programmed to talk to Twitter whenever they perform a task, such as turning on the lights or even talking to houseguests. People can “follow” his house on Twitter.

“I (your name here), take thee, (your favorite social media platform), to be my wedded (add appropriate relationship category), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Granted, it sounds a little silly to transpose the traditional marriage vows to a relationship with social media platforms, but, hey, it may be only a stretch in the age of The Second Life not to mention the way social platforms are morphing into all sorts of different relationships.  Are they akin to clothes? (I feel “naked” without my mobile phone.  Are they a person (when they buzz or groan or twerp, they are answered), or something else entirely?

Twitter has already morphed into The Internet of Things.  A San Francisco homeowner gave his house a Twitter account that posts an update when there is unanticipated movement on the first floor and welcomes him home when he walks through the door. People can actually get tweets from the house (“Oh, Christ, I’m tweeting at a house,” one follower reportedly said.) The homeowner can log onto an app on his smartphone that  shows him a live video feed of his apartment. he can even talk to his houseguests via a live video feed and speaker to “help themselves to the fridge.” And the house will tweet him when he returns, “@tomcoates, is that  you?”

Coates says that the tweeting house has fundamentally altered the way he conceives of his  home.  “I feel like it’s deepened my emotional relationship with my house,” he said.

In another instance, a Philadelphia renter, obviously tech savvy, programmed a device with web-connected sensors called Twine to chart online how often the temperature in his apartment changed and proved to his landlord that his AC was not working.

Like the AT&T Home Security commercial where the son tells his dad at their summer home that he locked the house where the dad clicks on his Home Security app and finds everything still on and the house unlocked (“Yeah, sure you did”), Twitter is already there.

Other apps, like TaskRabbit, connect to people who do things like find furnishings for your apartment or the apartment itself.

Others aren’t so overwhelmed by Twitter’s capabilities.  None other than Andrew Ross Sorkin, the NY Times award-winning journalist and author of Too Big To Fail, says Twitter often mis-represents what people are actually thinking, especially to major political events and policy decisions because of Twitter’s skewed demographics–they are younger and more likely Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.

Sorkin is concerned that Twitter’s “digital river of information is turning normally level-headed decision-makers into hypersensitive, reactive neurotics.” He cites the Twitter reaction to “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson’s firing over anti-gay remarks that in fact the show’s core audience (the ones that pay the advertisers who pay A&E’s salaries) did not resent from the camo-wearing Louisiana clan who openly celebrate being “rednecks” and offering unvarnished, politically incorrect views.  A week later Robertson’s “indefinite hiatus” was over.

Crowdsourcing has come under similar slings and arrows.  While “Netflix” hit a home run with “House of Cards” through crowdsourcing and the use of algorithms, Amazon failed to get on base with “Alpha House,” a political show starring John Goodman whose pilot Amazon decided to let its patrons vote on.

What’s this mean for Big Data, Twitter, and other social platforms who capture reality in real time?  They’re tools.  And like all tools, they are really good at getting at some problems and not so good at others.  The sorting out and separating the signal from the noise continues and should not escape our scrutiny and evaluation.

Here’s Natalie Kitroeff’s excellent piece called “Home Tweet Home” :


Andrew Ross Sorkin on “Big (Bad) Data”:


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One Response to “I take thee, Twitter…” Mixed Views on Big Data, Crowdsourcing, and Social Media as Worthy Companions

  1. Consumers have a voice via Social Media, finally!

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